Put the Connect3D Radeon 9800 Pro next to its junior brother, the Radeon 9800 and you'll be hard-pressed to tell the two cards apart. The only visual difference we can find is that the 9800 Pro has memory modules that are marked with a Samsung part number that shows they are rated at 350MHz DDR, compared to the modules used on the 9800 which run slightly slower. That's the only visual difference, but of course the two cards perform differently as the 9800 Pro runs both its core and memory faster than the 9800.
If you compare the test results for the two cards you'll see that in, say, 3DMark03 at 1,600 x 1,200 with FSAA and AF enabled the 9800 Pro has a 19 percent advantage which is greater than the boost in either core or memory speed. Generally, benchmark results go up with memory speed increases, so long as there is no other limiting factor. In the case of the 9800 Pro there is slightly more to the chip than a speed increase.
As we said in the Connect3D Radeon 9800 review, the R350 core (Radeon 9800/9800 Pro) is a refinement of the R300 (Radeon 9700/9700 Pro) core. Part of the refinement allows the core and memory speed increases, but ATi has also worked on an improved version of Hyper-Z III with Z cache optimisation for the stencil operations used in the latest games.
In addition, ATi has worked on its colour compression algorithms to increase performance when anti-aliasing is enabled. More accurately, the refined algorithms reduce the workload when you're using FSAA, and the results are clear to see; you can apply the highest quality settings at a decent resolution and the PC will still chug along at a decent frame rate despite the performance hit.
This is partly thanks to an increase in the size of the tag register for Fast Z-Clearing, which helps performance above a resolution of 1,024 x 768.
This is deeply impressive and it allows us an image quality that was unimaginable a couple of years ago. Unfortunately this performance comes at a high cost, and the Connect3D 9800 Pro is Â£76 more than more than the Connect3D 9800. That's a huge premium to pay and Connect3D doesn't include any extras over the basic package that it offers with the Radeon 9800. If you're interested in a Radeon 9800 Pro, it suggests that you're interested in maximum performance. While it's a very fast chip our tests show that the FX5900 Ultra has a distinct advantage in some areas, but it costs a great deal more.
Unfortunately for Connect3D, Crucial offers slightly more in its 9800 Pro package for a slightly lower price. So, if you fancy a Radeon 9800 Pro we suggest that you go shopping for a Crucial card.
This 9800 Pro offers very high performance in a card that doesn't block any PCI slots. Unfortunately for Connect3D its excellent Radeon 9800 card makes this Pro version seem a little over priced.