ATI Radeon 9600 XT

ATI Radeon 9600 XT - Page 1

The ATi Radeon 9600 XT
ATi Gives Their Mainstream Product a 100MHz Boost

By Robert Maloney
October 15th,  2003

Any way you slice it, it seems that NVIDIA just can't catch a break. Just when they seemed to pull out of their year-long funk following the GFFX 5800 introduction, by releasing the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, they were called to the carpet again, over what they like to call, driver "optimizations". In a world where benchmarks can make or break the salability of any piece of hardware, just like critics can determine the fate of a movie ("Gigli" comes to mind), NVIDIA has done what they felt was necessary to paint their products in the most positive light. Why was all this necessary you might ask? It is due in a large part by a steady stream of fiercely competitive releases from a company in Ontario, Canada, that you just might have heard of before, ATi.

ATi has been pushing all of the right buttons since the release of the Radeon 9500/9700 series of cards and increasing the pressure for anyone to come up with a better solution.  When NVIDIA tried to win back some of their loyal fan base with the 5900 and 5900 Ultra cards earlier this year, ATi was ready with their Radeon 9600/9800 cards, and the battle was on.  Now, without even letting NVIDIA catch its breath, ATi has upped the ante with upgrades for what was already considered top of the line.  Dave gave his thoughts on the Radeon 9800 XT just a few weeks ago, and told you to stay tuned for more news.  Well, the news is that ATi have prepared a double treat for us - the Radeon 9600 XT, a mainstream video card that can rival other high-end solutions, and a brand new suite of drivers to match with some important (and some not so important) new features.  We will start with the specs on the all new 9600 XT, a variation of the 9600 series with increased core clock speeds and a new manufacturing process aimed at lower power consumption, and therefore lower heat production.

Specifications & Features of the 128MB ATi Radeon 9600 XT
The 9600 Pro on Steroids



RV360 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
Core Clock Speed 500MHz


  • 128MB of DDR RAM

  • 300MHz DDR / 600MHz Effective Speed

  • 128-bit Memory Interface


    • Four parallel rendering pipelines process up to 2.0 billion pixels per second

    • High precision 10-bit per channel framebuffer support

    • 128-bit DDR memory interface

    • AGP 8X support


    • Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 programmable pixel and vertex shaders in hardware

    • 2.0 Pixel Shaders support up to 16 textures per rendering pass

    • 2.0 Vertex Shaders support vertex programs up to 1024 instructions with flow control

    • New 128-bit per pixel floating point color formats

    • Multiple Render Target (MRT) support

    • Shadow volume rendering acceleration

    • Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL via extensions


    • State-of-the-art full-scene anti-aliasing

    • Supports 2x, 4x, and 6x modes with programmable sample patterns

    • Advanced anisotropic filtering

    • Supports up to 16 bilinear samples (in performance mode) or trilinear samples (in quality mode) per pixel

    • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes

    • Adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns

    • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes

    • Adaptive algorithm with bilinear (performance) and trilinear (quality) options

    • Bandwidth-saving algorithm enables this feature with minimal performance cost


    • Hierarchical Z-Buffer and Early Z Test reduce overdraw by detecting and discarding hidden pixels

    • Lossless Z-Buffer Compression and Fast Z-Buffer Clear reduce memory bandwidth consumption by over 50%

    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear


    • 15-pin VGA connector for analog CRT / DVI-I connector for digital CRT or flat panel

    • S-video or composite connector for TV/VCR

    • Independent resolutions and refresh rates for any two connected displays



  • Seamless integration of programmable pixel shaders with video data

  • High quality, hardware accelerated de-blocking of internet streaming video

  • Noise removal filter for captured video

  • Integrated MPEG-2 decode

  • Hardware accelerated iDCT, motion compensation, and color space conversion

  • Top quality DVD and all-format DTV/HDTV decode with low CPU overhead

  • Back-end scaler delivers top quality playback

  • Upscaling and downscaling with 4-tap horizontal and vertical filtering

  • Filtered display of images up to 1920 pixels wide

  • Unique per-pixel adaptive de-interlacing feature combines the best elements of the ?bob? and ?add-field? (weave) techniques


    • Noise removal filtering for captured video

    • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion

    • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding

    • YPrPb component output

    • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion

    • Dual integrated display controllers

    • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400MHz DACs

    • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI and HDCP compliant)

    • Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution

    • Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon? 3Dnow!

