The Asus Radeon 9x00 XTs
A Close-Up Look at Asus' First ATi Powered Video Cards

By, Marco Chiappetta
November 25, 2003

We had been impressed with Asus' NVIDIA powered cards in past reviews, so we were eager to get our hand on these cards to give them a thorough inspection.  Asus has historically gone the extra mile to differentiate their products from the competition and with their new Radeons, that tradition continues.  Let's take a closer look...

The Asus Radeon 9800 XT & 9600 XT
Up Close and Personal

ASUS RADEON 9600 XT
     

   

The first thing that jumped out at us with regard to the Asus Radeon 9600 XT/TVD, and the 9800 XT/TVD for that matter, was the bright orange PCB.  It's definitely unique!  The board's layout, however, conforms to ATi's standard Radeon 9600 XT reference design.  The 128MB of memory populating this card is comprised of 2.8ns Samsung chips rated for 350MHz, but it is clocked at a stock speed of 300MHz (600MHz DDR).  The GPU, which is tucked away under the custom aluminum Asus cooler, is clocked at 500MHz.  As you can see in the pictures above, the fan mounted within the heatsink has three leads - two are for power and the third is for monitoring the fan's rotation speed.  The fan, or fans in the 9800 XT's case, spin-up or down depending on the temperature of the GPU.

ASUS RADEON 9800 XT
     

     

The Asus Radeon 9800 XT/TVD also conforms to ATi's reference board design, with the exception of the large, dual-fan, copper heat-pipe cooler (Note: our 9800 XT sample had a default core clock speed of 405MHz, 7MHz lower than advertised.  Cards sold at retail should be clocked at the proper speed of 412MHz).  The 256MB of high-speed memory used on the 9800 XT is built by Hynix (Details Available Here), and is cooled on both sides by the custom Asus heatsink.  The heatsink itself is mounted with spring-loaded screws that keep the plates firmly in place.  The coolers used on these cards don't encroach on the adjacent PCI slot and we found them to be virtually inaudible next to our CPU's heatsink / fan combo.  Both cards are equipped with single DVI and DB15 monitor connectors and ATi's Rage Theater chip, which give these products their ViVo capabilities.

Video Editing Tools & Other - Screenshots
So, Who Wants to Make a Movie?

     

As we mentioned on the previous page, Asus included a few applications meant to work in conjunction with the ViVo capabilities of these cards.  With Cyberlink's MediaShow SE (pictured on the left), users can quickly piece together images and audio clips, to create simple slide shows.  We found this application to be fairly easy to use and think it definitely adds some value to these cards.  Another Cyberlink product, PowerDirector ME Pro, was also included.  PowerDirector ME Pro is a complete video capture and editing package, but unfortunately the version Asus included was somewhat limited.  Anytime we tried to use some of the more advanced features, we were prompted to upgrade to the full-retail version.  These cards use the standard ATi WDM capture drivers though, so any major video editing software suite should work properly with them.
 
In-Game Screenshots With The Asus XTs
Max Payne 2 & NFS: Underground

For more comprehensive image quality comparisons between the Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, Click Here.
For more comprehensive image quality comparisons between the Radeon 9600 XT and GeForce FX 5700 Ultra, Click Here.
 

 
MAX PAYNE 2

 
NEED FOR SPEED: UNDERGROUND

We spent some quality time gaming with both of these cards before running our suite of benchmarks.  The screen shots posted above are from Rockstar's Max Payne 2 and EA's recently released Need For Speed: Underground.  We set our screen resolution to 1024x768 and enabled 4X Anti-Aliasing with 16X Anisotropic filtering and enjoyed a few hours taking down the bad guys and burning up the road.  For the most part, frame rates with the 9600 XT were fine, but there some occasional hiccups in both games when the on-screen action got particularly heavy.  Users looking to "turn it all on" should probably look for a card with a little more horsepower than the 9600 XT.  The Asus Radeon 9800 XT, however, produced smooth, silky frame rates throughout.

The Test System, AquaMark3 & Halo