Crucial Radeon 9600 Pro Review

The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is definitely the beginning of the shape of things to come from ATI chipsets in the near future.
The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is definitely the beginning of the shape of things to come from ATI chipsets in the near future.
The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is definitely the beginning of the shape of things to come from ATI chipsets in the near future.

Highs

  • Excellent mid range capabilities
  • Reasonably priced
  • and over clockable

Lows

  • Less than stellar gaming performance
  • Older version of WinDVD included

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Video Card Reviews > Crucial Radeon 9600 Pro Review

Summary

The Crucial Radeon 9600 Pro is definitely the beginning of the shape of things to come from ATI chipsets in the near future. With die sizes shrinking and memory solutions becoming more available and affordable, it would definitely seem as though the potential is here for a compromise between the cost of a high-end graphics card and an affordable one. We would not be surprised if the Radeon 9600 followed the way of the 9500 in versatility and cost effectiveness. A very good bargain for the price to performance it is capable of.

Introduction

Built on the RADEON success story and definitely a winner on cost compared to it’s big brother. The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is by far the best value we have run into yet in the battle for price versus performance. Bigger, faster, better? Not really. You won’t get bragging rights at the local LAN party with this card, but you certainly will be able to afford to attend. With decent performance and a price tag that is a whole lot easier to swallow than other video card offerings, this card might be the solution you are seeking in a new video card. The new retail packaging scheme from Crucial is a nice addition from a company known for it’s “POB” (plain ole’ box) video cards from previous generations.

Features and Design
Features
  • Dual-Display Support: Leading-edge technology, fully optimized with HYDRAVISION, provides the flexibility to support multiple combinations of traditional CRT monitors, flat-panel displays, and even TVs.
  • VIDEOSHADER technology provides seamless integration of programmable pixel shaders and video data, resulting in accelerated video processing and higher visual quality.
  • New SMARTSHADER 2.0 technology allows users to experience complex, movie-quality effects in next-generation 3D games and graphics.
  • FULLSTREAM technology removes blocky artifacts from streaming Internet video and provides sharper image quality.
  • SMOOTHVISION 2.1 technology enhances image quality by removing jagged edges and bringing out fine texture detail without compromising performance.
General Specifications
Powered by the RADEON 9600 Pro VPU, technology designed to utilize four-pixel pipeline architecture
128-bit DDR memory interface, featuring HYPER Z III+ bandwidth-conserving technology
128MB of DDR SDRAM memory
400-MHz RAMDAC
AGP 8X/4X compatible
VGA connector, TV-out connector, DVI-I
Fully supports Microsoft DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL

The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro uses the same Samsung K4D263238E-GC2A 2.8 nanosecond memory modules which are the same chips that are rated at 350 MHz that the 9800 version of the card uses.
ATI RV350 CPU ATI R350327 CPU
A shot of the RV350 on the left and the R350 on the right, Crucial and ATI, together, attempt to bring the newest technology to the playing field at a reasonable price.

Performance

Over clocking is an option and 490 core and 375.75 mem (751.5 effective) being the highest OC that we could produce on this card with the current drivers,. We feel confident that a better cooling solution would have produced higher results as it was very stable at that speed but very hot!. Few people would water or custom cool a low to mid range graphics card.

Over clocking is an option and 490 core and 375.75 mem (751.5 effective) being the highest OC that we could produce on this card with the current drivers.

As seen here, the 9600 Pro tested well against the ATI 9600 AIW version. Though no match for the 9800 Pro tested on the same system, it did well in OpenGL testing and even rivaled the score of the 9800 in GLMark.

Botmatch scores were also comparable to the 9800 versions we have tested.

Again here in Quake 3 Arena we can see that the OpenGL testing is pretty consistent in frame rate to the 9800 series card hinting at all the this GPU might be capable of.

Gunmetal being one of the most brutal new benchmarks as far as texture and fill rate is fast becoming one of the favorites around here.

Test System:
AMD Barton 3000+
Asus A7N8X deluxw ver 2.0
Memory Modules are Crucial 2×512 DDR 3200 in dual channel mode
Video card is Crucial RADEON 9800 PRO Catalyst 3.7 drivers
PSU Vantec Stealth 420W
HDD is WD 80 gig w/8MB cache IDE.
Lite-on 52x CDROM

Standard 3.5 Fujitsu floppy drive

Still, using the OEM PCBs, the Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is another example of the OEM PCB resold under a different name just as we pointed out in the previous review of the Crucial 9800 Pro. (read about it here) Since Crucial has not made the move to have custom PCBs built to spec for their line of graphics cards, and is instead relying on the tried and true layout of the ATI OEMs, we can assume that the cost difference reflected in the value pricing and lack of software titles is in keeping with the already mentioned pricing guidelines. Since Crucial Technologies is also so well known for their customer service, we feel that you can’t go wrong in purchasing this particular card.

