iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Part 1 - Game Tests and Performance



  1. General information
  2. Features of the ATI RADEON 9600 PRO 128MB video card
  3. Testbed configuration and drivers' settings 
  4. Test results: briefly on 2D 
  5. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game1 
  6. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game2 
  7. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game3 
  8. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game4 
  9. Test results: 3DMark03: Game1 
  10. Test results: 3DMark03: Game2 
  11. Test results: 3DMark03: Game3 
  12. Test results: 3DMark03: Game4 
  13. Test results: Quake3 ARENA 
  14. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter 
  15. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein 
  16. Test results: Code Creatures DEMO 
  17. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO 
  18. Test results: AquaMark 
  19. Test results: RightMark 3D 
  20. Conclusion 

General information

If you look at the collage above, you will see a new competitor of the RADEON 9500 PRO and GeForce FX 5600 Ultra. As you know, the RADEON 9500 PRO was positioned as a middle-end solution and became quite popular thanks to the speed comparable to the GeForce4 Ti 4200-8x in the simple modes and much higher in the AA and anisotropy modes. Plus the DirectX 9.0 support, though at the moment it can be useful only for DEMO programs. 

In autumn 2002, instead of the separate RADEON 9500 chip ATI launched cards based on the R300 running at the lower clock speeds and/or with shortened pipelines. So, the RADEON 9500 PRO based card actually presents the same RADEON 9700 on a bit cheaper PCB without the 256bit bus support. But the vendors have to sell such an expensive solution at the prices acceptable for the middle-end sector, otherwise there will be no demand. Certainly, the profits are going to be intangible. 

That is why the Canadian company aimed to produce a separate solution for the middle-end market to bring more profits to the manufacturers at the same prices. 

So, this spring a new middle-end line was announced by ATI together with the new High-End RADEON 9800 PRO. The line consists of: 

  • RADEON 9600 PRO - 400 MHz chip (4 pipelines with 1 texture unit each), 128 MB 300 MHz (DDR 600) 128bit local memory; 
  • RADEON 9600 - 325 MHz chip (4 pipelines with 1 texture unit each), 64/128 MB 200 MHz (DDR 400) 128bit local memory; 

The RADEON 9500 and the RADEON 9500 PRO differed not in the clock speeds but in the number of pipelines: the RADEON 9500 PRO had 8 pipelines, while the RADEON 9500 had only 4. Probably, it was an unreasonable step of the marketers to give the same index to so different chips. Now the company has to take into account that the RADEON 9500 PRO has 8 pipelines instead of 4. That is why if a new chip gets a higher index (9600), it should have a higher speed as well. That is probably why the clock speed of the RADEON 9500 PRO jumped from 275MHz to 400 MHz (RADEON 9600 PRO). Certainly, it can be possible only with the 0.13 micron fabrication process. Hence the delays in bringing the chip into the market. 

However, the card is already available, and I wonder what the new name brings to the RADEON? Today we have the top model of the RADEON 9600 PRO line, though we also tested an analog of the junior card by reducing the frequencies to 325/200 (400) MHz. 

The RADEON 9500-9600-9700-9800 families have almost identical capabilities, - they differ in clock speeds and some have cores and memory buses cut off. Also, the RADEON 9800 supports the F-buffer technology. Well, everything was described in our previous reviews: 

3D features of the RADEON 9600 are the same as of the RADEON 9800. Next time we will test the limiting characteristics of the RADEON 9600 PRO in the synthetic tests and estimate 3D quality parameters. 

Today we will mostly test 3D performance of the RADEON 9600 PRO and look at what the new index has brought. 

The tested sample is the ATI RADEON 9600 PRO card based on the RV350 (RADEON 9600 PRO). 




The card has AGP x2/x4/x8 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

Samsung K4D26323RA-GC2A memory chips of BGA form-factor. THe maximum clock speed is 350 (700) MHz, hence 2.8ns access time. By default the memory works at 300 (600) MHz, the chip at 400 MHz.

The card has the same memory as on the RADEON 9700 PRO and the RADEON 9800 PRO. 




