There is nothing overly exciting about the unassuming Power Color 9800 PE graphics card at first glance. It looks just like a regular 9800 Pro graphics card with the inclusion of heat spreaders on the Hynix BGA memory totaling 64MB on the front of the card. We have a regular cooler on top of the unique 9800 core which again is just the same as the reference 9800 Pro cooler. Nothing fancy here but it will do the trick just fine.
The back of the graphics card doesn't hold many other surprises either. It holds the remaining 64MB of memory to total 128MB which are also covered by the same heat spreaders as the ones on the front of the card. You'll notice a small heat sink toward the top right of the card which is used to cool a few key chips.
Just like the 9800 Pro, Power Color's 9800 PE does require external power (4-pin) since the AGP bus doesn't have enough to fulfill its requirements.
When removing the heat spreaders from the memory, you'll notice they are attached with a black tape which seems to work quite effectively, as far as cooling properties go.
If you look closely enough, you'll notice the Power Color 9800 PE uses Hynix HY5DU283222AQ-33 GDDR SDRAM which is rated for a maximum frequency of 300MHz at 2.5 volts. Since the card is already running at 300MHz (or 600MHz DDR), we don't expect to be able to overclock the memory too far but since they are cooled with passive heat spreaders, we may have a little bit of head room - we'll cover overclocking shortly.
On the I/O plate of the graphics card we have a regular VGA output port along with a DVI output port and S-Video. Besides VIVO (Video-In / Video-Out) based graphics card, you will find this configuration is pretty much the norm these days and will satisfy the needs of most people.
Before we jump into the benchmarks, let's take a look at the overclocking results of the 9800 PE.
Using a fabulous little program called ATITool (which you can download from the developer's homepage, here) you are able to work out the maximum core and memory clocks of most ATI based graphics cards with ease. The software slowly pushes up the clock speeds until the program detects artifacts and then it will lower the clock speed until you are at a happy (stable) medium.
Running ATITool over night we were able to obtain a maximum stable core clock speed of 398MHz which is just 18MHz over default (or about a 5% overclock) - or in other words, an increase which is not going to make a great deal of difference on frames per second. We noticed a couple other websites who reviewed the 9800 PE already obtained a higher core overclock but when it comes to overclocking GPU's it's really the luck of the draw - some chips will overclock higher than others.
On the memory side of things, you'll remember that this card uses Hynix GDDR memory rated at 300MHz. We were able to obtain a maximum stable memory clock speed of 365MHz which is 65MHz over default (or about a 22% overclock) which is fairly good.
While the memory overclock was pretty good, the core overclock was disappointing and will hold you back (pending if you get a poor overclocking chip, like us) if you like buying graphics cards and overclocking them to increase performance. We'll soon see in our benchmarks if the overclock helps increase our gaming performance much or not.
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