Gigabyte Radeon 9600 Pro (GV-R96P128D) Graphic Card
Date: September 2003
Price: £133 inc VAT (at time of writing)
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The video card market has developed rapidly in recent years with faster cards and more memory and features included and the high-end cards output is amazing. Unfortunately not of all of us are able to spend £200-£400 on a new card. Its true to say the only users who will be buying the higher end versions are either gamers or people who are heavily into digital editing etc.
There are two main chipset vendors who are constantly competing for faster cards and higher performance the companies are ATI & Nvida supplying product ranges like Ragefury/Radeon & Nvida.
The Radeon 9600 Pro chip is built on 0.13 micron technology instead of the larger more expensive 0.15 micron like is used in the Radeon 9500/9700/9800's. And it is aimed to compete alongside the GeforceFx range most likely its closest model is the 5600.
It is priced at just over £130 (at the time of writing), which is the main price range for cards in my opinion. If you're a light user you can happily pick up a card for your use for £50 or so depending on if you are buying new and if you want to use any of the extra features such as TV-out and the ability to use dual monitors, as well as a few games to keep you amused.
What you get:
9600 Pro Card
Power DVD XP
Serious Sam, Oni, 4X4 EVO
|Chipset||Gigabyte Radeon 9600 Pro|
|Memory Clock||600 Mhz (DDR)|
|Memory Bus (Bits)||128 bit|
|Mem Type||DDR 4Mx32-2.8|
|AGP Bus||8x / 4x|
Weblink for full Specs: [here]
Long gone are the days of plain looking PCB's. Gigabyte last year released several cards and motherboards in red this time round they are switching to a blue. With the arrival of faster speeds more and more cards are shipping with their own dedicated heat sinks and coolers.
A dedicated cooler and largish heat sink is a must with just about every graphics card out currently being shipped, the increase in faster components means that heat could become a problem if the chips aren't kept cool and controlled.
If this is your first step up from a older PCI based card you will need to check prior to buying that your board can support this graphics card, as often people buy first and then realise after that the card is not compatible with their AGP connector on their board. This card uses the 8x/4x AGP standard, so really new boards within the last year - 18 months at least will be able to fully support this card. If you have a older board than still check the board for what version of AGP it uses but if its not 4x+ then this card will not work and in most cases this can be confirmed by looking at the cards connector along with looking at the AGP slot of your board to see the difference.
The card has support for dual monitors, so if you fancy using two monitors you can or you may find it usual in meetings or for connecting to several screens when watching those all important DVD movies.
Setting both displays is very easy via the traditional display properties screen simply select the Display drop down and select 1 or 2 depending on which display you wish to select. If your not sure which one you are looking at you can click the 'Identify' button and this will show a display figure on the screen to aid you.
The card comes with the following connectors:
The standard VGA connector 15-pin
Fairly standard ports, so that you can connect both via the traditional method via monitor as well as using a TV-out method and a DVI port is also included.
If you're a clocker and like to push your components to the limit then you can benefit from the program provided by Gigabyte named V-Tuner. This is very similar to other freely available programs, which allow you to adjust the core and memory settings my incremental amounts.
We wont go into to much detail with this but you can adjust the voltages and clock speeds of the card to make it go faster and their fore overclocked which means with the right system / tweaks and trial and error you could get more performance out of this card. With the set-up used for this review the V-Tuner allowed the core speed to be increased to 480Mhz and the memory to be increased to 357Mhz. So that means on our test system which is in my opinion above average allowed for the core speed to be increased 80 points, on other higher class systems this will likely allow you to increase it over 100 points over the rated the speed.
For this review we used a slightly above average set-up.
Board: Soyo KT400 Dragon SE
CPU: Athlon 1800XP (1.53Ghz)
Memory: Crucial 2100 512MB + 128MB
Windows XP SP1
I ran the 3DMark03 on the system 6 times and took the 3 & 4th test results as the result. Test 3 scored 3110 and test 4 as shown below scored 3125
TV-Out - This performed as expected if you haven't used it before it can really prove worth having if you may want to play a game on your wider / larger TV although the resolution differences don't always make this ideal game playing and dvd watching are usually the to reasons for using the TV-Out facility.
Once you have installed the card you will notice a small gigabye logo in the system tray, this gives you quick and easy access to the display settings.
I used the card on various applications and games and was impressed by the speed of the card, the moving in a game was very quick and smooth the scenery loaded fast and effortlessly around me. I always find it difficult to try and relate to have a card like this performs as you can only really see / relate to it if you can see the game or application running.
Especially if you are an avid Quake or Half life fan and then you would instantly be able to see the difference between your current card and using this one.
I did use this in various games namely Quake 3, Half Life, Medal of Honour Allied Assault, and GTA Vice City, all ran great and performed much better than my normal card. The maps and levels loaded faster and the player movements along with the textures and graphics all looked great.
I have bought and used Gigabyte before mainly due to they are well known and support and drivers are freely available but also because the build quality and bundled extras are always worth having. In this case I believe they have continued this trend with this product, it's an excellent card, which makes the games become faster, clearer and better.
I good performing card using a chipset from ATI to super cede their 9500 range of products. It will be interesting if we can compare the results taken alongside cards of a similar spec from nvida and / or other vendors using similar chipsets.
Price wise it is excellent value, its aimed for the mid to high user obviously hardened gamers constantly upgrade to the latest card which now can mean £200 + with this for around £130 you can consider this a great and worthwhile upgrade to your system which adds the ability to run and display what you want over 2 monitors if you prefer. As well as using TV-Out via either the analogue method or using the S-Video method.
Ran perfectly no instability
Ability to overclock
Cant use with AGP 2x format motherboards, may hinder some users upgrading.