Final WordsAs for overclocking, it seems that the Radeon 9800XT cards that we looked at don't have as much headroom as the GeForce FX 59xx solutions do. The fact that the 9800XT doesn't benefit as much from overclocking is interesting, especially since the 9600XT seems to benefit so much from it. Core processing power is becoming more and more important, and with shader intensive DX9 games on their way, enthusiasts are going to want more and more power from their graphics cards.
LeadTek and MSI really ran away with the performance here. Both vendors ended up with some really nice cards that we could clock to the sky and back.
Of course, if lower noise is your need, Sapphire has a silent 9600XT and all of MSI's solutions are very quiet.
When it comes to heat, we would really like to be able to analyze the situation a bit more, but hopefully we've been able to show the ball park people would be working with. Of course, lower powered cards are generally cooler, so if you need to maintain a lower system temperature, you'll need to stick with one of the 9600XT cards. If you want to go for one of these really hot cards, you may want to think about trying to keep a cooler system as well.
Hopefully, we will be able to continue doing these massive roundups whenever new GPUs launch. And hopefully, the vendors will continue adding more and more useful and powerful features. We are definitely hoping for a wider variety of RAM types (which is very affected by the number of RAM vendors making GDDR-II modules) and passively cooled solutions. Low noise, low profile, truly single slot solutions are always something that we are after. Current single slot graphics cards are only good for beefing up something like a Shuttle XPC, where you have the AGP slot right next to the side of the case.
Hopefully there has been a little bit in here for everyone, and I would like to thank the manufacturers for getting us their cards and being patient as we put together this massive review.