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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [01.21.04]
Manufactured by: ATI

Est. Street Price: $180-190

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You know with such low memory clock speeds, this card is just begging to be overclocked. We were able to get it up to 570 MHz core, and 650 MHz memory. The stock timings are 500/600 respectively, so I can say I am quite impressed with the overclocking results of this card.

But as always, your mileage will always vary. We are going to look at another brand's 9600XT later in the week, so we'll see if we do any better there.

The XT series from ATI does feature an "Overclocking for Dummies" sort of function. Called "OVERDRIVE" (note the caps lock of course), it will essentially overclock your 9600XT on its own, at a rate at which the drivers deem safe.

My results were well short of spectacular, as the drivers only wanted to push the core to a whopping 527 MHz. Considering that I had no problems running it at 570, OverDrive is hardly worth using at all. Maybe in future drivers they will tweak it to be a bit more audacious.

It seems like forever since the last time I recommended an NVIDIA based video card over ATI in any market segment. NVIDIA usually did okay in the middle range, but this time there is absolutely no comparison.

The 5700 Ultra handled the 9600XT in most tests, when regular resolutions and filtering were used.

That is important, because the 9600XT keeps up just fine when 4xAA and 8X Aniso filtering are enabled. VERY important for those of us who care a lot about video quality, and not so much about raw frame rates.


Something you have to consider is NVIDIA's crazy new middle end chip - the 5900XT. The name itself seems like a direct shot against ATI's middle end products (note that most end manufacturers don't seem to agree with this tactic, and choose to market their cards based on this chipset as "5900SE").

The 5900XT/SE should easily handle the 5700 Ultra in pretty much every way. And accordingly will smoke the 9600XT.


I simply can't recommend the 9600XT for its current price - the 5900XT should be by far a better buy. Although the 9600XT can handle the 5700 Ultra in high quality graphics modes, I don't think it can take on the 5900XT so easily. I'll try to get one in to find out.

If you can find a 9600XT retail card with HL2 included for say, less than $140, then it might be worth looking at. But at $200, sorry, pass it on for the awesome new NVIDIA card.

  • Superior filtering quality and speed
  • Includes Half Life 2
  • Always room for improvement, as ATI works on drivers all the time
  • Low heat, no external power required
  • Good overclocking potential

  • Performance isn't up to the new par set by NVIDIA
  • Besides HL2, not much else bundled
  • Needs to go down 1 market segment to be viable

Final Score: 80%