There have been lots of questions about why we chose to do our Part 2 article using the 3.7 Cats from ATI rather than waiting until today to use the brand new 3.8 version of the drivers. Our reasoning behind this decision was two fold: we wanted to get yesterday's article out as a timely follow-up to last weeks Part 1 of the series, and we also wanted to do a comparison between the 3.7 Cats and the new drivers.

With the Radeon XT series, ATI introduced a new feature called OverDrive. The basic principle of OverDrive is that the GPU can run at higher clock speeds if it is running cool enough, so as long as the chip is cool enough it will safely overclock. ATI’s OverDrive technology uses a combination of a hardware thermal diode and software support to keep track of the temperature of the GPU. If the temperature is within certain predefined limits, the drivers will increase the GPU clock speed by a safe margin defined by ATI. Once the GPU heats up again to the point where ATI can’t guarantee no degradation of chip-life, the drivers will underclock the GPU to as low as its original clock speed (but never lower). The Catalyst 3.8 drivers enable support for the thermal diode present on the Radeon 9800XT and the Radeon 9600XT; note that none of the previous Radeon cards have the thermal diode and thus will not support OverDrive.

The whole idea that a reputable company would be building any kind of overclockability into their product has really intrigued us. We had lots of questions like: how much will performance improve, and will stability be an issue. How much can we really get for nothing? Well, the answers may surprise, but even if they don't, there are some very interesting implications from the way things have played out. But before we get to that, we are going to take a look at the new interface, and then go through all the games in the list one more time.

This time for our testing, we will only be doing 1600x1200 with AA/AF on and off for games that have the option. All of our graphs will use the data we collected for Part 2 and compare it to what we found after we received our drivers from ATI yesterday. It’s been a long night, but it was well worth it.

We used the same benchmarks on the same FX51 system as in Part 2. Let’s let the show begin...

Catalyst 3.8 Drivers


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  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    SO, can anyone tell me what good is the 9800XT and Overdrive is good for now that the bundled game is not out and won't be out anytime soon? Yeah you can use it for benchmarks and some crappy DX9 games that are out right now but that's about it.

    By the time Half-Life 2 OR should I say HALF-LEAKED 2! arrives on the retail stores the new gen cards will be announced. Dates should be met because that is one of the factors we base our buying decisions.

    This is a big JOKE. Those big companies insult the gaming community with fiascos and goof-ups and treating us customers (fanboy or not) this way for the sake of money.


  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    Overdrive, great feature!
  • WooDaddy - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    Hey Derek,

    Noticed a misprint. On the "Turning Up The Heat" page, it should be Final Fantasy 11 not 9. You got your roman numerals backwards; it's IX not XI. I almost got excited there. I'd love to see FF9 on PC. Shoot.. I'd love to see FF1-11 on PC..

    And before anyone responds.. NO I know there are emulators, but I don't do that stuff.. It's illegal unless I own it.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    The new stability properties/full uninstall and the new application profiles are great features.. However, I am very dissappointed with the overdrive feature.. It is the only feature that differentiates the new 9800XT and 9800Pro apart from the increased clock frequnecies, and it seems that the overdrive only increases the clock frequency another marginal 5% (412 vs 432 Mhz).. (But it translates a 15% increase in the clock frequency over a 9800Pro)

    About the discussion with Ps2.0:You can make two different conclusions: 1- If you want to get the best dx9 performance when the games will come out, wait for 6 months to see how Nv40 and R420 perform, then decide which one to pick (however, from the rumors I heard, do not expect that NV40 is going to be a total killer).. 2- If you want to buy the best card today that also can run ps2.0 games reasonably coming in the future, then ATI is the only way to go (and unfortunately TRAOD is the only game that is indicator to this, and Derek/Anand tried to avoid this conclusion as much as possible).

    And the possible performance improvements with the driver for Nvidia issue: It is very likely that this is biggest improvement thay can get.. After these ones, I only expect small improvements, not like an addition 30-40% again. So do not expect that NV3x series will beat R3x0 in close future as written in the benchmark article..

    Btw, I really appreciate what Derek/Anand did with IQ article.. It really seems a lot of work, but please this is not a motherboard/CPU article.. A gfx card article needs a lot of attention to image quality and because of the latest cheats, the images had to be analyzed very carefully.. I rather prefer to wait another week instead of a rushed benchmark.. Anandtech was a name for such quality before, please do not loose it because of your deals with IHVs..

    Thanks all..
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    Better yet compare an overclocked 9800 Pro to a 9800 XT with Overdrive and with manually overclocked 9800 XT!

    This is what I want to know as a buyer. I dont care so much about STOCK speeds comarison, I care about the POTENTIAL of the card.

    Lastly I agree with #16 slightly lower resolutions than 1600x1200 should be tested since here is where big differences OCCUR. Or was it purposely done this way to show that there is a slight speed bump? in some way degrading the new ATI drivers.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    please don't divide the ffxi benchmark number by time taken; just give the raw score. i'd rather not have to do math in every review just to compare your numbers to my results. Reply
  • AgaBooga - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    I think that there should have been some tests at lower resolutions because at such a high resolution, you can't really gain a whole lot more just from drivers or a slight bump in speed. Reply
  • Locut0s - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    Another nice job guys! I don't mean to add more work to what must be an extreamly heavy work load, putting together that artcle in 1 day is impressive, but it would be nice if the charts also showed the min/max frame rates you got on these games. You already mension them in the text so why not put them up on the charts too. After all when you are talking about playing games at frame rates over 100fps it's the min frame rates that really start to matter, not aquezzing out another 0.5fps at the top. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link


    I'll gloss over the irony of calling yourself an idiot, except to say I agree. ;)

    When is it EVER a "good time" to buy a $400 card? Hardly ever.

    What if I'm in the market for a card NOW (because I'm still living with say a GeForce3, Radeon 8500, or lower for example), and I want to get the card that gives me the best possibility at being able to play the "upcoming" DX9 games?

    The Radeon is clearly the best bet.

    For all we know, BOTH of these cards will be crap with "upcoming DX9" titles. That doesn't mean that one of these cards clearly has the best potential.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - link

    Take note how he said that the highs and lows were closer together -might not look like much on the charts but might be a bit smoother in real life. Reply

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