Hightech Information System's implementation of the 9600 XT was well done with the HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo. The Excalibur is about as close as you can get to a perfect video card as you can get in the targeted price range. We don't have confirmed pricing on the card, but we expect it to retail in the 170$ - 200$ range, and although some people may find 200$ a bit steep, you have to realize that a Half-Life 2 (HL2) voucher is included. This game will likely retail in the 40$ - 50$ range, so buying this card now can be viewed as a 150$ purchase. We realize that HL2 may not appeal to everyone, but if you're even considering a DX9 video card, my guess is you're looking to play something other than Solitaire.
The HL2 voucher is nothing new for Radeon 9x00 based cards though (keep in mind not every manufacturer offers this game in their package), and HIS had to do more to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market. The faster ram, which is 50MHz faster than the reference 9600 XT, is a start and the extra speed will make a difference at higher resolution and detail levels. The iCooler heatsink is more than just a flashy LED fan, as the large size of the cooler will aid in cooling the VPU. Add the ramsinks, and you have the makings of a fairly overclockable card.
Looking back at our tests, the HIS 9600 XT finished out on top in the majority of the benchmarks, though it did step aside for the FX5700 Ultra in four of the six Call of Duty tests. In terms of actual gameplay, neither card had a distinct advantage, and "felt" the same for CoD. Benchmarks don't always tell the full story, and although some of the benchmark results were favorable at 1280x1024 with AA and AF on, actual gameplay was something of a mixed bag. Older games such as Unreal Tournament and Return to Castle Wolfenstein played well, but the newer games saw some framerate drops as the action got more intense. 1024x768 is the real sweet spot for the 9600 XT, and it is at this resolution, even with AA/AF enabled, all the games tested today were very playable.
Image quality (IQ) is typical of what we've come to expect from ATI, which is very good. We've debated here whether it is ATI or nVidia that has better 3D quality as both cards are very close. It's a subjective opinion, but from what I have observed, ATI's 3D IQ is higher contrast and darker images, whereas the FX5700 Ultra had less contrast, but a brighter picture. Naturally, this can be adjusted via the control panel, but at default driver settings, this is what we observed. 2D quality does go to ATI though, as we found small font sizes easier to read than on the FX.
For those of you who already own a DX9 card in the form of the Radeon 9500/9600 Pro, or FX5600/5700 Ultra, this card's performance is probably not enough to warrant an upgrade, but if you're still sitting on a Ti4200 or Radeon 8500, this card is certainly worth a look.
Skrevet af Lasse den 7. Mar 2004. Nyheden er læst 776 gang(e).
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