In spite of vast improvements of late, the Catalyst driver suite is still somewhat questionable. (There ARE alternatives, however....)
Yes, I too can see a difference between this card and the 9800 Pro --- the latter costs twice as much! But for my upper-middle-class PC, and the zillions of others like out there in the Silicon Universe, the 9600 XT is all that's needed to stay on top any game even tentatively set for release through 2004 --- and in the vidcard biz, that's an ETERNITY.
Get this card NOW!
The drivers are garbage. They might work for non-via chipsets, but I wouldn't know. I have personally invested three days trying every trick in the book to get this card to work. I'm not the only one. Google "VPU recovery" to see what I mean. On top of it all, ATI ignores (literally not a word back from them in over a week) those of us who stupidly invested in their products. Why shop from a company that treats their customers like dirt while selling products that don't even come CLOSE to working??