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Home > Hardware Reviews > Graphics Cards

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
VGA Roundup

1. Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro Ultimate


HomepageAfter the Cebit exhibition we eagerly have been waiting to get the first VGA card. When Sapphire's 9800 Pro came first to our office, a sense of both amazement and thrill overshadowed us. We all had in mind that with this card, CDRInfo was about to make its debut in the VGA card section. And yes, the Radeon 9800 Pro is a good milestone to start our VGA section establishment with.

Sapphire best known for its qualitative products, offered to send us its 128 MB DDR Radeon 9800 Pro Atlantis. Although a new generation of ATI's VGA cards based on the R420 GP has launched, its previous high-tech answers included the 9800 Pro card which is widely known for its good performance and high overclocking capabilities.

But let's see what the ultimate version has to offer.

- Specifications

Memory Bus Width 128 MB DDR
Memory interface 256 Bit DDR
Memory Type DDR1
Core clock 380 MHz
Memory clock 680 Mhz (340x2)
Memory Bandwidth 21.8 GB/sec
Pixel FillRate 3.04 Gpixels/sec
Geometry rate 380 Mtriangles/sec
Bus 2x/4x/8x
Processing technology 0.13µ
Output Connections VGA + TV + DVI
Cooling Zalman double-side Heat sink
2D supported Resolutions & Hz 640x480@200, 800x600@200, 1024x768@200, 1152x864@100, 1280x1024@160, 1600x1200@120, 1920x1080@100, 1920x1200@100, 1920x1440@85, 2048x1536@75
3D Maximum resolution 2048x1536 with 16.7M colors
Anisotropic Filtering modes 2x/4x/8x/16x
Anti-Aliasing modes 2x/4x/6x
Ramdac 400 Mhz
Pipelines 8
Texture unit per pixel pipeline 1
Technologies supported - SMARTSHADER 2.1 technology allows users to experience complex, movie-quality effects in next-generation 3D games and applications
- SMOOTHVISION 2.1 technology enhances image quality by removing jagged edges and bringing out fine texture detail, without compromising performance
- Unique VIDEOSHADER engine uses programmable pixel shaders to accelerate video processing and provide better-looking visuals
- FULLSTREAM technology removes blocky artifacts from Streaming and Internet video and provides sharper image quality
- HyperZ III+ technology improves rendering performance
Pixel Shader Support 2.0+
Vertex Shader Support 2.0+
DTV/HDTV Decoding Supported
Package contents -Instruction Manual
-Installation Driver Disk
-Cyberlink Power DVD
-Redline Tweak Utility
-Tomb Raider : The Angel of Darkness
-S-Video Cable
-RCA Cable
-DVI to VGA Adapter
-S-Video to RCA Adapter
System requirements

The system requirements for the card and complementary software:
- PC with Pentium 4 / III 450 MHz or AMD Athlon processor with AGP 4x/8x universal slot
-128MB of system memory and 1.6 GB of hard disk space
-8x speed CD-ROM drive, DVD playback requires DVD drive
-300-Watt power supply or greater
- Windows 2000, 98SE, ME, XP and DirectX 9.0
- Microsoft DirectX 3.0 compatible sound card
- Monitor supported: CRT-15 pin, Svideo, Composite and DVI-I (LCD)

- 3D Mark Detailed specifications

- The chipset

What's special for the Ultimate series? The non-ultimate series are equipped with a huge fan which covers the core of the chipset. Fans are noisy and as every movie-lover knows, the most irritating thing when watching a movie is the bumbling noise of the cooling fan.

Daniel Forster, Sapphire's Senior Manager said the following about the Ultimate series: "This card was built to enable people to be able to build silent yet powerful systems. You want to hear your movies or games in a PC not all the fans in the system - so in the future noise levels this will become more and more important with PC moving into the living room as all round multimedia machines. This is why we build these cards."

According to Mr Forster, the noise problem was the key factor for the development of the Ultimate series. As you can see from the following picture, the irritating fan has been substituted with a double-sided, massive but silent heat pipe system.

Front side

Click to enlarge
Back side

The only problem with the fluid-cooling system is its massive size. Unfortunately it takes the place of the PCI slot which is next to the AGP. Although it is little bunglesome, it does its job with absolute silence.

Click to enlarge
Front side exposed

Removing the screws we were able to see the chipset. As you can see two small heat sinks protect the DDR memories from overheating. Unstucking them we were able to have a closer look on the DDR.

The card wears the common Samsung K4D26323RA-GC2A memory chips with 2.8ns access time at 680 Mhz.

Removing the heat paste conductor we took a pic of the R350 GPU.

This label verifies that the chipset is nothing more or less than the Radeon 9800Pro 128M DDR

- Deeper look in the cooling system

The cooling system is consisted of a massive metallic heatsink which covers the both sides of the card, and a magneto-like pipe.

The thermojunction of the GPU

- How it works

A special liquid is sealed inside the pipe which when it is heated vaporizes. The hot vapor then gets drawn to the other bottom side the heatsink, giving up its heat. After this the vaporized liquid solidifies and it's drawn back to the heat source again. Fascinating, simple and cool!

The Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 Pro Ultimate uses the standard VGA, S-Video, and DVI connections with TV-Out functionality.

- Package contents

The package contents the instruction manual and the Installation Driver Disk for the technical section. The bundle software is consisted of Cyberlink Power DVD, Redline Tweak Utility and the game Tomb Raider : The Angel of Darkness. As for the connectivity the card comes with an S-Video Cable, an RCA Cable, a DVI to VGA Adapter and an S-Video to RCA Adapter.

In the hardware aspect, the Ultimate series chipset is exactly the same as its previous 9800 Pro model. As we have already mentioned the Ultimate model differentiates for its soundless cooling heat pipe system. Also the memory clock speed is lower than the original Pro model (perhaps for overheating reasons).


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