FIC A96P Radeon 9600 Pro

Introduction:

Before we dive into the review, I just wanted to say that FIC has to have some of the coolest looking graphic card icons I've ever seen. The metallic bobcat and bull are very symbolic in showing that these video card are made to strike down and dispose of any polygon count that gets in their way. I'd also like to say that along with the A96P, FIC sent one of their t-shirts featuring the bobcat logo on it...



I will be wearing this t-shirt throughout the entire review process and may, quite possibly, never take it off.

In this review we will be taking a look at a couple of graphic cards along with the A96P and their cost/effectiveness. We all know that there are many cards on the market that will beat the Radeon 9600 Pro hands down in performance, but do they cost less? Not likely. Lets find out the facts as we take a look at the prices of some of the more well known video cards in comparison to the A96P.

Cost vs. Effectiveness:

 

Video Card

Price (USD) 

Cost Difference

RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB $452 + $309
RADEON 9800 Pro 128MB $334 + $191
RADEON 9700 128MB $224 + $81
RADEON 9600 Pro 128MB $143  
GeForce FX 5900 128MB $356 + $213
GeForce FX 5600 128MB $151 + $8
Prices courtesy of PriceWatch.com

When you talk about cost vs. effectiveness you have to take your mind off of the politics, the spec sheets, and put yourself into a real-world situation. If you're like me, in college and broke, you probably aren't very eager to drop $400-$500 on a video card. Unless your constantly buying the newest games and running them at insane resolutions, you can usually buy the cheaper card and still get amazing performance by tweaking a few settings and/or by over-clocking (Muahah). We will be taking a look at the performance of the ATI Radeon 9700 Pro, the MSI FX5600, and the FIC A96P (9600 Pro). I've chosen these 2 cards because I feel they are the most comparable cards to the A96P in terms of cost and performance. The price difference between the A96P and the 9700 is $81, while the difference between the A96P and the FX5600 is only $8. We'll soon find out if the extra money is worth it.

The specifications are what you would expect from a Radeon 9600 graphics card.

You may look at it and think what a puny little fan that is- the cooling system looks a lot smaller than the other Radeon cards (9500,9700,9800) and your right, it is. This is because the Radeon 9600 Pro is based on the 0.13 process. The GPU remains much cooler than its counterparts and therefore requires a smaller, and of course, quieter cooling solution.
 

When the cards are compared (9600 on left, 9500 on the right) it is quite easy to see the vast reduction in cooling required thanks to the new processor technology.

A closer look and we find that FIC has used Samsung's  K4D263238E-GC memory modules. Each module has a 350Mhz max freq. and a 700Mbps/pin max data rate.

The A96P is also equipped with the now pretty much standard VGA, S-Video, and DVI connectors for all of your viewing needs. Time to test the cards and find the best buy for your money.

Testing Setup:

Time to get down to business and really see which card is the biggest bang for your buck. Here is the setup used to test the cards...

CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.26 GHZ
Mobo: Intel- 533FSB, 4x AGP

Ram: Kingston KTD4400 512MB @ 333mhz

Sound: SB Live! Value
Hard drive: Western Digital 30GB ultra/ATA 100

*Note* Your own personal results may very well turn out better than those posted in this review. This is due to the fact that the computer that was used to test the Radeon is not exactly a top of the line system. Keep this in mind when looking at the numbers, but also remember that the same system was used to test both cards.



The Radeon's both have the latest Catalyst Drivers version 6.14.10.6343 and the FX5600 has the Detonator 44.03 drivers. Lets begin shall we?
 

Testing:

I begin the testing by running the cards through Futuremark's 3DMark2001SE at the 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024 resolutions with 32 Bit graphics.


 



 

In all four of the 3DMark2001 and 3DMark03 tests, the results remain uniform with the 9700 Pro jumping the polygonal hurdles with ease and the other two trailing a ways behind. This is of course expected when you look at cost/effectiveness. The 9700 costs quite a bit more than the other two and performs accordingly. The main competition is between the A96P and the FX5600. Even though the A96P is cheaper, it out performs the FX5600 in both the 4xAA 2001SE and 2xAA 3DMark 03 tests.

Video Game Benchmarks:

Now lets take a look at how the cards perform when the time calls for some fraggin'! Lets start it off with the infamous UT2K3 benchmarks in D3D (Direct 3D). For the UT2K3 benchmarks we used HardOcp's UT Benchmark utility v2.1. The following information about the utility's "High Quality" test is posted on their website to explain what they've done- take a look....

It should be mentioned that the "High Quality" test which was used within this utility loads an INI file which automatically forces the maximum detail and quality settings available within the game with some additional enhancements. Specifically ( from the utility's FAQ ):

For the MaxDetail.ini I made the following changes:

[D3DDrv.D3DRenderDevice]

DetailTexMipBias= -0.8
DefaultTexMipBias= -0.8
UseTripleBuffering=True
UseCompressedLightmaps=False

(We felt that slightly more aggressive LOD would both sharpen image quality and increase the demand slightly for the highest detail quality setting.)
 

One thing to note is that V-Sync has been disabled on all three cards, now lets begin.

 

 

 

OpenGL:

 

 

 

The results remain quite similar to the previous ones with the 9700 out in the lead and the FX5600 and A96P battling it out to claim the best cost-efficient graphics card in all the land- well at least in this review. Before we end the game benchmarks lets take a look at another popular benchmark- Comanche 4.

 

With the results in, it appears that while all three cards obviously decrease in performance as the AA and resolutions are increased, the 9600 and 9700 decrease much slower than the FX5600. In every game-benchmark the 9600 is the clear victor over the FX5600 and at a lesser cost. I think its clear which of the two cards wins the award for most cost-efficient graphics card. Next up is one of my personal favorites.

Normally I like to use Power Strip to overclock, however the program was having difficulties recognizing the card's default core and memory clock speeds. I searched for an alternative and found RadClock and tried it out. It was a success. The core speed of 398MHz and memory speed of 304MHz was displayed on the utility. I then began to slowly raise the bar of both the core and memory clocks. After many tries I finally found the magical frequencies and let me tell you there were very impressive!

The core clock was increased by 148.75MHz which is a 37% increase in performance! Quite impressive. Now that the card is overclocked, lets see how well performs in 3DMark compared to its default core and memory speeds.


 

 

The results show that there was quite a nice boost in performance due to the huge increase in clock speeds. Another thing to note is while the the A96P is overclocked it still is only cooled by a small heatsink and fan combo. A big applause for the .13 process and its very minimal amount of heat production.

Conclusion:

Now to sum things up. The Radeon 9600 is ATI's first graphics card to use the 0.13 processing technology and I must say that ATI played their cards right on this one. All while NVIDIA was scrambling, trying to put together their FX line with the hot new 0.13 technology, and the results were nothing but disappointment. ATI sat back and let NVIDIA be the guinea pig, then ATI made their move, a successful one at that, and released the 9600. As you've already seen, the card looks quite puny but I promise you, it's only because of the advanced technology that allowed FIC to rid of the bulky cooling units usually found on a video card.

Overall, the A96P is an excellent card, especially when you want to talk about getting the maximum amount of performance for your money. Of course there are faster cards out there, and if you have the money then I don't see any reason why you shouldn't go big on your graphics card. If you're like me and don't need top of the line material, but rather a smarter purchase that will tackle your gaming needs, then I definitely recommend the A96P. When cost/effectiveness is the name of the game, the 9600 is the way to go. Also because of such great overclocking ability, I give it 9.5 out of 10 stars!

SLRating: 9.5/10



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