Radeon 9800 Pro speeds past GeForce FX

Analysis: With its latest graphics hardware, ATI is keeping its performance lead over market leader Nvidia, according to ZDNet Labs tests

ATI's upcoming contender for the graphics chip performance crown is a clear winner over Nvidia's latest offering, according to new tests from ZDNet Labs -- at least where it comes to top-end features. (See the full preview: ATI Radeon 9800 Pro: a first look)

ATI and Nvidia dominate the market for consumer graphics chips. While most consumers would not pay £250 or so for the latest high-end add-in card, the publicity value around making the No. 1 chip can be valuable in selling to the mainstream market. ATI has been exploiting this fact for the past few months as it attempts to claw market share away from leader Nvidia on the strengths of higher-performance technology.

The new ATI Radeon 9800 Pro should reinforce that strategy, according to labs tests, delivering significantly better performance when using the chip's most advanced features.

The Radeon 9800 Pro was tested against the GeForce FX 5800, Nvidia's own top-of-the-line card, under a variety of settings, and in many rounds the two cards were neck-and-neck, the labs said. However, when features such as anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering (AF) -- two high-end features for adding realism to 3D environments -- were turned on, the Radeon card was "the unanimous winner", according to the tests.

As more features were turned on and higher resolutions were used, the Radeon card increased the performance gap over the GeForce FX. For example, with 4X AA and 4X AF at 1,600 by 1,200 screen resolution turned on, the Radeon 9800's performance decreased by 42 percent, while the GeForce FX decreased by 63 percent.

"It's clear that the Radeon 9800 is much better equipped to handle tougher tasks," the testers concluded.

The Radeon tested runs at 380MHz with 128MB of DDR (340MHz) memory, compared to the GeForce FX with a clock speed and memory speed of 500MHz. However, the testers found that the Radeon's 256-bit memory interface, compared to the GeForce FX's 128-bit memory interface, helped it to perform better.

The Radeon 9800 Pro is expected to be available in shops at the end of this month, while Nvidia has not announced when the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra will be available.

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