|DVM's Radeon 9800-to-9800 Pro Upgrade Page|
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THE TRICK IS FINDING ONE....
Sapphire Atlantis Radeon 9800 128MB
Unfortunately, the biggest problem you may encounter in this process is finding a Radeon 9800NP card to do it on! ATI makes a version of the 9800NP themselves, but it can be hard to find. Your best bet for that card is probably your local "Best Buy" store, since they often seem to carry it. However, ATI appears to leave most of the production of 9800NP's up to their "Powered by ATI" partners--companies like Sapphire, PowerColor and Hercules/Guillemot. Here in the US, Sapphire seems to be the biggest supplier of these cards, and the vast majority of the information I found on the web while preparing to do the conversion referred to Sapphire 9800NP's. But it appears that, somewhere around the beginning of September, existing supplies of the Sapphire card began to dry up. I had my eye on one for $250 at NewEgg.com, but then noticed that the model had suddenly disappeared from NewEgg's online catalog. As I began to look around on Pricewatch.com for other sources, I came across the same problem again and again--out of stock, with no indication of when replacements would arrive. I finally found one in stock at Gentech PC, which I confirmed by phone, and went ahead and ordered it for $259.50, including shipping.
By the way, this reseller may be quite small, but their service really impressed me. The phone rep made a point of telling me that, if I got the web order in within the hour, there was a good chance the card would ship that day. I did, and it did. Not only that, but the website indicated that the free shipping included with the card would be UPS Ground. However, I received the card in about 48 hrs., and it had to come from CA to NY. So, either I got free UPS Air shipment, or Dale Jarrett really is driving the truck these days.
If you want to buy one of these cards, all I can tell you is that you may have to beat the bushes pretty hard. Poke around in Pricewatch and see if you can find some reseller who still has a few. Perhaps Sapphire will start supplying them again, but I doubt it. I suspect this model may have been a good way to use borderline quality GPU's when 9800 production first began ramping up, but as chip yields increased, that need dwindled away. Plus I'd think that Sapphire and the other card makers would want people paying full price for 9800 Pro performance, and not doing this conversion on a much cheaper card!
You may also be able to find a 9800NP in another brand. Though Sapphire seems to dominate the other "Powered by" brands here in the US, there are others available. As to whether or not they offer the 9800NP model, you'll just have to do your homework and find out. And, by the way, there's one other fairly important consideration you'll need to keep in mind....
THE MEMORY MATTERS....
Not all 9800NP's are created equal, at least as pertains to how well they'll undergo the transformation to a Pro. Though the jump from the NP's core clockspeed (324MHz) to the Pro's (378MHz) rarely seems to be an issue, getting the card's memory to run at the Pro's default speed of 337.5MHz can be a real problem in some cases. The key is the brand & quality of the memory used on the card. Almost without exception, the successful reports of NP-to-Pro conversions that I read involved cards with Samsung memory. Those with Infineon memory fared much more poorly. Unfortunately, this appears to include most of the ATI-branded 9800NP cards. Typically, the memory clock on such cards had to be turned down below the 337.5MHz Pro default setting after flashing to the Pro BIOS, giving back some of the performance gain. In such cases, it may make more sense to just leave the card with the stock NP BIOS and overclock the core and memory to the extent possible.
Even cards that come with Samsung memory may use one of several different quality levels. Most common seems to be 3.3ns rated memory, which seems to be able to handle the Pro speed setting consistently, but doesn't generally have much room to overclock beyond that. However, some users reported getting cards with 2.8ns memory or even faster, which allowed the maximum memory clockspeed to be increased further. You can determine the memory speed by reading the coding on the surface of the memory chips (get a magnifying glass!). The speed is denoted by the two characters that follow the letters "GC" at the end of the second line of white lettering near the bottom of the chip. "GC33" would be 3.3ns memory, and "GC2A" is 2.8ns, according to what I've read.
The Sapphire card I bought had the 3.3ns Samsung memory, which nominally is rated for 300MHz. However, Samsung seems to build a bigger margin of performance into their memory than Infineon, and their 3.3ns memory is consistently reported to achieve 340MHz or better stable operating speeds. And, as you'll see, my experience bore this out.
So, assuming that you've been successful in laying your hands on a 9800NP that can be used for this conversion, let's get on with the show....
STEP BY STEP....
The procedure shown following is the one I mentioned earlier that I found in the SysOpt.com forum. All credit goes to the author of the posting I took it from, "Bigjakkstaffa". I reproduce it here virtually verbatim, because it's clear and it works. There are other similar "how to" instructions available on the web (THIS l-o-o-o-ng thread in the Rage3D forums contains much valuable information), and many alternate sources for the two required file downloads, in case you have any problem accessing the links shown below.
To carry out the flash, the following will be needed:
- R9800Pro BIOS: http://www.doomiii.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/98-8004.BIN
- Flashrom: http://www.khepri.co.uk/boot_disc.exe
Once you have these files downloaded and installed to a floppy, carry out the following procedure:
- Restart the computer and boot from the floppy disk containing the Flashrom and BIOS files until you reach an A:\ prompt
- Type the following and then hit Enter:
flashrom -s 0 original.bin
(This will save a backup of the existing BIOS file to the floppy just in case)
- Once the original BIOS has been saved type the following and again hit enter to flash the Pro BIOS
flashrom -p 0 98-8004.BIN
- The flash procedure should run and complete with a 'successful' message, and your card should now be recognized as a Radeon 9800 Pro and run at 'Pro' speeds.
Following the completion of this sequence, I removed the boot floppy from the drive and rebooted the PC. As Windows started up, the card was redetected as a 9800 Pro and I reinstalled the ATI Catalyst 3.7 drivers. Once the card was running, I checked the core and memory clockspeeds using Rage3D's deservedly popular Radeon Tweak Utility. As expected, the core showed 378MHz and the memory was at 337.5MHz. SUCCESS!!
OK, so now we have a card that is convinced it's a 9800 Pro. Let's see if it really acts like one....