It has been roughly three months since ATI originally announced the successor to their highly successful RADEON 9700 PRO VPU, the RADEON 9800 PRO, and already we’ve received the first crop of retail boards from ATI’s add-in board partners. This is a pretty remarkable achievement considering that ATI strictly followed the direct sales model for over a decade.
In just over a year ATI has signed a dozen board partners and launched multiple products at price points ranging from $100-$500. It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago ATI was a company that was known for being one step behind NVIDIA and launched roughly one new product (with less expensive variants based on that technology) per calendar year.
Today NVIDIA is struggling to keep up with ATI, conceding the high-end market to ATI for nine months. ATI has literally taken NVIDIA’s six-month product cycle and perfected it to a razor-sharp edge. As a result, the 3D graphics market hasn’t seen competition like this since the days of 3dfx versus NVIDIA. Gamers and hardware enthusiasts have several viable graphics cards to choose from: “Should I get a RADEON 9600 or GeForce FX 5600?” “How much faster are the PRO and Ultra variants of these graphics cores?” And in the high-end segment the most popular question we receive (besides GeForce FX 5900 Ultra versus RADEON 9800 PRO emails) is “128MB or 256MB?” Choosing from the various choices has never been so difficult.
That’s why we’ve brought you as much coverage as we can – RADEON 9500 versus RADEON 9500 PRO benchmarks, 128MB versus 256MB RADEON 9800 PRO scores – the real test won’t come however until the first crop of next generation games debuts later this year. That’s when the real benchmarking will begin!
Until then, ATI’s add-in board partners (AIBs) have been keeping us pretty busy. Today we’re taking a look at another company that is making its debut video card review with us, FIC’s RADEON 9800 PRO-based A98P graphics card.
FIC: From motherboards to graphics
When you hear the name “FIC” you traditionally think of motherboards. After all, motherboards have been a cornerstone of FIC’s business for decades, having established deals with multiple OEMs over the course of their history. However, FIC has been quietly producing graphics cards for years now (they were actually one of ATI’s first board partners), showing us products ranging from the RADEON VE to the RADEON 8500 at Comdex two years ago. FIC is really hoping to turn things up a few notches for RADEON 9800. Traditionally FIC has been a bit slower than ATI’s other AIBs at bringing ATI’s flagship products to market at retail, but now they’re making a more concerted effort to change things.
Lets see what they have on tap for the RADEON 9800 PRO!