ASUS Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra - Kings of the VGA Hill

Today we are looking at the two top dogs from both ATi and nVidia in the form of the Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra from ASUS. We pit them directly against a reference 9800 XT and an older 9800 Pro to find out who is the king of the hill in the VGA department.
Julian Shapiro
Published Thu, Jan 22 2004 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Introduction

IntroductionWith our industry pushing forward as aggressively and competitively as ever, we are amazed to see strong newcomers jumping aboard the graphics market; especially those taking the monetary risk of offering two different graphical processing technologies simultaneously. Under the recent influence of ATi's impressive marketing strategies, ASUS is offering both product lines from ATi and nVidia- whilst focusing heavily on their ATi line. With an existing abundance of video card manufactures and designers, it is not easy for one company - no matter how large - to competitively offer their own line of licensed GPU technologies. However with the right prices, bundled accessories, helpful support, useful software and great performance, it's more than possible to rise to the calibre of quality that other such companies offer - and even surpass them.With us today is ASUS's finest: the ASUS V9980U (GeForce FX 5950 Ultra) and the infamous ASUS 9800XT. Both are equipped with 256MB of onboard RAM and are backed by ASUS's award-winning GPU-cooling technology. I personally have conducted many top-of-the-line video card analyses, benchmarks and tests; throughout my time, I have acquired a sufficient amount of onboard GPU-cooling technology - and we can tell you that we've been mightily impressed with ASUS in this category so far.Understanding its vast importance, I have recently begun to focus heavily on the unique technologies implemented by specific manufactures; when a plethora of companies are all manufacturing products based on identical technologies, they all must have their unique trademark in order to differentiate their product from another similar one. ASUS has not only made this trademark blindly apparent, but they've incorporated their technology in such a way that truly encompasses the meaning of unique manufacturing.Throughout this article we plan to devour both our cards and put them through the ultimate performance tests, pairing off with other cards currently available on the market.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - The Bundles

The BundlesAs previously mentioned, one must truly stand out in this market in order to prevail in their marketing campaigns. ASUS has correctly done this; offering external TIVO options and the largest range of included software and games I've ever had the pleasure of using, ASUS's overall packages truly fulfill any costly accessory necessities.
Included in ASUS's V9980 Ultra package are the following components: GeForce FX 5950U card, Multi-Video in/TV out adaptor, DVI-to-2nd VGA adaptor, Black Hawk Down, Battle Engine Aquila, Gun Metal, 6 in 1 Game Pack, Power Director Pro, ASUS DVD XP, Media Show and the ASUS Utilities & Driver CD.
Included in ASUS's Radeon 9800 XT package are the following components: the Radeon 9800 XT card, Multi-Video in/TV out adaptor, DVI-to-2nd VGA adaptor, Black Hawk Down, Battle Engine Aquila, Gun Metal, 6 in 1 Game Pack, Power Director Pro, ASUS DVD XP, Media Show, ULead Cool 3D/Photo Express and the ASUS Utilities & Driver CD.Unfortunately, a problem that I've ran into quite a few times in the past reoccurs with the Radeon 9800XT: It comes encased in plastic outside of an anti-static foil bag. While the card cannot build up a charge due to its isolation from other parts in the packaging, it can however immediately be damaged upon opening due to no surrounding anti-static protection. The GeForce FX 5950, on the other hand, does come neatly packaged inside an anti-static foil bag.ASUS has taken the liberty of providing the end-user with enough software to last his or her a lifetime. From the latest games, utilities, software and various applications, we feel rather well fed. Instead of just including the generic outdated game and PowerDVD, ASUS has included some truly interesting software. In their bundle are applications such as Game Face, which allows one to video conference whilst playing an online round of one of their favourite games. It does not stop there however; ASUS has additionally included various security applications operable with the card; such as Video Security II.Contrary to the accessories found in the V9980 Ultra, ASUS's 9800XT takes a slightly different path of unique applications, and replaces a few with the addition of ULead Cool 3D and Photo Express.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Accessories and Software

