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

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    FSAA does work in Halo you need to add two lines to the config.txt file to enable it. FSAA is working fine in Halo now.

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Where are the DX9 benchmarks?

    What is going on at Anandtech? Why all the Dx9 titles?

    Old cards can do dx8 well I want to see how dx9 titles run. Aquamark is mostly dx8.

    You for some reason are using buggy Nvidia drivers for this test why?

    Something is fishy here. I smell a sellout.

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Good article and nice new testing sweet. But look into adding SOE's Planetside to the mix that game eats anything less then a 5600 for lunch running at no more then 20 fps. my heavily oced 5600 (350/550) never gets over 70 or so. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    everything that was able to run aa/af was run in aa/af ... how can you complain about that?

    There is exactly one (sucky) dx9 game out that they didn't test: TRAOD ...

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    I'd like to see Nascar Racing 2003 tested, rather than F1Challenge. Since F1C is CPU limited, it makes the results rather useless for GPU testing.

    As #159 notes, starting from the back of a full-field AI race will definitely show what your hardware is capable of doing. But the AI calculations may eat up a lot of CPU cycles. (FWIW, NR2003 is multithreaded and MP-aware, so this scenario might make for a good CPU/system test.)

    However, one could create a _replay_ of a full-field race. The replay is then repeatable on any system. And, although I haven't tested this, I imagine the replay might be more GPU-intensive since there's less real-time AI and physics processing happening.

    OTOH, both games have DX8.x graphics engines AFAIK.
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Almost all the games were cpu-limited.

    Relatively few used AA/AF, which is even more important with a slow cpu, given that you have videocard power to burn. Another failure.

    Few of the games were DX9. Is this some sort of sop for Nvidia?

    All-in-all a very annoying and disappointing non-review.

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Still using Flash for benchmarks.. again? Come on, cut that out. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    i dont even play games at 1024x768 cause i have an nvidia and it does suck! Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 03, 2003 - link

    Pete --

    The ATI 9600 Pro would not run Homeworld 2 at all ... Oops on leaving that out of the write up, but that's a good catch on your part.

    NWN problems are known, but didn't exist until introduced by the Cats released *after* NWN was on the shelves (so says Bioware iirc).

    But we will touch on this in the next article.

    The 9600 Pro will be addressed when we do our budget card section of the roundup ...

    J Derek Wilson
    (Wading through 180 posts as I work on the next set of benchies and IQ tests)

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