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FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB

Have you ever heard of the saying “Speed Kills!” Not when it comes to video cards, speed is good. This is definitely one card that is pushing the limits of your FPS fantasies. Can it beat out its 128MB kin? Take a look at the FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB review and find out for yourself.

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Introduction


Recently, at Bjorn3d we have had the opportunity to take a look at some of the latest cards based on ATI’s Radeon technology. So far we have not been let down by their performance. The cards have shown that they are definite contenders in the highly competitive PC graphics market. Our latest look into the Radeon family is the FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB. How does this card with its extra memory stack up with its 128MB brethren? Follow me as I take a look at this awesome card from FIC!

I think the main question that we want to be answer with this review will be, “Does the extra memory really increase performance?” I know we have all heard that there really isn’t that many opportunities for a graphics card to utilize all 256MB of memory it has available. Hopefully, we can help shed some light on this subject with some straightforward numbers. Before we get to that though, lets take a look at the specs for this card from FIC.

Specifications

Graphics Engine: ATI Radeon 9800 Pro
Video Memory: 256MB DDRII
Core/Memory Clock 380MHz/340MHz
Memory Interface: 256 bit
Maximum 3D Resolution: 2048x1536x75Hz
Advanced 3D Features SMOOTHVISIONTM 2.0
TRUFORMTM 2.0
SMARTHEADERTM 2.0
HYPER ZTM III
VIDEOSHADERTM
Bus Type: AGP 8x or 4x Compatible
Display Support: CRT
DVI-I
TV-out
Dual Display
API Support DirectX 9.0
OpenGL

The packaging for the FIC card is fairly typical for a high end graphics card. Of course, it is also much too large for what is actually found in the box. I think that graphics companies need to follow suit with the video game companies and compress their packaging to reduce waste.


Card strong like bull!

Back of FIC box

Bundle contents somewhat lacking

Included video connections

Unfortunately, you will not find much more than the video card inside this large box. I would tell you about the included bundle, but it is non-existent. This is always disappointing to a consumer. After spending close to a full paycheck on a video card, you hope to have some included software to take it for a test drive. Even something that you could benchmark the card with would be a nice addition to this package. Of course it does come with a VGA to DVI connector, molex power extension, an S-Video and component cable, and drivers CD. This still does not make up for the lack of a software bundle.

When you look at the Radeon line of cards, there really isn’t that much “flair” or “pizzazz” to them. The FIC card is no exception. The basic red board with a small and simple cooling solution is very subdued and plain. You could compare this card to a Geo Metro with a Corvette engine in it. Not flashy on the outside, but a speed demon lies within.


Nothing too flashy

Heatsinks anyone?

Red color, a classic for Radeons

Simple is sometimes a good thing

The extra 128MB of memory on this card stands out all over the card. For each memory chip, a small silver heatsink makes an appearance on the surface of the card. Sixteen little silver heatsinks, 16MB per heatsink, that’s a cool 256MB of memory cooking up some graphics goodness. The weight of the card is considerable due to the additional heatsinks on the card. Overall, the weight of the card is still comparable to most high-end graphics cards because of its very simple and smaller cooling solution.

Of course a standard feature on many of the more powerful video cards on the market is the molex power connection on the end to feed this beast. Many of the card manufacturers today are recommending a very strong power supply to satisfy the hunger that these new cards have.


Bottom dominated by memory heatsinks

These cards should be green, because they really GO!

Power connection on end of FIC card

Feed Me!


Testing


Well, we know what the card looks like, but what you really want to know is how it runs. We here at Bjorn3D put the FIC 9800 Pro 256MB through our usual collection of tests to see what this card can really do.

Before we jump in head first, why don’t we take a look at what we are using to put this card to the test.

