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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  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    As an owner of a GeForce2 Ultra (a card that continues to hold its own!), just about *any* card today is going to be a noticeable performance gain. Based on the fact that I can get the 9600 XT for $200 with Half Life 2, and I could get the 9600 Pro for $150 (w/o HL2), I'm gonna run out and grab me an XT.

    btw: I ran the FF XI benchmark last night and scored 1650 on high resolution and 2444 on low resolution (on an Athlon 1.4GHz, 512MB PC2100 DDR RAM, and a GeForce 2 Ultra)... heh, a far cry from the 5000+ generated from the 9600 XT.
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    It's stupid not to test ALL video cards using the best system possible, otherwise you can't isolate performance differences, in fillrate, etc.

  • rms - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    Inquirer says a newer considerably faster 9600XT is coming out:

  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    The packaged benchmark in Halo? I sure wish I could find it....
    Any help would be appreciated.
  • AlteX - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    #52, I didn't say AT should test the cards on all the possible systems or on the exact system I intend to buy. I just said that it seems more appropriate to me if they test the mainstream cards on a typical mainstream system and the high-end cards on a typical high-end system.

    It seems weird to me that a dude would shell out say almsot $800 for an Athlon 64 FX just to get crippled by a $200 video card. I think that most "real-world" systems have components that all belong to a similar price/performance range (low-end/mainstream/high-end), and testing a mainstream video card with a high-end CPU won't really show "real-world" performance, even though real games are used.

    What interests me personally (and maybe many other mainstream gamers ;)) is what is the cheapest mainstream gfx card with which I can still get playable framerates at nice IQ settings in the tested games rather than how all these GPUs compare to one another, which is more of an "academic research" than "practical information"... but that's just my very humble opinion... :)
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    Hey, just curious, I need a PCI only video card. What's reccomended for this type of application?
    IE: A good cheap well rounded video card with PCI?
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    #51 It is not my monitor. A Radeon 9000 Pro does not show this problem and neither does a GeoForce2 MX or Matrox G200. Another monitor showed the same problem with those two Radeon 9600 Pro cards.

    The moire effect is caused by the monitor, but I was not referring to that.
  • Revolutionary - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    Update for 9500 Pro lovers:

    I just checked out HotHarware's review of the 9600XT.

    On Unreal Tournament 2003 Citadel FlyBy, at 1024x 768, "maximized graphical (sic) settings", and no AA/AF, the 9600XT scored 111.38 average FPS.

    On my 9500 Pro, at the same resolution, using HardOCP's High Quality settings (which I am assuming are similar to HotHardware's "maximized" custom INI settings) I get 119.44.

    Its not a lot, and its not as scientific a comparison as I'd like to make, but in UT2K3, anyway, the 9500 Pro seems to still top the 9600 line.
  • Revolutionary - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    The Zalman heatpipes are the way to go. I've got one on my 9500 Pro and its passive (no fan). The fan bracket that comes with it can be used to attach an 80 or 90mm fan easily.

    I don't think its practical a handful of dudes to try to scale all their tests to a variety of different platforms. They aren't interested in telling you exactly how well it is going to perform in your system based on your systems' specs, and I'm not interested in reading it. They are going to tell you how well it performs objectively, by isolating the GPU and keeping the rest of the system as advanced as possible-- the constant. Any variation is the result of the variable: the GPU. If you want to know precisely the performance you can expect on your system, buy the system and run the tests. AT's methodology is intended to show you what you might expect, not what you should experience.

    They stated that they couldn't test the OverDrive OC feature because it isn't supported for the 9600XT in the current drivers.

    As for comments, I too wanted to see the 9500 Pro in there. It typically outperforms the 9600 Pro, and for my money, that's where the real challenge for ATI's mainstream products lies: not in besting the 9700 Pro, but in actually besting the previous generation mainstream product. The 9600P didn't do it. Can the 9600XT? Guess I'll have ot buy one to find out.
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    #47 ... any card will do that, and the higher the res, the worse the problem -- its your monitor.

    Along with the problem you mentioned, it is also very easy to see the moire effect in your line of crap. that's not vid card eithre.

    your welcome, have a nice day

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