I thought I might share my experiments in getting something for nothing. A couple weeks back, Newegg had in stock some Connect3D Radeon 9500NP cards in stock. Based on their photos, these cards are the same ones that were built on the 9700 PCB, which became the darlings of those who could both hard and soft-mod the cards to 9700NP specs (8 piplines, 256-bit bus, etc). Add to that, a special BIOS to enable overclocking and you'd have yourself a bona-fide speed demon for dirt cheap.
Of course, the ATI OEM card makers got wise to this and changed the layout of 9500/Pro cards so such a practice would cease. This was back around January/February of this year, and cards stopped becoming available in March. But I guess that didn't stop Connect3D and Newegg to have some of these cards left over. While not all cards were guaranteed to mod through either software or hardware, even at $128 the standard 9500 is still a great card. And if you got one to mod, all the better for you. With w1zzard's or Omega's drivers, you wouldn't even have to worry about making a slip with the soldering iron.
Since I was so gravely disappointed in my 5900, I had planned to purchase a 9800NP and BIOS flash that sucker. But when I saw these 9500 cards available, for $128 I couldn't pass up the opportunity. At least this card would get me by until the NV40/R420 generation. I ordered it, and the very next day Newegg sold out. By the time the card showed up at my door, the cards were taken off their site, so lucky me.
I got the card in, fired it up and another lucky me, it soft mods perfectly. And using the latest version of Rage3D Tweak, I can overclock this card without needing to use a BIOS flash. Stock, the card turns in over 4700 in 3DM03. I installed some Tweakmonster BGA RAM sinks and the card will run at 350 core/310 RAM no sweat. That translates to almost 5200 in 3DM03, and for those of you who don't care about 3DMark, I get stellar performance in all my games. UT2003 at 1280x1024, 4xAA, 4xaniso is smooth, with IQ that blows away anything in the NVIDIA camp.
I can't wait to see how Halo and HL2 play on this card.