The world has long been used to seeing desktop performance and graphics capabilities increase at incredibly high rates. We have also borne witness to the fact that integrated and mobile graphics have lagged desktop performance by a significant amount. While integrated graphics still trail modular graphics performance by at least a generation in features (and closer to 2 generations in performance), summer '04 sees the introduction of a mobile graphics part from ATI that will change the face of notebook graphics as we know it.

The ATI Mobility Radeon 9800 GPU marks the first time bleeding edge desktop technology has pushed its way into the mobile market only one quarter after its desktop R420 counterpart. In fact, the MR9800 debuts even before we see reasonable availability of the X800 line, but that's a whole other article.

We've been able to get our hands on a Dell XPS system equipped with the new MR9800 GPU. As this part marks the new face of desktop replacement graphics, the MR9800 will be pitted against our desktop GPUs in this exploration. We haven't included any other notebook graphics in this review both because we didn't have a module readily available to drop into the XPS for comparison purposes and there simply isn't anything out there that performs comparable to this part in the notebook space. Traditional notebook graphics are targeted at low power first and everything else second, which isn't what is needed or wanted in the DTR space (which often times uses desktop parts rather than mobile parts).

The future will see more mobile GPU reviews using the same game suite as our desktop GPU reviews. For now, let's move on to the MR9800 and take a peak under the hood.

Good Things in Small Packages


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  • DerekWilson - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Thanks Dave, I've tweaked the conclusion a little to reflect this fact.

    As for the comparison systems, the only way to have a true and fair comparison would have been to grab an AGP version of the mr9800 and dropped it in our desktop system. Since we couldn't do that (or shove other GPUs in the notebook) we went with our standard graphics testbed.

    This isn't a direct comparison, and we mentioned that we only used other ATI cards because of that fact. Numbers other than the MR9800 are just for reference.
  • DaveBaumann - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link


    Its up to the notebook vendors to qualify the drivers, not ATI. ATI can supply the drivers to the vendors, but its up to the vendors to qualify and release them.
  • plewis00 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    If the graphics drivers are lagging behind, can't you use a driver which works with all cards - like the Omega ones? The same driver works with the Mobility series and the desktop ones, would that help out? I don't think it disables Powerplay either.

    Does anyone know what the power drain of the laptop is during a heavy gaming session? Or how long it lasts on batteries?
  • devonz - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    I have to reiterate what #13 said. Why did you compare a P4 notebook against an Athlon 64 desktop!?!?!? And why the differing memory configurations!?!?!? Since you are comparing the video cards, it would SEEM like a good idea to get the configurations as close as possible. Certainly you could get closer to parity than THIS choice!

    My $.02
  • Johnmcl7 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    I agree, I keep my laptop graphics cards at stock, it's not worth overclocking for a small performance increase, especially when it is usually difficult to replace the graphics card.

  • nserra - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    #14 Maybe Powerstrip will do, but not recommended....

    Besides overclock just to get from 200 to 220, 100 to 110, 50 to 55, 25 to 27 in some games.....
    Just to say that when you already have a lot of fps you will get even more (not needed) and when you have low fps, you will continue to have low fps….

    In very resuming words OVERCLOCK does not compensate.
  • Johnmcl7 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Usually it's just the same as overclocking a desktop graphics card although obviously you have far less headroom.

  • skunkbuster - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    just out of curiosity, anyone know if it's possible to overclock a video card in a laptop? Reply
  • reboos - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    comparing a Athlon64 3200+ w/ 1 gig of RAM to a Northwood 3.2 with 2gb of RAM. I don't get it. :\ Reply
  • Shalmanese - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    No Doom 3 benchmarks? :o :( Reply

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