iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

Sapphire Atlantis
RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate,
RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision),
RADEON 9800SE 256bit

March 23, 2004






CONTENTS

  1. Video card's features
  2. Testbeds, 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: FarCry DEMO
  9. Test results: RightMark 3D
  10. Test results: Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
  11. Test results: Half-Life2 (Beta)
  12. Test results: HALO
  13. Test results: Unreal II
  14. Test results: Call Of Duty
  15. Test results: Splinter Cell
  16. Conclusion

Why, in our opinion, does the collage above picture some S3 Trio based card? How is it related to Sapphire and its current RADEON 9800 based products? Well, Sapphire Technologies was founded a short time ago as a branch of PC Partner which used to place orders with other companies. But sometimes the market offered video cards of this trade mark too. In particular, today's hero was produced at PC Partner's factory, that is why this card has a certain attitude to Sapphire's history though this trade mark didn't exist yet at that time. 

So, Sapphire is pretty popular on the market. Actually, it offers the widest range of cards based on ATI's GPUs. Today we will test three cards, each having its peculiarity, based on R350-360 processors. 

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON 9500/9600/9700/9800 (R300-R350)

One of three Sapphire's cards is the High-End RADEON 9800XT based solution (with Zalman's cooler), another is an interesting marketing version of the RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB based on the 9800XT PCB. The last one is a strange RADEON 9800SE based one with a 256-bit bus and the clocks speeds of RADEON 9800 (non-Pro).   

Cards

 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision)


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit



 
AGP x8/x4 interface, 256 MB DDR SDRAM (9800SE has 128MB) in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate; Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision)
Hynix 2.5ns memory chips (corresponds to 400 (800) MHz), the memory is clocked at 365 (730) MHz in Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate, and at 340 (680) MHz in Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision). GPU clocked at 412 MHz (first card), and at 380 MHz (second card). 256 bit memory bus.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit
Samsung 3.3ns memory chips (corresponds to 300 (600) MHz), memory clocked at 290 (580) MHz. GPU at 325 MHz. 256 bit memory bus.



 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 XT






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) 






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit Reference card ATI RADEON 9700 PRO










 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate Reference card ATI RADEON 9800 XT






Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) 



Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit Reference card ATI RADEON 9700 PRO







 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate and Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) are copies of the reference RADEON 9800 XT card. The latter has a simpler cooler (that cools only the chip) and lower clock rates. Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit is based on the PCB of RADEON 9700 PRO. But this is not just a copy of the reference design - the company slightly modified it (in particular, there's a RAGE THEATER connector). Unfortunately, the release of R300 based cards on the same PCB with the VIVO support was canceled. 

Now let's look at the coolers.

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate
This card differs from the reference RADEON 9800 XT in the cooler which is based on Zalman's design. The more heating front heatsink transfers heat to the back heatsink through a pipe with low-boiling liquid to expand the heat-dissipation area. But two simple heatsinks are not sufficient for cooling the RADEON 9800 XT based on the 0.15 micron technology, that is why the cooler is equipped with a low-speed fan attached on top. However, the mount is not handy (it can easily fall apart whenever the fan touches it). If you don't use it the temperature of the heatsink can reach 85 degrees and the driver will start reducing the clock speeds. 

Although Ultimate usually implies a fan-less system, this low-noise fan doesn't worsen the impression. Besides, if your PC case is well blown through, you might not need the fan at all.







Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) 
The main difference of this card from the reference 9800 XT is the cooler which consists of a large heatsink. It cools down only the core. The memory that runs at a much lower clock than its rated one needs no heatsinks. 





Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit
The cooler is black, like that on RADEON 9700 PRO (RADEON 9800SE 256bit Gold) based cards. 






It's clear that the Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate has the R360 core, let's look at the other chips:
 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision)




Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit




The RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB is based on the R360 Revision, which has lower clock speeds because of the marketing purposes. Why so? Just imagine that some system builder or distributor asked for a 256MB model based on the RADEON 9800. The production of RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB with DDR-II was stopped long ago because it was senseless to make such cards with too expensive DDR-II memory. At the same time, a customer wouldn't want to pay too much for the 9800 XT. So, why not to make RADEON 9800 XT based cards with the clock speeds of the Pro version? The company wouldn't suffer losses with such price drops and even would get an additional income. That is why the reduced clock speeds is a pure marketing step - it's silly to cut prices for the 9800 XT if they sell well even without it. If you are an overclocker, remember, that you can flash in the BIOS from RADEON 9800 XT to get the latter cheaper by $80-90. You just only have to provide proper cooling for the memory (like for the 9800XT). 

