Nvidia geforce 9600 gt: NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT Specs

The GeForce 9600 GT Raises NVIDIA’s Sub $200 Bar

by Derek Wilsonon February 21, 2008 9:00 AM EST

  • Posted in
  • GPUs



IndexThe Card and The TestCrysis PerformanceThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion PerformanceEnemy Territory: Quake Wars PerformanceS.T.A.L.K.E.R. PerformanceWorld in Conflict PerformanceFinal Words

As the G9x series of GPUs slowly trickles into the mainstream, we are very happy to report that NVIDIA has executed a solid post 8800 GT launch: the G94 is very competitive at its price point in the form of the GeForce 9600 GT. That the current generation couldn’t outpace the previous generation is a major complaint we had of previous midrange launches. Hopefully NVIDIA and AMD will be able to keep up the competition for all the new introductions we see this year.

The Radeon HD 3850 has been doing fairly well, and we are glad that, for a change, AMD has been able to put the pressure on NVIDIA. The 8800 GT has done a good job above $200, but now we’ll be taking a look at what happens when the technology creeps below a threshold that makes it infinitely more attractive to the average gamer.

The GeForce 9600 GT, in addition to finally encroaching on ATI’s naming scheme, is fabbed on a 65nm process by TSMC and sports a 256-bit memory bus. The differences between G9x and G8x are small, but even so details were light. Their compression technology has evolved to provide higher effective bandwidth between the GPU and framebuffer. We would love to provide more details on this and the other changes, but NVIDIA is still being a bit tight lipped.

The only other major difference is in PureVideo. The G92 and the G94 both support new PureVideo features that should enable a better, more flexible experience when video players roll out software support for these additions. The changes include performance improvements in some situations, as well as potential quality improvements in others. We have yet to test out these changes as none of the players currently support them, but we will certainly talk a little bit about what to expect.

Here’s a look at exactly what we get under the hood of a stock GeForce 9600 GT as compared to the rest of the NVIDIA lineup.

Form Factor 8800 GTS 512 8800 GT 256MB 8800 GT 9600 GT 8600 GTS
Stream Processors 128 112 112 64 32
Texture Address / Filtering 64 / 64 56 / 56 56 / 56 32 / 32 16 / 16
ROPs 16 16 16 16 8
Core Clock 650MHz 600MHz+ 600MHz+ 650MHz 675MHz
Shader Clock 1. 625GHz 1.5GHz+ 1.5GHz+ 1.625GHz 1.45GHz
Memory Clock 1.94GHz 1.4GHz — 1.6GHz 1.8GHz 1.8GHz


Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit
Frame Buffer 512MB 256MB 512MB 512MB 256MB
Transistor Count 754M 754M 754M 505M 289M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 65nm TSMC 65nm TSMC 65nm TSMC 65nm TSMC 80nm
Price Point $279 — $349 $199 — $219 $209 — $279 $169 — $189 $140 — $199

PureVideo HD Enhancements

NVIDIA introduced two new PureVideo HD features with the 9600 GT that will also be enabled on G92 based GPUs as well (GeForce 8800 GT & 8800 GTS 512): Dynamic Contrast Enhancement and Automatic Green, Blue and Skin Tone Enhancements.

Dynamic Contrast Enhancement simply takes, on a frame by frame basis, the contrast histogram of a scene and stretches it out — resulting in artificially increased contrast. NVIDIA indicated that Dynamic Contrast Enhancement is most useful in scenes that have relatively high contrast already, as it is specifically programmed to ignore certain low contrast scenes to avoid completely corrupting the intention of a frame.

Automatic Green, Blue and Skin Tone Enhancements is a longer way of saying automatic color saturation adjustment. When enabled, this feature looks at midtones of most colors and simply boosts their values so that these colors appear brighter/more vibrant. The higher a color’s initial starting value, the lower the amount it will be boosted by — in other words, this isn’t a linear function. Because it’s a non-linear function, you don’t end up crushing the colors but instead you get a curve that tapers off giving you more vibrant, brighter colors overall. Like the Dynamic Contrast Enhancement feature, the Green/Blue and Skin Tone Enhancements are evaluated on a frame-by-frame basis.

