In the past few years Computer Graphics Cards have gained a lot of popularity and have also become an important part of the entire system. Earlier it was called a ‘Display Card’ but now it is called ‘Graphics Card’. This gives us an idea how the neglected or not so important part of the PC has gained importance.
You also might remember that the main graphics chip was considered to be only a controller but now it is called the ‘GPU’ meaning ‘Graphics Processing Unit’ Many of us wouldn’t have even imagined that there will be an independent processor for graphics.
I would say that this development has been possible because of the PC computer games. Games have evolved in a great way. The requirement for hardware for playing these games went on increasing resulting in serious development of graphics chips.
This fast development of graphics chips led to emergence of newer and more chips from different developers. Eventually the consumer had a lot of choice in the graphics chips and hence a variety of graphics cards. Nowadays there are so many different GPUs as well as cards from different manufacturers based on these chips that it becomes difficult to choose from them.
It is not possible to buy a card, use it & then decide if it is good. These cards are expensive. So how do you choose? Well we would like to tell you that we will review the cards for you, depending on the actual performance figures, it will be easier for you to decide.
Nowadays you all must be familiar with the major graphics chip designers, Nvidia & ATI. There are some others too but not as big as these two. There is an unending battle going on between these two for ultimate supremacy in performance.
Today we have a Graphics card from Club3D based on the ATI Radeon 9600XT GPU. So lets see how this card performs and is it really worth the price it demands.
Here is what came along with the box,
1] ATI Radeon 9600XT based 128MB Graphics Card
3] Driver CD
4] Software CD
5] TV-Out Cables
6] DVI Converter
The Box isn’t too jazzy or aggressive in looks but who cares? The card should perform well, that’s all. Isn’t it? Also there is no mention of the Half Life 2 Coupon on the box. It was declared by ATI that all the XT series cards will come with Half Life 2 Coupon. Since the launch of the game is so uncertain, it makes sense from the manufacturers point of view, not to ship it along with their cards. Many Manufacturers have stopped bundling the game. Here is how the card looks like,
The card looks very good. I liked the Heatsink on the GPU. Lets hope it performs as it looks too. If you observe carefully, the card is very much similar to the reference card from ATI. This indicates that the card has been made on the lines of the reference card unlike Asus who designed their own PCB. Even the PCB has the same color as the reference card.
Now lets see what the contents are,
These are the TV-Out cables and the DVI converter.
These are the CDs shipped with the card, the Driver CD & the InterVideo Wincinema software CD. I was stunned to see that there was not a single game demo along with the package. At least one good game should have been bundled with such a card.
This is the User’s Guide.
Looking at the contents of the card, I had mixed reactions. The contents had all the bare minimum stuff that is required but the CDs were a big disappointment. I would have definitely loved to have 1 full version game that too a decent one.
Anyways let’s hope Club3D rectifies this.
We have already seen the card above. Now let’s see what the other minute details of the card are,
The card comes with a Hynix BGA RAM. This is really good as these RAM chips are faster, better overclockers and most important thing is that they are much stable at overclocked speeds. They do heat up when overclocked. Most of the cards nowadays have either Samsung or Hynix BGA RAM chips.
Here is the main GPU. It is open core and not with any protection as earlier chips had. This chip has been manufactured using 130nm fabrication technology. This means that they can be overclocked better and also run cooler. Lets see if it really overclocks as we expect it to.
Here is a closer look. The chips has been made in Taiwan, which is quite good.
Here you can see that the core has a rubber padding around it to protect it from the heatsink. There are small resistors around the core which might get damaged due to the heatsink that’s why there is this rubber pad. I would say attention has been given to the minutest of details while making this card.
This is the connector plate of the card. It has the normal Monitor Conector and comes with a TV-Out connector along with DVI connector also.
This is the heatsink that fits over the GPU & Ram. The heatsink is pretty good. The RAM & the heatsink had no thermal paste, thermal pad in between them, I don’t know how the heat transfer takes place. The GPU & heatsink had a thermal pad in between them. It would have been better, had they provided this pad for the RAM too.
Here is a closer look of the thermal pad. It has dried up and you can clearly see the markings made by the GPU. The area inside the square is where the core is in contact with the heatsink. It has some area where the pad is absent which means the core was not fully in contact with the heatsink.
The card has a jumper setting for PAL & NTSC for TV-OUT option.
Here you can see the RAM heatsinks on the backside of the card. There are 4 RAM chips on the back of the card and 4 around the GPU, total 8 chips. It is good that the card has RAM sinks for all the chips. This just shows that the card has a good build quality.
Here is another view. Here you can clearly see how the heatsink is designed for the 2 RAM chips. The heatsinks were fixed with thermal epoxy .
