We're quite used to Hercules turning out unusual products that set themselves apart from the competition in one way or another. For instance, Hercules produced one of the first 7.1 channel sound cards, yet it still doesn't have any 7.1 speakers in its product range. It came as little surprise therefore that Hercules chose an odd path with the 3D Prophet 9600, but that doesn't mean that we liked it.
Our test results show that the Radeon 9600 GPU is a decent budget DirectX 9 part thatâ€™s caught in a fierce tussle for market share with the FX5600 and FX5600 Ultra. It can't quite compete in terms of performance so price is of critical importance. We feel that Connect3D has the right idea by producing a basic card that sells for under Â£100. By contrast Hercules has priced its 3D Prophet 9600 at a whopping Â£150, so you'll be glad to hear that Hercules has tried to make the 3D Prophet 9600 stand out from the competition.
Cosmetically Hercules has done a fair job, producing the card on a blue PCB and adding copper coloured heatsinks to the memory and GPU. We know that the GPU will work perfectly well with a passive heatsink, yet Hercules has stuck a fan on this card. The major difference between this card and the competition is that it has a full 256MB of memory installed. This could be useful if the graphics core was limited by the quantity of memory, but with a Radeon 9600 the issue is the speed of memory that the manufacturer uses, rather than the quantity. The chip simply doesn't have the raw power to use 256MB of memory and our test results show that the Hercules only has a tiny advantage over the 128MB Connect3D card.
We hoped that Hercules would add a decent amount of extras to the package to justify the price, but it wasnâ€™t to be so. There's a TV-Out cable, much like the one supplied by Gigabyte, but what's this on the driver CD?
Aha, Hercules has supplied the Hercules 3D Tweaker LE overclocking utility, so perhaps there is some extra performance in the 3D Prophet 9600 that is waiting to be unlocked. The utility offers a maximum core speed of 422MHz with memory speed of 526MHz. That's a 30 percent increase, so potentially this card could be a winner. Unfortunately our testing showed that the core would only overclock by 1MHz and the memory wouldn't overclock at all.
This strikes us as a complete waste of time, and it sums the card up nicely as all show and no go. No doubt the shelves of high street PC stores will be stocked with Hercules 3D Prophet 9600 cards but we strongly advise you to ignore this model.
The 256MB of memory is purely cosmetic, making the Hercules very poor value for money. The overclocking feature is pointless and this particular 3D Prophet brings a far less welcome message than its more auspicious forefathers.