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Review: Hercules 3D Prophet 9600 256MB

by Tarinder Sandhu on 16 September 2003, 00:00

Tags: Hercules 3d Prophet 9600 256MB, Hercules

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ATI is attempting to produce a number of cards for each budget, Well, truth be told, its partners are. The Radeon 9800 Pro is currently the fastest reference card that the Canadians produce, but recently the 9800 non-Pro was released without the crescendo of advertising and hoo-hah that sounded the Pro's arrival. Similarly, the Radeon 9600 Pro is a known quantity. Many 'sites, including HEXUS, have reviewed it in both reference and retail forms. However, the 9600 non-Pro has been quietly added to ATI's DirectX9 range, with the minimum of fuss and excitement.

The first aspect to note is the difference between it and the regular 9600 Pro. The Hercules sample arrived outfitted with 256MB of on-board RAM and a swanky cooler. A quick perusal of the box dashed any hopes that this would be a performance monster. 256MB of RAM certainly looks impressive to the casual observer, but the aficionado will always dig deep to ascertain the card's GPU and memory clock speeds, for they're usually indicative of the kind of performance one can expect. Performance is still limited by pipelines and memory bandwidth, no matter how many DX9 features a card totes.

Card VPU clock Pipelines Fillrate Process Memory interface Memory speed Bandwidth
Radeon 9500 275MHz 4 1100MP/s 0.15u 128-bit 540 8.6 GB/s
Radeon 9500 Pro 275MHz 8 2200MP/s 0.15u 128-bit 540 8.6GB/s
Radeon 9600 256Mb 325MHz 4 1300MP/s 0.13u 128-bit 400 6.4GB/s
Radeon 9600 Pro 400MHz 4 1600MP/s 0.13u 128-bit 600 9.6GB/s
Radeon 9700 Pro 325MHz 8 2600MP/s 0.15u 256-bit 620 19.8GB/s
Radeon 9800 Pro 380MHz 8 3040MP/s 0.13u 256-bit 680 21.8GB/s

Ouch!. One fully expects the non-Pro variants to be clocked at lower speeds, yet one doesn't expect such a comparatively poor bandwidth figure. 400MHz DDR just doesn't cut it these days, that's what we're lead to believe. 256MB of memory may be useful for massive textures, anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, though one needs to accompany that expanse of memory with basic speed, really.

The 9600 is a full DirectX 9 part. ATi likes to say that the DX9-capable 9600 benefits from SMOOTHVISION 2.1, ATi's impressive and efficient anti-aliasing and adaptive anisotropic filtering technologies. It also, ATI says, benefits from running the latest vertex 2.0 (1024 instructions, flow control, true programability) and pixel shader 2.0 (160 instructions, 64/128-bit floating-point colour) demanded by DX9. We must remember that the 9600 is a decidedly midrange card, so it doesn't feature the upgraded SMARTSHADER 2.1, comprising of DX9-busting specification. Enough technical babble, on to the card.