I admit, I am a little surprised at how well the 9600XT Ultimate performs. I fully expected the 9500 Pro to win hands-down in every benchmark, and while it does beat the 9600XT Ultimate in some areas, those are generally in situations where neither card is really fast enough to give you playable framerates anyway.
In some cases the heatpipe on the 9600XT would be a huge benefit; I know too well the difficulties trying to balance good cooling performance and silence in my HTPC for example. But in the end, I'm left wondering if the addition of the heatpipe is really worth the complete silence. It's not like the stock 9600XT fan is a screaming banshee after all, frankly I couldn't even hear the difference between the heatpipe and the stock 9600XT cooler over the noise of the other fans in my system.
It's Sapphires decision of course how they market their cards, but I feel that the 9600XT Ultimate Edition just doesn't feel so ultimate. Some extra speed, particularly with the memory, would have gone a long way in making the card feel like you're really getting your moneys worth.
I applaud Sapphire for trying to innovate, but I think we're at the point where the simple addition of a heatpipe is just not so new and exciting. Maybe it's time Sapphire tried to wow us again the way they did before.
4 out of 5
- Completely silent
- Good performance
- Good bundle which includes Half-Life2 coupon
- No external power requirement
- Black PCB
- Relatively poor cooling performance
- Slow memory in relation to core speed
- No 25MHz clock boost on the memory
- Poor memory overclocking
- Only Baby Jesus knows when Half-Life2 will ship