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ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 XT ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 XT: Like the AIW 9800 Pro, this mainstream offering supports DX9 and has some great A/V capabilities.
Date: May 3, 2004
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:
 

Connections - Output

The same A/V dongle introduced with AIW 9600 Pro returns with the AIW 9600XT. On the dongle, you have two VGA to CRT connections, but no DVI connection. No doubt, this will annoy some people, but sacrifices needed to be made to be able to output to dual CRTs. There is a S-Video connection, a digital audio-out and the ever important stereo line-out. The stereo line out needs to go into your sound card's line-out if you want sound in your TV viewing.

Connections - Input

The 4-headed input block is designed for the video and sound inputs, and plugs into the video-in port of the AIW. The block provides a S-Video input and a composite video input. Like the output, you can only use one video input at any given time, and which one you use will depend on how the video (VCR or camcorder) is being outputted into the input block. S-Video is the preferred connection as the picture quality is better than composite, though you can choose to hook up both video connections and select which one to used in the MMC software.

For audio, the block also has left and right audio inputs. You will need to plug something in there if you want audio in whatever video source you are outputting to the AIW. Like other recent AIW cards, missing from the package is a FireWire connection. Since most motherboards have included onboard FireWire as a standard feature, this is not that big a problem.

Installation and Issues

The A/V dongle should go into the back of your video card. An important connection is the output cable, which is the Line Audio Out. You have to plug this into the line-in connection on your sound card. If you don't do this, you won't get any sound at all from the AIW 9600 XT.

Whether you have one or two monitors, you then plug them into the appropriate VGA connection on the dongle. Make sure you plug them in correctly, meaning, the primary display goes into VGA #1. For TV viewing, you'll have to plug the coaxial cable into the Phillips coaxial input. Same goes for those who wish to use the FM-Tuner.

If you have a satelite receiver, or VCR that you'd like to use, you can connect the S-Video or composite cables into the 4-headed input block. Although both devices may have coax connections, once you see the image quality between them, you'll see why you should go with S-Video.

For small form factor PCs, there may be potential problems getting the AIW 9600 XT to fit. As with the AIW 9600 Pro, the problem appears to be caused by the FM-Tuner connection, as pictured above. If you read our AIW 8500DV mod, you'll see that this is an issue that has haunted ATI in the past.

The above images are from our AIW 9600 Pro review, but the situation is the same with the XT card. The FM-Tuner, being at the top of the backpanel, cannot fit through PCI slot backpanels that are tapered (which happens to be the case most of the time). In mini to full tower cases, this shouldn't be a problem as the PCI backpanel tends to be a bit longer before tapering, but not so on SFFs.

On our FIC Ice Cube, I did get the card to fit, through it wasn't easy. The card needed to be inserted at an angle, tipped forward, then pulled back into the slot. Luckily, the AIW's PCB didn't bend, but there was certainly some force applied.

Software

The software hasn't changed much since we've looked at the All-In-Wonder 9600 Pro. One glaring change is the missing Half-Life 2 voucher now. According to ATI, this voucher will no longer be offered for any of their products save for the 9800 XT. It's possible that some of the 9600 XT classed cards may have it, but that will vary from manufacturer, but given the last two ATI based cards we've looked at, it looks like no more HL2.

The included Catalyst and Multimedia Center software are outdated, so it's a good idea to grab the from ATI's site. One of our readers reported improved Need For Speed: Underground performance, and another improved 3D Mark performance, so it's worth the time to download the latest drivers.

Test Setup

ABIT KV8-MAX3: Athlon 64 3200+ (10x200: 2GHz), 2 x 512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000, AIW 9600 XT, 120GB Western Digital SE 8MB Cache, Windows XP SP1, VIA Hyperion 4in1 drivers 4.51, ATI Catalyst 4.4.

Test Software will be:

Unreal Tournament 2003
Unreal Tournament 2004
Halo
NHL Hockey 2004
Call of Duty
Max Payne 2
Splinter Cell
FarCry

The comparison video cards will be the MSI FX5700 Ultra, and HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo. The HIS 9600 XT has a 25MHz VPU clock speed disadvantage, so we thought it would be interesting to check it out. I left out the AIW 9600 Pro numbers since those can be found in our HIS 9600 XT review, so feel free to refer to that review for comparison numbers on the same test bed.

We'll also be covering image quality and overclocking after the gaming benchmarks. was used to measure in-game performance where applicable.

For those of you who don't know, there are a lot of problems with high levels of AA and some Direct 3D games, which happens to be the majority of those tested today. We'll present some games where we didn't experience abnormalities, but in many cases, 6xAA was faster than 4xAA, which cannot be, but was the case during benchmarks.

Unreal Tournament 2003

We used the from [H]ard|OCP and selected the high quality batch run at all resolutions. We'll be presenting Antalus benchmark, with AA/AF on and off.

Antalus - 1024x768, Maximum Quality

Card
No AA/AF
2xAA/8xAF
4xAA/8xAF
AIW 9600 XT
120.12
68.04
60.46
HIS 9600 XT Turbo
119.27
66.04
58.34
FX5700 Ultra
115.26
61.12
53.23

Antalus - 1280x1024, Maximum Quality

Card
No AA/AF
2xAA/8xAF
4xAA/8xAF
AIW 9600 XT
78.34
48.21
42.09
HIS 9600 XT Turbo
75.93
44.11
39.22
FX5700 Ultra
69.18
39.15
34.62

At all resolutions, and various AA and AF levels, the AIW 9600 XT outpaces both cards. The extra VPU speed seems to be the deciding factor here since both the AIW and HIS cards have their memory clocked at the same 650DDR. The FX5700 Ultra finishes last, but it does do much better than we've seen the FX5600 Ultra in past reviews. Keep in mind that the FX 5700 doesn't do 6xAA or 16xAF, hence the N/A scores.

Unreal Tournament 2004 @ 1024

Recently released, the latest version of Unreal Tournament has proven to be quite popular. We haven't gotten our hands on the final build, but we did download the latest demo and had a run-through using FRAPS. For all Fraps benchmarks (except NHL 2004), we ran through a repeatable route through a level, and ended up with an average framerate reading which Fraps outputs to a log file. Tests were ran five times, and averaged for a final score.

Card
No AA/AF
2xAA/8xAF
4xAA/8xAF
AIW 9600 XT
40.12
31.87
23.18
HIS 9600 XT Turbo
38.34
29.74
21.83
FX5700 Ultra
36.78
25.67
18.37

Unreal Tournament 2004 @ 1280

Card
No AA/AF
2xAA/8xAF
4xAA/8xAF
AIW 9600 XT
35.56
24.67
18.53
HIS 9600 XT Turbo
33.93
22.48
17.25
FX5700 Ultra
27.16
19.91
14.08

UT2004 is quite an upgrade over it's predecessor, and it shows in terms of benchmarking. If you have any intention of having a "playable" experience, stay away from AA, as all three cards were simply to slow for comfort. On an Athlon 64 3200+, I'd hesitate to even play at 1280 with no AA, though a quick run on a Pentium 4 2.4 "C" wasn't much better (about 37.89 at 1280 w/no AA). 1024 resolution is where all three cards are more comfortable, and the AIW variant of the 9600 XT leads the way.


Shop for the AIW 9600 XT.
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