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Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test system was configured like so:

ProcessorAthlon XP 'Thoroughbred' 2600+ 2.083GHz
Front-side bus333MHz (166MHz DDR)
MotherboardDFI LANParty NFII Ultra
ChipsetNVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400
North bridgenForce2 Ultra 400 SPP
South bridgenForce2 MCP-T
Chipset driversNVIDIA 2.45
Memory size512MB (2 DIMMs)
Memory typeCorsair XMS3200 PC2700 DDR SDRAM (333MHz)
Graphics cardGeForce FX 5600 Ultra 128MBRadeon 9600 Pro 128MB
Radeon 9600 XT 128MB
Graphics driverDetonator FX 45.23CATALYST 3.8
StorageMaxtor DiamondMax Plus D740X 7200RPM ATA/100 hard drive
OSMicrosoft Windows XP Professional
OS updatesService Pack 1, DirectX 9.0b

We're comparing the Radeon 9600 XT to its most direct competitors, the Radeon 9600 Pro, and NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5600 Ultra. I've elected to use only publicly available and supported drivers for this review, which means you won't find any results using the various beta versions of NVIDIA's "Release 50" drivers. We'll be exploring the performance and image quality of NVIDIA's next official driver release when the driver is finalized, WHQL-certified, and available to the general public.

The test system's Windows desktop was set at 1024x768 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.