ATI Radeon 9500 Pro Overclocking

Aron Schatz
December 27, 2002
The Radeon 9500 Pro may be good at stock, but we want to see what it can do overclocked! Get the tools and the steps to do it here.
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ATI has been releasing better and better graphics chips starting with the original Radeon. They are continueing the trend for the mainstream market with the R9500 Pro. You probably have seen many reviews about the technology behind the Radeon 95/700 series, so I'm going to go one step further, an overclocking review.


I needed a new graphics card to replace my <a href="/articles.php?id=13">Radeon 8500</a>, it has been nearly a year since I got it. I think it has served its time. I paid about the same price for it as I did the 9500 Pro. I then started to read about troubles on overclocking the card, that it was locked. A simple BIOS fix from warp11 (who is a very nice guy for doing it) fixed the problem, and I had a really (un)fun time overclocking the card.

If you want to skip right to the overclocking steps, go to page three.

<B>The Specs</B>:

Yeah, I'm gonna rip this from ATI's site... This is a must section for hardware reviews...

Fast 3D gaming performance
128MB DDR memory accelerates the latest 3D games
128-bit DDR memory interface provides end users with fast graphics performance
8-pixel pipeline architecture cuts rendering time in half when compared to any competing product
Supports the new AGP 8X standard, providing a high-speed link between the graphics board and the rest of the PC (2.0 GB/sec)

Highest level of realism
Provides full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 and the latest OpenGL® functionality
SMARTSHADER 2.0 technology allows users to experience complex, movie-quality effects in next-generation 3D games and applications
SMOOTHVISION 2.0 technology enhances image quality by removing jagged edges and bringing out fine texture detail, without compromising performance
128-bit floating-point color precision allows for a greater range of colors and brightness

Breakthrough video features
ATI's latest FULLSTREAM technology removes blocky artifacts from streaming Internet video and provides sharper image quality
Unique VIDEOSHADER engine uses programmable pixel shaders to accelerate video processing and provide better-looking visuals

Products designed and built by ATI offer:
Hassle-free manufacturer's warranty
Responsive and knowledgeable Customer Service Team
Extensive online user resources and updates through
Feature-rich, frequently updated, ATI designed CATALYST software

That's all well and good, but I don't care too much as long as it is fast.
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<B>The Box</B>:

<center>R9500 Box</center>

You didn't think I wasn't going to include this section did you!? Anyway, the box has some weird figure shape head sort of thing on it. Not that I cared to much, I bought it online. Would it grab my attention in a store? Possibly, but I'm not prone to buying hardware in a store unless it is a hot deal. Too expensive.

<B>The Parts</B>:

<center>R9500 Parts</center>

ATI includes some good stuff with their cards, but the thing that was missing was games! I didn't get any new games with this card. I think ATI should've included at least ONE game to show off their card. Anyway, you get an assortment of various cables and things. Click the above picture for more info.

<B>The Card</B>:

<center>R9500 Warning</center>

Before I went to open the card, I was greeted with a nice warning. It basically said to plug in the external power supply for the card. And you have too, when I didn't, it said that I didn't hook it up and it wouldn't work.

<center>R9500 Top View R9500 Back</center>

Here we have the front and back views of the card. The layout is pretty well organized. The GPU has a decent size heatsink, and the memory has no cooling whatsoever. There is even a problem with the memory if you wanted to add some third party heatsinks.

<center>R9500 Mem cooling</center>

That power connector has to be on there for the card to work, and it is half blocking one of the memory chips. I'm sure with some time and a steady hand, you could move it somewhere else. I don't have either though Wink. I'm interested to see what types of fancy cooling solutions you have came up with though, please <a href="">email me</a> or <a href="/forums/">post in the forums</a>.

<center>R9500 External ports</center>

The ports of the card include a normal VGA out, a DVI out (with VGA), and an S-Video out that can also do NTSC. My TV sucks and it doesn't have NTSC or S-video, and I wasn't about to move one of the other TVs in the house to try it. Heh, my monitor is better than my TV Smile. (I'm sure most of yours are as well)

<center>R9500 sticker</center>

Another thing that caught my attention was the fact that the card is made in China. ATI is a Canadian company, but China... I know, everything is made cheaper in other countries.

Now we move on to the interesting part, the overclocking process.
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<center>R9500 Memory</center>

You probably have this type of memory above, 3.6ns. The speed that it is rated for is 277Mhz. So I'm basically overclocking out of spec. Anything above it is gravy.

Let me just tell you that flashing your BIOS can destroy your card. Don't come crying to me if you break it! Use the tools that I give you at your own risk! If you are going to start flashing your card and stuff, make sure to read all the steps first! I'll also say that if you don't understand what I'm saying, maybe you shouldn't be flashing your card! This is ONLY for the Radeon 9500 Pro! I'll also say that flashing a video card isn't new to me. I did it with my <a href="/articles.php?id=13">Radeon 8500</a> as well.