Test System:

  • Motherboard: MSI 865PE NEO2-FIS2R
  • Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz “C” 800MHz FSB (provided by EnvisionCS.net)
  • Memory: Corsair TWINX1024-4000 (2x512MB 500MHz DDR)
  • Hard Drive: Maxtor DiamondMax Plus9 Ultra w/ 8MB Buffer
  • Optical Drive: Plextor PlexWriter 12/10/32A
  • Video Card: Visiontek Radeon 9800 Pro or MSI 5900
  • Power Supply: Kingwin KWI-450WABK 450W

Motherboard / BIOS Settings:

  • FSB: 800MHz
  • Memory Speed: 400MHz
  • HyperThreading: Enabled
  • Performance: Fast (PAT disabled)
  • Dynamic Overclocking: Disabled
  • Memory Timings: 2-4-4-7

Video Card Drivers:

  • ATi Drivers: Catalyst 3.6
  • NVIDIA Drivers: Detonator 45.23
  • DirectX Version: 9.0b

In our latest efforts to add a little zest to the average everyday benchmarks you see on all the reviews, we have tried a couple of newer game titles. Of course we like to stick with the staples such as 3DMark and UT2003, but check out the scores on the Nascar 2003 and Command & Conquer: Generals. These tests add some variety to help base an overall opinion on the card.

3DMark2001SE — NoAA, NoAF

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
3DMarks
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 15871
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 15447
MSI GFFX 5900 13978

3DMark2001SE — 4xAA, 8xAF

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
3DMarks
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 11863
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 11645
MSI GFFX 5900 10605

Right off the bat the FIC Radeon begins to strut its stuff keeping right on par and higher than the 128MB VisionTek card, and begins to pull away from the MSI FX 5900.

Unreal Tournament 2003 — Asbestos

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 79.23
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 76.49
MSI GFFX 5900 76.30
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 78.88
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 68.22
MSI GFFX 5900 67.55
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 78.97
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 76.51
MSI GFFX 5900 75.59

Unreal Tournament 2003 — Antalus

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 54.62
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 55.63
MSI GFFX 5900 51.93
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 56.61
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 57.13
MSI GFFX 5900 53.22
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 53.51
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128mb 54.18
MSI GFFX 5900 51.14

Unreal Tournament 2003 — Asbestos

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 77.73
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 76.11
MSI GFFX 5900 72.81
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 62.34
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 42.28
MSI GFFX 5900 44.79
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC 9800 Pro 256MB 56.82
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 43.20
MSI GFFX 5900 39.81

Unreal Tournament 2003 — Antalus

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 54.20
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 55.00
MSI GFFX 5900 48.51
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 47.35
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 45.39
MSI GFFX 5900 36.37
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 33.52
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 30.52
MSI GFFX 5900 23.29

The card continues to perform to expectations throughout the UT2003 tests. The 256MB FIC card stays pretty even with the 128MB Radeon through the testing. The extra memory does not seem to be putting it into a completely new category by itself though. The card is not performing extraordinarily better than the other two cards.


Testing Continued


Well, so far there really is not that much of a difference showing up between the 128MB Radeon card, and the 256MB FIC Radeon 9800 Pro. The scores are relatively on par with each other, only a few FPS and 3DMarks separating the two. The FX5900 from MSI continues to be left behind in the tests, finishing on the tail end of the benchmarks.

I was not surprised to see such a small margin, if any, of difference between the Radeon cards. The card does not have the opportunity to take full advantage of the extra memory that it has. With a few small exceptions, performance has been basically the same between the top two cards.

How will the FIC Radeon 9800 Pro continue to stand up to the competition? Don’t stop now, there’s still more just a scroll wheel click away.

