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Crucial Radeon 9800 Pro Review

Highs

  • Stable and powerful performer. Well suited for gaming and desktop applications.

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 0

Lows

  • Pricey
  • limited software included.
The greatest attribute that the Crucial RADEON 9800 pro brings to the mix, is the price to performance ratio.

Summary

Simply put, The Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro is the lean, mean graphics machine you want at a price point that is lower than comparable cards. Performance is comparable to any of the RADEON line and includes the reputation of Crucial behind it as well. The idea of spending hundreds for a video card may not seem too appealing to all, but the performance is well worth the investment from our standpoint. The combination of price, capability, and compatibility make the Crucial Radeon 9800 PRO a sound investment for now and into the future.

Introduction

Being one of the leading suppliers of memory upgrades for OEM memory modules in the U.S., and known for the reliability of their products in that arena, we were a little skeptical about a video card from the same manufacturer. Simply stated, graphics technology is a completely different animal when it comes to computer upgrades. But since we have known Crucial for quality and dependability since 1996, we gave it a shot, and ended up with some very impressive results.

Features and Design
Features
Full hardware support for DirectX 9
Includes Windows driver CD, DVI-I to VGA Adapter, S-Video to RCA converter, RCA cable and S-video cable 128MB quad-channel DDR memory
380MHz core frequency/2.8ns memory
Support for DirectX 9

The Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro uses Samsung K4D263238E-GC2A memory modules which are 2.8 nano second chips rated at 350 Mhz. They are the same memory chips used by ATI in the ALL-IN-WONDER version of the card. The max speed for these chips is rated at 400 MHz so overclocking is an option for this card should you decide you want to do this. We’ll talk more about that later.

ATI Radeon 9800 PRO Crucial Radeon 9800 PRO
The ATI Radeon 9800 Pro is on the left and Crucials Radeon 9800 Pro is on the right

The board layout of the RADEON 9800 PRO is the same as ATI’s and most other resellers of the Pro version, and is another example of the OEM PCB resold under a different name. More than likely, the OEM models are not available for modification, but the chance to order and modify does exist if Crucial had designed and produced the PCBs themselves; though they are not in the business of doing that. If having a custom color to match your lighting or case design is an issue for you, you may need to go elsewhere. Companies like FIC and MSI specialize in motherboard design and so those options are much more financially feasible as they can produce them in house and not have to pay to have them outsourced. This by itself was not a big issue for us, but since Crucial is owned by Micron (a 1st tier memory manufacturer and the only DRAM manufacturer in the US) we would have liked to have see some of their own chips on the board as matter of course.

Performance

System Configurations:

Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz, Abit IC7-G motherboard, Crucial 2×512 DDR 3200 in dual channel mode, Crucial RADEON 9800 PRO Catalyst 3.7 drivers, Vantec Stealth 420W PSU, WD 80 gig SE HDD., Lite-on 52x CDROM,  3.5 Fujitsu floppy drive

AMD Barton 3000+, Asus A7N8X deluxe ver 2.0, Crucial 2×512 DDR 3200 in dual channel mode, Crucial RADEON 9800 PRO Catalyst 3.7 drivers, Vantec Stealth 420W PSU, WD 80 gig SE HDD., Lite-on 52x CDROM, 3.5″ Fujitsu floppy drive

The greatest attribute that the Crucial RADEON 9800 pro brings to the mix is the price-to-performance ratio. Performance has already been established in the design and success of the Radeon 9800 in general, but lets face the facts; graphics cards are getting very expensive these days. Improvements to the GPU and support for the latest in-graphics technology isn’t cheap. There is no software bundle or so-called “free” games included, something that those accustomed to might balk at. The price difference will leave enough money for you to purchase the games and software of your choice. The savings might be enough to buy several full versions instead of getting a free copy of a trial version.

