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Sapphire 9600 Pro Atlantis

Sapphire was the only manufacture to send us a Radeon 9600 Pro card, rather than the basic Radeon 9600. The chip is fundamentally the same as the Radeon 9600 but it runs considerably faster, with the core speed raised from 325MHz to 400MHz, and memory that runs at 600MHz instead of 400MHz. Despite those speed increases the 0.13 micron technology still allows the Radeon 9600 Pro to get away without an auxiliary power connector, and the active heatsink that Sapphire has used on the GPU is relatively small, while the memory chips have no heatsinks at all.

Our test results show that the Sapphire 9600 Pro beats the FX5600 competition quite comfortably and is level pegging with FX5600 Ultra, while it is priced at the same level as a typical FX5600 card such as the Leadtek A310TD My Vivo.

The Sapphire 9600 Pro Atlantis is fast enough for you to crank your display up to a decent resolution and also turn on some of the quality settings, but it's not so fast that you can use a high resolution, FSAA and AF at the same time. It's a good card but some more speed would be welcome, and happily Sapphire has included its Redline utility to allow overclocking. You can use Redline to raise core and memory, and in addition you can save preset profiles for different benchmarks and games.

We were able to run the 9600 Pro Atlantis at the maximum settings allowed by Redline with a core speed of 513MHz and a memory speed of 702MHz. As the Samsung memory is rated to a maximum speed of 350MHz DDR, which is an effective speed of 700MHz, we'd say that Sapphire has picked the settings well.

The fact that this card needs so little cooling is truly impressive. We re-ran 3DMark03 at 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA or AA and the score rose from the initial result of 3,252 to 3,902 marks, which is an increase of 20 percent. That lifts the Sapphire Radeon Atlantis 9600 Pro up towards Radeon 9800 territory, and makes this an excellent graphics card for gamers who are on a tight budget.

In addition to the card you get a DVI to VGA adapter, an S-Video to coaxial adapter which is a cable 150mm in length, a coaxial extension cable and an S-Video extension cable 1.5metres in length.

That's pretty much the hardware that we've come to expect, however Sapphire supplies a reasonable software package too. There's the Redline utility, Cyberlink PowerDVD XP 4.0 and also Soldier of Fortune Double Helix.
All in all, this is a good mid-range graphics card that should suit most gamers very well indeed.

Verdict

Impressive performance considering the price and a decent package to boot. If you want to play games but are on a very tight budget this Sapphire is worth a look.

{table:sapphire9600}

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