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Conclusion

So our today’s tests confirmed a well-known truth: overclocking, however extreme, doesn’t cure low performance where the performance is basically low.

There are two cases with overclocking top-end graphics cards. In old games you achieve a bonus of tens of frames per second, but the total fps value is measured in hundreds. So it doesn’t make much sense to overclock the card – you can’t tell 120fps from 140fps. There is only one exception – heaviest scenes when the speed can go down to 20-30fps. Overclocking may help here. For the modern games, there is another pitfall: overclocking usually adds 2-5fps to the total of 30-50fps. That’s too little and is certainly not worth the trouble of overclocking the card.

The heavily-advertised Overdrive technology from ATI proved to be absolutely useless in practice. That’s because of the very principle behind this technology: only the VPU is overclocked, while the memory chips remain at their nominal frequency. Moreover, this technology depends on the VPU temperature, and the threshold values are set up in such a way that the graphics core nearly always works at 418MHz. That’s a negligible frequency gain that provides a performance gain of the same small proportion.

As for extreme overclocking, I think the effort you spend and the risks you run are not worth the results you get (at least, for these two cards). However, extreme overclocking of the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra appears more efficient than that of RADEON 9800 XT due to the higher overclocking potential of the 0.13-micron graphics core. RADEON 9800 XT gains little from the modification, but this VPU is quite powerful as it is. Of course, our article won’t stop a hardcore overclocker, but if you are just considering taking a soldering iron and voltmeter into your hands, you’d better think twice as you will probably get a few extra fps, but also more noise and heat.

Analyzing our today’s overclocking experience, I would point at a few performance peculiarities of the current graphics processors that cost about $500.

  • GeForce FX 5950 Ultra has enough scalability useful in some situations. Overclocking affects its performance most favorably, although cannot give it the required speed boost in applications that use pixel shaders – the sore spot of this GPU. Fast memory also contributed a lot to the excellent overclocking potential of this chip. Overall, overclocking is an option for GeForce FX 5950 and NVIDIA may even introduce yet another, highly overclocked, version of NV35. However, sheer speed cannot solve the inherent problems of this graphics chip, so we look forward to getting our hands on the upcoming solution from Santa-Clara, like NV40.
  • RADEON 9800 XT made it clear that the 0.15-micron technological process from TSMC has reached its limit. But it is not even this limit that cuts the performance of the card down: the graphics memory becomes the main bottleneck in the graphics subsystem. Theoretically, if some manufacturer sped up DDR SDRAM in RADEON 9800 XT cards above 800MHz, we would have a gorgeous product, especially if we also overclocked the GPU to 500MHz. I doubt, though, anyone would like to spend money and time on this development, since we are already waiting for new graphics chips from ATI. I don’t think we will see another overclocked version of the R350, although it is theoretically possible.
  • Putting aside the competition between the end products, I should say that graphics cards on NVIDIA GPUs need more GPU frequency to dramatically increase their speed, while cards on ATI chips need faster memory, which you can ensure by overclocking.
  • Many games would run faster on a system with a faster central processor rather than on a computer with an extremely-overclocked graphics card.

SAPPHIRE RADEON 9800 XT ULTIMATE Edition Graphics Card: Conclusion

The ultimate edition of RADEON 9800 XT from Sapphire uses the tested and reliable reference design from ATI Technologies and carries a unique and efficient cooling system. If you need performance and silence, consider this card. The cooling system may make it interesting for overclockers. The appearance and accessories of the product are also up to the mark, and I recommend it to anyone who’s shopping for a modern and fast graphics card.

Highs:

  • High performance in modern games;
  • High 2D quality;
  • Efficient and noiseless cooling system;
  • Good accessories set.

Lows:

  • The cooling system is bulky, you may encounter difficulties when installing it;
  • The card with its cooling system is very heavy.
 
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