Video Card: ATI RADEON 9800XT & 9600XT Review :: Conclusion

10-29-2003 · Category: Hardware - Video Cards

By Benjamin Sun

To be honest, I'm just not as excited by the 9800XT as I would have been had it been released at the same time as the 9800 Pro 256MB. As a $499 replacement for the 256MB 9800 Pro, it's a very fast board. But in the context of a $499 card, I just can't bring myself to recommend it over a 9800 Pro 128MB or 256MB if you have them already. If you have a 9700 Pro or 9500 Pro or earlier card, however, it's a worthy upgrade. Also of note, if you have almost any NVIDIA card today, the 9800XT will give you better performance, better image quality, and more frequent driver updates than any competing NVIDIA card.

The apparent delay of Half Life 2, however puts this release in a strange light. The nice thing about the 9800 XT with Half Life 2 bundled was the fact that you got the fastest card with the most anticipated game of the year. If HL2 doesn't make it out this year, however, that turns this release into a bit of a mess, as it would probably be better to wait till ATI's next card to purchase one.

That being said, the 9800XT is the fastest videocard with the best image quality and performance and the best drivers in the business. In most games today and the near future, this card will not likely be the bottleneck for the system. If I had to recommend a card for $500 today, there's little doubt that the 9800XT will be the best card at least till the end of the year.

The first thing that needs to be said about the 9600XT is that it is a $199 MSRP video card. It's not really fair to compare it to a $299 9800 Pro or a $499 9800XT. Unfortunately, I don't have a 9600 Pro, nor a 9500 Pro to compare the card to. The fact that it held up extremely well in many cases to the NVIDIA GEFORCE FX 5900 Ultra, on the other hand, makes this card an extremely good buy.

For a mainstream card, the 9600XT brings all of the features that you would expect or need. DirectX 9.0 support, a high fillrate, great performance, and a Half Life 2 coupon as well! As such, I have a much easier time recommending this card for most users. For $199, you get everything you would want from a mainstream card, making it a fit replacement for the 9600 Pro.

The 9600XT is the first video card in the mainstream marketplace to have a clock speed of 500 MHz for the core. Hopefully, with their next generation part, the R4xx series, they will bring a high clock speed, along with the low-k process on a .13um part. If they can pull off a card that performs 2x as fast as a 9800 Pro with more features and still keeping the VPU cool to the touch without a massive heat sink/fan combination I will be truly impressed.