What's better than an ATI Radeon 9200, but not as good as a 9800, and newer than the 9500 and 9700? Why the 9600 of course! You may have heard the recent buzz over the "MOBILITY RADEON 9600," perhaps the finest mobile graphics up to date. Well today, OCA has the desktop Pro 128MB version of the 9600 series, built by FIC, and "powered by ATI." Actually released after the 9800, the 9600 is targeted more towards the "mainstream performance" sector, in between the budget (9200) and high-end (9800).
After doing a little bit of research, I was a bit disappointed to realize that the 9600 series (RV350) is just the 9200 series (RV280) transferred to a 130 nm process, additional transistors, ramped up core/memory clock, and newer 3D features. Wait, that sounds like a whole new GPU! Not quite; with only 4 pixel pipelines, and a 128-bit memory interface, the 9600 is as crippled as ever. Crippled like a 9200. And since this core has been totally designed independent of the 9700 and 9800 cores, there's no "softmod" to open up four additional pipelines. What is important to note however, is that this is ATI's first line of 130 nm GPUs. You would think that ATI's top dog R9800 would utilize the latest technology, but even that only uses a 150 nm process. This whole 130 nm or 150 nm process doesn't matter much now, but it certainly will in the future when ATI releases its next top performing GPU; at the moment, the 9600 can be seen as ATI's 130 nm process guinea pig.
A blurb from ATI:
"Explore stunning new worlds of cinematic gameplay with the unprecedented combination of power, performance, and Microsoft® DirectX® 9 optimized support featured in RADEON™ 9600 family of visual processors. Maximize your long-term entertainment value with its Quad-pipe architecture and high precision cinematic shaders that will upgrade expectations for devoted gamers and casual fans alike – and push the most compelling next-generation games to their limit."
... and a blurb from FIC:
"The A96P is based on the ATi Radeon 9600 Pro Visual Processing Units (VPU) and features 128MB of on-board DDR video memory, 128 bit memory interface and support for AGP4X/8X and DirectX 9.0. Maximum 3D resolution is 2048 X 1536 and multiple screens can be driven simultaneously. The FIC A96P provides a host of features and functions for a great price."
Being that the Radeon 9500 and 9600 are closely priced at the moment, there has been a lot of talk as to which is the better buy; the 9500NP has a good 50/50 chance of being softmoded to 9700-like architecture, and with some overclocking can actually be a 9700, whereas many 9600 chips have been hitting very high overclocks and coming close to overcoming the weak 128-bit DDR memory interface and 4 pixel pipelines (as opposed to a 256-bit interface and 8 pixel pipelines). While I don't have a 9500 here today to compare to, I will be able to give you my inside experience with this FIC R9600 Pro and let you know if it is really worth $140 of your hard-earned buck.
ATI RADEON™ 9600 Pro (RV350)
Core / Memory Clock
400MHz / 300MHz
4 pipelines x 1 texture unit
Maximum 3D Resolution
2048 x 1536 x 75Hz
Advanced 3D Features
SMOOTHVISION™2.0 TRUFORM™2.0 SMARTHEADER™2.0 HYPER Z™ III VIDEOSHADER™
AGP 8X or 4X compatible
CRT DVI-I TV-out VGA Connector
DirectX® 9.0 OpenGL®
Windows® ME Windows® 2000 Windows® XP
- 4 parallel rendering pipelines - 2 parallel geometry engines - 128-bit DDR memory interface - AGP 8X support - SMARTSHADER™ 2.0 - Programmable pixel and vertex shaders - 16 textures per pass - Pixel shaders up to 160 instructions with 128-bit floating point precision - Vertex shaders up to 1024 instructions with flow control - Multiple render target support - Shadow volume rendering acceleration - High precision 10-bit per channel frame buffer support - Supports DirectX® 9.0 and the latest version of OpenGL® - SMOOTHVISION™ 2.1 - 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes - Adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns - 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes - Adaptive algorithm with bi-linear (performance) and tri-linear (quality) options - HYPER Z™ III+ - Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 24:1) - Fast Z-Buffer Clear - TRUFORM™ 2.0 - 2nd generation N-Patch higher order surface support - Discrete and continuous tessellation levels per polygon - Displacement mapping - VIDEOSHADER™ - Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video - FULLSTREAM™ video de-blocking technology - Noise removal filtering for captured video - MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion - All-format DTV/HDTV decoding - YPrPb component output* - Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion - Dual integrated display controllers - Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400 MHz DACs - Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 compliant) - Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution - Optimized for Pentium® 4 SSE2 and AMD Athlon™ 3Dnow! - PC 2002 compliant
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