Ready For The Winter Games: ATI Radeon 9800 XT

New Toys To Play With - But Not Quite Yet

ATI is using the new goodies like fan control and hardware monitoring to enable dynamic overclocking. ATI calls it "Overdrive". This is no revolutionary new feature since ASUS offered a similar approach years ago. The remarkable change is that ATI never before supported overclocking. There were no sliders in the control panel and ATI also made sure that all board partners wouldn't sell their cards at higher clock speeds. If you wanted to overclock, you had to use 3rd party tools.

Overdrive will change this - but not until November, as the official ATI R360 presentation explains. It will be implemented in the new control panel software of the upcoming Catalyst v3.8 driver release. The Radeon 9800 XT test sample came with a modified Catalyst v3.7 driver without any support for hardware monitoring. We abandon manual overclocking attempts at this point because history told us that it does not make sense to test overclocking capabilities with reference evaluation samples because its potential is most times not representative for later serial models.

Also new is the possibility to equip the card with a Rage Theater chip for Video-In. Until now, only "All-In-Wonder" models were equipped with it. ATI explained that it won't offer XT boards with this option but that we might see some solution from its board partners.

Game Bundle - Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 is one of the most awaited game titles this year. Offering superb graphics by using DirectX 9 technology it will also become the new benchmark for DX9 performance evaluation. ATI performs very well in this game (see Halflife 2 Benchmarks ).

ATI managed to get multi million-bundle deal with Valve to bundle the single player version of Half-Life 2 with their new Radeon XT cards. Since the release of the game was delayed several times it looks like the early XT card come with a voucher only giving the customer the ability to download the full game via Valve's Steam online service when it becomes available. Maybe this won't change and you never get a full CD. Details are still unknown at the time this article was written.

Sources tell us that the bundling is very expensive for the card makers. ATI is asking for about $15 for a copy, which is 300% more than other game bundles. So you can expect that not every ATI board partner will feature this game bundle.

It's also unknown yet if there will be a chance to upgrade the bundled single player game (about $40) to the multi player version (about $50) will become available later.