NVIDIA GeForce 9600GT 512MB G94 Tested

The 9600GT is due to hit store shelves next week. Let us take you on a first look train to see what it's capable of.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Feb 14 2008 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





The hype surrounding the new 9 Series of graphics cards from NVIDIA hasn't seemed to have been as big as previous generation releases. The biggest reason for this seems to be that there have been so many graphics cards released over the past few months that this just seems like another one of them.

The latest graphics card to make its way to the labs at TweakTown (and the public very soon) is the 9600GT. Generally speaking, any x600 form of card has never been that exciting really; sure the 8600GT and 8600GTS weren't bad, but far from what you'd call exciting.

What makes this one any more interesting you say? Well, word floating around the interweb is that the card is supposed to be quite the performer. How much of a performer is it? It doesn't really matter at this second because we're only a few pages away from finding out exactly that!

The Package




It's been a while since we've seen a Galaxy graphics card, and the box has changed since the last time we saw anything from them. The box uses a blue and black setup with a very mean looking kitty in the center.



Looking around the box it's a pretty standard affair; the top shows a multitude of logos along with the Galaxy logo to the right. The bottom mentions GeForce and the right shows a sticker that mentions Xtreme Tuner which is some overclocking software provided by Galaxy.

Across the bottom we also have another sticker that mentions the model of the card, which in this case is the 9600GT. Some of the main specifications on the card are also mentioned here such as 512MB of GDDR3, 256-BIT, PCI Express 2.0 support, DX 10, SLI ready and more.



Turning the box over there isn't much more than just an array of information tid-bits that explain some of the other features available on the card. There is also a little box that lets you know what you need if you want to make use of SLI.



Diving inside the package and there isn't a lot to it unfortunately. We have the standard line-up of paperwork along with a driver CD and another CD which has a copy of Xtreme Tuner on it, which as mentioned just before is some overclocking software designed by Galaxy.



The cable department is also very standard; S-Video to Component connector, DVI to VGA, Molex to PCI-E and an S-Video cable.

The package is alright, but a little on the light side. We had a peek at the overclocking software and it isn't too bad actually. It's easy to use and you can individually clock the Core, Shader and Memory. Generally speaking though, we would continue to use something like ATI Tool with its built-in artifact testing feature.

The Card




The front of the card doesn't give us a whole lot to look at. Galaxy have opted to use their own design cooler which manages not only to take up the whole front of the card but also requiring two PCI slots due to its extra thickness.



The whole card carries with it the presence of just about any higher end graphics card that we've seen from NVIDIA lately.



Moving to the side of the card we have a single PCI Express power connector.



Continuing around the card we get to the top where we see a single SLI connector. This should mean that the card doesn't support the new Tri-SLI technology available on the new 780i NVIDIA based motherboards. The feature tends to only be seen with their top-end cards.



The I/O side of things is also very standard; while we have seen 9600GTs with Display Port, HDMI and more, this model from Galaxy carries with it a pair of Dual Link DVI connectors and a TV-Out port.

There isn't really too much to the card. Length wise it comes in at the same size as an 8800GT. The reference design card seems to use a single slot cooler, but the option to go dual slot isn't really a big deal as we've become more and more accustom to seeing graphics cards go down this route.


Specifications

While the new 8800GT and GTS cards use the fairly recent G92 based core, the new 9600GT offers an even more updated core code named G94. The card comes with 512MB of GDDR3 running on a 256-bit bus which is also seen on the 8800GT. The standard 9600GT will carry with it a Core/Shader/Memory setup of 650MHz/1650MHz/1800MHz DDR. This overclocked variant from Galaxy carries with it 675MHz/1625MHz/2000MHz DDR. Once we get a stock clocked 9600GT in our lab we'll do some comparison runs to see what this overclock eventuates to in the real world.



Information is still kind of vague at the moment as a lot of the technical information hasn't been released. Fortunately GPU-Z shows us a whole lot. We can see the chip is based on 65nm technology, has four ROPs and 64 Unified shaders. We can also see fill rate numbers along with the clocks.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Catalyst 8.1, Forceware 174.11 (9600GT Win XP), Forceware 171.16 (9600GT Win Vista), Forceware 169.21 (8800GT Win XP) and Forceware 169.25 (8800GT Win Vista)

The test bed has gone through a complete overhaul recently, hence the reason for the slight delay between graphics card reviews. Fortunately it's now up and running faster than ever!

While the CPU has remained the same we have moved over to a PCI Express 2.0 motherboard with two PCI Express x16 slots in the form of the new GIGABYTE X48-DQ6. We've also moved back to DDR2, not for any particular reason except that ultimately there really is very little difference and most people are still using it. With that said though, we're using some nice low latency Kingston modules.

While we were at it we thought we may as well upgrade the hard drives to some new 7200.10 Seagate ones.

We've done a whole lot with the testing side of things as well; we have now made Vista our primary operating system, but we do realize that a number of people still use Windows XP so we've continued to include a number of benchmarks under that operating system.

Then there is of course the benchmarks themselves, there are more than ever now :-

3DMark05, F.E.A.R, Episode One, Prey, Company of Heroes, Call of Juarez and Lost Planet are all gone. Taking their place is CINEBENCH R10, PT Boats, Crysis, Unreal Tournament, Episode Two and Quake Wars. 3DMark08 (Vantage) will also make an appearance once it's released.