Codecreatures Benchmark Pro

– NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
Official Score
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 3758
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 3638
MSI GFFX 5900 3461

Gunmetal Benchmark 1

1024×768 – 4xAA / noAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 27.26
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 25.47
MSI GFFX 5900 24.46
1280×1024 – 4xAA / noAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 21.36
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 20.38
MSI GFFX 5900 19.83
1600×1200 – 4xAA / noAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 17.18
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 16.31
MSI GFFX 5900 15.70

Papyrus NASCAR 2003 Demo

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 37.04
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 38.04
MSI GFFX 5900 34.34
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 36.58
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 36.97
MSI GFFX 5900 33.53
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 35.52
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 35.62
MSI GFFX 5900 31.86

Papyrus NASCAR 2003 Demo

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 37.49
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 38.28
MSI GFFX 5900 28.83
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 33.6
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 32.77
MSI GFFX 5900 23.56
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 26.86
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 25.76
MSI GFFX 5900 17.47

3DMark2003 (Build 330)

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
3DMarks
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 5589
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 5433
MSI GFFX 5900 5284

3DMark2003 (Build 330)

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
3DMarks
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 3032
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 2641
MSI GFFX 5900 3003

C&C Generals (Version 1.0)

1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 29.71
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 29.88
MSI GFFX 5900 28.25
1280×960 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 28.95
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 29.85
MSI GFFX 5900 27.71
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 29.75
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 29.66
MSI GFFX 5900 26.51

C&C Generals (Version 1.0)

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Video Card
FPS (avg)
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 27.66
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 27.42
MSI GFFX 5900 24.72
1280×960 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 22.16
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 21.85
MSI GFFX 5900 22.10
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB 16.16
VisionTek 9800 Pro 128MB 16.23
MSI GFFX 5900 17.39

Yes, I know that you are thinking the same thing I am right now. The numbers continue to tell the same story. Not only is the 256MB card from FIC not beating out the 128MB card, it’s actually falling behind it in several of the tests. It has not shown me anything above and beyond its competitors.


Playability


I went ahead and did some game testing with this card just to see how it handles the average gaming session. Well, as expected it handled everything I threw at it quite nicely. The image quality is top-notch on the Radeon card. High resolutions with AA and AF cranked up just make this card more of a joy to have. This is how games should be played. The difference between my older FX 5200 or Ti4200 is remarkable to say the least.

One test that I like to run with a new video card is simply to play the high resolution Windows Media video clips that are offered on Microsoft’s website. These videos are HIGH RESOLUTION and take a lot of juice from both the processor and the video card. The files are huge so you might want to spare some time to download them. I have run these videos on my FX 5200, and my Ti4200 and experienced very low framerates and completely unviewable conditions with these clips. Crank them up using the FIC Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB and they run smooth as silk. I was really impressed with the video quality that this card gave me with these clips. If you have not had the opportunity to stress out your system lately, I definitely recommend taking these vids for a test run.

Final Thoughts


Well to put it lightly, this card is burn rubber fast no doubt. The performance is the best of the best. Quiet operation, and unbelievable speed make this easily one of the fastest on the market. Now the question is whether or not it is worth spending nearly an extra $150-$200 for 128MB of RAM. I would say it really isn’t worth it at this point. The numbers tell the story. Performance gains are minimal at most. I have had the opportunity to play games and work with both a 256MB and a 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro and the difference is not noticeable in everyday use. I think that most enthusiasts looking for a high performance card can save an extra $180 and go for the FIC A98P with only the 128MB of RAM.

Final Score


Performance
10
Find me a card that is faster and performs better, then I’ll change my score. Until then, this card is king in the way of brute power!
Features
9
Simple and quiet cooling system helps keep your sanity intact. Relatively compact size that takes up only one slot on the motherboard is also a plus. The subdued looks of the card may turn off some, but less is more in this case.
Bundle
6
Lacking to say the least. If you spend around $500 on a card, the least that could be included would be one game or piece of software to test out the card with.
Price
6
Is it worth the extra dough for the 128MB of extra memory, in my opinion no. Such a steep price difference between the two is the major downfall of this card. Around $180 will get the extra 128MB, or can buy you several other components to add to your system. The scales seem off-balance to me in this situation.
Final Score: 7.5 This is an amazing card that blows away the competition. Unfortunately it blows away your bank account with not a whole lot of extras to begin to justify the price.


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