Fourteen days ago we introduced our brand new GPU test suite composed of a total of 18 games, and as shocking as it may be, we tested with more than first person shooters. Unfortunately we launched the new test suite on quite possibly the least important set of cards for such a suite – the ultra high end $500 solutions from ATI and NVIDIA. Ever since the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro we have not had a reason to recommend any $400+ card simply because none of today’s games truly need the kind of power offered by those cards. The Radeon 9700 Pro (and the modded Radeon 9500 Pro) was an excellent solution that could all of the games out at the time at extremely high resolutions, with antialiasing and anisotropic filtering enabled. It was the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro that forced us to start testing with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering all over the place in order to truly stress the beast of a card.

Since the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro however, games have not become any more demanding. The titles that successors like the Radeon 9800 Pro and NVIDIA’s GeForce FX 5900 Ultra were built for, have still yet to be released. The battle between $500 cards will occur with titles like Doom 3 and Half Life 2, both of which won’t see the light until next year. This holiday season should bring a few more stressful DirectX 9 titles to our hard drives, but for the most part, we’ve found it silly to recommend purchasing any of the ultra expensive cards until a game you want to play comes out that requires $500 worth of GPU. Thus, for the most part, introducing a comparison of today’s most popular games did little more than expose driver bugs and show that a lot of games are CPU bound when you’re running a $500 card.

The real comparison starts today, but it won’t end until both ATI and NVIDIA’s cases have been made later this month. The comparison we have in front of us now is amongst much more affordable cards, and most definitely cards that you would buy for their performance in today’s games – not for their promise of sunny days tomorrow. The cards we’re talking about are aimed at that magic $200 price point and given that it’s the fall, it’s time for a refresh of the cards in this segment.

The Radeon 9600 XT is ATI’s $199 successor to the Radeon 9600 Pro and it is their fall refresh product for the mainstream market. Today Radeon 9600 XT will be paired up against NVIDIA’s GeForce FX 5600 Ultra, but later this month we will be able to bring you comparison of the 9600 XT and the new 5700 Ultra, which NVIDIA has been quite confident in as of late.

Before we get to the tests, let’s talk about what’s changed with the 9600 XT…

The definitive Fall Refresh
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  • BerSerK0 - Friday, January 30, 2004 - link

    I have a 9600XT, and real life FPS on these games are much better :)
  • xxZoDxx - Sunday, December 28, 2003 - link

    My $.02... Constantly listening to the bickering of ATI vs nvidia, it's like Ford vs Chevy, & Pepsi vs Coke. My feelings on this? nvidia has superior hardware. Now before you get your ATI underoos in a bunch, ATI has the superior Drivers/architecture. Look at most openGL benches. Don't they follow the clock, RAM, and bandwidth speeds more closely? nvidia mostly holds all these cards. If they could only get their drivers to work as well with D3D, there wouldn't be a question. Congrats on the latest 50 series but they still have a way to go to get D3D up to snuff. Personally? I have a 5900 that o/c's like mad (well beyond 5950) and I only paid 2 bills for it. ATI... get the pricing down and you could OWN nvidia. Now I wait for the flamers..........
  • TurtleMan - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - link

    Hmm FFXi is a main factor for me , and now i have an unopen 9600 xt sitting right here, i began to wonder if i should open it up or buy a 9800 se..
  • Rustjive - Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - link

    The FFXI benchmark is heavily CPU bound in addition to being GPU bound. Case in point: I ran it on my duallie PIII-733 with the TI4200, and I barely got over 1200 rendered (compared with the 3000+ of Anandtech's results.) Then contrast this to Aquamark 3, in which I got 13.03 FPS as opposed to the ~15FPS of Anand's. (Comparatively, the performance differences are quite drastic.) All I have to say is...blah to FFXI and the world of MMORPGs. Blah.
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - link

    Scores are bullshit, why bench the top of the line ATI 9800 XT against the middle of the road 5600? Thats just retarded.
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 21, 2003 - link

    When we will see a test with ATI,s 9800 made by different manufacturers?
    Thank u!
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, October 18, 2003 - link

    How come they used diff. settings for every benchmark? Sometimes they used 1024X768 with no AA/AF enabled while other times they used 1024X768 w/ 4XAA/8XAF. Where did the 6XAA settings go? Can't stay consistant thorough out the review so people won't have to worry about the settings for each game benchamarks. Can anyone expalain this?
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    Unfortunately this review has missed an important issue: noise levels. Simply put many of the people reading this site will have serious hearing loss by their mid 40s because these systems are too loud for the long daily exposure times people experience with them. Old programmers who were around the old line printers frequently have hearing loss from the high pitched buzzing of the printers. Ditto any other industrial noise exposures. Silent computing is a worthwhile goal! I was very disappointed to discover that the last nVidia-based graphic card I placed in my main system was so noisy. Now I need to find a quieter one that delivers similar performance. These reviews are not much help on that dimension. Sorry.
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    Can you PLEASE get rid of the flash ! :(
    Whats wrong with the classic Anandtech graphs
    that everybody loved ?
    It doesnt even look better ..
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    Hey #8, maybe it's because NVIDIA sucks. Even when they do match the performance of ATI, the image quality is lower anyway.

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