Note that the 9800SE cards are also based on the R360 chips! Unfortunately, this sample doesn't work properly with all 8 rendering pipelines. Remember that the difference between the RADEON 9800SE and 9800 is similar to the one between RADEON 9500 and 9700 - half of the rendering pipelines and the HSR unit are disabled. 

Let's get back to our card. We know that the market offers two types of RADEON 9800SE: with 256-bit and 128-bit memory buses. The first type was produced by PowerColor with the Gold suffix, the second type was made by Sapphire without any suffix (see the list of reviews above). I don't think that it's a nice idea to make cards based on different PCBs under the same name. It confuses users and allows resellers sell cheaper 128-bit cards at the price of the 256-bit ones. There is one more difference between the first and second versions: the 256-bit RADEON 9800SE from PowerColor runs at the clock speeds of the 9800 PRO: 380/340 (680) MHz, while the 128-bit 9800SE from Sapphire was clocked at the frequency of 9800: 325/290 (580) MHz. 

Now the Hong Kong company produces a 256-bit 9800SE version similar to PowerColor's Gold with the clock rates left old - 325/290 (580) MHz. So, the market offers THREE versions of 9800SE. Does it make sense? - The tests will show it.

Traditionally, first we look at the Retail boxes. 
 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate
This package nicely combines small dimensions and a bright attractive and stylish decoration. You can see the card through an opening in the box.





Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) 
This card ships in the package left from the first release of RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit
The design is similar to the above one. Note that it doesn't say a word about the bus. That is why if you want to get the retail 9800SE card from Sapphire check its clock speeds before purchasing it. More details about the different 9800SE are given below. 



 

Now come the accessory packs:
 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate
User guide, software CD, CD with RedLine utility, PowerDVD, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Half-Life2 coupon, TV extension cords, DVI-to-d-Sub and SVideo-to-RCA adapters.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision) 
The same.


Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit
The same except the Half-Life2 coupon.



 

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 driver 6.430 (CATALYST 4.3).

VSync off, S3TC off in applications.

The following cards are used for comparison:

  • ASUS V9950 Ultra (GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, 450/425 (850) MHz, 256 MB, driver 56.56);
  • Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (475/475 (950) MHz, 256 MB, driver 56.56);
  • Inno3D Tornado GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (475/450 (900) MHz, 128 MB, driver 56.56);
  • AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT (390/350 (700) MHz, 128 MB, driver 56.56);
  • Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 (325/290 (580) MHz, 128 MB);

Here are the pairs to compare (according to the prices):

  • RADEON 9800SE 256bit vs GeForce FX 5900XT FX 5700 Ultra
  • RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB vs GeForce FX 5900 Ultra
  • RADEON 9800 XT vs GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

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: 

Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate 1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision)  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz
Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz
 

Test results: performance

Test applications:

     
    • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here

    •  
    • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.07 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF 

    •  
    • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Quaver, 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

    •  
    • Unreal Tournament 2003 v.2225 (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality 

    •  

    • Code Creatures Benchmark Pro (CodeCult) test demonstrates operation of cards in the 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 game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 

    • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, three recorded demo. Highest quality, Depth of Fields PS20 off. Test settings are here.

    •  
    • HALO: Combat Evolved (Microsoft) - Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, highest quality

    •  
    • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) - DirectX 9.0, two different recorded demo (ixbt07 and coast). Tests carried out with anisotropy enabled, and with AA and anisotropy enabled.


     

  • 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

  •  
  • Call of Duty (MultiPlayer) (Infinity Ward/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0104demo, test settings- maximum, S3TC ON

  •  
  • FarCry DEMO (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, the demos can be downloaded from here (game loads with -DEVMODE), test settings - Very High (except textures where DEMO doesn't allow over Medium). 

  •  

If you need the demo benchmarks please email me. 

Quake3 Arena, Quaver















 

 

No AA, no anisotropy: all the cards lose to their competitors.

AA enabled: R9800SE remains a loser but the other two improved their scores.

Anisotropy enabled: here all the cards lose again.

AA+anisotropy: R9800SE loses the battle while the other two win it.


 
 
 

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral
















The cards lose in all the modes.

