ATI Radeon 9600 XT

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

By Robert Maloney
October 15th, 2003

Head-to-Head Performance With X2 - The Threat
A Hot New Space-Sim

X2 - The Threat is a game that is due out in November, that probably hasn't received too much press...that is, until now.  A demo version can be downloaded from http://www.egosoft.com/, and it is simply a gorgeous space simulation. The benchmark is enabled by a checkbox within the demo, albeit a long one to complete.  Egosoft promises that X2 will provide gamers with the best gaming experience with sound and graphics to match, and based on what we saw in the demo, we would have to agree.  The same resolutions and optimizations were used with this benchmark as well.

In our final test, we saw the Radeon 9600XT return to the top of the charts, pulling slightly higher than the 9600 Pro, and from 25-33% higher than the GeForce FX 5600 without AA enabled.  From there, we saw mirror images in all of the AA and AF tests for all three cards and both resolutions.  Enabling four samples of AA sapped the frame rates, 6XAA even more so, especially on the 5600.

Overclocking With The 128MB Radeon 9600 XT
Because we just couldn't leave well enough alone

We admit we were bummed when the Overdrive tab didn't show up in the Control Panels.  ATi claims that the 9600 XT should be be able to hit 520-530MHz easily when using Overdrive with their next driver revision.  We did take a stab at overclocking the card ourselves using a third-party overclocking utility, and found that the latest PowerStrip was up to the challenge.  With the new low-k die process, we figured there might be some headroom to play with, and boy were we right.  We were able to take the 9600 XT all the way up to 580MHz while also raising the memory speeds up a notch to 335MHz (670MHz effective).  We went back to testing, and chose Gun Metal as our reference point.  Remember that Gun Metal was easily one of the most punishing tasks to complete, and were were barely able to break 10 frames per second at 1280x1024.  So, how did we do now...

The word you might be looking for is impressive.  By overclocking the Radeon 9600 XT, we gained an additional 7.29 frames, which comes out to a 66% increase, well above the 16% increase in core speed.  We've also more than doubled the frame rates of the other two cards.  A score like this made us glad we were able to back and test, as the extra performance definitely adds to the rosy outlook for the 9600 XT.  Why pay more for a high-end card when you can get a performance boost like this for free?

 

With a MSRP set at $199, and street prices that will probably settle in around $170, the Radeon 9600 XT is ready to make a big splash.  It just might be the best performance to price ratio video card that we have seen in the labs in some time.  Add in Overdrive with the Catalyst 3.9 drivers, and the performance should be able to be increased even further simply by clicking on  'Apply'.  Graphic quality is able to be had without sacrificing speed, even when testing today's newest titles using DX9 shaders, something the competition can't say with a straight face.  By releasing the 9600 XT and 9800 XT in conjunction with the Catalyst 3.8 drivers, ATi is making a statement that they have no intentions on letting their momentum slip.   It should come as no surprise that NVIDIA has something in the works as well, but whose stockings will Santa be filling with treats, while the other gets coal?  It's the stuff that holiday dreams and wish lists are made for. 

Based on what we've seen in the benchmarks and relation to the price point, and the powerful additions provided by the Catalyst 3.8 drivers, we're giving the ATi Radeon 9600 XT a 9.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter, and, like its big brother, an Editor's Choice Award.

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Tags:  ATI, Radeon, ATI Radeon, XT

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