ATI products have been on a roll ever since the release of the Radeon series of video cards. It started slowly, but over the course of 2003, their R300 VPU firmly established them as a major player in the enthusiast community. We also saw something that ATI did, which was a drastic change based on their history, and that is licensing 3rd Party manufacturers to make ATI based products. The advantages are twofold, and that is reducing their costs (they only need to make, All-In-Wonders, reference boards and VPUs now), as well as increasing the number of channels for the sale of their products.
ATI still makes video cards though, but its always interesting to see what another manufacturer can do to the reference design. is not a household name here in North America, but in Europe, they are well known for their video card products. They are increasing their visibility in North America, and today well be looking at the HIS Excalibur Radeon 9600XT Turbo, which is the top-end of the HIS Excalibur line. Standard fare? I think not.
HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo
||ATI Radeon 9600 XT
||DirectX 9.0 & OpenGL
||VGA, TV-Out &DVI-I
||iCooler Technology w/Blue LED
|Noise Output :
||Less than 22dBA
The HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo
The video card comes in a standard rectangular box. There is no box window to verify the contents, but a security sticker is present on the box tab and it should be obvious if it has been tampered with. Inside, the card is wrapped in an anti-static bag, and to either side of it are the S-Video-to-RCA and S-Video out cables as well as a DVI-to-CRT adapter.
The other contents include a very well written manual, PowerDVD 5, Cyberlink PowerDirector 2.5 VE, driver CD, and a demo CD of some games. There are no full games included, which is good since most of these bundles leave much to be desired. However, like many ATI products in the past several months, there is a voucher for Half-Life 2 for when it is released. Obviously, with the game delayed at the moment, I can't say that it'll be any good, but it is highly anticipated, and HIS just saved you 40$ - 50$ if you were planning to buy it.
The HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo is not based off ATI's reference design, meaning it differs in several ways from ATI's standard design. The 9600 XT video processing unit runs at 500MHz, which is within ATI's specifications.
Overdrive is also supported, which is ATI's technology to dynamically overclock the 9600 XT. There is a built-in thermal diode that monitors the core temperature, and increases the clock speed to 513MHz or 527MHz depending on the temperature.
Moving on to the memory, while ATI calls for a 600MHz memory clock, HIS aims a little higher and runs their ram at 650MHz for the Excalibur Turbo.
Though component placement is similar to ATI's design, other than the faster ram, HIS deviated a bit in other areas. The VPU heatsink, dubbed iCooler Technology by HIS, is about 30% taller than ATI's standard cooler. This should improve the cooling, and for case window fanatics, the iCooler gives a nice blue glow courtesy of the built-in LED. VIVO is also supported with the Excalibur Turbo.
To keep the card stable at the faster memory speeds, HIS stacked some ram heatsinks on all the modules on the card. Granted, I've never been sold on whether or not ramsinks do much, but they do add some sex appeal to the card. I do wish they'd have used the same ramsinks on the back of the card as they are much smaller, and less impressive to look at than those used on the front.
Though it isn't the latest technology, the RAGE Theater is a decent video-in and TV-out display solution. In the case of the HIS Excalibur 9600 XT Turbo, you'll only have S-Video.
Rounding things out are the output connections. From left to right we have the CRT output, S-Video out and DVI connection. The included adapter can convert the DVI to CRT, giving you the option to run dual CRT displays. The 9600 XT supports independent resolutions and refresh rates for this feature.