I'm looking at the 9700 pro for 269, or a 9600xt at 269, or a 9600 pro retail at 209. I think the 9700 pro would be best bang for buck with its 256 bit bus and 8 pipelines, but I was told today by some guy with a 9600xt that because my mobo only supports 4x agp it won't take advantage of my 8 pipelines in my 9700 pro, so get the 9600 xt. I thought that agp 8x performance was negligible when compared to 4x?? Well if you can help me figure this out that would be awesome, thanks!!
Unlike the R9600 series the R9700P will run on a 2X AGP slot. And yes the difference between 4X and 8X is negiligeable (mainly shows teeth in workstation cards, but that's a different issue and even then small diff.).
Get either the R9700Pro or the R9600Pro, the XT is definitely not a better card than the R9700Pro, at least not in it's current configuration, and unlikely in many others.
If you can find an R9700non-pro it may be cheaper, and would still be better than the R9600Pro or XT.
That's my take on it, and I HAVE an R9600Pro that was overclocked WELL ABOVE the levels of an XT (535/363) and STILL barely kept pace with GW's R9500PRO (which is slower still than the R9700Pro).
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The 9700 series has twice the rendering pipelines and twice the memory bandwidth, it would be twice the card of the 9600 Pro if it was clocked the same. It will run on any AGP slot as long as the system can provide enough power. And the performance difference between 4x and 8x is non-existant on that card.
Expect it to perform at least 30% better than the 9600XT.
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Even if he thinks that rendering pipelines are related to AGP bandwidth (which it isn't), both the 9700 and 9600 are 8x AGP compatible cards.
The difference between 8x AGP and 4x AGP is, as you thought, very slight.
But 8 pipelines in the 9700 vs the 4 pipelines of the 9600 DO make a real-world difference. And what really sets the two apart is that the 9700 offers almost twice the memory bandwidth because of it's 256 bit memory interface.
In short, the 9700 PRO still kicks ass, regardless of the AGP standard being used.
Radeon 9500 (hardmodded to PRO, o/c to 322/322)
AMD AthlonXP 2400+ (o/c to 2600+ with 143 fsb)
Yes, the 9700Pro is still a serious player, only marginally less powerful than the best ATi currently offers. I would recommend eBay- you can get one used on eBay for a very good price. Just ask the seller about its use- overclocking, age, clock frequencies, and type of memory.