The left part of the RADEON 9600 PRO is similar to the RADEON 9500 PRO, and the right one to the RADEON 8500 128MB. Only the RAGE THEATER installed on the RADEON 8500 is replaced with a connector for a daughter card with Video-In-Video-Out on the RADEON 9500-9600-9700-9800 cards, though the daughter card is not available yet. 

Since the power consumption is lower, the cooler is simpler (like that on the RADEON 8500). 

The chip package is the same FCPGA, with an open die. The frame which protected the R300 from damages is removed. 

After the R300 the RV350 looks so small:-) 

The TV-out is identical to the RADEON 9500/9700/9800. More on this function in the article by Andrei Karpenko. 


The new version of the RivaTuner utility developed by Aleksei Nikolaichuk supports the RADEON 9600 PRO as well, and overclocking is quite possible now. The RADEON 9600 PRO showed excellent potential - 540(!)/350 (700) MHz! However, the memory didn't work stably over its default speed, probably because of the layout (the PCB is simple), or because of the timings in the BIOS. 

Installation and drivers


  • Pentium 4 based computer: 
    • Intel Pentium 4 3066 (HT=ON); 
    • ASUS P4G8X (iE7205) mainboard; 
    • 1024 MB DDR SDRAM; 
    • Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB hard drive; 
    • Windows XP SP1;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors. 

ATI CATALYST 3.4 drivers (v6.343), VSync off, texture compression off in applications. DirectX 9.0a installed. 

Video cards used for comparison: 

  • ASUS V9560VideoSuite (GeForce FX 5600, clock speeds jacked up to 380/335 (670) MHz, 128 MB, driver 44.03); 
  • MSI FX5600-VTD128 (GeForce FX 5600, 325/275 (550) MHz, 128 MB, driver 44.03); 
  • Albatron Medusa GeForce4 Ti 4200-8x (250/256 (513) MHz, 128 MB, driver 44.03); 
  • HIS Excalibur RADEON 9500 (275/270 (540) MHz, 128 MB, 128 bit); 
  • Hercules 3D Prophet 9500 PRO (RADEON 9500 PRO, 275/270 (540) MHz, 128 MB). 

Drivers settings

The new driver v6.343 has no difference in settings from the earlier versions for the RADEON 9700. You can check up the screenshots and settings in the RADEON 9700 PRO review

Since the RADEON 9600 PRO is positioned at the level of GeForce FX 5600 Ultra, i.e. as the top model of the mainstream level, and since we don't have the 5600 Ultra running at 400/800 MHz in our lab yet we overclocked the FX 5600 based card up to 380/670 MHz just to get an approximate idea of how they correlate. That is why you should remember that the real 5600 Ultra will have a bit higher speed. 

We also tested the RADEON 9600 by reducing the clock speeds of the RADEON 9600 PRO to 325/400 MHz. This card will be compared to the FX 5600 as the junior card of the mainstream sector. 

Test results

2D graphics

ATI and Matrox used to compete as companies making products with excellent high-speed 2D. Today High-End and Middle-End cards based on the ATI's GPUs produced by brand-name companies have perfect 2D quality as well. 

The 2D tests are carried out on the ViewSonic P817-E monitor together with the Bargo BNC cable. And I can say that the 2D quality of this RADEON 9600 PRO card is excellent, in particular in 1600x1200@85Hz and in 1280x1024@120Hz. 

3D graphics, 3DMark2001 game tests



3DMark2001, 3DMARKS


3DMark2001, Game1 Low details

RADEON 9600 PRO suffers a complete defeat, except the AA mode (1024 and 1280). The overclocked RADEON 9600 PRO has every chance to catch up with the 5600 Ultra. But I doubt that ATI will raise the clock speeds so much. 


3DMark2001, Game2 Low details

Without the AA and anisotropy the RADEON 9600 PRO loses the battle. But in these modes it takes the lead. The RADEON 9600 is in the worse situation. If the RADEON 9600 Ultra with the 500MHz core comes onto the scene, the card may catch up with the 5600 Ultra. 


3DMark2001, Game3 Low details

The card loses to the overclocked 5600 in all modes except AA. The card looks quite good as compared with the GF FX 5600, but still, the price categories are different. 


3DMark2001, Game4

Well, the RADEON 9600 PRO shows nothing good. 

In general, in spite of so high frequencies the RADEON 9600 PRO lost in most tests of the 3DMark2001SE. 

