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With the Radeon 9800 XT release, ATI started manufacturing its Radeon 9800 Pro using the same core of this new chip, called R360. Thus, the newer Radeon 9800 Pro with the R360 core are, in fact, Radeon 9800 XT running at lower clocks. While the Radeon 9800 Pro works at 380 MHz and access the memory at 340 MHz (680 MHz DDR), the Radeon 9800 XT works at 412 MHz and accesses the memory at 365 MHz (730 MHz DDR). Since the only difference between these two chips is the graphic processor and the memory clocks, it is possible to transform a Radeon 9800 Pro into a Radeon 9800 XT by doing a video card BIOS upgrade, if your Radeon 9800 Pro has the R360 core. This upgrade also changes the model registration, which makes the Windows and the other programs identify the card as a Radeon 9800 XT. Today we will teach you how to make this transformation, saving you some money.
The first thing you need to know is if your Radeon 9800 Pro has the "old" core (R350) or the "new" one (R360). Only boards based on the new chip model (R360) can be transformed into a Radeon 9800 XT. This identification can easily be done by counting the number of memory chips available on your board. If your board has 16 chips, it uses the R350 and cannot be transformed. But if it has 8 chips, it uses the new R360 core and can be changed to a Radeon 9800 XT with this tutorial.
Before performing the modification, you can check wheter it will work or not, performing an overclocking on it, using PowerStrip software (https://www.entechtaiwan.com). Configure your board to run at 412 MHz (core) and 365 MHz (730 MHz DDR, memory) and run a 3D benchmarking software like 3DMark03 (https://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/) to check if your board runs smoothly with this overclocking. If it works fine, you can perform the upgrade process we will explain. If it doesn’t, you will have to find, using PowerStrip, which are the top clocks your board supports, and change its BIOS with them. We’ll talk about this later.
[nextpage title=”Performing the Modification”]
To do this change, you will need a program – Flashrom – available at https://softmod.ocfaq.com/bios.php and a Radeon 9800 XT BIOS of the same brand, with the same memory capacity (128 MB or 256 MB) and, preferentially, the same memory brand (Samsung, Hynix, etc) and speed (2.8 ns, 2.5 ns, etc) of your current board. For instance, if your current video card is an ASUS Radeon 9800 Pro with 256 MB of 2.5 ns Hynix memory, you will need to download and update it with an ASUS Radeon 9800 XT BIOS of the same features. You will find a complete list of BIOS for download at the link above and also at https://www.techpowerup.com/bios at https://www.mvktech.net/download.php.
You will need to copy Flashrom and the BIOS (which is a file with a bin extension) to a boot floppy disk and boot the computer through it. After the boot, you have to enter the following command to copy your video card current BIOS to the floppy disk:
Flashrom -s 0 backup.bin
Then, do the upgrade using the following command:
Flashrom -f -p 0 name_of_the_file.bin
During the upgrade the screen may become “fuzzy.” Don’t do anything. Wait until the image returns to the DOS prompt with the update confirmation message. Then restart the machine and you’re done!
In our lab we tested this upgrade in a Radeon 9800 Pro with 128 MB and 2.8 ns Samsung memory from Gigabyte. After the upgrade, the card was recognized as a Radeon 9800 XT, however the image became “fuzzy” when we ran 3D games. Upon investigations, we concluded that the problem was that the card memory didn’t support the new clock. The maximum clock 2.8 ns memories may work is 350 MHz (700 MHz). Since the new configuration made it work at 365 MHz (730 MHz), there were errors in the image. The solution we found was to edit the BIOS, decreasing its clock from 365 MHz to 350 MHz, save this new BIOS and make a new upgrade. Our card plate then began working as a Radeon 9800 XT without any problems (except the fact the memory was working at a lower clock than that of the original Radeon 9800 XT). In case you encounter a similar problem, the program to edit your BIOS is found at https://www.mvktech.net/download.php?view.157. You should use it to open the .bin file of the Radeon 9800 XT ROM and lower the clock to the maximum speed supported by the memory, save the file and do a new upgrade. If your card uses 2.5 ns memories you won’t have any problems, because the maximum speed this memory may work is 400 MHz (800 MHz).
We carried out two performance tests. In 3DMark03, the 3D performance increased 10,48%, from 5,780 points to 6,386 points, and in Aquamark 3 the 3D performance increased 5%, from 42,949 points to 45,100 points. No bad for a modification that didn’t cost a penny…
If something goes wrong, you can reprogram your VGA with its old BIOS, using the following command:
Flashrom -f -p 0 backup.bin