Power graphics: WinFast A380 Ultra TDH, Radeon 9800XT

Both ATI and NVIDIA have again raised the performance bar with new releases which, although not mind blowing, will hopefully help push the price of their existing high-end cards (the Radeon 9800 Pro and GeForce FX 5900, respectively) even lower. ATI has introduced the Radeon 9800XT and NVIDIA the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. Both chips are just slightly faster than their elders and boast faster memory, too.

The crux of both chips remains the same, with DirectX 9.0 support and OpenGL 1.5 support prominent, but the more interesting features of both cards are their drivers. ATI, in particular, has added a few new features to its Catalyst driver and control panel package, which will aid enthusiasts who want to overclock their card to make it even faster than it already is. Indeed, the 9800XT is already the fastest card on the market if you go by the 3DMark scores we obtained, and is neck-and-neck with the 5950 in the Quake III and Unreal Tournament 2003 tests.

Refer to the table for a full comparison of the latest cards and previous models. You will see that the Radeon 9800XT is clearly the best card to go for if you want to play games with high detail settings such as anti-aliasing enabled.

Other features of the Catalyst driver include troubleshooting and diagnostic utilities that help restore your card if it stops responding to Windows and also monitor its temperature.

Both cards had a number of cooling gizmos, the ATI card with a large, relatively low-rpm fan-and-heatsink combination, and the NVIDIA (Leadtek WinFast A380 Ultra TDH) card with a large copper heatsink and equally large fan. Our temperature gauges indicated that these cards' heatsinks will reach a surface temperature of 40º to 50º during heavy processing loads, and that is quite an impressive figure. The WinFast A380 Ultra

TDH's heatsink makes it a great looking card for the enthusiast with a modified PC case, too.

The A380 Ultra TDH has 256MB of memory and features TV in and out functionality. It ships with the games Big MuthaTruckers and GunMetal, as well as Ulead VideoStudio 7SE DVD, DVD MovieFactory 2.5SE and Cool 3D video editing and DVD creation software.

The PowerColor Radeon 9800XT in­-cludes Half Life 2 and DVD player soft­ware. It has TV out functionality, but no TV in.

In brief: Leadtek WinFast A380 Ultra TDH
This card has an elegant cooling solution and offers only very slight improvements in performance over its predecessor, the A350.
Price: $975
Distributor: BCN Technology
Phone: (02) 9648 0888
URL: www.bcntech.com.au

PowerColor Radeon 9800XT
For $847, this card is much better value and ATI proves once again that it has the fastest hardware on the market, surpassing its own 9800 Pro chip.
Price: $847
Distributor: Australia IT
Phone: (03) 9543 5855
URL: www.autraliait.com.au

Comparison Chart

Graphics cards Leadtek WinFast A350 Ultra TDH Leadtek WinFast A380 Ultra TDH Gigabyte Radeon 9800Pro Powercolor Radeon 9800XT
3DMark 2001 19195 19589 19937 20913
3DMark 2003 6163 6400 5864 6560
Quake III
1024x768 364 363 348 349
1600x1200 259 268 229 247
Unreal Tournament 2003 (Face3/Inferno maps)
1024x768 237/177 240/185 226/156 242/219
1024x768 with 6xAA 78/48 83/50 173/103 185/111
1600x1200 148/80 153/64 141/75 151/82
1600x1200 with 6xAA 39/21 41/22 82/45 89/49

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