The ATI Radeon 9800 Pro has proven to be a very popular video card design, not only in terms of ATI, but for their 3rd-party vendors as well. Check out any online hardware outlet, and you're bound to find a long list of Radeon 9800 Pro cards, a further testament to its popularity. This also brings a few potential difficulties to the table, as it can be easy for a company to get lost in the shuffle, and find that their latest product is a bit too similar to the existing crop.
This scenario may ring true for more than a few ATI partners, who also have their newest video card competing against ATI as well. The key lies in product differentiation, such as providing the lowest-cost models, supplying an attractive retail game bundle, or even through increased distribution and a high presence on retail shelves. These are some of the popular strategies companies employ to stick out from the crowd, but Hercules has taken a bit different route with their 3D Prophet 9800 Pro. This Radeon 9800 Pro-based card not only adds a nice bundle to the standard mix, but offers up a video card that has a few hardware extras as well.
In terms of basic features and specifications, Hercules hasn't really gone away from the ATI reference design. The 3D Prophet 9800 Pro is still a Radeon 9800 Pro and features a 380 MHz core speed and DDR memory running at 340 MHz (640 MHz DDR). The card itself includes outputs for VGA, DVI and TV-out functionality and supports ATI's dual-display Hydravision technology. Where Hercules starts changing the rules is in the area of hardware add-ons, some of which could be quite impressive to the hardcore crowd.
The most noticeable addition is the Blue-LED light found in the card's heatsink-fan unit. This provides a blue-toned light, and is especially useful for those with high-end, windowed systems. In our testing, this provides adequate light for the entire bottom portion of the case, and is bright enough to be seen in normal lighting conditions. The heatsink itself is copper-based and provides a nice mix of cooling performance and eye-catching gold trim. Hercules matches this up with copper heatsinks for the memory modules, and the end result is a very attractive video card that also has a full copper-based cooling system.
The Hercules 3D Prophet 9800 Pro retail box contains a good selection of hardware and software, starting off with a full hardcopy user manual. Hercules also includes a DVI-to-VGA dongle, a composite video cable, an S-Video cable, and a composite-to-S-Video adaptor. On the software side, there is the driver and utility disk (including a Hercules overclocking Tweak program), a PowerDVD CD, and a full retail copy of Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. The 3D Prophet 9800 Pro's retail package is very nice, and includes all the basics, along with some nifty extras.