Crucial 9600 Pro Heatsink
Ohh, This may not be the fastest graphics solution going, but the board sure looks classy!

This heatsink-fan setup is nicer looking than you would expect to see on a low to mid range video card. Generally a company will keep the entire card in line with the cost effective solution that it is designed for, but Crucial has gone above and beyond in this respect. At least you don’t need a bag over this one!

The looks of the heatsink-fan combo on a video card is generally not a huge concern for most people. It looks great when you pull it out of the box, but once it is installed it will be underneath the PCB and not easily seen or generally the focal point of the system in any way. So as long as the GPU is maintaining decent temps and not overly loud either, then whatever works best is really what’s important.

The RV350 GPU is based on the newest manufacturing process of .13 micron die size, compared to the R350 which currently is still in the .15 micron at the time we reviewed this card. With the advent of the smaller and faster GPU size and speed respectively, it seems that coming into the newest technology does not always produce the best product. You’ll see that our tests show that this card seems to have more capability than is either advertised or obvious from first glance. We would speculate that since this is the first release version of the chipset, retail versions of this .13 micron process will be limited and down clocked in order to get the product off the shelves and into the profit margin before all the bugs are worked out. Once stability and reliability can be recognized, mass production can begin. Simply put, it appears that the GPU technology currently in its infancy has been utilized to BETA test the manufacturing process and still be marketable.

This is a trend we have seen over the last few years as R&D costs have gone up and consumer sales have gone down, It appears that the GPU itself is stable and quite reliable for the level of usage that the Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is targeted at. We have never had an issue with this sort of testing since all parties involved seem to have done their homework to bring a usable product at a reasonable price with this and other offerings, like the ATI RADEON 9500 which we have had tremendous success with software and hardware modding to produce the same test scores and performance of the RADEON 9700s last year which made them quite an excellent value at $150.00 or so. Perhaps this particular video card will not be capable of all the boost that was achieved with that model, but testing indicates that some thing viable might be on the horizon.

WinDVD 4 Setup Screen
WinDVD is included on the installation disk. Version 4 is an older version but still works well.

An Overclocking utility is included as well but the install routine did not recognize the video card and so could not be installed. This was probably due to the updated version of the drivers used at review time we thought, but we could not get it to run on no matter what. Installer version conflict? Perhaps. Anyone who bought a VooDoo 5 5500 AGP will attest to the frustration of that particular issue. Word is from Crucial is that they are aware of the issue and are working on a fix for it now.

Use and testing

This particular video card seemed to have all the promise of the newer technology and none of the hype associated with it, so we thought it might be a good idea to test out what we felt the GPU should be capable of from the press releases and specifications we have seen. Over clocking this particular card was easy and we used our standard favorite utility Rage3D video card tweaker which recognized the chipset and worked very well. Default settings for the Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro were preset and recognized at GPU core 441 MHz and memory was set at 331 MHz (662 MHZ effective DDR) at start up. The driver version being the latest Catalyst software 3.9 and 7-95-031028 drivers as well.

Installation was typical and smooth. No difficulties were encountered at all, The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro needs no external power to get to where it went which makes it truly plug and play. No AGP bus voltage increases or bus Overclocking was used.

As always, the drivers were the downloadable public versions from ATI’s website and once again they produced an impressive score with no side effects.

Over clocking is an option and 490 core and 375.75 mem (751.5 effective) being the highest OC that we could produce on this card with the current drivers,. We feel confident that a better cooling solution would have produced higher results as it was very stable at that speed but very hot!. Few people would water or custom cool a low to mid range graphics card. For complete benchmarks results, please click on the performance tab above and th elink below this article.

Conclusion

The Crucial RADEON 9600 Pro is definitely the beginning of the shape of things to come from ATI chipsets in the near future. With die sizes shrinking and memory solutions becoming more available and affordable, it would definitely seem as though the potential is here for a compromise between the cost of a high-end graphics card and an affordable one. We would not be surprised if the RADEON 9600 followed the way of the 9500 in versatility and cost effectiveness. A very good bargain for the price to performance it is capable of.