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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  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    You can infer how a 9500pro would do by considering it a bit like a slightly faster 9600xt in core speed, but with slower memory. That isn't as daft as it sounds.

    The 9600xt is a 4-pipeline 500mhz core while the 9500pro was an 8-pipeline 275mhz core, so the older 9500pro at default core-speed could be thought of as being a 550mhz 9600xt, before the improvements in the RV350 core over the R300 are considered. I doubt a 9600xt is gonna reach 550mhz easily so the 9500pro should have a slight edge in core-horsepower.

    Memory-wise, the 9600xt should be in front both in memory-speed and efficiency which would suggest, so at least in theory the 9600xt should be somewhat faster than the 9500pro in DX8 titles but not so far ahead when DX9 shaders are used intensively.

    I still think including the 9800se in the benchmarks is essential thanks to its high memory-bandwidth, especially when its over $50 cheaper than a 9700non-pro, let alone the even more expensive 9700pro.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link why wasnt the 9500pro used in the review?
    was there any reason that was given ?
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    good review, good conclusion...i totally agree in almost everything. only overclocking performance wouldve been an interesting addition
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    On a side track, can anyone tell me a decent cooler for the ATi brand of cards? Seems like there is a serious lack of good heatsinks and fan combos for these parts. All I have seen are two different heatpipe applications that seem like a step in the wrong direction. Why can't someone produce a good chunk of copper with a good fan for my 9600 Pro???

  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    damm i though that 9600 XT would be great. but all i can see is another product from ati that steals your money. i prefer to buy a 9500 pro
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    Beyond3D benchmarked the 9600XT against the 9500 Pro as well as the 9600 Pro
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    #25: $216 at GameVE. Considering the 9600 XT is $199 though, i think Anand has a point.

  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    It would have been great if Anand and Derek had put a 9500 Pro to the review. I'm curious how it stacks up against 9600 Pro/XT and 5600 Ultra in all these benchmarks. Does anybody know?
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    I was really hoping to see the 9600XT do better, but the scores are still great for the price range. It's amazing that my 9700-pro, which I bought almost a year ago for $300, still keeps up so well.

    I agree with #26 in regards to anonymous posting. I like it, but if it bothers everybody else, please lift the 'no free e-mail address' requirement, or I, the single greatest poster ever, would no longer be able to post, and Anandtech would lose at least 50% of it's reader base. :) Besides, I really don't mind trolls. It shakes things up.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - link

    #29, you and me both wish =(

    But remember, why use logic when you can use Flash?

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