Impressions and Conclusions
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.
Attention to Construction
For Asus’ initial foray into the realm of ATI graphics chipsets, they have done very well. From a physical aspect, the copper cooler is a nice touch along with the attention to the mounting mechanism. This ensures a nice fitting copper cooler that will effectively cool your hardware unlike MSI’s Ti4800SE which one AMDMB reader claims to have fried on him because of the improper mounting. The hardware monitoring is a very nice feature that doesn’t seem to be elaborated in any detail on any of the Asus PR. It has voltage, RAM and GPU temperature, and fan monitoring which is really great for those of you tweaking your hardware. The length of the board is shorter than NVIDIA’s FX5700 Ultra and the FX5950 Ultra, which likely means less installation headaches for those of you with IDE cables below the AGP slot or with small/cramped ATX cases.
However, the only fault in Asus’ design is that the heatsink blocks off the AGP retention clip making removal of the card very difficult, especially for those people with big fingers or cases with lots of clutter. I hope Asus does a quick revision on their cooler to fix this.
Giving Bundled Software a Bad Name
Ok, I’m being a little harsh with that subtitle, but it’s not that far from the truth. While the PowerDVD XP, Power Director ME, and the neat utilities on the Asus driver CD are useful and give the videocard some extra value, the rest of the bundle is pretty poor. Cool3D, Photo Express, and Medi@Show all have questionable practicality and don’t add anything to the product. I personally can’t see anyone using this software unless they’re really desperate for quick 3D effects, overly-extravagant CD label maker, or a clumsy slide show program.
The bundled games are disappointing. Judging by the reviews of Battle Engine Aquila and Gun Metal, these two games would have been better off left on the XBOX where they originated. None of the games seem particularly good nor will they show the capabilities of the Radeon 9800XT in the best light since none of the games were designed for DirectX 9. Though the 6-in-1 CD contains a bunch of demos that you can download for free off the Internet, they are probably the best games in the bunch. Splinter Cell and BREED will probably do a better job at entertaining and show off your fancy hardware in the process.
For a product that has such great construction and features, the software bundle is a sad reflection and doesn’t do the product or the company justice. I hope Asus will pay a little more attention to their bundle and perhaps following the “less-is-more” rule.
Packaging, Manuals, Support, Warranty
The packaging is nicely organized and the plastic holder for the videocard ensures it doesn’t crash around during transportation. Documentation only covers the Asus software and nothing else and may only come in English (my box only had English manuals). There’s no information on physical installation, troubleshooting, or warranty.
Asus support facilities appears to be a bit lacking. Their online support forum was unreachable at the time of writing this article, the knowledge base is bare, there are no toll-free support numbers, and there is not a 24/7 line to call. This may sound particularly bad, but videocards traditionally have less problems than other hardware so hopefully you should not be requiring these services. Unlike the MSI videocards I’ve reviewed, the Asus box prominently states a 3 year warranty, and according to the Asus website this warranty is what they called “standard warranty” which should mean 3 years parts & labour.
In my trial, the video input digitization appears to be a bit distorted. The captured video appears to be squashed vertically and stretched horizontally resulting in people who look chubbier and more squat. This particular problem may just occur with my hardware/software configuration, but you should be aware of digitization fidelity problems just in case.
Benchmark and Game Performance
Performance on the Asus Radeon 9800XT is simply amazing. It performed all games here without any negative effects on playability. However if comparing performance scores to the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra, we see that they are nearly equally matched. In UT2K3, Halo, and Homeworld 2 @ 1600×1200, both cards are identical in results. In Freelancer, Age of Mythology, and Morrowind, the Asus beats the NVIDIA very decisively. But in OpenGL games like JediKnight: Jedi Academy and in Homeworld 2, the FX5950 Ultra beats the Asus Radeon 9800XT by a large margin.
To summarize, the Asus Radeon 9800XT is as good and better than the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra in DirectX games. But in OpenGL games, the FX5950 Ultra comes out on top. What you decide to buy will depend on your budget, playability expectation, and which API you feel you will play more of.
Anti-aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, 2D Quality
The Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD comes up big in both categories when compared to the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra. With 4x anti-aliasing, the Asus produces a better image than the NVIDIA and is very obvious along diagonal edges, but there’s less difference at 2x anti-aliasing. As for anisotropic filtering, the textures on the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD look sharper, richer, and better luminated. The NVIDIA on the other hand looks flat and a bit washed out.
2D image quality is amazing and I perceived no shortcomings here. It’s worth to note that the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD did not have any problems when connected to my KVM switch like that seen on the FX5700 Ultra.
Overclocking and Stability
Overclocking posted better results than what some other tech sites have reported. Perhaps I got lucky and have a better revision, but the 456/786 overclock from 411/728 is nothing to complain about. This translated into about +3 FPS extra in Halo with all the effects enabled and about +7 FPS when specular effects were turned off. Not bad at all!
I did encounter some stability issues with the Asus Radeon 9800XT particularly in Morrowind and in Homeworld 2. Problems in both games appear to be caused by changes in resolution and I may even venture that it’s the same bug (it’s like the display is not synching and the game halts waiting for the display to return to normal). Other than that, there weren’t any other issues to speak of.
Looking back at the performance results, I would have never guessed the Asus Radeon 9800XT would perform so similarly to the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra. Sure there are instances where certain games were better for one card or the other, but overall they both perform the same. What this means to the consumer is that the little things become more important when it comes time to choose what to buy. Issues like driver support, warranty, on-board features, and even software bundles become larger factors in purchasing decisions. With respect to the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD, it has all the extras that will make it hard to pass up! It has adjustable hardware monitoring, solid construction, a copper cooler, amazing game performance, 3-year warranty, VIVO, and superior image quality… and that’s on top of ATI’s monthly driver support! The sum of these features makes the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD a solid investment.
The only perceivable reason why someone wouldn’t buy this card (if they had the money) is because of what appears to be slower OpenGL performance relative to the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra. If this is a concern for you, I would suggest reviewing the OpenGL benchmarks we have done here (Spec ViewPerf, Homeworld 2 and Jedi Academy) and research other sites as well to see if this affects your decision.
It’s my opinion that the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD is worth the money and the short-comings are minor compared to the quality product you get inside the package.
Top DirectX game performance
- Copper-based cooler with aluminum fins secured with threaded pins with springs
- Adjustable fan, temperature, voltage monitoring
- VIVO capabilities
- Superior anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering
- Monthly driver support from ATI
- 3 years warranty (it’ll still be covered by the time you give it to your mother as an upgrade 😉
- Slower OpenGL performance compared to the NVIDIA FX5950 Ultra
- Heatsink makes AGP retention clip inaccessible
- Application and games bundle are of questionable value
- Possible driver bugs in Homeworld 2 and Morrowind
- Video-input fidelity may be an issue
- No S-Video or Composite video cables
From the Author
First I would like to thank the people over at Asus for sending over their latest ATI video product. We understand that demand for the product is high and we appreciate the effort taken to get us the hardware. Second, thanks to all you readers especially those who spend time to email me. Lastly, to the kind person who emailed me to say: “Stop reviewing old ass radeon cards” … I hope you’re reading! 🙂Find Prices on the Asus Radeon 9800XT card!