From what we have seen till now, the card gives an impression of a card made with stability & good performance in mind. The Build Quality was very good.
Now lets see the card in action,
Wow !!! Isn’t she a beauty?
Ok now lets get down to testing the card. Until now the impression is good, lets see if this is what we feel after testing too.
- AMD Athlon 64 3000+
- Asus K8V Motherboard
- 1 GB Transcend PC3200 DDR RAM
- 80 GB Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive
- ATI Catalyst 4.3 Drivers
- DirectX 9.0B
- 3DMark 2003
- Aquamark 3.0
- Prince of Persia-Sands Of Time
- Highly anticipated game
- Unreal Tournament 2003
Now lets see how does this card perform in our different tests,
The card scored a decent 14,000+ marks in 3DMark2001SE.The test was run at 1024×768 and default settings. I would say that a score of 14,000+ for a mainstream card is really very good.
This is the latest version of 3DMark.It benchmarks the card using it’s DirectX9 capability. The Card scored around 4000 marks in 3DMark2003.This is a good score.
Now let’s see how the card performs in Prince Of Persia -Sands Of Time. This is the latest version of the Prince Of Persia series. It has some amazing graphics and stresses the graphics card substantially.
The card was tested with the following settings-
- Special Effects – High
- Shadow Effects- High
- Water Effects – On
- Filtering – Trilinear
- Vsync – Off
Looking at the above figures, it is evident that the card performs very well.
Now lets see how it does in Unreal Tournament 2003,
These are the results when Anisotropic Filtering was set to 2x and Anti Aliasing to 2x too.
These are the results when Anisotropic Filtering was set to 4x and Anti Aliasing to 4x too.
These are the results when Anisotropic Filtering was set to 8x and Anti Aliasing to 6x.
These are the results when Anisotropic Filtering was set to 16x and Anti Aliasing to 6x .
After looking at the scores, we can say that the card performs well. It does tend to get heavily stressed at high resolutions and maximum quality settings.
If you see, at 1600×1200 resolution and AA-6x / AF – 16x ,the card can’t even cross the 20FPS mark. This isn’t a good score for smooth gameplay. This implies that the card is not suitable for playing latest games at very high resolutions and maximum quality settings.
Now let’s see how it fares in a very latest game, Far Cry. Far Cry has a brand new engine with amazing graphics. The water effects are simply mind blowing. All this indicates that the card will be very heavily stressed here.
You can see that the card cannot even cross the 50FPS mark. One thing is noteworthy that the card manages to cross the 30FPS mark ,which should be sufficient to have a good gameplay, do not expect it to be very smooth though. The game will be quite playable at lower settings.
Now for the real interesting part,
The card scored around 60-65 FPS at 800×600 resolution on a highly anticipated game. Which is quite good. Now please don’t ask me which game it is.
Now as we have finished with the routine tests, why not get down to some real fun?
Yes, I am talking about overclocking!!
The card has the following Stock Speeds –
- GPU – 500 MHz
- Memory – 337.5 MHz 
I used ATI Tool for overclocking of the card. You may try your personal favourite one.
When you talk of overclocking, heat is the first thing that comes to your mind. ATI has included an interesting feature in the XT series. This feature is called ‘Overdrive’. What it does is that it adjust the clock speed of the card according to the requirement. It is something like Dynamic Overclocking. Here is the Overdrive section in the Driver Menu
The card can also show the core temperature which is extremely essential while overclocking. It also shows the current clock speed of the core. When idle it works at 500 Mhz. I had turned OFF Overdrive feature while overclocking.
Now here is what I could achieve with this card,
I tried to overclock the card steadily. The max I could reach was 550 Mhz for the core[GPU] & 760 MHz for the Memory.
Above are the 3DMark2001SE scores after overclocking. The card crossed the 15,000 mark after overclocking. For your information, 15,000+ is what the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro achieves at stock speed.
These are the Overclocking results obtained in 3DMark2003. Maximum score, the card could do was, 4400+ This is a pretty decent score. Here it couldn’t reach the 5500-6000 mark of the 9800 Pro which it achieves at stock.
Now that we have concluded testing the card, it is time to give a final verdict. I would say that the card performed extremely well for a mainstream level card. Infact I would say it is almost a performance level card but saying that it is a performance card would be an overstatement. The card has solid build quality, it showed good overclocking potential although overclocking did not yield any huge performance boosts. The Bundle was a bit disappointing, especially the bundled CDs were a let down. The card is a good buy, infact a steal as it is priced in the range of below 15,000/- Rs. If you are happy playing games at medium settings, then this definitely is the card for you but if are you one of those kinds who just cannot accept below 1280×960 and high quality settings then this is not the card for you.