That covers just about everything related to the new test bed. Today we'll be comparing the 9600GT against the 8800GT and HD 3870, so let's not delay and get straight into it.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Straight off the mark we can see the 9600GT manages to perform quite well when compared to some of the current high-end cards. At the lowest resolution it manages to beat out the HD 3870, but as we climb up in the resolution department it manages to drop back a little.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.






We can see across the board here that the 9600GT is able to beat out the HD 3870 whilst trailing slightly behind the 8800GT.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




In one of our new benchmarks we can see that the 9600GT sits pretty much in line with the HD 3870, while the 8800GT shows a bit more of a clearer lead.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here





By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode Two opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode Two with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




We can see again at the lower resolution the card is able to sit right on the tail of the HD 3870, but as we move up in resolution it begins to drop back a little, not by a huge amount though. EP2 is clearly playable at all resolutions on the 9600GT.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.






Here we see at the lower resolution the 9600GT is able to beat out the HD 3870. When we move up though it evens out and pretty much gives out the same score, while the 8800GT manages to be ahead at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Version
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.splashdamage.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.enemyterritory.com/





Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the latest Quake incarnation to make it out of the iD labs and carries with it a fast paced experience that manages to place a good amount of strain on your graphics card.

We use a custom made time demo which shows a bit of everything and manages to give us a good solid benchmark for the graphics cards that we test.




Both NVIDIA cards give us about a 5% improvement over the HD 3870. We can see the 9600GT and 8800GT manage to score very close to each other here.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.




Moving to the highly intensive Crysis we can see that the 9600GT is able to beat out the HD 3870 across the board. We can see that the 8800GT still manages to be ahead a fair bit though.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




We see when moving to Unreal Tournament 3 that at the higher resolution the 9600GT manages to sit JUST behind the HD 3870 again, while at the lower resolution it comes out ahead.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



Turning on AA we can see the HD 3870 manages to drop back and the 9600GT is able to come out ahead with no dramas. We of course continue to see the 8800GT show a nice lead though.


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)



Half Life Episode Two's performance is a bit all over the place, but only 3 FPS separates the cards.


World In Conflict





We again see the 9600GT is able to beat out the HD 3870 when it comes to AA and AF.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




In Windows XP we can see the 9600GT trails just behind the HD 3870 across the board.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




Under XP we see the cards manage to perform a lot close together when compared to the Vista results.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





World in Conflict again sees the 9600GT come out ahead when compared to the HD 3870. It comes as no surprise that the 8800GT continues to come out ahead though.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




Unreal Tournament 3 continues to show the 9600GT ahead of the HD 3870.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR) - XP


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here





By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode Two opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode Two with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.



Finally we leave with Episode Two which puts the 9600GT pretty much at the same level as the HD 3870.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




Temps sit just below the HD 3870 but slightly above the 8800GT, though the Leadtek version does use an aftermarket Zalman cooler.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




Noise levels on the card aren't the best; it's a little louder on paper, though really we can't hear much difference between the other cards on offer here.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




Idle is a little down compared to the 8800GT. Under load the 9600GT sits about on par with it, though slightly below the HD 3870.

Final Thoughts




The 9600GT doesn't disappoint at all. Performance is better than you would expect out of a card that carries the x600GT naming scheme, and if pricing is going to be as competitive as we've heard then this could be the next gen card to own. It could be a really good chance for 7900 users to finally jump to a cheap DX10 card that is actually capable of running DX10 games at a playable frame rate.

Pricing should come under the HD 3870 and well under the 8800GT. While the card tends to perform on par with the HD 3870, sometimes better and sometimes slightly worse, with the great success NVIDIA has been having over the past few years people simply feel more comfortable using an NVIDIA card instead of an ATI based one. NVIDIA also tend to partner up with more game companies it seems, meaning that ultimately newer games are made for NVIDIA and able to perform better on their cards.

It really is a bit of a touch decision between the HD 3870 and the 9600GT, especially since the HD 3870 has come down in price a whole heap in the past month. AMD offer monthly driver updates and the 8.3 Catalyst drivers due out in March are sounding pretty good at the moment. With that said though, the 9 series are what NVIDIA are going to be concentrating on in the performance department from now on, and they tend to bring us good increases when it comes to official drivers.

We have to also remember that this is an overclocked 9600GT and not a stock clocked one. With that said though, it's not overclocked majorly; we actually have an overclocked Zotac in the labs at the moment which carries with it some very nice clocks, and there's no doubt it's going to be interesting to see when we climb beyond 700MHz on the core.

Come launch day the 9600GT is probably going to be an extremely popular product. Like we mentioned before, 7900 users have been so happy with their cards that they really want to stay with an NVIDIA offering. The card should come in with some competitive pricing and plenty of stock to boot.

If you bought a HD 3870 recently I wouldn't be disappointed with your purchase. If I was a computer company on the other hand with a lot of HD 3870s in stock I would be a little worried, as like we said before, while the HD 3870 isn't a bad card people tend to feel very comfortable with NVIDIA these days, and there's a good reason for that as they continue to release quality product after quality product.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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