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ATI 9800 XT vs. nVidia 5950 Ultra - Gigabyte Style

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Video Cards | Posted: Feb 9, 2004 5:00 am

Features of the GV-R98X256D


Package and Software Bundle



The 9800 XT is now part of the new GV class cards. This means a new software bundle and new packaging - well, more of a new bundle than package. The packaging has remained the same with simply the name changed.


Inside however, a totally new software bundle is included. In the original Maya cards you got some reasonably good games, but nothing you would bother writing home about. Now you get three full version games, and a token to get a fourth when its release - that's right, Half Life 2. By manufacturer choice, select higher end Radeon based cards are given a token for the Half Life 2. When the game is released to the public you will have the option of downloading the game or being sent it on CD-ROM via snail mail for an additional fee, we think.


The three full version games supplied include Tomb Raider, Rainbow Six 3 and Will Rock, all of which are designed to take advantage of the DirectX 9 API. This gives you the best possible graphics on a budget. Along with this you get a copy of PowerDVD 5, the latest instalment of the PowerDVD family. Finally you get an S-Video cable and S-Video to RCA adapter for TV output, which is a standard feature of all new video cards today.


The Card



Here we see the card itself. These days it is hard to find an original card, as most if not all are based on the reference design using reference coolers and such and this is the case with the Gigabyte 9800 XT. Gigabyte simply sticks a Gigabyte 9800 XT sticker on the quality fan unit, in ever other respect; this is based on the reference design. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the ATI reference design uses a fully integrated heatsink on the front of the card which cools the DDR SDRAM modules and the VPU at the same time quite effectively.


On the back of the card a large heatplate is used to cool the back of the VPU where a lot of heat is now generated from. The same heatplate also covers the RAM modules on the back of the card.


With all heatsinks removed you can see the core and RAM modules fully exposed, butt naked!



Here we get to see the 9800 XT core and memory used on the card. Recently on the 9800 and 9600 cards we have seen the shims on the VPU removed. As some of you may have read and for those who have experienced it first hand, the shim tends to prevent good contact between the VPU die and the heatsink, this time ATI has slightly lowered the shim to make the heatsink sit much closer to the die surface. The RAM modules used are Hynix 2.2ns DDR SDRAM modules. These modules have appeared on most Gigabyte graphics cards due to the extreme performance that can be obtained from them.



Due to the huge power requirements of the Radeon core, a 4 pin Molex connector to supply power directly from the power supply is a requirement. The use of the card without the power connector is simply not possible as the power requirements are well above the available currant the AGP 12v bus can deliver, using the AGP power would simply burn out the trace wires and the chipset AGP bus if no protection was in place - and fortunately it is.



ATI has now moved away from the 2x AGP slot support. The AGP bus connector on the new 9800XT's now only support 4x and 8x. This means if you have an older BX chipset or something that doesn't have a 4x or 8x slot, a 9800XT won't work for you. We first saw this with the 9600 cards and is something which has now migrated to high-end 9800 cards.


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