Video Card: RADEON 9800 Pro Review :: Game Play

03-26-2003 · Category: Hardware - Video Cards

By Benjamin Sun

The ATI RADEON 9800 Pro is quite simply, the fastest card I've ever tested. Even though I only had a 2000+ Athlon XP, it was clearly faster than the GEFORCE 4 Ti4800 (4600 8x), Ti4200 and Geforce3 that I tested from MSI by wide margins. Compared to benchmarking against the previous 9700 Pro, the 9800 is also clearly faster. Unfortunately, I don't have a GEFORCE FX 5800 Ultra to test this card against. Once I do have a 5800 Ultra, and more time with the 9800 Pro, I'll write another article comparing the two.

In terms of feature set, the 9800 is also the most feature-rich product to hit the streets. With full support for DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 2.0, there's little worry that the 9800 Pro is missing any features for it's lifetime. Also, as performance benchmarks clearly show, the difference between the 9700 Pro and 9800 Pro is around 20% even on my CPU limited 2000+ XP and the resolution of 1024x768, which I used in this preview.

As a gamer, as well as a reviewer, I have to take certain things into account. The fact is, that most gamers play games at 1024x768 32bit or lower today, even when using a RADEON 9700 Pro which is fast enough in almost every circumstance at that resolution. The other side of the coin is that as a gamer, image quality and features that improve image quality are more important to me than increasing the resolution. On the 19" monitor I use at home, I never use 1600x1200, and only rarely use 1280x1024 or 1280x960. From that perspective, benchmarking for the sake of benchmarking higher resolutions doesn't do anything for me. From another perspective, that of performance at high resolutions, it's interesting to see that the video card is not the bottleneck.

For now, let me leave you with a few thoughts. If you have a 9700 Pro and a good overall system, is it necessary to upgrade today? No. No game out there brings the 9700 Pro to its knees as of yet. F-Buffers, while exciting from a DCC point of view, are not a compelling reason to upgrade from the 9700 Pro. Increased performance is always nice, but any DX9 class card out today (9700 Pro, 9500 Pro, GEFORCE FX Ultra (the ones around anyway) are fast enough and have enough features to not worry too much about the 9800 Pro. $399 is a bit much for me as a gamer. But that's where the 9600 Pro and 9600 come in.

If you want to spend $399 on a video card today, there's no doubt that the RADEON 9800 Pro is the card for you. It's the fastest, most feature-rich card available especially when FSAA is enabled. Most games won't cause the 9800 Pro to break a sweat, even at the highest available resolutions. Once I go more in-depth shortly, I'll test with higher resolutions and settings. For now, I'm very pleasantly surprised with the card, as it's a good 6 month refresh. I can't wait to see what ATI comes up with next!

As to the 9700 Pro, this card is currently available from major retail stores for a price of $299. At this price point, this card is an excellent buy. The performance difference between the 9700 Pro and the 9800 Pro isn't that much, and in some cases, the older 9700 Pro outperforms the 9800 Pro. If I was to consider buying a card in this price range today, there's no doubt in my mind that the 9700 Pro would fit the bill. My everyday machine has a AIW 9700 Pro, and I use it for everything from playing games at high resolution to watching TV.