R9800SE looks worst of all.

 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer), Checkpoint

 
















No AA, no anisotropy: R9800SE is still an outsider while R9800RPO and 9800XT take the lead (except 1024x768 where the speed unfortunately (for users who pay $500 for such card) jumps from one driver version to another).

AA enabled: the picture is the same

Anisotropy enabled: just the same

AA+anisotropy: R9800SE doesn't justify even 2/3 of its price, while the other two score pretty good results. But it's very possible that the next driver version will show a much worse picture..


 

Code Creatures

 
















No AA, no anisotropy: defeat. Well, we know about cheats and optimizations, but it's hard to solve this problem because it's impossible to set anti-cheats for all driver versions and it can also kill useful optimizations. I just can say that the rendering quality doesn't suffer yet. 

AA enabled: the same.

Anisotropy enabled: this function let the two powerful R9800 win, though R9800SE is still hopeless.

AA+anisotropy: R9800Pro and 9800XT go on a par with their competitors while R9800SE still loses.


 

Unreal Tournament 2003

 

 
















No AA, no anisotropy: R9800SE loses, and the other two have equal scores with their competitors

AA enabled: R9800Pro and 9800XT both take the lead

Anisotropy enabled: the two cards demonstrate the parity again

AA+anisotropy: R9800Pro and 9800XT take a lead while 9800SE loses again.


 

FarCry DEMO

 



















R9800Pro and 9800XT thrive everywhere while R9800SE beats FX5700Ultra at least.


 

RightMark 3D

 
















No AA, no anisotropy: as usual, 9800SE loses this time and the other two cards win it.

AA enabled: the same

Anisotropy enabled: just the same

AA+anisotropy: the picture is identical.


 

TR:AoD, paris5_4

 
















No AA, no anisotropy: pixel shaders 2.0 helped R9800SE beat FX5700U, but 5900XT is unbreakable. R9800Pro and 9800XT look excellent!

All the other modes, (AA, anisotropy, AA+anisotropy) shows just the same picture.


 

Half-Life2 (beta), ixbt0703

 










Anisotropy enabled: here even pixel shaders 2.0 can't help R9800SE, though the other cards easily win.

AA+anisotropy: identical.


 

HALO

 










No AA, no anisotropy: 9800SE loses and the other cards go on a par with their rivals

Anisotropy enabled: R9800Pro and 9800XT win the battle, and 9800SE looks bad.


 

Unreal II

 
















R9800SE loses the fight and the other cards win it in all modes.


 

Call Of Duty

 

 
















In general, the picture is similar to the previous test - R9800SE should have its price cut.
 
 

Splinter Cell

 

 










No AA, no anisotropy: all the cards lose this time

Anisotropy enabled: 9800PRO is a loser like 9800SE, and R9800XT outedges its competitor.
 
 

Conclusion

  1. Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate: an excellent product for those who like silence (in spite of the fan). The video card is able of everything a High-End solution must be able of. 

  2.  
  3. Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB (R360 revision): it's very interesting for those who want a 9800XT based card at a lower price, i.e. for overclockers. It can become a good choice if the price corresponds to the level of R9800PRO. 
  4. Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9800SE 256bit: the card has a chip with the poorer parameters than even the RADEON 9600 PRO could offer! This product can't be priced over $120 (judging by the prices for the middle of March 2004).

  5.  

     
     

    Note: the market offers three types of RADEON 9800SE based cards:

    • RADEON 9800SE 256bit, 380/340 (640) MHz - red PCB of RADEON 9700 with 4 memory modules on each side at the right angle around the chip. The cooler is usually black, i.e. it looks like ATI RADEON 9700 PRO. Produced by PowerColor under RADEON 9800SE Gold trade mark.
    • RADEON 9800SE 256bit, 325/290 (580) MHz - black PCB of RADEON 9700 (with some changes), the chips are also located at the right angle around the chip. The cooler can be black or it can be roundish, Sapphire's proprietary one. Produced by Sapphire.
    • RADEON 9800SE 128bit, 325/290 (580) MHz - red (black is also possible though) PCB of RADEON 9500 PRO, with 4 memory chips on each side lined above the chip. Produced by Sapphire.

    When purchasing a 9800SE based card study the exterior to find out what bus is used and note the manufacturer to find out the clock rates. 

The build quality of all the cards is very high, plus they run very steadily!

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






 

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
 

Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.