Video purists will hate these features as they don’t accurate reproduce the image that was originally recorded, instead you’re getting the Best Buyification of your computer monitor: oversaturated colors and overboosted contrast galore. However it turns out that most users prefer oversaturated colors and overboosted contrast, which is why most TV makers ship their sets far from calibrated. Most PC monitors lack the sort of configuration options to achieve the same effect as an improperly, but appealingly calibrated TV. NVIDIA hopes that its PureVideo HD Enhancements will be able to bridge the gap between how things look on your PC monitor and how they look on your TV.

If you spend a lot of time properly calibrating your TV, chances are you won’t want to use these features. Thankfully they can be disabled. However, if you do like similar functions on your TV, then you may just be pleased by what the 9600 GT has to offer.

The Card and The Test
IndexThe Card and The TestCrysis PerformanceThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion PerformanceEnemy Territory: Quake Wars PerformanceS. T.A.L.K.E.R. PerformanceWorld in Conflict PerformanceFinal Words



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Graphics Cards, Tests

furmark, geforce 9600 gt, MSI, n9600gt diamond, power consumption, review, test


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FurMark, GPU Tools

furmark, geforce 9600 gt, geforce gts 250, geforce gtx 295, msi afterburner


The guys at hardspell.com have tested a system with a Radeon HD 3850 for the graphics rendering and a GeForce 9600 GT for the PhysX:

They used the oZone3D. Net PhysX FluidMark to compare CPU PhysX (score=759) and Hardware PhysX (score=2909). This is the proof that Radeon and GeForce can work together for a better gaming experience!


  • HD3850+9600GT: the performances are wonderful
  • Radeon and GeForce Share Work, PhysX Applications Win

The functionality of CUDA and its implementation of GPU-accelerated PhysX processing has benefited many a GeForce user. Users of ATI accelerators lacking this incentive either use Ageia PhysX card or avoid it altogether. It has been verified by Hardspell that in an environment where Radeon accelerator(s) do graphics processing, a GeForce accelerator can be used standalone to process PhysX. Hardspell used a Radeon HD 3850 along with a GeForce 9600 GT on the same system with the display connected to the Radeon, though no form of multi-GPU graphics connection existed, the GeForce card partnered the Radeon well in processing physics, while the Radeon did graphics. Results of the oZone 3D FluidMark, a benchmark that includes routines to evaluate the machine’s capability in processing physics, showed a greater than 350% increase in scores, showing that the GeForce accelerator is doing its job.

More news about PhysX: PhysX @ Geeks3D
More news about FluidMark: FluidMark @ Geeks3D

Graphics Cards, NVIDIA PhysX

ATI, benchmark, fluidmark, geforce 9600 gt, graphics card, NVIDIA, physx, radeon hd 3850, video card


Guru3D has published a review on BFG’s GeForce 8800 GT and 9600 GT in their OCX version. OCX means OverClocking eXtreme. Both cards have the ZeroTHERM cooling solution.

– GPU: G94
– shader processors: 64
– core clock: 725MHz (ref=650MHz)
– shader clock: 1850MHz (ref=1625MHz)
– memory clock: 972MHz (ref=900MHz)
– memory: 512Mb GDDR3 / 256-bit
– DirectX 10 / OpenGL 2. 1

BFG 8800 GT OXC:
– GPU: G92
– shader processors: 112
– core clock: 700MHz (ref=600MHz)
– shader clock: 1728MHz (ref=1512MHz)
– memory clock: 1000MHz (ref=900MHz)
– memory: 512Mb / 256-bit
– DirectX 10 / OpenGL 2.1

Read the complete review here: BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX and 8800 GT OCX review.

The verdict:
The OCX cards tested today both qualify as cards among the best we have ever tested. Though it would have been nicer to see a black PCB or something special, everything else is just top notch. Excellent thermal design, low temperatures while retaining a low noise level.

Graphics Cards

BFG, geforce 8800 gt, geforce 9600 gt, graphics card, ocx, Overclocking, review, ZeroTHERM cooling


This graphics card by MSI, is equiped with MSI’s new cooler using Hybrid Freezer technology. It offers a total silence in idle (normal Windows operation) as well as in loading (during intensive gaming). This card has 1Gb of onboard memory that can help when the gamer wants to play at ultra high resolution (but in that case, the gameplay is limited by the power of the 9600 GT so ultra high res gaming is not an good example of application of 1Gb of memory). Anyway, the cooler is the key of this GeForce and temperature stays around 46 degrees in idle and does not exceed 65 degrees in full load.

