ATI's Radeon 9600 XT graphics card

Practicing Black Magic on the mainstream
— 8:00 AM on October 15, 2003

ATI AND NVIDIA are locked in an epic battle for the graphics performance crown, but as sexy and exciting as technology leadership can be, sometimes it's hard to get really excited about high-end graphics cards. ATI and NVIDIA's latest flagships, the Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, are both capable of rendering stunning environments with fluid frame rates, but $500 price tags keep the cards out of the hands of those of us who don't have spare organs to hawk on eBay.

Fortunately, the fancy technology found in most high-end graphics cards eventually trickles down to more affordable mid-range products. Last year, NVIDIA's GeForce4 Ti 4200 owned the mid-range graphics market, but this year has been dominated by ATI. ATI took over the mid-range graphics performance crown with the Radeon 9500 Pro, which was succeeded by the Radeon 9600 Pro. NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5600 cards haven't been able to keep up.

Not content to sit idle, today ATI is beefing up its mid-range graphics line with the Radeon 9600 XT. The 9600 XT promises to set a new standard in affordable graphics performance, but it is really that much faster than the competition? Read on to find out.

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