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  Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 Pro review

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In recent years, manufacturer’s name Sapphire Technologies may have become familiar to you. Having been in the business for over 10 years, Sapphire didn’t hit consumer spotlight until 2001, when they became one of ATI’s first OEM partners.

Fast forwarding to the current day, Sapphire is one of ATI’s primary 3rd party manufacturers, with the broadest retail offering of ATI based cards, they have the capability to produce 1.8 million graphic cards at their two manufacturing facilities in Dongguan, China per month.

Almost a year ago, Sapphire released their Radeon 9700 Pro product to the public and soon thereafter came a refined product called “Ultimate Edition” (we reviewed their Atlantis Radeon 9500 Pro board before). Today we are examining their Radeon 9800 Atlantis Pro.

The obvious question is however, what this card offers over the 9500-9700 core (R300 vs. newer R350)… you have been hearing “not much”; we give you the details written on paper, and the numbers.

Starting with the most evident, clock frequencies have been improved over the older 9700 Pro, that is, 380MHz core speed & 340MHz DDR memory clock (effectively 680MHz) versus the previous 325/320. Having that said, perhaps the biggest core improvement consists of an optimized Hyper-Z engine, as well as updates to ATI's Z- and Colour compression algorithms, which only affect AA modes since these are not active in non-AA environments. There have been some other minor changes also: the power connector has been changed to a Molex connector. The fan has been improved upon and is now quieter than what came on top of the 9700 (reference models). The voltage regulator setup has been modified. A few additional heatsinks have also been added.

  

  

Given that we exposed the potential performance of the 9700 in one of our recent tests (see: Sapphire- Crucial 9500 vs. 9700 Pro boards) and the lack of FX5900 board to compare, this review will be solely dedicated to compare the newer 9800 Pro against a 9700 Pro… more than one of you might be debating whether you should get one over the other (“old” board bargains, anyone?), so here we go.

After some quick n’ dirty tests where we underclocked the 9800 (identical clock frequencies to the 9700), it was not any faster at all when no FSAA was used due to the fact that the core improvements as I said above where limited to FSAA modes only. However, when the same test was run with 4x FSAA and 8x Perf AF enabled, the 9800 scored 10% faster than its older brother, thus that difference is purely what the improvements inside the new R350 core brought to the table. When I cranked up the visuals even further to 4x FSAA and 8x Quality AF, the 9800Pro impressively scored 30% faster than its older brother (from 1024 to 1600 resolutions), you will want to take a closer look to the complete numbers however.

As seen above, Sapphire included a Molex splitter cable, S-Video and Composite TV out cables and a DVI-VGA converter adapter along with the actual board; about the kind of hardware we like to get, even if we don’t plan to make good use of it, you never know. On the software side, full versions of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Soldier of Fortune 2 are included. The software DVD player PowerDVD XP v4.0 is included and Sapphire’s own “Redline” tweak utility for overclocking purposes.

That, plus a printed 6 language installation manual and the obligatory drivers CD.

 



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