Just wanted to post a few things I've learned about these cards.
First the obvious stuff...
There's two versions of these cards in the market right now. The first is the initial version of the card that has the R350 core and PC board. You can easily spot this board three ways. The first is the slot covers. The older version of the board has a dual slot cover that is one solid piece that covers two slots. On April 23rd 2004, they started shipping a newer version that has two physically separate slot covers. I don't know if there's a correlation between this distinction and whether or not there is a R350 vs. R360. I do know that the first one I bought had the solid dual slot cover and it was a R350. The second one I bought had separate slot covers and was a R360. The second is the RAM heatsinks. The older cards have standard looking heat sinks, and the newer ones have a heat sink/heat spreader that "bridges" two memory modules. Again, don't know if there's a solid correlation between R350/R360 here. The third is definetly a giveaway between the R350 and R360 - the PC board layout. The older one has a heat sink directly above the "E" in "Excalibur" on the VGA Silencer. You can see this through the window of the retail box without opening it up (and perhaps ruining your chance for an RMA). This is the R350 PC board, as seen here:
The newer version with the R360 PC board is shown here:
Next, flashing from Pro to XT...
The best way to verify the chipset is to take off the VGA Silencer and look for yourself. However, a lot of people don't want to do this. An alternate method is to take a look at the text of the BIOS.
Download ATITool and dump the bios. Open it with Notepad and if you see this string:
R360 Hynix DDR 113-A18812-100 BIOS
(C) 1988-2003, ATI Technologies Inc. BK-ATI VER008.017D.029.000 nhrq6778.p00 v611 R360AGP
...then you have a R360 core and PCB. As you can also see, it uses Hynix memory.
Download Winflash , and also this BIOS that is strictly for a HIS 9800XT 128M card with Hynix memory. First, make SURE you have dumped the current BIOS and have a copy of it. Never flash anything with backing up what's already there. Once you have the current BIOS saved, rename the new bios from "HIS.9800XT.128MB.Hynix.bin" to something simple like "9800XT.bin". Use Winflash to write the new BIOS to the card. Uninstall all video drivers and Display Adapters in Device Manager and reboot. The card will now be recognized as an XT. Re-install the drivers and you're off.
Note that ATITool will now read the temps on the card. The temps will NOT be available in the ATI control panel, and neither will the Overdrive tab.
Finally, a word to anyone thinking of taking the VGA Silencer off just to re-seat it with Arctic Silver 5, Shin Etsu, or whatever your favorite thermal compound happens to be. Don't bother. When I removed mine, I was expecting to see some really weak, slapped on thermal paste. Not the case. I was very suprised to see a very neatly and evenly applied compound that appeared to be AS5. Same color and consistency. I removed the compound and put on AS5, and have a ZERO degree temp change after 3 days of burn-in. Zero idle change, zero load change.
The only thing that could be done to improve the mating surface would be to lap the VGA Silencer. The core itself has a mirror finish, as seen here:
The circle in the pic is the lens of my camera. You can also clearly see "Olympus" on the bottom.
The VGA Silencer surface has pretty bad machining marks, and could easily be lapped to a much smoother finish. Here's what it looks like after the original thermal paste was removed:
So unless you're planning on lapping the VGA Silencer, don't bother taking it off.
The card can be purchased from three online retailers: Newegg, eWiz, and SuperPCMart. Newegg is the cheapest, but is frequently out of stock, as is SuperPCMart. The two I bought were from Newegg and eWiz. The one I bought from Newegg was a R350 core, but they have since sold out of that stock and are scheduled to get more in on 8/11/2004. The new stock will likely be R360's. The second card I got was from eWiz. I'd never bought anything from them and did so only because Newegg was currently out of stock. They were $16 more expensive at the time, but the card I got was an R360. Newegg is by far the better retailer of these three (well, of anyone in my book), and I'd recommend buying it there first. As I mentioned earlier, you can eyeball the card through the window of the box and tell if it's an R350 or R360. If it's an R350, RMA it - but call to get the RMA number instead of doing it online and they'll waive your restocking fee.
I really love this card and am extremely impressed with the quality and performance I've gotten out of it. Hope this helps out anyone considering buying one.