When ATi designed its first 0.13 micron graphics chip, it decided to use the new technology in a cautious fashion on its new mid-range DirectX 9 part, the Radeon 9600/9600 Pro. This is in stark contrast to nVidia, which used 0.13 micron in its high-end FX5800 Ultra that suffered all sorts of production problems.
Connect3D has used the ATi Radeon 9600 chip in a graphics card that is the spitting image of the ATi reference design and it makes the most of the low power consumption that the 0.13 micron design allows. The card gets all of its power through the AGP slot, with no need for an additional power connector, while the chip has a passive heatsink and the memory chips have no heatsinks at all.
The chip runs relatively fast at 325MHz, which goes to prove that what really counts with a GPU is the work that it carries out, rather than the speed that it runs at. The Radeon 9600 has four pixel pipelines, rather than the eight found in the 9800/9800 Pro. It is also significant that the 128MB of DDR memory has a 128bit controller, rather than the 256bit one used in 9800/9800 Pro, plus the memory runs at a slow 200MHz DDR to give an effective speed of 400MHz. The result is that the Radeon 9600 is a slow DirectX 9 chip, and the Connect3D 9600 is slightly slower than the Hercules which has 256MB of memory.
On basic settings (no FSAA, no AF) and a low resolution of 1,024 x 768 the Radeon 9600 is comparable to the GeForce FX5600, but as the quality settings are increased the Radeon 9600 suffers.
Connect3D has chosen to offer its Radeon 9600 as a very basic package to keep the price down, and we feel this is a wise move. The card has the same VGA, DVI-I and TV outputs as most of the cards in this group, as well as a short S-Video to coaxial adapter and a coaxial extension cable approximately 1.5metres in length. That's the bare minimum that we expect to see, and we were a little disappointed that there was no DVI-I to VGA adapter in the package.
There is no additional software besides the drivers and Connect3D doesn't supply an overclocking utility, however our experience with the Radeon 9600 suggests such activity would be a waste of time anyway (see Hercules review for more details).
Priced just under the benchmark Â£100, the Connect3D Radeon 9600 is certainly tempting if you're looking to upgrade your current graphics card. While its performance in older games is very respectable, the Connect3D Radeon 9600 simply doesn't have the raw power to display the current crop of games with the high quality image settings that make all the difference.
You can get far more performance from an FX5600 card for as little as Â£120, so we'd advise you to steer clear of the Radeon 9600 and that includes this Connect3D card.
It may have a low price and produce minimal heat but this is offset by low performance and a poor feature set.