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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  • ianwhthse - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    You know, I think I read it wrong. 256-bit bus width, but no mention of the memory.

    I think I'm just confusing myself now, so I'll leave it to the experts to tell me off.
  • ianwhthse - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    7 & 8: Dell is currently selling the X800 SE in their Dimension 8400 series (And possibly elsewhere).

    Looks like the X800 SE is a system-vendor only thing. But it does supposedly have a 256-bit memory.

    Xbit labs talks about it. Futuremark (Yeah, yeah, 3dMark sucks. Blah, blah) doesn't currently even have the option to view X800 SEs on their ORB so I would assume they're not out in significant numbers yet.
  • jcwagers - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Is it just me or does it seem like the UT2k4 benchies are slighly low? I know that it is a tweaked and slightly more demanding version than UT2k3 but surely not by that much. The 3400+ with Radeon 9800XT scores a 51.6fps at 1280x1204? A similar config in earlier reviews ran UT2k3 at 98fps on a 9800 Pro. I know that 1280x1024 is more stressful than 1024x768 and that UT2k4 is more demanding...but should there be THAT much performance loss? I know it was a notebook review but it just seems strange to not see higher fps on the game. Again....maybe it's just me........

  • Johnmcl7 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    It is .13 low-k

    As far as I'm aware, ATi did have plans to release this card as the X800SE, but with 128-bit memory rather than 256, but I've not seen any sign of it.

  • nserra - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Why don’t they use GDDR3? It would lower the power consuming, that's important for mobile. Maybe GDDR3 memory banks are bigger?

    Is this chip .13 lowk, right?

    I will wait for the desktop version of this chip. If its 9800 nr on mobile, I bet will do 500Mhz on desktop.
    And if it's 256bit it will out do nvidia 6600 since this card is 128bit only.
    What will ati call it? X700?
  • Johnmcl7 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Dell do not only sell 4,200rpm hard drives in their notebooks, they sell 7,200rpm 60GB hard drives and 5,400 rpm 80GB hard drives as options.

    Very impressive results from a notebook though, performed better than I expected.

  • Anemone - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Well, I might be a bit too demanding from a poor notebook but, imo, one more generation and probably they will have finally gotten notebook gaming to an ok level. 9800 is pretty good, but I'd prefer to see closer to X800 pro #'s and pci-express changeable interfaces before taking the leap into notebooks.

  • DerekWilson - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    We've updated the article with clock speeds: core 350, mem 300.

    Most game test are not affected by harddrive speed (except for loading time between levels). None of our tests are significantly affected by harddrive speed (especially with all the system and video ram in the box).

    For more info on our farcry tests, see here: ... we used the airstrip_mp demo as we have been doing since we started testing farcry. We also always test with sound disabled.

    Derek Wilson

  • unuselessj - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    I did some looking into the Dell Inspiron XPS specs. Dell's "help me choose" specs say that it does have 256mb ram and a 256-bit bus. On NotebookForums, someone who had tested the XPS with the MR9800 said it comes set to 350mhz core and 300mhz ram.

    I also noticed that in the specs for the laptop used, the harddrive was an 80gb. Dell only sells 4200rpm drives. Although I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have much of a difference, I'm curious as to what the benchmark results would be if the laptop had a 60gb 7200rpm drive that would be more similar to the desktop's harddrive speed and buffer.
  • l3ored - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    what far cry benchmark is that? i have an athlon 64 3000, 9800 pro, and a gig of memory, and theres no way i would score 40fps average at those settings. Reply

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