ATi Radeon 9600 Pro Debut

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The ATi Radeon 9600 Pro Debut
Decent card, fuzzy naming convention

By - Marco Chiappetta
April 16, 2003

Next up, we have some tests with Croteam's Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.  We configured the game to use OpenGL and ran the "Little Trouble" timedemo to test these cards.  The keep the playing field level, we used the "Extreme Quality" script, created by the folks at Beyond3D, to max out the texture quality and filtering levels on all of the cards.

Head-to-Head / Performance With Serious Sam: TSE
Kill Some Aliens With Croteam's Shooter!

Similar to some of our earlier tests, the Radeon 9600 Pro surpassed the GeForce 4 Ti4600 at 1024x768 when AA was enabled in Serious Sam, but at default settings and higher resolutions, it just couldn't keep up with the rest of the pack.  In fact, at 1600x1200 with AA enabled, the 9500 Pro more than doubled the 9600 Pro's performance.

Overclocking With The Radeon 9600 Pro
Nothing is Ever "Fast Enough"

OVERCLOCKING UPDATE: APRIL 18, 2003
CLICK HERE

Editorial Update: April 16, 2003 - We did not have much luck overclocking our particular Radeon 9600 Pro sample.  However, with the core built on a .13 micron manufacturing process, and with memory clocked well below specifications, we expect the Radeon 9600 Pro to be an excellent overclocker.  Unfortunately, when we raised core clock speeds, even by a small amount, we immediately had desktop corruption and 3D applications would lock up within seconds.  We think our overclocking results are NOT typical, however.  It has since been confirmed to us that the current versions of Power Strip and other 3rd party utilities, do not have the correct chip ID for the 9600 Pro and as such do not adjust clock speeds correctly.   In addition, ATi themselves actually told us, they are seeing extremely high overclocks with most boards coming off the line hitting close to 500MHz core frequency.  If this is in fact the case, we may be looking at very impressive performance levels from a budget card, that could even surpass the 9500Pro.  We'll get back to overclocking with the 9600 Pro, as soon as we have the correct tools in house.

OVERCLOCKING UPDATE: APRIL 18, 2003
CLICK HERE

We have mixed feelings towards the Radeon 9600 Pro.  On one hand, this is a full-featured, DX9 class piece of hardware.  Image quality was top notch, the driver package is very stable, it does not require additional power from your PSU and the cooler was almost silent.  On the other hand, the card's performance wasn't exactly awe inspiring and the naming convention will do nothing but confuse consumers.  Why call it the 9600 Pro, when the 9500 Pro handily beats it in most instances?  Branding it the 9400 Pro would have been more appropriate in our opinion but then again, we're not paid to be marketing geniuses either.  The Radeon 9600 Pro's saving grace will have to be its price.  We're told that initial pricing will be at about the same level as the 9500 Pro ($160-$199 street) but as production ramps up, prices should drop considerably.  At a sub-$150 price point the Radeon 9600 Pro will be a very attractive product, so let's hope prices drop quickly.  For now though, the Radeon 9500 Pro still has the best price / performance / feature ratio, in our opinion.  We also witnessed here however, a bit of driver immaturity, that with future releases could change the prospects of this card significantly in a positive direction, not to mention the perceived overclocking headroom this card should posses, once we get utilities in that can identify the new chip properly .  So what's the bottom line?  The ATi Radeon 9600 Pro is a darn good product.  However, until volumes ramp and pricing stabilizes, we're still scratching our heads a bit, with respect to where it will fit in the current market.  It seems only time will tell...

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Tags:  ATI, Radeon, ATI Radeon, pro, BU

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