It's been graphics card central at Hexus recently. With 9600 Pro and 9800 Pro 256MB from ATI and NVIDIA's latest midrange entrant, FX5600 Ultra, it's been a holy trinity of geometry and texturing. Then, just as I was recovering from an all out graphics benchmarking extravaganza, the lovely Jackie from Hercules' UK PR company offered up Herc's latest board. Now with nearly any other graphics card, I'd have been tempted to turn it down, but the board on offer was a little out of the ordinary.
Normal Radeon's from ATI and partners are staid affairs, if you can call bright red PCB's such a thing. But Hercules don't do red, instead preferring their usual bright blue, indeed they are probably the pioneers of a non-green PCB. So after taking a look at a picture of the card, a bright blue behemoth with an LED just for the nearly blind, adorned with what looks like half the worlds copper reserves attached, how could I refuse. I have to admit it, but looks alone sold it to me.
It certainly helps that under the hood is one of the fastest consumer accelerators ever created, Radeon 9800 Pro and 128MB of memory take care of that, but it's blue and that's all that matters. It could be a Parhelia, I'd still like it.
Anyway, it's not all about looks, there are a range of other factors to consider when looking at a graphics card these days. Feature set, price, performance, bundle, availability. All things to be considered, so I better stop waffling and get on with it.
So before we dive head first into Hercules' world of speed, just a quick recap over what you get with a 9800 Pro solution in terms of facts and figures. No guff about F-buffer and the like here, just the raw statistics.
|Hercules Radeon 9800 Pro
|Radeon 9700 Pro
|Texture units per pipeline
|Shader units per pipeline
|Memory bus width
Now, without delving into the increased shader performance that R350 equipped 9800 Pro has over R300 driven 9700 Pro, and without covering the F-buffer and increased memory bandwidth optimisations, it's clear that 9800 Pro has a traditional advantage in terms of performance. Faster clocks over 9700 Pro would make it quicker anyway, and the 8% memory bandwidth increase and 17% increase in core clock are nothing to sniff at. Combined with the afore mentioned increases in other areas and it's clear that 9800 Pro would be faster than the already hugely impressive 9700 Pro. It even has the horsepower to quite easily keep pace with NVIDIA's new monster.
So we know it's going to be fast, we don't even have to benchmark it to know that. So it makes sense to concentrate on the other areas we mentioned earlier, including the price, presentation and availibility when coming to a conclusion.
Let's take a look at what it looks like before considering any graphs, and also a quick chat about what you get in the box.