Celestica Gold Edition Radeon 9800 XT / 9600 XT @ HTPCNews@ 2004/05/24
As you can see from the testing, if you plan to play games at high resolutions with all details maxed out you had better have the system to support it. Playing games is a big part of my HTPC use and playing them at such high detail is amazing and will really immerse you in to the game. I hope to take a look at the x800 series of cards soon and do a comparison to the cards listed here.
Noise is always a consideration for HTPC use and this is an area that is a disadvantage. Both cards were not by any means silent. The 9600XT small fan spun at higher RPMs causing a high pitched whine to be emitted. It looks as if you may be able to use a silent cooling device on this card such as the Zalman heat pipe cooler. I did not have any way of testing this out as I did not have one. The 9800XT is a beast of a card and while idle does emit a low hum from it's fan. While in use the fan can really put out some noise and could be an area of concern if you play games at low volumes. I didn't find the fan noise to be bad while playing at normal or higher volume levels.
Heat from the 9600XT was not a big concern, but the heat pouring from the 9800XT may be a problem for some. As shown in the temperature monitoring the CPU temps rose by 6 degrees Celsius. With sufficient cooling and airflow this should not be a problem for most. Adding a quieter cooling device to this card may be a big problem though. The design of the heatsink covers the memory and may prevent most cooling devices to function properly.
If you want great gaming performance you will more than likely have to put up with noise until someone brings a better cooling solution that works with the 9800XT cards to the market. I personally would love to see a Arctic Cooling VGA silencer that is compatible with the 9800XT. As for the 9600XT I don't think it will be as much of a problem to find another cooling solution.