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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [02.09.04]
Manufactured by: Powercolor

Est. Street Price: $190

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9600XT + Powercolor + VIVO = Bravo!

Today we are going to look at Powercolor's latest entry into their extensive ATI-based video card lineup; the Radeon 9600XT Bravo.

Powercolor (now known as "CP Technology", although their cards still carry the old brand for now) already had a 9600XT based card. It was a total reference design, so it should have been just about identical to the ATI-built 9600XT we looked at here.

So what does the "Bravo" add? Simple; it supports ATI's VIVO functions, with the use of the Rage Theatre chip.

Most of the functions you would want are included here; using ATI's Multimedia Centre software, you'll have access to ATI's VCD player, direct video input, CD player, and video file manager. Noticably missing is ATI's excellent TV Tuner software - you'll need to get an "All in Wonder" for that of course. Also missing is ATI's DVD software; you can download it, but it will refuse to install without a previous copy of the DVD software on CD. I tried using the CD included with the Bravo, but it was a no-go.

Video in and out are both handled via the same port on the back of the Bravo, so a dongle is included. The yellow ports handle the video output of the card, while the black ports handle video in. Although both Composite and S-Video connectors are included, Powercolor still includes a converter. Also, they include not one but TWO each of an S-Video cable and Composite cable. Nice touch!

The Bundle

We'll switch things up a bit and talk about the bundle, and get to the card on the next page.

First and foremost of course, is the inclusion of the Half Life 2 activation code. You can use this to download HL2 via Steam when it launches (Steam is actually quite nice to use), or you can order a CD version if you agree to pay for shipping. Since HL2 isn't out yet, you can use your code to download the "Valve Premiere Pack" free of charge. This pack includes: Half Life, the two expansion packs Opposing Force and Ricochet, and all the MODS that were published for free to original Half Life owners: Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, and Deathmatch Classic (reproduces Quake 1!).

Be sure to check if this coupon is included if you plan on ordering a Powercolor video card; ATI no longer includes the Half Life 2 bundle to manufacturers free of charge for 9600XT chips (they still do for 9800XT). Although their 9600XT box includes the HL2 promo, you may not find a coupon inside. If that is the case, Powercolor has a list of serial numbers that are included in their HL2 promo; if your card is included there, you can fill out a form to receive your coupon.

Also bundled with the Bravo is a full copy of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Whether that's a good thing will depend on if you are a Tomb Raider fan; they are all pretty much the exact same game with updated graphics.

To make up for the lack of inclusion of the ATI DVD player, the Bravo inclues Powercolor's WinDVD 4 (which is my personal favourite software DVD player). Also included is a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDirector 2.0ME. This will compliment the video capture capabilities of the Bravo quite nicely, allowing you to create VCD's and DVD's with your captured content.

Finally, some other games are included; a full version of the budget game "Big Mutha Truckers", and the "Radeon 3D Games Pack" which includes demo versions of Splinter Cell, Colin McRae Rally 3, TOCA Race Driver, Breed, and Warcraft III. Hey, five demos is better than none!

Overall, I'd have to say this is a good bundle. Most competing 9600XT's already include Half Life 2 of course, but the addition of more full games is nice, even if they are budget titles.

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