The Newcomers

As we briefly mentioned, there are three new products to talk about today – the Radeon 9800 XT, the Radeon 9600 XT and then NVIDIA’s NV38.

The XT line of Radeon 9x00 cards is specifically targeted at the very high end of the gaming market. With AMD and their Athlon 64 FX, Intel and the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, it’s not too surprising to see even more companies going this direction. With an ultra-premium part like the Radeon 9800 XT the profit margins are high and more importantly, the PR opportunities are huge – claiming the title of world’s fastest desktop GPU never hurts.

The effort required to produce a part like the Radeon 9800 XT is much lower than a serious redesign. When making any kind of chip (CPU, GPU, chipset, etc…) the design team is usually given a cutoff point where they cannot make any more changes to the design, and that is the design that will go into production. However, it is very rare that manufacturers get things right on the first try. Process improvements and optimizing of critical paths within a microprocessor are both time intensive tasks that require a good deal of experience.

Once ATI’s engineers had more experience with the R350 core and more time with it they began to see where the limitations of the GPU’s clock speed existed; remember that your processor can only run as fast as its slowest speed path so it makes a great deal of sense to change the layout and optimize the use of transistors, etc… to speed up the slow paths within your GPU. This oversimplified process is what ATI and their foundry engineers have been working on and the results are encompassed in the R360 – the core of the Radeon 9800 XT.

The Radeon 9800 XT is able to run at a slightly higher core frequency of 412MHz, quite impressive for ATI’s 0.15-micron chip (yes, this is the same process that the original R300 was based on). Keep in mind that the Radeon 9800 Pro ran at 380MHz and you’ll see that this 8% increase in clock speed is beginning to reach the limits of what ATI can do at 0.15-micron.

The Radeon 9800 XT does receive a boost in memory speed as well, now boasting a 365MHz DDR memory clock (730MHz effective) – an increase of 7% over the original Radeon 9800 Pro and an increase of 4% over the 256MB 9800 Pro. ATI was much more proud of their core clock improvements as we will begin to crave faster GPU speeds once more shader intensive games come out.

The Radeon 9800 XT does have a thermal diode (mounted on-package but not on-die) that has a driver interface that will allow the card to automatically increase its core speed if the thermal conditions are suitable. The GPU will never drop below its advertised 412MHz clock speed, but it can reach speeds of up to 440MHz as far as we know. The important thing to note here is that ATI fully warrantees this overclocking support, an interesting move indeed. Obviously they only guarantee the overclock when it is performed automatically in the drivers, as they do not rate the chips for running at the overclocked speed in all conditions.

The OverDrive feature, as ATI likes to call it, will be enabled through the Catalyst 3.8 drivers and we’ll be sure to look into its functionality once the final drivers are made available.

The Radeon 9800 XT will be available in the next month or so and it will be sold in 256MB configurations at a price of $499 – most likely taking the place of the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB.

Index The Radeon 9600XT & NV38


View All Comments

  • Pete - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Thanks for replying, Derek. Now get back ta work! ;) Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    The fact that a prescott is being used is no big deal..omg idiots.

    The big deal is that the prescott is only 2.8Ghz and considering these tests are cpu limited mostly the cpu is holding it back. (although increasing the resolution could fix that too)

    The fact the the NV38 is being tested is not a bad thing. The card will not be faster when it comes out. Remember the nv30?? "just wait til the drivers mature blah blah fucking blah..."
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Hi Mgdbottled here and I just do not get all you stupid NVidiots! yer cards suck and blow and you know it so go away!!!

    Even the 9500p blows the 5900 out of the weads!!!

    I'm with Bigshot...ATI rocks man!!!!
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Sources among Taiwanese mainboard makers state that due to some major issues with Intel’s Strained Silicon 90nm fabrication technology commercial availability of Prescott processors is expected only in the first quarter next year. In December 2003 Intel is very likely to paper-launch its Prescott processors and supply only a handful of such chips to selected solution providers for systems intended for gaming, just like AMD did with its Athlon XP 2800+ processor last year, sources claim

    Anand has benched a chip (Prescott) that will only come out at least 3 months from now??? .

    I think I'm wasting too much time on reviews and boards.

    I should get a life!
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I play games in 1024x768... with AAxAF turned up that is (which makes the testing perfect for me). When you show me a card that runs 1600x1200 with everything on that gets good framerates with NEW games then we'll talk. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    #19, When next year arrives there will be better cards that use the new GDDR memory which is supposingly 2X faster than what you have now. The NV4X is a new design and R4XX series are 2X faster than the R3XX series. So it's not worth it for a future investment like you make it sound. Everything is outdated in 6 months when you go for the latest and greatest in computers. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I just called ati after reading your post and they told me the same thing. The first person I talked to said they never had stock on the item and the person I'm talking to now is checking for me. That's what happens when you give Canadiens your money I guess. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    ati has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. I ordered there 9800 xt off the website which at the time said it was in stock. After 2 days of crap they told me that they had an overwhelming demand and the order was backordered. This is after it said it was in stock on their website and I placed the order the day it came out. Then they explained their *crap* by saying the web site said limited amount in stock and that their web site only changes the next day. What a bunch of crap. They were very rude on the phone when I questioned them about it and especially when I asked if they could please cancel my order. Their response was "why would you want to, you can't get this anywhere else"....very disappointed.... Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Please please please include Battlefield 1942 in your benchmark suite. This is a wonderful game and I never see it when graphics cards are being tested. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I suggest you include Il2:Forgotten Battles ( and Lock on: Modern Air Combat ( in your benchmark suite. They will both stress all the newest hardware to the max and especially Il2 at the highest detail level will stress every part of the system. Furthermore people interested in playing these games will get valuable information from your site; it´s a lot more meaningful to say that system x runs Lo-MAC at 20fps in stead of 15 for system y than it is to say that Quake3 runs 400fps in stead of 500. Reply

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