With the standards being raised to new heights these days, the latest rage seems to be to offer all the eye candy you can muster without sacrificing those valuable frame rates. Typically 30 FPS is enough to run most games or applications and still find the game playable or the application useable. Today that is a much tougher order than it was ever before simply for the fact that technology has surpassed itself time and time again while reaching for the ever elusive perfect visual experience. Though 30 to 40 FPS consistently is plenty to keep you “happy ‘n’ fraggin”, keeping it there can get challenging with the latest titles in the gaming world today. As far as desktop applications go, there are few reasons to upgrade from the older video cards except for compatibility issues and frame rate in general. We still have a living, breathing VooDoo 3 PCI that is proof of that. It will run most applications fine as well as most OpenGL games like NHL 2003, and it will play many newer games except for the DX9 titles, and costs about $10 today if you can even find one.

The balance between performance and cost effective solutions seem to wane as the newest releases hit the shelves at the local store. It is nice to see a performance package that is more within reach of most people in a time when the best means big bucks and the compromise between the latest titles and the backwards compatibility seems to widen daily. Even benchmarking is taking the step into the future with support for DX9 for some titles at the beginning of this year such as 3DMark03 and others. Compatibility and support for older titles and hardware does not add up to profits, and really, what is the point of graphics technology moving so far into the future and little or no need to upgrade from the old. The price point becomes the defining issue. The top-of-the line retail graphics cards are $400 to $500 dollars and continue to rise. How many of the average working people in the world can shell out that kind of money? Though expensive, Crucial brings a comparable graphics solution to the table in the RADEON 9800 Pro at a price that is easier to swallow than most.

Crucial has traditionally been a great provider of customer support and after years in the business still command a 9.37 rating for the last six months and a lifetime rating of 9.75 at ResellersRating.com which is not an easy feat.

Use and testing

Compared to the ATI RADEON 9800 ALL-IN-WONDER that we reviewed last month, the standard configuration and testing is almost the same. The Crucial card produced almost the same score in 3DMark03 as did the ATI card even though you might think that the ALL-IN-WONDER might have a little more overhead based on the fact that it has more hardware resources incorporated into it. That is simply not the case. Scores and performance testing can be viewed on the Performance Page. One down side to testing this card is the lack of information in regards to specifications on the Crucial site. ATI’s site has little more to offer in that respect. Typically the site tends to provide marketing information only and is a poor source of technical data.

Crucial 3d Mark scores

Installation was typical and smooth. The Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro needs an external power hookup to energize it’s innards and though this might be a little inconvenient for some people, it actually relieves some of the stress on the AGP bus and the motherboard by piping the power in through the card itself instead of through the slot. This is beneficial to frame rates and tends to help prolong the life of all the components

Crucial’s RADEON 9800 Pro ships with the Catalyst 3.7 driver. We downloaded the 3.7’s from ATI’s public site as we always do, to use the same drivers that the general public gets to qualify all tests run in the benchmarks here in. Our initial run of 3DMark03 produced a 5537 score which is slightly higher that the ATI AL-IN-WONDER at 5525. This says a lot for the R350 core used in the video card as it is apparently the same exact one that the ALL-IN-WONDER uses and resellers are not getting a scaled down model.

Overclocking the Crucial RADEON 9800 pro was relatively simple and straightforward using the Rage3D video card tweaker. The default timings are 378.0 MHz (core) and the 337.5 (memory). It is simply a change of the slider and OCing we will go. This particular utility is very easy to use and getting a performance boost, though hardly necessary is a habit we will not soon get over. Bumping the core up to 400.5 MHz and the memory clock up to 360.0 was smooth and stable on the AMD 3000+ system with no issues, errors or crashes.

We actually pushed the program up 280 3Dmarks with this utility which is nothing to sneeze at in 3DMark and still be stable.

Statistically speaking we only gained 4.8% in the score compared to a 5.6% core Overclock which is not a bad ratio of OCing to results realized. Typically an Overclock of only 5% will yield a gain of less than 2% overall performance boost in 3DMark03 in other graphics cards.

Conclusion

Simply put, The Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro is the lean, mean graphics machine you want at a price point that is lower than comparable cards. Performance is comparable to any of the RADEON line and includes the reputation of Crucial behind it as well. The idea of spending hundreds for a video card may not seem too appealing to all, but the performance is well worth the investment from our standpoint. The combination of price, capability, and compatibility make the Crucial Radeon 9800 PRO a sound investment for now and into the future.

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