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HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB Video Cards Review

January 8, 2004






CONTENTS

  1. Video cards features
  2. Testbed, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Test results: Quake3 ARENA
  4. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
  5. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  6. Test results: Code Creatures DEMO
  7. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003
  8. Test results: Unreal II: The Awakening
  9. Test results: RightMark 3D
  10. Test results: HALO: Combat Evolved
  11. Test results: Splinter Cell
  12. Test results: Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness
  13. Test results: Call Of Duty
  14. Conclusion

Today we are testing two unique graphics cards equipped with quite interesting cooling devices.

But first of all have a look at the list of reviews of the ATI's DX9 family.

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

There is no need to tell you about RADEON 9800. You can find all the information about it above. But I still want to look closer at HIS products we are studying today.

Above you could see the collage of the card on the snow. The point is that the marketing slogan IceQ Arctic Cooling demonstrates the unique cooling system installed on the Platinum series. Do you feel cold or even frozy thinking of the icy air driven by that cooler?:-) Well, there's a bit of truth in it. 

HIS, or Hightech Information System, is a Hong Kong company which has its production facilities in China. Its history of foundation looks very interesting. As it's written on its site, four Christians who were computer enthusiasts as well founded the company in 1987 to praise God. They were the first in the world to have such lofty ideas. As you can see the company has been working for over 15 years already, and it has become one of the strongest companies in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it's not that widely popular on our local market, and many products made by HIS sell here in OEM and noname packages, which can be a very easy way for swindlers to discredit this company.

Nevertheless, I haven't heard yet of any negative opinions about HIS products based on RADEONs of different types. Today we'll study TWO cards which look like two peas in a pot, including the accessories and packages. They differ only in the core and memory clock speeds. So, they are the RADEON 9800 and RADEON 9800 PRO based cards from HIS of the Platinum series. Both card are equipped with 128 MB memory.

Cards

 

HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB



 
AGP x8/x4/x2 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM memory in 8 chips on both PCB sides.
 
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 IceQ Platinum 128MB
Infineon 3ns memory chips (corresponds to 333 (666) MHz), memory clocked at 300 (600) MHz, GPU at 335 MHz. 256 bit memory bus.


HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB
Samsung 2.8ns memory chips (corresponds to 350 (700) MHz), memory clocked at 340 (680) MHz, GPU at 380 MHz. 256 bit memory bus.



 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 PRO 128MB







 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 PRO 128MB







 

The design in both cases, R9800 and R9800 PRO, is based on the reference one.




The massive cooler locks the first PCI slot.




Here is how the card looks when inserted into the mainboard:




The cooler has a switch that can change the fan rotation modes (high and low).







Unfortunately, the switch can prevent installation of the card into some cases where the cutout for expansion cards starts over the upper edge of the mainboard: you can see that the lower screw of the DVI connector can't reach the lower edge of the cutout because of the switch.

Here's the cooler:
 

HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB
This turbine-shaped cooler draws air from inside of the PC case, drives it through the sink pipes and pushes the hot air out. We already saw a similar system, for example, OTES III from ABIT. HIS calls this cooler DHES (Direct Heat Exhaust System).

It produces very little noise, and you can always switch the cooler to the Low mode. But even in the High mode I didn't notice much noise from it.

















 
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB
Both cards ship in the same package, one with the Pro sticker. The box is painted blue, according to the icy nature of the IceQ. When you open the cover, you can see the card through the window. The design is simple and pleasant.






 
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB
The box contains an installation guide, software CDs, two games, DVI-to-d-Sub, S-Video-to-RCA adapters, TV extension cords, and an external power supply splitter.






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.
    • ATI CATALYST 3.10 (6.404) drivers v6.404.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications. 

Cards for comparison:

  • ASUS V9950 Ultra (GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, 450/425 (850) MHz, 256 MB DDR, driver 53.03).
  • Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900 (400/425 (850) MHz, 128 MB DDR, driver 53.03).

Judging by the current prices, the RADEON 9800 PRO 128MB and RADEON 9800 have no direct competitors because the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra is still more expensive than the 9800 PRO and the GeForce FX 5900 is also dearer than the 9800. But anyway, they are the closest competitors, that is why when comparing the cards remember that NVIDIA's solutions have higher prices. 

