Final Words

As 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.

Overall Unreal Tournament 2003 Performance
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  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    Very well done.
  • Icewind - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    I'd like to know how the freak the Nvidia cards outdid the ATI's in Halo and UT2k3, thats just beyond me.
  • TheSnowman - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    hum Derek, i don't suppose you know why the nvidia based high end cards idle at so much lower temperature when compared to the ati based offerings?
  • AnonymouseUser - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    Nice roundup. The 5900se (priced similar to the 5700 Ultra and 9600XT) is what I find most impressive.
  • Abraxas - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    great review, this is the first of its type that i've seen and it really changed my mind on what card to buy. I would like to see 1280x1024 or even 1600x1200 in a future review, but even at 1024 it is nice.

    53.03 is really that much faster? that's just amazing.

    #7 ATI held a huge advantage on older drivers in HALO, just as much as in HL2. if the new drivers are that much faster... it appears that nvidia should never have been doubted :)
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    Sorry Icewind, we didn't include numbers for stock 9800pro, 5900(ultra/non-ultra/se/xt) or any stock card other than the newest releases. Most other reviews cover reference cards running stock numbers, but we just needed one reference point to show where these numbers fell and give people a basis to judge performance increase.

    Iger, there are a few reasons for what you are seeing. I would say that your questions were the correct ones to ask.

    We could only use a couple benchmarks, and the couple we chose are standardish (UT2K3), based on very common engines (JKJA), or one of the few available (Halo having PS2.0 support). These were not the games with huge performance gaps between them (like Tomb Raider or Tron). Also, since we were including 5700 and 9600 parts, we wanted to stick with the standard-but-lowish 1024x768 resolution rather than bump up a 1280 flavor.

    There is also one other thing that has been overlooked. Since the fall, there have been some driver changes. We've moved up to 53.03 for NVIDIA (which brough some noticeable performance increases) and the CATALYST 4.1 drivers which we have yet to give a good work out.

    In future reviews of this type, we plan on going with higher resolutions even if we include midrange cards. So the question we leave to the readers is this: how high do we go? 1152x864, 1280x960, 1280x1024 or 1600x1200 ...
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    Most 9800's seem to be able to hit about 450MHz at the very max. Even the 9800 non-pro's (mine can get to 440MHz, but I run at 430MHz).
    Seems like a limit of the chip at about that sort of level.
  • drpepper1280 - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    To answer a few questions, the passivly cooled 9600xt is on newegg, its the ultimate version. If you search by category it is at the bottom. Also the reason the nvidia cards do well against the ati cards is because they are overclocked in the bench marks (I'm pretty sure), also none of the bench marks are Half Life 2, lol. I had one question even before viewing the article, how does sapphires 9600xt 256mb stand up. Unfortunetly it was not reviewed, but I did read the the 9600xt could benifit from a memory increase. This makes me wonder if the 9600xt 256mb is actually a really good deal (it only cost 170 dollars), or if it is like many 256mb cards that actually decrease performance.
  • Iger - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    It's strange it almost doesn't correspond with the fall test of FX5950 against 9800XT... There 9800XT looked much stronger... Now even the reference XT looks weaker, than FX. Maybe that's because the fall test was at higher resolutions? Or just not enough tests to see the big picture?
  • tfranzese - Wednesday, February 4, 2004 - link

    Good article. Impressed with both camp's overclocking headroom.

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