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 - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    There is something in the review not clear to me. The 9800XT article made much of the dynamic overclocking feature, while one of the benefits touted for the 9600XT was its .13 process, making it run cooler and which should help overclocking.

    Yet the article mentioned neither dynamic overclocking nor made any attempt to overclock. This should have been done!

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

    #29, get a life. All big web sites use flash, you'd be idiotic not to. This isn't slashdot, where you can bitch and moan about how evil MS is, how great Linux, and how your pimples pop every time you eat too quickly.
  • AlteX - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    I think there's a problem with testing all these cards on the same machine. Of course, this gives a good competitive analysis, but is this what we really want to see?

    I, for one, want to buy a value gaming system in a month or two. Being a value SYSTEM (not a high-end system with just a value Gfx card), it definitely won't include anything near Athlon64 FX or even DDR400. It will most probably include some mid-range Ahtlon XP (2500+ or so), DDR333, etc. A Radeon 9600 class card would be a perfect fit for such a system.

    And what I'd really like to know is not how Radeon 9600XT compares to Radeon 9800XT on a high-end machine, but how it compares to other mainstream cards on a mainstream machine. Also, I'd like to know how each game is playable on each card. Meaning: what are the maximal IQ settings (resolution, AA/AF settings) that I can use to still get MINIMUM framerate of at least 25-30 FPS.

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

    I have returned 2 different 9600 Pro cards (Club3D and Hercules) because at high resolutions they show a dark shadow to the right of (black on white) text. At 2048x1536@85 it is terrible. A 9000 Pro does not have this problem. I wonder whether the 9600 XT has this same problem, or that it is fixed, maybe because of the new process.

    The problem is most visible using a pattern of alternating black and white pixels, like this:
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    The truth of the matter is that the nvidia cards are more technologically advanced then the ati cards...(btw I originally owned the 5900u sold it when I saw the hl2 benchmarks and bought a 9800p at best buy, returned it 4 days ago and picked up the 9800xt :) )...I have owned the tnt2, geforce2pro, geforce 4 ti4400, and the 5900u over the course of the last 4 years. In the case of the 5900u vs the 9700/9800 series, the 9800 series is a better version of card then the 5900u why? Nvidia dropped the ball, even with a better manufacturing process, higher core and memory speeds they weren't able to match ati's performance due to the fact they render at 32bit instead of 24....basically they render at a higher scale but they are too slow at 32 to help. If they redesign the core of the chipset to have more shaders I think the nv40 will be an awesome card. I'm hoping they do because ATI's customer service is the worst I have ever experienced.
  • Pointwood - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    What about noise? This is more or less the most important info and I didn't find any info about that.

    If the card isn't close to silent, it's worthless to me.
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    the 5200 provides directx 9 at a low price
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - link

    I couldn't agree with you more...I want the same for my 9700.

    I have to agree with #5
    "Telling people to wait on the 5700 Ultra doesn’t make much sense."

    Seems like paid advertisement to me.

    Wait...blah... I heard that a lot when the 9700 came out and people said wait for NV30. Then again when 9800 came out and people said, wait for NV 40.

    If people are going to buy a card you can wait for something... 1-2 weeks maybe, but damn, If I got the money NOW and I plan to buy a solution NOW, why in the world can we get a good recomendation of what is available NOW, or in the inmediate future? I can understand the 9600pro vs XT dilema, but not when the other option is still a ghost without any presence as we speak.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    I just want to add my vote to include the 9800SE in future benchmarks. This is looking like the card I will buy to play DX8 and DX9 games, and is within my budget (~$170). Actually, I can't find a better performance/price ratio.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    Not that I want tsteal the topic of the thread, but I was wondering about those high;y promoted cards from XGI with Volari GPU(s). Has anyone had a chance t use them? If so, how do they fare in comparison to the market leaders?

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