    • PC 2002 compliant


    • Dual integrated display controllers

    • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates

    • HYDRAVISION? software provides complete control over multi-display configurations with a user-friendly interface

    • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel palette DACs operating at up to 400MHz

    • Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter supports resolutions up to QXGA (2048x1536) and complies with DVI and HDCP specifications

    • Integrated TV-Out support up to 1024x768 resolution

    • YPrPb output for direct drive of HDTV monitors


    • Comprehensive 2x, 4x, and 8x AGP support

    • DDR memory interface supports 64/128/256MB configurations

    • Fully compliant with PC 2002 requirements

    • Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon? 3Dnow! processor instructions

    • Supports optional THEATER? 200 companion chip for NTSC/PAL/SECAM video capture

    • Highly optimized 128-bit 2D engine with support for new Windows® XP GDI extensions



Perhaps not as stylish as the 9800 XT model, the 9600 XT still has its merits with the standard red PCB and large aluminum heatsink over the VPU.  The architecture of the card is not much different from the 9600 Pro we used for testing, less a capacitor or two.  The driving force behind the card is the RV360 core, basically a vamped up version of the RV350 with a 100MHz boost in clock speed.  It also is the first graphics core to be based on a low-k dielectric 0.13 micron process.  Low-k in this context refers to the low capacitance of a new insulating material called Black Diamond used in the TSMC 0.13 micron LV process.  The effects of this are two-fold, allowing for higher clock speeds yet requiring less power consumption. The reduced power needs of the card are obvious when one notices that the 9600 XT does not require any external power connections, even though the core is running at 500MHz.


The reduced power consumption and capacitance should also lessen the heat produced by the VPU, although ATi has still included an oversized aluminum heatsink with a built-in 40mm fan.  It is a custom fit, covering all of the space south of the capacitors and stopping just shy of the Samsung RAM.  Unlike the 9800 XT, which is still based on a .15 micron process, only the front side of the card is cooled, and the RAM is left bare as well.  The heatsink is mounted using two spring-loaded retentions clips and although it may be hard to see in the photo, it makes a solid connection with the RV360.  The heatsink/fan combo is a quiet and adequate solution for this card.  Combined with the better cost efficiency of the .13 micron process and lack of heatsinks over the RAM help keep costs down.

Frame Buffer 128MB DDR 128MB DDR 128MB DDR 128MB DDR
Memory Interface 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 64-bit
Rendering Pipelines 4 4 4 4
Pixel Fillrate (Gpixels/sec) 2.0 1.6 1.3 1.3
Engine Clock (MHz) 500 400 325 325
Memory Clock (MHz) 600 600 400 400
Output Connections VGA + TV + DVI VGA + TV + DVI VGA + TV + DVI VGA + TV + DVI

The XT version brings the 9600 series to a total of four different models now, which includes the Radeon 9600 XT, Radeon 9600 Pro, Radeon 9600, and the Radeon 9600SE. It's hard to believe that a mainstream card could have this many variations, but each one is a step higher than the next performance-wise, providing a dizzying array of options for the ever hungry PC Graphics consumer.

A breakdown of the main differences between the four variants is shown in the graph above. The major salient point for this product launch today, is the 100MHz boost for the engine clock of the 9600 XT over the 9600 Pro. This speed bump was afforded by ATi's cutover to a "low-k" dielectric .13 micron process, with their fab partner TSMC. Theoretically, this results in a 25% increase in the pixel fillrate, an all-important aspect of today's 3D gaming requirements.

The Drivers & Some Screenshots

Tags:  ATI, Radeon, ATI Radeon, XT

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