As we discussed in our RADEON 9600 PRO review, the RADEON 9600 family was meant to address ATI’s need for a DirectX 9 part that offered RADEON 9500 PRO class performance, but at a lower production cost. In order to accomplish this objective directly, ATI has reduced the number of pixel pipelines from eight in RADEON 9500 PRO, to four in RADEON 9600 PRO, and shifted to a newer manufacturing process.
The manufacturing process in particular is one of the most important changes from the overclockers’ perspective. The RADEON 9600 PRO is ATI’s first graphics core to utilize TSMC’s smaller 0.13-micron manufacturing process. Besides lowering manufacturing costs, the smaller process also allows ATI to hit higher clock speeds. At 400MHz, the RADEON 9600 PRO runs at a higher core clock frequency than even the RADEON 9800 PRO!
When you couple this with the RADEON 9600 PRO’s dramatically reduced transistor count (roughly half the transistors of 9500 PRO) you’ve got a chip that generates considerably less heat. In fact, ATI borrowed the heatsink design from its older RADEON 8500/7500 family for the RADEON 9600 PRO. This is a dramatic contrast to the RADEON 9500 PRO, whose cooler was reminiscent of the RADEON 9700 series.
Once these three aspects are factored in, you’ve got a product with tremendously greater overclocking potential than its DX9 predecessors. Despite this, we were concerned if the RADEON 9600 PRO would support overclocking at all in our original review. Both the RADEON 9700 (non-PRO) and the entire RADEON 9500 family ship with BIOS images that must be hacked in order to support overclocking. Fortunately, this is not the case for the RADEON 9600 PRO card we received for testing. The RADEON 9600 PRO supports overclocking out of the box all you need is a hardware utility to overclock the card.
How to overclock your 9600 PRO
Currently, there are two utilities that offer overclocking support for the RADEON 9600 PRO: Rage3D Tweak, and RadClocker. For our testing, we chose to use RadClocker, as the 537MHz core frequency limit of Rage3D Tweak proved to be too tame for our RADEON 9600 PRO card. So how high were we able to overclock our RADEON 9600 PRO? How does a 547MHz core clock and 365MHz memory (730MHz effective) sound!
But we didn’t stop there. We were dying to know how an overclocked RADEON 9600 PRO stacked up to an overclocked RADEON 9500 PRO. Remember, the RADEON 9500 PRO was a pretty impressive overclocker in its own right. So we grabbed the RADEON 9500 PRO we overclocked last year (which was good for 355/315) to see how the two mainstream cards from ATI stacked up to each other. Read on for the results!