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ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB
Limited Edition Video Card Review

March 15, 2004








CONTENTS

  1. Video cards' features
  2. Testbed, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Test results: performance comparison
  4. Conclusion

When my friends saw this case they supposed that it could be a gramaphone though they were surprised seeing such a new device. They also asked whether it was possible today to produce modern gramophones for collectors. 

I asked them what it could be other than a gramophone and heard a lot of suggestions - from a tape recorder to an electric razor with a luxurious set of accessories suitable for a wide range of creatures: from a human being to a gorilla.

One of my friends earlier worked in the IT sphere and noticed this logo:




He was perplexed. However, he left the IT market long ago and didn't know that ASUSTeK kept on producing video cards. He suggested that there was a special kind of a folded mainboard.

A leather case, a leather CD box, and a USB 2.0 Card Reader 7 in 1 point at a High-End solution. The card itself has no distinguishing features: and we tested a similar one before - its review is in the list below.

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON 9500/9700/9800 

The company released a certain number of its most expensive cards in such package with a luxurious accessory pack. Is that worth extra $50-70? Tastes differ. Some prefer a beautiful device and if it costs some $550 why not to pay $600 for a card which looks pleasant. However, there are some other people who don't need anything but useful software and cables even if the card is priced at $550. 

We won't study the card that thoroughly because we examined a similar one before.

Card

 

ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition


ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition



 
ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition
AGP x8/x4 interface, 256 MB DDR SDRAM memory in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

Hynix (HY5DU573222) 2.5ns memory chips (corresponds to 400 (800) MHz), memory clocked at 365 (730) MHz, GPU at 412 MHz. 256 bit memory bus.
 





 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 XT










 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 XT










 

This is actually the only RADEON 9800 XT card which is produced by ASUS rather than by PC Partner and which has a bit unique design. Let's start from its cooler.
 

ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition
The dual-fan design is based on copper heatsinks, with the back one cooling the memory chips. Unfortunately, the noise coming from the card is unexpected.



 

The cooler takes only one slot, and the first PCI slot is not locked and doesn't prevent proper cooling.

The most distinguishing feature of ASUS's card is the VIVO support - the card features the old ATI RAGE Theater codec.




Why not the latest Theater 200? Probably because ATI doesn't sell it to its partners and uses exceptionally for the All-in-Wonder series which is produced at PC Partner's factories and marked 'Built by ATI'.

The latest versions of the ATI Multimedia Center do not work with this codec, and it's impossible to make Video In work on ASUS's cards with ATI MMC. However, the software is not supplied by ATI's partners now. In particular, ASUSTeK keeps on using the CyberLink Power Director ME.

Now comes the box and its contents. 
 

ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition
Once again, this is a beautiful leather case with the company's logo. The only downside is the weak rivets the handle is attached with. I had to replace them with screws.









 
ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition
User manual, software CD, ASUSDVD, games (they are shown on the right), VIVO adapter, DVI-to-d-Sub and TV extension cord. All the CDs are packed into a leather case. There's also a Half-Life2 coupon.

Plus, there's a Card-reader that supports 7 flash card formats. USB 2.0. A USB extension cord supplied.




















 

Testbed and drivers

Testbed: 

  • Pentium 4 3200 MHz based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 3200 MHz CPU;
    • DFI LANParty Pro875 (i875P) mainboard; 
    • 1024 MB DDR SDRAM; 
    • Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB HDD; 
    • Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0b;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.
    • NVIDIA driver 53.03.

    Athlon 64 3400+ based CPU:

    • AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (2200 MHz = 220 MHz*10);
    • MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R (VIA K8T800); 
    • 1024 MB DDR400 SDRAM; 
    • Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 SATA 80GB; 
    • Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0b;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21").
    • NVIDIA v53.03.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications.

Test results

Before we start examining 2D quality, I should say there are no complete techniques for objective 2D quality estimation because:

  1. 2D quality much depends on certain samples for almost all modern 3D accelerators; 
  2. Besides videocards, 2D quality depends on monitors and cables; 
  3. Moreover, certain monitors might not work properly with certain video cards. 

With the ViewSonic P817 monitor and BNC Bargo cable the cards showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and clock speeds: 

ASUS A9800XT RADEON 9800 XT 256MB Limited Edition  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz

 

Test results: performance

Test applications:
 

  • Unreal 2: The Awakening (Infogrames), DirectX 8.1, multitexturing, tested with Bench'emAll! 2.5beta.

  •  
  • RightMark 3D (one of the game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4).
  •   

    Test settings: pixel shaders 1.1, shadow buffers OFF.
     

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) - DirectX 9.0, two different demos (ixbt07 and coast). Tested with anisotropic filtering enabled.
  • Note! Since this is the leaked beta version, the test results can be just of conditional interest.
     

  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell v.1.2b (UbiSoft) - Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, Very High quality; demo 1_1_2_Tbilisi. AA doesn't work in this game.

  •  
  • Call of Duty (MultiPlayer) (Infinity Ward/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt1203demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC ON 

  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo, test settings are shown here

    If you need the demo benchmarks please email me. 

    Performance

    Conclusion

    The price is drastically high, the card itself looks pleasant and beautiful, the features are abundant, the speeds are fast.

    Remember that the RADEON 9800 XT is the most powerful gaming accelerator for today. The price is tremendously high and doesn't correspond to the real competition of R360 vs NV38. But it's the market. Price is formed by demand. It turned out that such cards can be in demand. That's wonderful. :)

    Except the unexpected noise coming from the cooler and a loosen handle on the suitcase, there's nothing to complain about.

    In our 3Digest you can find full comparison characteristics for video cards of this and other classes. 

    When a friend of mine saw that the case had no gramaphone handle or even a hole for it he was very disappointed (the picture above is certainly a collage). :) 
     
     




     

    Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
     

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