IntroductionHercules 3D Prophet 9800XT Classic 256MB
ATI, in the main, is content to see out the remainder of '03 with its XT line of cards heading the midrange and high-end sectors. The 9800XT effectively replaced the 9800 Pro at the top of ATI's performance pile, just as the 9800 Pro had done to the 9700 Pro earlier this year. However, whereas the 9800 Pro boasted a few key architectural changes in the transition from R300 to R350, it seems as if the same cannot be said for the R350-R360 transition. For all intents and purposes, the 9800XT is simply faster than the incumbent due to faster core and memory speeds. And as it currently stands, most partners are opting to follow the reference specifications by using 256MB of onboard RAM.
We can probably say that ATI's engineers have eked out more performance from the R350 core with a few minor touches here and there. That, presumably, allows ATI to market the 9800XT at 412MHz / 730MHz clocks for the GPU and memory respectively. To see how it immediately compares with its predecessor and competition, head over here for Ryszard's take on current high-end graphics action.
The Radeon 9700 Pro was a good, solid good; probably good enough to be named GPU of the year 2002. The 9800 Pro, by dint of its improvements over the 9700 Pro was also a good card. It stands to reason, then, that the 9800XT will be a good card. ATI's DX9 implementation is sound, the drivers are solid, and it has a number of respected partners. One such partner is Hercules. To those in the know, the name Hercules tends to conjure up images of quality, attention to detail and non-reference designs. So it was hard to resist looking at Hercules' 3D Prophet 9800XT Classic. In the confusing world of little-known manufacturers, potential buyers often look towards respected companies for assurance. The £375 outlay demands it. Let's now see if Hercules can deliver.