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ATI Radeon 9600 XT VPU - Monster Performance for the Price Conscious

By: Cameron Wilmot | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Nov 24, 2003 5:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.5%Manufacturer: ATI

Image Quality Testing


Raw speed from a graphics card is all good and well. All the speed in the world doesn't mean a thing though unless we have the equally impressive Image Quality (IQ) to match. Before we get into the performance benchmarks, let's spend a moment examining IQ.


To get an impression of the IQ offered by the Radeon 9600 XT, we've collected three of the most popular and newest DX9 titles at the moment - NBA Live 2004 and Need for Speed: Underground by EA and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness by Eidos.


All of the three titles use various aspects of DX9 such as Pixel Shader 2.0 which Half Life 2 will make a lot of use of once it is eventually released as well as many other games in the future. We've taken three screenshots using the Print Screen function from each game with 6x Anti-Aliasing (AA) and 16x Anisotropic Filtering (AF) enabled in each at 1280x1024. In other words, we've maxed out the Radeon 9600 XT as far as it can go in the IQ department. Apart from Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (which is filled to the max with Pixel Shader 2.0 based graphics), the two other games ran like a charm and had no problems with the high graphics detail rendering. It chocked in Tomb Raider and I wouldn't consider it playable. Here are the exact settings we used in the ATI Control Panel:



Please note: All screenshots were saved as uncompressed JPG and do not represent the exact in-game quality we saw. Please click on smaller image for the full sized 1280x1024 image and allow time to load.


- Need for Speed: Underground


Underground is the latest in the popular car enthusiasts Need for Speed series from EA Games. Do you remember the movie "Fast and the Furious"? Of course you do and this game is based loosely on the very movie with a whole bunch of high-powered import sports cars from Japan and other places around the world with big turbos and loud blow-off valves. The graphics in this game are simply amazing and the Radeon 9600 XT had no problems producing them:



As you can see from the screenshots above, the graphics in Underground are just amazing. The only time the Radeon 9600 XT had trouble rendering the graphics was in big burnout scenes with masses amount of smoke coming from the tires where it dropped down to around 15 frames per second until you break away from the realistic looking smoke.


(Sorry about the Golf, I haven't been playing the game for long and this is the best car in the class I am up to!)


You will notice in the first screenshot to the left that to the right of the car you can actually see that the foot path is raised higher than the road. With no AA or AF, this is something we don't see, as just one example.


- NBA Live 2004


NBA Live 2004 is the latest in the basketball series by EA Sports:



After enabling AA and AF, we saw a much greater increase in IQ. All of the advertising on the court surface became so much clearer to read and the court edges became much clearer as well. The Radeon 9600 XT continues to impress on the IQ front.


- Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness


Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is the latest in the popular Tomb Raider series from Eidos. It replies very heavily on Pixel Shader 2.0 technology and is a good indicator of how things will be in 6 - 8 months time with game releases such as Half Life II which will rely greatly on the GPU or VPU to come through with the goods:



With every graphics setting turned up as high as possible, the game chugged badly. We were averaging around 10 - 15 frames per second and it become annoying to play after a short time. This aside, the graphics in this game are truly amazing and turning on AA and AF really helps sharpen things up, such as the stairs in the middle picture.


Overall the IQ generated from the Radeon 9600 XT was better than expected. It had no problems matching it with the big guns. Now let's get onto the all important benchmark numbers!


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