While ATI has enjoyed worldwide recognition from the press for its R300/R350 series which brought a mini-revolution in the 3D accelerator industry, sometimes having the best card out there is not enough. That's why add-in board partners play a huge role in the acceptance (or lack of) of a said graphics chip in the market. A market which has seen a somewhat strange trend in the past few years, with add-in board partners choosing (or be forced to choose) a single brand instead of the usual multitude of choices we enjoyed in the birth of the 3D accelerator market. So for instance if you wanted to buy Sapphire, you had to choose an ATI-based card, and if you wanted to buy an Asus card, you had to go with an nVidia solution.
But that trend started to wear off lately, mainly due to ATI's established superiority in the past year. One of the most high-profile moves was from Asus, a traditional nVidia partner who wisely decided after listening to its customer base to start working with ATI as well in order to bring their solutions to the market. One of the fruits of their labour was the Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD, which we are going to take a closer look today in our review.
In The Box
The card box sure looks impressive; it's huge and it certainly provides an inner satisfaction that you bought something big and powerful :) The packaging oozes quality from every side: when you open the box you will find out that the package is carefully thought of so that the card won't get damaged from transportation. As my review sample shipped from Taiwan to here in Greece, I can assure you that I was pleasantly surprised to find everything intact and without any visible damage; something that certainly attests to its quality.
Inside the box you will find three manuals; an installation guide, a software reference and a specifications sheet. One thing that particularly stood out was the inclusion of a hard orange CD case (note the colour; we'll get back to that later). It can hold 12 CDs (8 are already taken by Asus' software bundle) and it's a nice change from the usual paper sleeves we are stuck with when we buy components for our PCs. So kudos to Asus for that. Here's a brief breakdown of what you get:
|Drivers CD (drivers, TWAIN and WDM drivers, DX9, Asus SmartDoctor, Asus Video Security v3.03, Asus Digital VCR v2.5 and Asus GameFace v1.2)
||Demos CD (Splinter Cell, Warcraft 3, Big Mutha Truckers, Breed, Colin McRae Rally 3, TOCA Race Driver)
|PowerDirector ME 2.55||Gun Metal
|Ulead Cool3D SE 3.0 and Ulead PhotoExpress 4.0||Battle Engine Aquila
|[email protected] SE 2.0||Half-Life 2 coupon
Of course the most interesting inclusion here is the Half Life 2 coupon you get, which you can trade to get the full game (downloadable via STEAM or you can have ATI send it to you for a small fee) once it is released. Since this is probably one of the games to own in 2004, you were likely going to buy it anyway so Asus saves you from the trouble.