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Digital-Daily : Video : fx5600ultra-vs-radeon9600pro

FX5600Ultra vs Radeon9600Pro

Author: Andrey Kuzin
Date: 28.08.2003

I. Introduction

We proceed with filling in the "voids" in the current stage of competition between ATI and NVIDIA:

Hi-End FX5900 (NV35) Radeon 9800
Middle FX5600 (NV31) Radeon 9600
Low-End FX5200 (NV34) Radeon 9200

The Hi-End solutions were tested in the review "FX5900 vs Radeon9800Pro", and today we're comparing the "mainstream" solutions from NVIDIA and ATI - video cards built on the FX 5600 Ultra and Radeon 9600 Pro chips.

With their current price set at ~240 USD, FX5600 Ultra and Radeon 9600 Pro could prove to be true sales leaders at least until the end of this year. Very few can afford to fork out 500 USD for a FX5900/Radeon9800, and the entry-level market for FX5200/Radeon9200 still has restricted scope. At that, FX5600 Ultra and Radeon 9600 Pro solutions are just the most anticipated hot cakes that support all the latest standards and offer a sane price.

The video cards

ABIT FX 5600Ultra DT *1200x846 127 kb

ABIT FX 5600Ultra OTES *1200x745 158 kb

Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro Ultimate Edition *1200x850 150 kb

In our tests, the low-noise Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro Ultimate Edition featuring a passive cooling system by Zalman plays for the ATI team. From NVIDIA, two ABIT's video cards at a time will perform; these are Siluro FX 5600Ultra, of the DT and OTES versions. They make a big difference from one another. The thing is, there are two versions of the 5600 Ultra chip - the "old" one and "new". Both are marked as Ultra:

ABIT FX 5600Ultra DT
ABIT 5600Ultra OTES
Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro
Old FX5600Ultra
New FX5600Ultra

As we see, the FX5600Ultra chips are absolutely different, even manufactured in different countries. I can hardly imagine the procedure of dismantling a cooler in the sales area, but there isn't any other way to make sure what pig we are buying in a poke. You can judge about it by the factory-set frequencies of the card, but the vast majority of manufacturers still haven't taken the trouble of marking the boxes with the rated frequencies, although it's too easy - just add another stocker on the box.

As our tests will show, the original version of the 5600Ultra was unable to perform on par with Radeon 9600 Pro, so another version offering increased core speed was released, and we'll refer to it as the NV31 new core.

Here are the main specifications of the contenders:

ABIT FX 5600Ultra DT ABIT FX 5600Ultra OTES Sapphire Radeon9600 Pro
GPU/VPU chip NV31 old core NV31 new core RV350
Core speed 350 MHz 400 MHz 400 MHz
Memory speed 700 MHz DDR 800 MHz DDR 600 MHz DDR
Memory type 128-bit, DDR-SDRAM (Hynix 2,8 ns) 128-bit, DDR-SDRAM (Hynix 2.5 ns) 128-bit, DDR-SDRAM
(Samsung 2,8 ns)
Q-ty of slots taken 1 2 1/2*
Additional power supply + + -
* The Sapphire Radeon9600 Pro features a double-sided radiator and at its total width matches a double-slot card.

As we see, the frequency of the 5600Ultra new core has been raised to 400 MHz, which required using faster memory:

ABIT FX 5600Ultra DT
ABIT 5600Ultra OTES
Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro
Hynix 2,8 ns
Hynix 2.5 ns
Samsung 2.8 ns

At least from the exterior you can easily tell ABIT's video cards on the old and new versions of the FX5600Ultra chip apart - the single-storeyed DT with the "swallow wing" cooling system (as they dub it at ABIT) and a two-storeyed cutey with the OTES cooling system. By the way, the coolers on both cards are highlighted with LEDs.

ABIT FX 5600Ultra DT
ABIT 5600Ultra OTES
Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro

The Sapphire Radeon 9600 Pro Ultimate Edition will certainly appeal to the modders' community - the technocratic look-and-feel of the Zalman cooling system looks fantastic! But it heats up immensely... Under the normal functioning within the closed case the card is blown by the natural air flow coming from the system coolers. In our case, to get out of harm's way, we had to arrange forced cooling for it from an external fan, which made the card absolutely cold.


  • Introduction
  • Tests and conclusions

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