Accessories and SoftwareBoth cards include a much-appreciated accessory entitled the "Multi-video in & TV out adaptor" - and frankly, it does just that. The adaptor sports composite in, composite out, S-Video in and S-Video out and attaches to a proprietary adaptor available on both the V9980 Ultra and the 9800XT.
This adaptor replaces some of the advantages brought forth by ATi's All-In-Wonder line, and other third party multimedia cards. Logically, ASUS has included software to completely take advantage of their "Multi-video in & TV out" adaptor. Software such as Video Security II allows one to monitor ambient movement through the use of a video camera (connected to the card). This software is able to detect foreign movement through live video and act accordingly to previously defined user-programmed features; such as taking a live snapshot and emailing it to your address, automatic dialing to a user-defined phone number, or simply running executables on your desktop machine.I had previously mentioned bundled program entitled "Game Face". What this software allows you to do is live stream webcam video from you to a recipient whilst online gaming or other screen-hogging activities. In addition to this, you could watch TV in the corner of your screen (with the aid of the included adaptor) while using your computer. Some expensive monitors already have this feature built-in (virtually PIP), but this software provides better overall control and flexibility of operation.
On the overclocking side of things, ASUS includes their own clock manipulation software, "ASUS Tweaker". Combining a sleek look and easy accessibility, ASUS Tweaker is a welcomed replacement to registry tweaks, third party overclocking software and BIOS editing. Finally, to elaborate on an already brought up program - ASUS's Video Security allows one to monitor intruders in the surrounding area, and react programmatically upon intrusion detection. The software allows you to use either your web camera or DV cam as a stand-alone video camera capable of monitoring and detecting foreign movement when asked to. This software is particularly useful for someone who doesn't want anyone in their room, or anything, as although you can adjust the sensor detection, it's still quite sensitive.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Cooling and Design

Cooling and DesignAs with all large PCB and energy-sucking graphic cards, both ASUS's V9980 Ultra and 9800 XT requires a now-generic 4-pin Molex connection in order to run the card and its HSF. Both cards feature massive cooling systems, thus giving us two impressions: The first being that both of these bad boys must be loud, and secondly the GPU's underneath must be virtually arctic.
Using a somewhat peculiar fan and heatsink arrangement, ASUS packs two onboard fans encased by a copper heatsink. I personally find this odd due to the logical noise factor: Large fans equal less noise, therefore smaller fans equal greater noise when ran at similar speeds. Seeing as how both the products we are dealing with today pack two tiny turbo fans, we are once again expecting a decent amount of whirring.On the opposite side, we can see both cards pack very large heatsinks on the back. The GeForce FX 5950's is considerably thicker, and is a protective measure from the factory as we have high clock speeds with all V9980 Ultra cards.
As currently common in top-of-the-line consumer graphic cards a VGA out, DVI out and ASUS's proprietary adaptor connector can all be found on both cards. And, if you are interested in running two LCD's using unconverted signal (better performance) you can use the included VGA-to-DVI adaptor.
As noticeable through comparison, the V9980 Ultra is a massive video card. Fifty-percent larger than a 9600 XT and ten-percent larger than ASUS's 9800XT, this card is no miniature. However, ASUS does not substitute size for quality of manufacturing.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03

Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon FX-51Motherboard: Asus SK8V (Supplied by ASUS)Memory: Corsair TwinXRE3200LL (Supplied by Corsair)Video Card(s): ASUS 9800XT 256MB, ASUS V9980U 256MB, ATi Radeon 9800 XT 256MB and HIS Excalibur 9800 Pro IceQ 128MBHard Disk(s): 2x Western Digital Raptors (RAID0)Sound Card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum Operating System Used: Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers Used: ATi 3.10 and nVidia 53.03After installation we were met with whirring sounds only audible from our CPU and case fans - the 9800 XT and V9980U seemed virtually quiet. However, upon thorough testing and benchmarking, they kicked into high gear and proved to be slightly louder than the HSF found on ATi's own Radeon 9800 XT and Radeon 9800 Pro. However, having two smaller fans pin-pointing specific areas on the graphic card's PCB does prove itself as a more effective cooling solution. Benchmarking both cards was enjoyable; we thoroughly examined performance under extreme operating conditions, then picked and stabbed at them both to find their strengths and weaknesses.3DMark033DMark03 is the latest version of the highly favoured 3DMark series. By combining full DirectX9.0 support with completely new tests and graphics, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being industry standard benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
Here ASUS's V9980U barely surpasses its three competitors.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Aquamark 3 and Halo PC

Aquamark 3Aquamark3 is the latest instalment of the Aquamark benchmark suite. This new benchmark is much more powerful and demands much more from both the system and the graphics card. If there is any weakness in the system or 3D components, Aquamark3 will find them.
The V9980U pulls ahead once again strutting its stuff under the influence of Aquamark's default settings.Halo PCHalo PC is new to us at TweakTown. Though we have used it in a couple of benchmarks in the past, it has now found a permanent place in our Benchmark Suite. This is simply due to its support for the latest DirectX 9 API's to put some more stress on the system to determine the best of the best.
We redid this benchmark several times due to the oddity surrounding the results. But the V9980U takes a fall as we hike up the resolution in Halo PC. And, oddly enough, the V9980U bounces back into the lead at 1600x1200.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been playing of late. It has greatly improved graphics over its predecessor and it fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
Here the V9980 rips ahead and takes the spotlight from ASUS's 9800XT and ATi's own. As we increase the resolution, following a series of sporadic frame rates, the V9980 pulls back as the 9800XT from both manufacturers jump ahead side by side.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Prince of Persia and High Detail AA / AF

Prince of PersiaEarning itself "Game of the Year" from various media publications and critics alike, Prince of Persia proves itself as not only an enthralling title but a beauty as well. Taking full advantage of the technologies brought forth by the most respectable manufacturers, and sporting visuals one only finds very rarely, TweakTown is honoured to include Prince of Persia into our prestigious benchmarking suite.
And finally the 9800XT zooms ahead with an impressive percentage increase over its ASUS rival.High Detail AA / AF
Under the influence of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering in this title, all cards perform virtually on par.

ASUS 9800 XT and FX 5950 Ultra - Conclusion

ConclusionIt's difficult to end an article that focuses on two top-of-the-line graphic cards and pairs them off with similar products in its class. However, we can confidently reassure you that ASUS's manufacturing and cooling technology not only top that of ATi's own, but give it a run for its money by including an extremely impressive bundle of useful software and innovative features; specifically of which is their multiple input/output adaptor.As many of you already are aware of, it's difficult to select a champion in a race with such close combatants. Both underlying GPU technologies from ASUS are cutting edge and in the end usually provide quite similar results overall -in both real-world and synthetic benchmarks. ASUS has taken the rare path of coherently producing two separate line of video cards from two completely different manufactures. Taking this step allows them to broaden their marketing horizons and offer a solid base of products in the near future.The V9980 Ultra will run you $480 USD over at NewEgg, and the 9800XT will cost you roughly the same amount at similar online retailers. Unfortunately however, competing products go for roughly $35 - $50 less in their retail packages. But, calculating in the extremely useful media adaptor and their overwhelming software suite and competitor-beating performance, here we truly believe the extra difference is worth it.Their comparatively high prices unfortunately restrain the two from reaching their deserved 10/10, but we're happy to award both of ASUS's fine products with 9/10's and our prestigious TweakTown "MUST HAVE" Best Features award.- ProsCompetitor-beating performanceImpressive media bundlesEffective cooling designBoth cards look greatMultiple input/output adaptor- ConsMore expensive than competitorsHard to find at local retail outletsCollective Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Features Award

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