ATI Radeon 9600 Pro Review
Reviewed by: Bosco
Reviewed on: July 5, 2003
: GF City Computers
Price: $80 USD
The ATi 9600 Pro has been considered by several media sites to be the "middle class" card. Without going to technical details, this will be a short and sweet evaluation of the ATi 9600 Pro, against my GF4 Ti4200.
This package only includes the user's manual and driver CD. No cables, or any other bundled software was included. That's pretty interesting, as most packages I encounter always include at least 1 game and/or 1 multimedia software of some sort... I guess ATi figured that most users will have a good enough internet access to download the Multimedia package off their site afterwards.
Instead of showing off the red PCB, the 9600 Pro is assembled on a green one instead.
The fan doesn't bear ATi's name on it, but it's pretty quiet and does the job well.
The card includes your standard set of connectors, which consist of: the VGA port, the S-Video out port, and the DVI port.
The tests are run using AGP 4x, as I do not have an AGP 8x capable motherboard, and from many other sites, it has been shown that the performance gap between AGP 4x and AGP 8x is not a very significant one, and definately one that the naked eye cannot easily tell in the midst of 3D combat. I will perform all the benchmark tests at 1024x768, at 32BPP. As well, I will also perform the game tests a second time using 4x FSAA.
Using stock settings, the results do not say much about the card. The only benchmark where the ATi 9600 Pro performed better is on the UT Fly-By benchmark. I was hoping that the card could outperform my current one on both UT tests, at the very least.
Here, the higher fill rate of the 9600 Pro enables it to take the lead on 3DMark2001SE. For 3DMark03, the major reason for the takeover is due to the support for DirectX 9.0, and thus allowing the card to run the Nature test, as well as a general performance boost on all the other tests, especially the 2nd one, Battle of Proxycon.
Again, the higher fill rate of the card enables the 9600 Pro to pull ahead of the GF4 Ti4200.
It seems interesting to see that a card of this type does not really outperform the GF4 Ti4200 on stock settings... this suggests that for the majority of these tests it is the CPU that is the limiting factor. Perhaps a boost in graphical demand, such as FSAA, will help determine the line between the GF4 Ti4200 and the Radeon 9600 Pro.
Now we see where the R9600 Pro shines. At 4x FSAA, the card manages to suffer only a small loss in graphical performance when compared to the original scores above, while the GF4 Ti4200 takes a big hit on all of the games. This also suggests that users who love playing at high resolutions (who doesn't?) will also be glad to know that the R9600 Pro can handle them without a significant performance drop! Lots of points here!
However, keep in mind that these are all run with default settings. On the nVidia control panel, the image quality is set to best quality by default. On the ATi control panel, the quality slider is just 1 option away from best quality, but there was only 1 game where I noticed an actual difference in image quality, that game being Neverwinter Nights, and only on a small section do you see it.
For a card of this price, it does seem to be a bit on the expensive side if you use only the stock settings, or play games at low resolutions. However, once you raise the graphics level, the R9600 Pro clearly outperforms the GF4 Ti4200. Add support for DirectX 9.0, and you've got a great card that clearly beats the GF4 Ti4200 in pretty much all respects. If you're looking for a strong upgrade, but don't want to spend the huge amounts of money for a 9700 Pro, or even the 9800 Pro, consider the 9600 Pro.