IntroductionCrucial Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB
The attention of the online reviewing press and deep-pocketed enthusiast has been centred around Radeon 9800XT 256MB video card. There's little need for an explanation. Quite simply, the 9800XT is the fastest video card available to the consumer. NVIDIA may cite its FX 5950 Ultra as the rightful owner of that mantle, but DX9-related problems have hampered its cause to attain the coveted #1 consumer-level GPU spot.
However, take a closer look at what makes the 9800XT so good and you'll see a lot of technology that's been harnessed from an 18-month-old design. The Radeon 9700 Pro was the first truly excellent GPU from the folks at ATI, subjectively speaking, and ATI has been keen to extend its usefulness, usually through a ramping up in MHz speeds and a few selective GPU tweaks. If you could raise a 9700 Pro's basic speed to XT levels, we'd hazard that there wouldn't be a large performance discrepancy. Therefore 'lesser' high-end ATI GPUs can hope to emulate near-XT performance.
Largely forgotten in the excitement that surrounds the 9800XT is the regular Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card, which was head honcho until displaced by you know who. Crucial Technology, more famed for its RAM products, is one of ATI's more inspired AIB partner choices, and Crucial still reckons that the 9800 Pro 256MB video card is still worth a look. It contains much of the goodness found in the XT but at a lower price. That's the crucial (bad pun) difference.
It's been a while since we took the 256MB 9800 Pro model for a spin. The fundamental question that we'll attempt to answer is whether it's worth considering on pure merit. We'll put it up against the 9800XT and NVIDIA's flagship FX5950 Ultra 256MB card.