3D graphics, 3DMark03 game tests



3DMark03, 3DMARKS

3DMark03, Game1



3DMark03, Game2



3DMark03, Game3



3DMark03, Game4



  1. NVIDIA demonstrated that it's possible to optimize the drivers for this packet with v44.03. The scandal about these tricks proves it. Taking into account that the test is not protected at all and even adjusted for certain manufacturers we won't use the 3DMark03 anymore in our tests. Besides, the patch 3.30 which allegedly eliminates the effect from ATI and NVIDIA's optimizations hasn't prove its objectivity. It's very probable that FutureMark gets revenge to the NVIDIA's products. We don't need such tests. 
  2. The scores of the RADEON 9600 PRO in this packet are given in the tables of percentage ratios. 

3D graphics, game tests

Test applications: 

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF 

  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Quaver, test settings - maximum: detailing level - High, texture detailing level - #4, S3TC OFF, smoothness of curves is much increased through variables r_subdivisions "1" and r_lodCurveError "30000" (at default r_lodCurveError is 250 !), the configurations can be downloaded from here

  • Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality

  • Code Creatures Benchmark Pro (CodeCult) is a game that demonstrates operation in DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L. 

  • AquaMark (Massive Development) is a game that demonstrates operation in DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L. 

  • RightMark 3D v.0.4 (one of the game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 

Quake3 Arena, Quaver



Since the card falls behind the overclocked GF FX 5600, the gap separating it from the 5600 Ultra will be even greater. In the fight against the FX 5600 it's only AA that helps. 

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral



Here the RADEON 9600 PRO has a significant lead, especially in the AA modes. But in the heaviest modes with anisotropy the ATI's baby loses to its rival. 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer), Checkpoint



The RADEON 9600 PRO performs even better, though the anisotropic filtering brings the advantage to naught anyway. 

Code Creatures



Unfortunately, the anisotropy doesn't work in this test in case of the GeForce FX because of the NVIDIA's drivers. 

The RADEON 9600 PRO wins the battle without the AA and anisotropy, though the speed of the 5600 Ultra will be higher than that of the overclocked FX 5600. It's interesting that in the mode where the RADEON 9600 PRO used to be a leader (AA), it loses this time. 

Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO



Only downsides.. Too few pluses. 




This test is very heavy for the AA modes, but exactly here the AA RADEON 9600 PRO wins the fight. In general, however, it looks inferior, though if it worked at 500 MHz, it could have won against the FX 5600 Ultra. 

RightMark 3D



This is the test of shaders. As you know, ATI's products have it better than NVIDIA. The more shader technologies a game uses, the more chances to beat the FX 5600 Ultra the RADEON 9600 PRO has. 


Remember that this time we omitted the aspect of 3D quality (though it's highlighted in the RADEON 9800 PRO review) and the synthetic tests. But stay tuned! The second part dealing with the Sapphire's products is right around the corner. 

Some comments on performance of the RADEON 9600 PRO: 

  1. The company has made a wrong marketing step giving such names to the cards. Some time ago they also gave a higher index to the weaker RADEON 9000 as compared to the RADEON 8500. Again, the RADEON 9600 PRO is weaker than the RADEON 9500 PRO. They shouldn't name the GPU with 8 pipelines as "9500". 
  2. In general, the RADEON 9600 PRO yields to the overclocked GeForce FX 5600, that is why it will definitely lose to the GF FX 5600 Ultra. If the prices are going to be adequate to the speeds, the RADEON 9600 PRO may be in great demand. 
  3. RADEON 9600 looks much weaker than the GeForce FX 5600, and everything will depend on the prices. 
  4. It could be much better if the RADEON 9600 was put into the Low-End sector, and the RADEON 9600 PRO into the low Middle-End, and if the cards had indices lower than 9500; the RADEON 9500 PRO would remain in the upper Middle-End sector. However, there are RADEON 9000/9200/9100 models take the lower niche, and the 9600 has no room to step in. It's a pity because ATI has no DX9 cards of the Low-End class. 
  5. The price will solve the fight against the GeForce FX 5600/Ultra. If the RADEON 9600 PRO is cheap enough (sub $200), it will succeed. 


Andrey Vorobiev  (anvakams@ixbt.com)

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