The 9600 XT board
As the RADEON 9600 XT is based on a derivative of the RADEON 9600 PRO core, it isnít surprising to see that a lot of the RADEON 9600 PROís board design has been carried over to the RADEON 9600 XT. In fact, lots of the same components are still used, although there are a few subtle changes to the power circuitry.
The 9600 XT card
The bottom of the card
The most striking change to the laymen is the red printed circuit board, allowing the RADEON 9600 XT to sport ATIís companyís color. RADEON 9600 PRO boards were built on green PCBs, which was surprising because we were under the impression that all of ATIís ďPROĒ boards would utilize red PCBs.
New cooling uni
ATI has also replaced the RADEON 9600 PRO cooling unit (which was actually borrowed from the RADEON 8500/8500 LE) with a much more robust unit for the RADEON 9600 XT. Unlike the RADEON 9800 XT, which features a copper heatsink, aluminum is the material of choice for the RADEON 9600 XT heatsink. The heatsink unit itself is much larger than 9600 PROís, with a considerably larger base for effectively grabbing heat off the graphics core. This heat is then spread through dozens of fins, further increasing the surface area of the heatsink.
If all that werenít enough, ATI then mates this beefier heatsink to the cooling fan that was used on the RADEON 9800/RADEON 9800 PRO. Considering that the RADEON 9600 PRO core operates relatively cool in the first place, this enhanced cooling unit will likely be regarded as a welcome bonus among enthusiasts.
Our RADEON 9600 XT sample shipped with 3.3ns memory modules manufactured by Samsung. These chips are rated for operation at 300MHz, matching the specs of the RADEON 9600 XT exactly. This was a bit of a disappointment to us, as we were crossing our fingers that ATI may use 350MHz modules, but with these chips now going into ALL-IN-WONDER 9600 PRO boards, weíre guessing that they want a little more distinction in their 9600 products.
Like the RADEON 9800 XT, the RADEON 9600 XT has a thermal diode onboard. This feature gives ATI the ability to take accurate temperature readings, which can be monitored by the display driver. ATI then uses this information to dynamically adjust the clock frequency of the graphics processor, this feature is known as OVERDRIVE.
When enabled, OVERDRIVE will automatically overclock the graphics processor to a predetermined setting based on the graphics coreís temperature. If the core begins to exceed a certain temperature, OVERDRIVE will reduce the clock frequency of the 9600 XT core, but never below the default clock speed of 500MHz. Two OVERDRIVE settings are available for the 9600 XT: 513MHz, and 527MHz. However, unlike the RADEON 9800 XT, the 9600 XTís fan rotates at the same speed regardless of temperature. The RADEON 9800 XTís fan has two speed settings.
The current CATALYST 3.8 drivers donít offer OVERDRIVE support for the 9600 XT, but ATIís next release, CATALYST 3.9 will. Based on ATIís current track record, you should probably expect this driver sometime in the next 3-4 weeks.