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Sapphire 9800 Pro Atlantis 256MB

The Sapphire Radeon Atlantis 9800 Pro looks quite similar to the 9800 and 9800 Pro cards from Connect3D, with one notable exception. Sapphire has specified 256MB of memory, so there are sixteen memory chips, each with individual aluminium heatsinks, rather than the eight chips that we are used to seeing.

Sapphire sells the 9800 Pro Atlantis in two forms. One has 128MB of regular DDR memory while the 256MB version apparently uses DDR II. We weren't in a hurry to wrench off one of the heatsinks to check the coding on the chip, besides we were more interested in the performance of the card than a relatively arcane detail of the specification.

Sapphire is charging a hefty £372 inc VAT for the 256MB 9800 Pro, which is some £95 more than the Crucial 9800 Pro, and £60 more than the Gigabyte 9800 Pro.

It’s clear from our test results that the extra memory gives little or no benefit over the 128MB versions, which makes it quite likely that the memory is the new DDR II flavour as it currently has high latency and a consequent lower performance.

In the package is a copy of the Sapphire Redline overclocking utility, and after our success with the Sapphire 9600 Pro we were eager to try it out. The software has maximum settings of 486MHz for the core and 837MHz for the memory, but at those settings the card was completely unstable. The card would successfully run benchmarks with a core speed of 450MHz and the memory running at 800MHz but there were loads of unpleasant artefacts. We got a basic 3DMark03 score of 6,326 marks, which is an increase of 11.4% percent compared to the original score of 5,598 marks. That's slightly academic as the display quality was unacceptable but it also shows that the 9800 Pro runs much closer to its limits than the 9600 Pro.

You get a reasonable amount for your money in the Sapphire package. In addition to the usual S-Video to coaxial adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, coaxial and S-Video extension cables there's the best software package that we've seen in the group so far.
There's Power DVD XP 4.0, PowerDirector 2.55 VE, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Soldier of Fortune Double Helix II. Those are games that we'd happily play, but you have to remember that this Sapphire has the dubious honour of being the most expensive graphics card in this group by a narrow margin.

While there is no denying that this is one of the fastest graphics cards that we've ever seen, the extra memory seems to offer no tangible benefit at all, and it is incredibly expensive.

Verdict

Considering that the extra memory appears to add no performance gain whatsoever it’s difficult to recommend this card over any of the cheaper 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro boards.

{table:sapphire9800pro}

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