Overclocking

 

HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 IceQ Platinum 128MB 325/580 -> 450/680 MHz
HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB 380/680 -> 470/750 MHz

Note:

Overclocking depends on a sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this trade mark or series. 

Note that such excellent overclocking results were obtained without any additional cooling! Both cards worked at those clock speeds at the average room temperature. That is why I decided to test both cards both at the default clock rates and at the increased ones, especially because the manufacturer positions its IceQ as the best solutions for overclockers. 

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:  

HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800/9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz
 

Test results: performance

Note: ANISO 8xQ stands for Anisotropic 8x Quality, ANISO 16xQ for Anisotropic 16x Quality.

Because of NVIDIA's policy of optimizations the anisotropic filtering is often simplified even in the Quality mode, that is why we decided that we should compare ANISO 16xQ (ATI) and ANISO 8xQ (NV). Both modes have their strong and weak points, - let's consider they compensate each other.

Test applications:

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here
  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703 demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF 
  • Unreal Tournament 2003 v.2225 (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality 
  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703 demo, test settings - maximum: detailing level - High, texture detailing level - #4, S3TC OFF, smoothness of curves is much increased through variables r_subdivisions "1" and r_lodCurveError "30000" (at default r_lodCurveError is 250 !), the configurations can be downloaded from here
  • Code Creatures Benchmark Pro (CodeCult) - the game that demonstrates card's operation in DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L. 
  • Unreal II: The Awakening (Legend Ent./Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality 
  • RightMark 3D v.0.4 (one of the gaming scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 
  • HALO: Combat Evolved (Microsoft) - Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, Highest quality
  • 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
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, demo Paris5_4. Highest quality, Depth of Fields PS20 off. These settings are equal for all the cards tested.

If you need patch 49 and the demo benchmarks please email me. 
 

Quake3 Arena
















No AA, no anisotropy: defeat

AA enabled: victory in high resolutions

Anisotropy enabled: defeat again

AA and anisotropy enabled: parity or even a little victory
 
 

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
















No AA, no anisotropy: both cards lose to their competitors, but remember about the price difference.

AA enabled: HIS is ahead

Anisotropy enabled: they lose again

AA and anisotropy enabled: victory!
 
 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)
















No AA, no anisotropy: parity

AA enabled: the same

Anisotropy enabled: HIS cards keep ahead a little bit

AA and anisotropy enabled: the same
 
 

Code Creatures
















No AA, no anisotropy: defeat

AA enabled: it gets even worse

Anisotropy enabled: the card are a bit ahead

AA and anisotropy enabled: in general, they fall a bit behind the competitors
 
 

Unreal Tournament 2003
















No AA, no anisotropy: almost parity

AA enabled: HIS wins

Anisotropy enabled: actually, they go on a par

AA and anisotropy enabled: HIS wins again!
 
 

Unreal II: The Awakening
















The RADEON 9800/9800 PRO win in all modes!
 
 

RightMark 3D
















In general, HIS wins again thanks to shaders.
 
 

HALO: Combat Evolved










No AA, no anisotropy: the RADEON are a little slower

AA doesn't work in this game. 

Anisotropy enabled: excellent scores!
 
 

Splinter Cell










No AA, no anisotropy: defeat...

AA doesn't work in this game. 

Anisotropy enabled: victory.

In general, HIS cards win in this round.
 
 
 

Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness, Paris5_4
















Again thanks to the shaders the cards from HIS take the lead.
 
 
 

Call Of Duty
















No AA, no anisotropy: the cards go on a par because of the limited potential of the platform

AA enabled: the RADEONs win

Anisotropy enabled: the same

AA and anisotropy enabled: the R9800/9800 PRO take a lead again!
 
 

Conclusion

In general, the RADEON 9800/9800 PRO look superior to their competitors taking into account the prices for the beginning of January 2004. The HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 IceQ Platinum 128MB is priced at around US$280, and the HIS Excalibur RADEON 9800 PRO IceQ Platinum 128MB at US$330. 

It's the high time to compare RADEON 9800 to FX 5900XT, and RADEON 9800 PRO to FX 5900, but we decided to make the competition tougher, but even in this case the cards from HIS outperformed the rest.

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

Kind gratitudes to SVEGA company, HIS
and to Peter Yeung for help with cards.
 
   
 
Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com
 


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