The ATi Radeon 9800 XT  256MB
ATi Turns Up The Heat In High End 3D Graphics

By - Dave Altavilla
September 30, 2003

 

We're going shift gears on you quickly here and divert your attention from the Radeon 9800 XT, to another new ATi product that will be launching in October, the "Radeon 9600 XT".  This product, as the name suggests, is an enhanced R9600 board, with a slightly different PCB design, new cooling and higher clock speeds.

A Quick Take With The Radeon 9600 XT
Mid Range Prices + High End Performance + Low K + Low Power Consumption = Killer Product

In our initial launch coverage for the original Radeon 9600 Pro, we sort of poked at ATi a bit, for not clocking the card a bit higher.  After we spent a few hours in the lab overclocking ATi's new mid range graphics card, we were amazed at how much head-room was available in the chip.  It was as if ATi was selling themselves short back then, holding back the architecture from being all it could be.  However, as it turns out, it seem that was all part of the plan.

  • Low k manufacturing process reduces power requirement and increases engine speeds
  • Requires no secondary power to achieve high performance
  • Dissipates heat with small quiet fan
  • cinematic DX9 quality to the mainstream
  • Quad Pixel Pipes
  • Dual Vertex Engines
  • 24: 1 Z- compression
  • AGP 8X/ 4X

It was an interesting and bold move, when ATi decided to launch their first .13 micron design effort on a mid range graphics product, rather than swinging for the fences, as NVIDIA did, on a high end product.  However, this move has proven to be the best ATi ever made strategically. Their high end machine is in a stable work-horse .15 fab and their lean and mean mid range, lower priced VPU, is in a smaller .13 die geometry, with less chip design complexity and better cost efficiencies per wafer, where margins are thinner.  Additionally, the R9600 XT introduces yet another milestone in Graphics Processor design, with TSMC's "Low K" .13 micron process driving cores clock speeds up and power consumption down.

This card is not going to require an external power connector, will run within power consumption ranges of the AGP 2.0/3.0 specifications, and will clock in at 500MHz or higher at its core.  This card is shaping up to be a VERY impressive mid range solution and could well make much more of a splash, than even the high end Radeon 9800 XT that we're looking at here today.  We'll be providing a full review and showcase of the new Radeon 9600 XT, in the weeks ahead here at HotHardware.Com, so stay with us!

Radeon 9800 XT Driver Control Panels
Catalyst 3.7 Version Drivers

Although in previous articles, we've provided detailed analysis of ATi's Catalyst driver suite, we felt it would be a good idea to provide you with a quick take on the state of the latest Catalyst 3.7 release.

Adapter Info
 Version Info 
 Smart Gart
 
OpenGL
 
Direct 3D

Color/Gamma

 

As you can see, we're indeed working with a Radeon 9800 XT board here, as the card's BIOS information reports on the Adapter Information tab.  The version we tested with in this article is a new Catalyst 3.7 build that specifically supports the Radeon 9800 XT.  This build was also backward compatible, of course, with the Radeon 9800 Pro cards we tested with as well.  All told, ATi's latest Catalyst 3.7 release is extremely stable, highly configurable and a pleasure to work with.  One feature that we haven't looked at much here previously, are the gamma settings in the Color control panel.  These sliders let you adjust gamma both in game and on your desktop individually.  This was a feature that was much more popular back in the days of 3dfx, when gamma adjustments weren't too prevalent or effective in game engines.  However, we still find it useful today, as sometimes initiating more permanent settings across all games, can be an easier way to handle things, if you like your images nice and bright, like we do here.

Image Quality And AquaMark3 Tests