Product Type: Sapphire graphic cards
Newest Review: ... easily capable of running games from 2003 to 2005 but may struggle thereafter. Sapphire are a well known and respected brand. This card pr... more
Nice mid-range card
Sapphire Radeon 9600 XT
Member Name: phennphawcks
Sapphire Radeon 9600 XT
Date: 25/10/04, updated on 24/06/05 (1838 review reads)
Advantages: Lots of RAM, Doesn't require a Molex connector, Cool enough for use in SFF systems
Disadvantages: UT framerate at high resolutions could be better, Don't get a lot with it, Overclocking wont get much more performance out of it
I aquired the 256 MB version of the Sapphire 9600 XT to replace an ATI 9000 All in Wonder card a few months back.
The card doesn't come with an awful lot of stuff. You get the card itself, an S-Video cable, a Catylist CD and a "Fuelled by Sapphire" case badge and that's about it. The 128 meg version comes with Half Life 2 but is actually more expensive than the 256 meg version as a result.
This card is nice, it has a fan for cooling but it is fortunately very quiet and you probably wont notice it. Another good thing about this card is it can get enough power from AGP alone, it doesn't need a Molex connector. I'm using it in a Shuttle Small Form Factor PC so power consumption Another factor is overheating. I am sure overheating played a part in the death of my previous card, but this one seems to run nice and cool in the case, even when heavily loaded with a 3D game. The 9600 XT supports AGP 8x. While some people have reported problems with this AGP speed, I have not run into any problems after several months of use.
I have a TFT monitor which has, like most 17 inch TFTs, a native resolution of 1280 x 1024. For desktop work, running the XT at these resolutions is fine and the results with a DVI connection between the card and the monitor are stunning. But when it comes to playing 3D games you may find that running at 1280 x 1024 will overtax the card a little and you wont get framerates that are quite up to the job. I found this to be the case in Unreal Tournament 2003. Dropping the resolution to 1024x768 overcame this problem but then the monitor has to interpolate the image so you lose some detail. If you have a CRT monitor this wont be a problem.
The Catylist drivers provide a dynamic overclocking feature called Overdrive. This system accelerates the graphics card's core to about 525 MHz maximum. It also monitors the core temperature and if it starts to climb too high then the clock speed is automatically throttled back, the more the card is overheating the more throttling will occur, right the way down to the card's native speed of 400 MHz if necessary. In theory this is a nice feature and certainly a big win for the marketing department but in reality you'll see very little performance gain from the overclocking. On the bright side the temperateure monitoring will make it impossible to break your card so you've got nothing to lose by turning it on.
All in all the 9600 is a good card with good performance and power and heat requirements that make it safe for use in mini PCs. It would have been nice if the framerate at high resolutions had been better though.