<B>Step 1</B>: Download flasher tools

I have included all the flashing tools needed into one zip files. It also has a bootdisk maker from <a href=""></a> (with permission). I also had permission from warp11 to include his things in it also. You will not need anything else besides a floppy disk. <a href="/downloads/">Grab the only zip file you'll need here</a>. Please don't leech this file! Link to this article.

<B>Step 2</B>: Create a bootdisk

With the included drdflash.exe, run it. It will prompt you for the floppy. The entire floppy will be wiped and made into a CLEAN bootdisk with no drivers. This is always how you should flash any BIOS.

<B>Step 3</B>: Copy the files onto the floppy

Once the bootdisk is ready, copy the contents of the flash directory on to the floppy drive's root directory (don't copy the folder, just the contents).

<B>Step 4</B>: Insert the floppy and reboot

Make sure that your computer is set to boot off a floppy first. If it isn't, go into your motherboard BIOS and change it.

<B>Step 5</B>: A:\ prompt, time to flash

Included in the zip is the original BIOS from my card. If you want to be extra safe, you can save your BIOS as well. But you really shouldn't need to as they are all the same.

<B>5a</B>: Save your BIOS if you want

Type this in if you want to save your BIOS.

<tt>A:\> atiflash -s 0 mybios.bin</tt>

And if you want to revert back to this BIOS.

<tt>A:\> atiflash -f -p 0 mybios.bin</tt>

<B>5b</B>: Time to flash

It should do some stuff and then it will place the file mybios.bin on your floppy. That's your BIOS. Now it is time to flash the new BIOS. DO NOT TURN OFF THE COMPUTER WHILE FLASHING!

Type this into DOS:

<tt>A:\> atiflash -p 0 oc9500.bin</tt>

If it doesn't flash you'll need to force it.

<tt>A:\> atiflash -f -p 0 oc9500.bin</tt>

<b>5c</b>: Didn't make a copy of your original BIOS and want to go back to the original.
<tt>A:\> atiflash -f -p 0 original.bin</tt>

<B>Step 6</B>: Stability and Overclocking testing

After it goes back to the prompt, it is time to restart. If you see stuff when you restarted (like the normal bootup things) then your flash didn't go bad! Good, now when you get into Windows/Linux/Whatever, use any overclocking thing you want to see if you can raise the speeds. If you can, good! If not, redo step 5b and remember to force the flash. Stability testing is for another article entirely Smile.

Well, now we got the benchmarks and stuff.
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All benchmarks were run at 1024x768, 1280x1024, and 1600x1200 in that order. SPEC was run by itself. The grey bars are the normal clocked Radeon, while the red bars show it at 337/317 by a BIOS flash. Let me say that Powerstrip made SPEC and some other OpenGL programs insanely slower, so I was forced to create a new BIOS with the speeds that I wanted. I don't know why that happened, but it did. Benchmarks are with no AA and no AF or with 4x AA and 16AF.

<B>System Specs</B>:

Athlon 1800+ @ 1.67Ghz (2000+)
Abit KX7-333R
512 PC2100 DDR at Mega Super Ultra settings (1T stuff)
80GB 8M WD
Radeon 9500 Pro (Duh)
Win2k SP3 and CATs v 3.0 with DX 9

<center>R9500 Spec 7</center>

First up, we have SPEC 7 benchmarks. This may not mean much to the gamer, but for workstation people this will help. I like SPEC for many reasons. I think it puts the most strain on the graphics card. I used it for stability testing, when no other programs froze, SPEC did. The download is about 300 megs though.

<center>R9500 3Dmark no AA R9500 3Dmark AA</center>

The Ever popular 3Dmark. This DX8.1 program is a good determination about how well games will run with DirectX. As you can see, there are some nice performance boosts when overclocking the Radeon. Even with AA+AF, the scores are pretty good!

<center>R9500 GLmark no AA R9500 GLmark AA</center>

GLmark is an OpenGL benchmark. OpenGL with CAT v3 are having some problems I bet, I've noticed texture problems in Tribes 2 and it feels a bit sluggish, so I hope ATI fixes the OpenGL problems. Overclocking gives a slight increase in the numbers.

<center>R9500 Comm4 no AA R9500 Comm4 AA</center>

Here we have Commanche 4, a nice CPU limited game. You can only tell that the graphics card really becomes the bottleneck is at the AA+AF scores. Overclocking provides a modest increase. This is also a DX benchmark.

<center>R9500 GLExcess no AA R9500 GLexcess AA</center>

Lastly, we have another OpenGL benchmark, GLexcess. There is a very large performance gain when overclocking the card. I think a bit too high though, I did these numbers like 6 times and got the same results. Interesting...
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The Radeon 9500 Pro for around $200 shows great performance at stock speeds, and slightly better (IMO) when overclocked. Since it is not just a matter of installing a program and overclocking, that can't be really included as a plus. But you get a great card at a good price. Just fix the OpenGL problems and it is all perfect. I tried to get a picture of the problem, but when I took a snapshot it went away (It is noticable when firing a chaingun or using the jumpjets). Even though this problem is here, I really do recommend this card. I'm sure a driver fix will be coming soon.

<center><img src=""></cent


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