ABIT Radeon 9600 XT VIO 256MB Continued
- The Card
ATI's partners are allowed to design the 9600 XT how they see fit. This is unlike the 9800 XT which you will soon see, as each 9800 XT designed must follow the reference design from ATI unless otherwise agreed on by both ATI and x manufacturer. The appearance of the 9600 XT VIO is nice with its orange PCB and surf board looking heatsink which emits a blue glow from the fan. The overall look of the card is quite good and much more unique than all the other 9600 XT cards we have tested and we find that refreshing.
The PCB size of the card is the same as all previous 9600 XT cards we have used from the likes of Power Color, GeCube and HIS. We did note that ABIT actually uses a true 9600 XT PCB unlike some other ATI partners who use surplus 9600 Pro PCBs for their XT parts. The downside of this is onboard thermal monitoring as well as Overdrive (ATI's relatively new automatic overclocking utility born in the 9600 XT series) is not part of the older 9600 Pro PCB. This is not a problem we faced with the ABIT card though, which is definitely a good thing even if Overdrive only increases performance by a small margin.
- GPU and Memory
Being an ABIT product, we were a little surprised to find out that the Radeon 9600 XT GPU was only clocked at 497MHz (3MHz under standard). Considering the head room available to the GPU through overclocking (which you will soon see), we were surprised to find the GPU clocked this low. Remember this factor when you are looking at the benchmarks later in this article, it does make some difference.
The 256MB of onboard memory is made up of Samsung 3.3ns K4D551638D - TC33 T-SOP chips which are rated for a maximum of 300MHz. Our sample from ABIT had the chips set at 299MHz from the factory. It might have been nicer if ABIT made use of faster Samsung BGA memory which operates at 2.8ns, up to 350MHz like the Power Color 9600 XT "Bravo" we will be comparing against. We won't complain too much though as we do have an extra 128MB onboard to play with compared to the Power Color card which only uses a total of 128MB. We will see what type of factors these include when we get to the benchmarks.
One thing to note is that ABIT do not provide neither active nor passive cooling for the memory chips. If you are buying this card with the intention of overclocking, put a few extra dollars aside for some ramsinks or the like.
We were pleasantly surprised by the overclockability of the ABIT Radeon 9600 XT VIO. With completely stock cooling using RIVA Tuner we were able to get a maximum stable overclock of 608MHz out of the core (111MHz over default) and 345MHz or 690MHz DDR out of the memory (46MHz or 92MHz DDR over default). The trusty Samsung chips have pulled through again running stable almost 50MHz over what they are rated on their website, here.
While the memory speeds were still a fair way under that of the overclocked Power Color 9600 XT, the impressive core overclock did help even things out quite nicely for ABIT. Look at the benchmarks for the actual numbers.
It is important to note that each overclock from card to card will vary depending on the chip from ATI - you may get more or less depending on the luck of the draw.
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