tested the 9800 Pro in a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 with 1GB of RAM.
The card was installed in an 8X AGP slot in an ASUS P4P800
Deluxe motherboard. It's a great gaming and productivity
setup which also happens to be my current all-time favorite.
Although I'm sure this machine will be superceded by something
even more powerful at some point during 2005, it sure is
nice for now. As a productivity machine which regularly
runs Photoshop CS, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, a variety
of video editors, and news and information feeds (TV as
well as audio-only webcasts) it performs admirably and
did so (without any complaints from me) with its original
ATI Radeon 9000 All-In-Wonder (which has a built-in TV
addition of the 9800 Pro for this review forced me to
pick up a separate Hauppauge WinTV tuner card. One of
the benefits conferred by the 9800 Pro is dual monitor
support. For that I acquired another 19" LCD monitor
(an NEC Accusync LCD92V—thanks to my wife; happy
holidays!) to go with my main Samsung SyncMaster 191T.
I used ATI's HydraVision utility to set up specific desktops
for each monitor. The secondary monitor is used for Palm
Desktop, Konfabulator Widgets (clock, Wired News, BBC
radio, CBC radio, National Public Radio, local weather
and a stock ticker), TV, DVD player, Windows Media Player
and so on. The primary monitor is used for all productivity
applications including Microsoft Word, Excel & Outlook,
X1, Adobe Photoshop and Premier, TextPad, Macromedia
Dreamweaver, and of course Doom 3 and HalfLife 2. The
9800 Pro handles the dual load without so much as a hiccup.
Both monitors are running at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color.
nothing much to say about the 9800 Pro's performance
when running utility, entertainment, information and
productivity software. In a word, performance is completely
transparent, with the video card handling everything
on both monitors cleanly and swiftly. Simultaneously
running Palm Desktop, WinTV, Konfabulator, Word, TextPad,
Outlook, Maxthon or Firefox and Dreamweaver is routine.
The contents of every program window is beautifully rendered.
In other words, there is no conventional computer activity
that will strain or stress the 9800 Pro. So I personally
gave up on using multitasking to push the card and decided
instead to do what everybody else does to push these
cards—enter Doom 3.
a game, Doom 3 is the culmination of a heckuva lot of
programming and game engine genius. Like the game or
not, there's no doubt that at least for now Doom 3 is
the most advanced real-time graphical renderer you can
find. Push the individual game graphics settings all
the way up to challenge any card on the market right
now (well maybe not the fully loaded ATI X850XT). You'll
be able to put the brakes on the 9800 Pro in 1600x1200
with everything turned up, but it's of no importance
because the Doom 3 experience, fully tweaked at 1024x768
is still quite marvelous. id Software has done a spectacular
job on the game and the Radeon 9800 Pro will let you
see and play the game in all its glory. Ditto for HalfLife
2. Performance in 1280x1024 is also totally playable.
had a brief look at the 9800 Pro with 256MB of DDR II
RAM on board and we really weren't impressed. While all
of those large vertex buffers demanded by Doom 3 and
HalfLife 2 benefited a bit from the additional RAM, the
difference wasn't enough to justify the difference in
price or the overall marginal improvement in playability.
If you're going to take a step up from the 9800 Pro,
you've got to go all the way up to the absurdly pricey
ATI X850 XT or nVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra boards in order
to see a really obvious improvement. The only time the
256MB board came into its own was when we ran Doom 3
and HalfLife 2 in 1280x1024 and higher, providing noticeably
better performance overall.
Radeon 9000 and 9100 cards are largely gone. You'll find
some 9200 cards around and quite a few 9600 and 9700
cards still available and cheap too. But the performance
master in the affordable range of high-end cards is definitely
the 9800 Pro. The newer X series of cards for AGP and
PCI Express are terrific, but more expensive when comparing
cards with comparable or better performance than the
9800 Pro. To my way of thinking, the choice is obvious.
experienced problems with HydraVision, specifically incompatibilities
with Konfabulator (the free Widget utility for displaying
all sorts of cool information on your desktop), Firefox
(the browser) and Maxthon (another browser), among other
programs. We filled out a detailed technical problem
report to ATI's technical support people online and in
return received a nonsensical response which had absolutely
nothing to do with the problem report. We solved the
problem simply by turning off HydraVision.
latest Catalyst drivers from ATI are rock solid. Running
two 19" LCD monitors is an absolute joy. Turn one
monitor off then enjoy game performance that truly lets
you get deeply into game play in the resolution of your
choice. Doom 3, HalfLife 2 and Prince of Persia: Warrior
Within are gorgeous and as quick as you want them to
be. The card has enough horsepower to give you real control
over performance rather than feeling as though you are
running maxed out all the time, and the experience lets
you concentrate on game play without hardware distractions.
FSAA performance at 4X running Doom 3 was very good.
Officially, you can now get faster video cards, but why
spend $550 on an ATI Radeon X850 XT or nVIDIA GeForce
6800 Ultra when you can get darn near as good for $249?
For now, the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB video card is
a great best buy. Any software written to take full advantage
of DirectX 9 will fly with this card. Desktop publishers,
graphic artists, CAD designers, spreadsheet loons and
writers (or anybody else who spends a lot of time in
front of their word processor) will enjoy the 9800's
clean text and graphics rendering. Doing a lot of photo
editing? No problem. Images hit the screen faster, rotation
redraws, effects and other needs are met with ease and
the card performs beautifully at any resolution your
15", 17", 19", 20", 21", or
23" monitor (or even larger) demands. Highly recommended.