The Xtasy 9800 Pro 128MB AGP
The Xtasy 9800 Pro, as mentioned, is a reference design that comes complete with ATIís logo on the heat sink fan. But thatís beside the point because we already know that the reference card is fast, supported by the established CATALYST driver team, and void of the compatibility issues we experienced back when the 9700 Pro was ATIís flagship.
To recap, the card is based on the ATI R350 Visual Processing Unit clocked at 380MHz. It is, of course, fully compliant with DirectX 9, and it sports a couple of features not found on its predecessor, RADEON 9700 Pro. The first is called an F-buffer, a FIFO buffer within the chipís core that theoretically enables fragment shader programs of unlimited length. Weíve yet to see a game that utilizes the DirectX 9 feature set, so it remains to be seen what, if any, effect the F-buffer has in real-world apps, especially since massive shader programs have an adverse effect on performance. Additionally, R350 has an enhanced memory controller and Z cache said to augment stencil buffer performance. The cumulative result is a marked improvement in especially intensive situations, such as anti-aliasing at high resolutions.
VisionTek Xtasy 9800 PRO
Back of the card
The Xtasy comes equipped with 128MB of DDR memory clocked at 340MHz, or 680MHz effective, for a theoretical bandwidth ceiling of 21.7GB per second. VisionTek also offers a 256MB version of the card that utilizes DDR2 memory at 700MHz effective, delivering 22.4GB per second. Keep in mind, though, that the 256MB card costs roughly $100 more than the 128MB variant. Dual 400MHz DACs come standard, as does a 165MHz TMDS transmitter; the combined efforts of which enable support for a pair of standard CRT monitors or one CRT and one digital LCD.
Though it might be tempting to favor one manufacturer over another when it comes to overclocking potential, cards based on ATIís reference design are identical and any variation in overclocking should be taken with a grain of salt. With that said, the Xtasy card that we tested was stable with a 430MHz core and 365MHz (730MHz effective) memory clock. The resulting performance gains are quite impressive.
VisionTek doesnít include a tweak utility in its packaging, making it necessary to download one of the free apps available online. Rage3D.com, for instance, offers one of the most useful called Rage3D Tweak. Itís also important to note that even while some of ATIís other graphics cores are locked from overclocking, the RADEON 9800 Pro family can be manipulated quite easily.
Because VisionTek has taken a minimalist route with its Xtasy 9800 Pro, there arenít any bundled software perks to speak of. The card does include S-video and composite cables for TV-out support. It also comes with the DVI adapter necessary to connect two CRT displays and an easy to follow installation guide. But VisionTekís proudest accomplishment is a transparent, plastic box that showcases its card within. It may seem trite to most, but for a company such as VisionTek with a strong retail presence, presentation is imperative.