Fall 2003 Video Card Roundup - Part 3: ATI's Radeon 9600 XTby Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on October 15, 2003 10:26 AM EST
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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 todays 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 NVIDIAs 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 wont 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, weve 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 todays most popular games did little more than expose driver bugs and show that a lot of games are CPU bound when youre running a $500 card.
The real comparison starts today, but it wont end until both ATI and NVIDIAs 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 todays games not for their promise of sunny days tomorrow. The cards were talking about are aimed at that magic $200 price point and given that its the fall, its time for a refresh of the cards in this segment.
The Radeon 9600 XT is ATIs $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 NVIDIAs 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, lets talk about whats changed with the 9600 XT