ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card

ECS has released another 9600 GT which includes a new game; Frontlines: Fuel of War. Let's see how it shapes up.
| Aug 13, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 89%Manufacturer: EliteGroup Computer Systems

Introduction

ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
IntroductionI've seen more 9600 GT cards than I would like to honestly admit. The bottom line is, though, that the card does offer some excellent value for money and if you don't have the budget to buy new high-end cards like the HD 4870 or GTX 280 and GTX 260, the 9600 GT still remains a very good option.Today we're going to take the time to check out the latest 9600 GT incarnation from ECS and see what it has to offer over the competition. In a time where bundles and overclocks separate brands, we see if the latest version from ECS can stand out.Let's get straight into the package from ECS and see what it offers.

The Package

The PackageWe can see the front of the box uses a Frontlines: Fuel or War theme which is a recently released game. Across the top of the box we have mention that the card is from ECS along with some NVIDIA logos.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Down the bottom we have some of the main features the card offers. Above that we have the model along with the THQ logo and a game rating. Towards the middle of the box we see mention of the 512MB of GDDR3 memory and two Dual-Link DVI connectors.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Turning the box over, we have a little bit more detail on the card in a number of languages. We also have some minimum system requirements. The other half of the box is taken up with Frontlines: Fuel of War images and information along with logos to do with the game.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
In the cable department we find ourselves with nothing out or the ordinary. A single molex to PCI Express adapter, component/s-video TV-Out dongle, audio loop back cable, DVI to VGA connector and a DVI to HDMI connector is resident.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Apart from the driver CD and user's manual, we have a full version copy of Frontlines: Fuel of War along with a full manual for the game. It's nice to see companies make use of some of the newer games on the market.

The Card

The CardContinuing on with the Frontlines theme, the sticker on the card has a picture of the game along with the brand and the model. This particular model does carry with it a single slot cooler which takes up just about the whole card. We have a small fan to the left that helps keep the core cool.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
At the back of the card we have a single 6-pin power connector hidden underneath the back of the heat sink.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Moving along the top of the card, we have a single SLI connector along with another connector that is needed if you want to get sound through the HDMI connector included in the package.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Output wise, we have two Dual-Link DVI connectors and a single TV-Out port. Like we mentioned before, the card uses a single slot cooler which keeps the card nice and thin.SpecificationsECS has decided not to overclock the limited edition Frontlines card, so it carries with it the default 650MHz core, 1625MHz shader clock and 1800MHz DDR memory clock on the included 512MB of GDDR3.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06

Test System SetupProcessor(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 SP1Drivers: ForceWare 174.53 and Catalyst 8.6Today we'll be having a look at the 9600 GT against the new 9800 GT and AMD's highly regarded HD 4850.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Under 3DMark06 we can see that the ECS 9600 GT sits a bit back from both the HD 4850 and the newer 9800 GT.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
In Vantage we can see that the stock ECS 9600 GT sits just behind the new 9800 GT. Though, it sits a fair bit back when compared to the HD 4850.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the SeaVersion and / or Patch Used: Benchmark DemoDeveloper 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Under PT Boats we can see that the HD 4850 and 9600 GT are quite close in performance at the lower resolution. As we move to 1600 and 1920, though, the HD 4850 does begin to pull away.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Under CINEBENCH we can see that the 9600 GT does sit at the back of the pack here.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Like PT Boats we can see that the HD 4850 and 9600 GT sit quite close to each other at the lower resolution. As we up the resolution, the gap between the two cards becomes more apparent.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Unlike our other game tests, we can see across the board the 9600 GT sits a bit back when compared to both the HD 4850 and 9800 GT.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Like most of our other game tests, we can see at the lower resolution there isn't too much difference between the HD 4850 and 9600 GT. That begins to change as we move up in resolution, though.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur 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
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
The HD 4850 comes out well ahead under the synthetic based 3DMark06 with AA and AF on.World In Conflict
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
We again see the HD 4850 pulling ahead here with it even outperforming the 9800 GT.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Under XP and having a look at 3DMark06, we again see the HD 4850 come out in front of both cards.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer 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).
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Even under XP we see the HD 4850 top the list for CINEBENCH while the 9600 GT does fall towards the back.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Under WIC we continue to see both the 9600 GT and HD 4850 score quite close at the lower resolution. But as we've already seen a number of times, when we raise the resolution the gap between the two cards becomes bigger with the HD 4850 being favored.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo 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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Finally we leave our game testing with UT3, and like WIC we see both the HD 4850 and 9600 GT score similar at the lower resolution. As we move up, the gap does grow between the two cards with the HD 4850 coming out on top.

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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
While running a little warmer than the 9800 GT, the 9600 GT is still a good 10c below the HD 4850.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).
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
Noise levels at load between the cards are very similar. At idle there is a bit of difference with the 9600 GT sitting in the middle.

Power Consumption Tests

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.
ECS GeForce 9600 GT Graphics Card
The 9600 GT power ratings come in slightly lower at both idle and load when compared against the HD 4850.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThe 9600 GT really has become a great valued product for people who are gaming on older monitors capable of only 1280 x 1024 with high detail. If you're happy to drop the detail to the medium levels, though, you should get a decent game experience as high as 1680 x 1050 which is great news for 22" wide screen gamers.While ECS haven't done much with the card, the inclusion of not only a full version game, but a recent one is excellent news and helps the card stand out from the pack when compared to some of the others which don't include much more than cables and a driver CD.The only real problem we have with the card is the availability in the land down under, but that's not really ECS' fault. It's not uncommon for companies to release cards with a certain game bundle to specific regions. Fortunately, if you're looking for a 9600 GT and wouldn't mind a copy of Frontlines for a few extra dollars, you're not going to have any issues finding one in the states with companies like Newegg listing them as in stock.The ECS 9600 GT is a good choice for people who are looking for a mid-range graphics card and a game that they might actually play. It's so often we find ourselves looking at game bundles and walk away feeling a bit underwhelmed. It's good to see that ECS are keeping track of what's new on the market and hopefully they follow suit with future graphics card releases.
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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.

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