The Card

As its name implies, the Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition is a single card that will work in both Macs and PCs.  The dual compatibility is made possible with only a single ROM chip loaded with both sets of firmware.  The card actually boots as a PC card, but if installed in a Mac, the OS will override the PC firmware and start it up as a Mac card.  On a PC, the system isn't at all aware of the Mac firmware present. 

With the firmware problem taken care of, the rest of the card works just fine in either type of system.  It's an AGP 4X card that'll work in both 4X and 8X slots, meaning that it can be used in both Power Mac G4 and G5 systems, as well as PCs, obviously. The card features two DVI outputs, one of which is driven by the two external Silicon Image TMDS transmitters on the board itself.  The two TMDS transmitters in conjunction enable one of the DVI outputs to support dual-link displays, such as the 30" Cinema Display, at full resolution.  ATI wants the 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition to be the card that enables other display makers to bring out similarly high resolution desktop displays, as this one card can drive them regardless of platform.  The dual-link DVI port supports a maximum 330MHz pixel clock, and only approximately 270MHz is required to drive the 30" Cinema Display's 2560 x 1600 resolution, so higher resolutions will be supported if other panel makers are so inclined.  The single link DVI port is a standard 165MHz connection, the fastest speed supported by a single TMDS transmitter.  ATI includes a single DVI-to-VGA adapter in the box.

The actual GPU isn't any different than what we've had on the Mac and PC side for a while; it still runs at 400MHz like the OEM Radeon 9600XT and 9650.  The memory clock is 270MHz (effectively 540MHz), which is identical to the Radeon 9650 that ships with newer Power Macs, but slower than the 620MHz memory clock of the OEM Radeon 9600XT that used to ship with Power Macs.   All of the 96xx line feature a 128-bit wide memory bus, meaning that the new card offers 8.6GB/s of memory bandwidth.  Note that the original Radeon 9600 Pro for the PC had a 600MHz memory clock, so this card takes a step back from older PC cards. 

With the RV350 GPU at its heart, the Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition isn't a card for those looking for ridiculously high frame rates in games. Instead, it is for those users who want a video card for everything but games.  In particular, the 256MB frame buffer of this card is one of its biggest selling features.  At the 2560 x 1600 native resolution of the 30" Cinema Display, 256MB of local frame buffer is necessary to avoid swapping to system memory when you have a lot going on in OS X.  In fact, the general UI performance of the 256MB Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition is identical to that of a Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition, even when running on a 30" Cinema Display at native resolution.  So, for those who don't need the gaming performance of a X800 XT, the new 9600 Pro gives you the same 256MB of memory, but at a lower price point. 

Like ATI's other 96xx Mac offerings, the 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition is entirely passively cooled, and thus, is silent.  It is quite surprising how much of a difference a GPU fan can make to the overall noise output of a stock G5 system, but it does make a major difference. 

ATI is pricing the 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition at $199, which is rather expensive for a 9600 Pro; the primary reason for the premium is due to the 256MB of memory.  ATI is hoping that retailers will stock this new dual function card much like the rest of their cards; thus, giving everyone easy access to it.  Given ATI's prevalence in retail stores like Frys, Best Buy, Future Shop and CompUSA, we wouldn't be too surprised to find the Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition on those stores' shelves in the near future. 

Index The Test


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  • Guspaz - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    In the list of stores, you have "The Future Shop".

    Future Shop, a Canadian retailer similar to Best Buy (actually bought out by Best Buy a while ago), has no "the" in the name. It is simply "Future Shop".
  • karioskasra - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    ATi's got to make the news headlines somehow. Now if cards were hot swappable then I could see a market for this, but currently if you use a PC and you buy this card, you might as well save the money for a session with your shrink.

    Why is this posted in the PC section again? Why would any PC user want this card?
  • phisrow - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    This sort of card isn't going to impress the gamers; but it is exactly the sort of thing that probably makes Matrox, and their ilk, really nervous. It looks like, in the next few years, pure 2d desktops won't really exist anymore, except among people who really don't care. So everyone will need a decent GPU. Also, except for hardcore cheapskates and/or the "LCDs are t37 suxx0r" crowd, a good chunk of the computer using population will being using big DVI connected panels within the next few years.

    This is pretty much the perfect card for such an application. Especially now that pretty much anything will do for all but gamers and specialized workstation tasks, the upgrade that people will want will be high resolution panels. Is this expensive by the standards of 9600s? Certainly. Is it quite cheap compared to the few other cards that can drive huge displays? Certainly.
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Did any of you bother reading the article? How many ATI or NVIDIA consumer PC offerings out there can drive an Apple 30" cinema display at the native resolution? That display reguires a dual-link DVI connector. I don't know of any other consumer level PC video card which has one. That's the main PC target. Reply
  • Kazairl11 - Sunday, August 21, 2005 - link

    "That display reguires a dual-link DVI connector. I don't know of any other consumer level PC video card which has one."

    Monarch Computer has the AGP XFX GeForce 6800 128 MB DDR/8x-AGP/TV-Out/Dual-DVI (Retail Box) for $163. That makes $200 for a 9600 Pro look pretty sick.">XFX GeForce 6800 at Monarch Computer

  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, August 21, 2005 - link

    Dual-link DVI is different from the card having two DVI sockets.

    A dual-link DVI socket has double the bandwidth of a standard single-link DVI socket (330MHz vs 165MHz). That allows it to drive a display at a very high resolution with a normal refresh-rate.

    That XFX card has two standard single-link DVI sockets and therefore cannot be used at such high resolutions with the DVI digital connection as the 9600Pro in this review.
  • MCSim - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I bet that NVIDIA is releasing FX 5700 Ultra Mac/PC edition very soon. =) Reply
  • Avalon - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Should have done this with a newer GPU. No point in this thing being PC compatible for $200. Reply
  • ViRGE - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Humm, I find it interesting that ATI is finally releasing a cross-platform card so close to the Apple transition to x86. Considering OpenFirmware is being dropped, the Mac side of this card will have to be completely redone for the new x86 Macs, so a card like this wouldn't have much of a shelf life I would think. Reply
  • beorntheold - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Don't ATI have anything better to do I wonder? Like saving their PC market for example? Reply

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