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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  • Cuser - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I don't see the use for a video card that is cross-platform compatible, except in the corporate environment....yet it seems like this would be a good direction for future cards...which, now that I think of it, will be a moot point being that Mac is going x86...

    A side note though...
    Wow, there is a "gamer" base for the Macs? With framerates like 44 fps from their highest performing systems, I feel for them! Come on over the the x86 side, we'll take good care of you...
    Reply
  • IceT - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    I also don't understand why ATi is launching such product @ this time...It seems (my opinion) that they are bringing us backward, unless you can provide me with some rationale. Reply
  • sirfergy - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    The dual link functionality is why. Only other card for mac was the 6800 and that was very expensive. Reply
  • Doormat - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    If someone can afford a 30" Cinema display to utilize the dual link capability, they can splurge on a 6800DDL over this card. Reply
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Unless they have a G4 and want to use the 30" in it. Then the 6800 wouldn't be compatible. Only the new Mac Radoen 9600 Pro. Reply
  • MrFantastic - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    "As a card, the Radeon 9600 Pro Mac & PC Edition is an excellent offering."

    LoL.

    It may as well NOT support PC's since no pc owner in their right mind should choose this '£200' oldie over something like a 9800pro/6600gt/800gt
    Reply
  • a2daj - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    And how many of those "9800pro/6600gt/800gt" cards offer a dual-link DVI connector to run the 30" cinema display? Reply
  • Scott66 - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    There are many mac users looking for an upgrade in video cards to take advantage of the new graphic abilities in the new Tiger OS software. (similar to what Vista is now announcing and will be included in subsequent beta versions). A 9600 card is just what the Mac doctor ordered. So I guess ATi is looking to provide a similar card for Window users who just want to get all the graphic features Vista can provide but not interested in gaming. If they keep the price low it will be a good seller Reply
  • vijay333 - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    yes! I've always wanted to buy graphics cards 3-4 years after everyone else has had a chance to stress test them...

    funny thing is that I just upgraded from my 9600 Pro to a 6800GT :)
    Reply
  • Questar - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    Wow, a review of a three year old GPU.
    My guess is that Anand had to give ATI a good suck in order to get 520 parts before launch.
    Reply

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