MSI GeForce 9600 GT Hybrid Freezer has the following features:
– GPU: G94
– stream processors: 64
– core clock: 650MHz
– shader clock: 1625MHz
– memory clock: 900MHz
– memory: 1Gb DDR3 / 256-bit
– DirectX 10 / OpenGL 2.1 / Shader Model 4.0

Read the complete review here: MSI N9600GT Hybrid Freezer.
More information at MSI: N9600GT Hybrid Freezer

Need more news about GeForce 9600 GT? Jump to: GeForce 9600 GT @ Geeks3D

Graphics Cards, VGA Coolers

geforce 9600 gt, gpu cooler, graphics card, Hybrid Freezer, MSI, NVIDIA, review, video card


Guru3D has just published a review about the Sparkle’s GeForce 9600 GT passively cooled with 512MB GDDR3 memory.

The GeForce 9600 GT has the followinfg features:
– GPU: G94 (or D9M)
– shader processors: 64
– ROPs: 16
– transistors: 505M / 65nm
– core clock: 650MHz (ref: 650MHz)
– memory clock: 900Mhz (ref: 800MHz)
– shader clock: 1625MHz (ref: 1600MHz)
– memory: 512Mb DDR3 / 256-bit
– DirectX 10 / OpenGL 2.1 / shader model 4.0

The Verdict:
With a pretty standard amount of airflow in the PC the core temperature of this passively cooled product just did not exceed 60 degrees C. And that’s pretty extraordinary as I’ve seen active cooled solutions at much higher thermals.

With such great temperatures I did what I normally do not do with a passively cooled product, I overclocked it. Standard clocks are 650/1600/800 for the core, shader processors and memory respectively. We boosted performance up big-time, by overclocking the card to 766/1955/1053 MHz. That is 10 to 15% extra performance straight out of the box there. For a passive product that’s just an astounding overclock.

Read the complete review here: Sparkle GeForce 9600 GT Passive Cooler.

Want more news about the GeForce 9600 GT: GeForce 9600 GT @ Geeks3D.

Graphics Cards, VGA Coolers

geforce 9600 gt, graphics card, passive cooler, review, sparkle, video card


Guru3D has published a nice review about Galaxy’s GeForce 9600 GT Silent Heatpipe.

For the sake of memory, here are the features of the GeForce 9600 GT: built on the G94 GPU 65nm (also called D9M), 64 shader processors, DirectX 10, OpenGL 2.1, 512Mb GDDR3, 256-bit memory interface, 650MHz core clock, 1600MHz shader clock and 900MHz memory clock, 505 million transistors.

Read the complete review here: Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT Silent Heatpipe review.

The Verdict:
Galaxy’s GeForce 9600 GT 512MB Silent heatpipe graphics card is once again a fine product to own.
I like the somewhat customized design and I definitely am charmed by the cooler. Even on a hot day, it performed good enough in our test-environment. You however will need decent airflow inside that PC of yours to get that residual heat from the innards of your PC and you need to remember that the cooler is pretty bulky.

Related Links:
– Galaxy GF 9600GT Silent @ GALAXY Technology

Graphics Cards

g94, Galaxy, geforce 9600 gt, graphics card, hardware review, NVIDIA, opengl 2.1, silent heatpipe, video card


GeForce 9600 GT
– Chaintech GeForce 9600 GT @t TheTechLounge
– GIGABYTE 9600GT @ Tweaktown
– NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT Round-up: PNY, MSI, ASUS

GeForce 9800 GTX
– XFX 9800 GTX @ DriverHeaven

GeForce 9800 GX2
– ASUS EN9800GX2 @ elitebastards.com

GeForce 8800 GT
– MSI NX8800GT Zilent @ tech-reviews. co.uk


The latest graphics cards reviews of the week:

GeForce 9800 GX2
– XFX GeForce 9800GX2 @ Motherboards.org

GeForce 9800 GTX
– GeForce 9800 GTX vs 9800 GX2
– Foxconn GeForce 9800 GTX OC 512MB Video Card
– ASUS EN9800GTX TOP @ elitebastards.com
– Asus EN9800GTX @ Hardwarelogic

GeForce 9600 GT
– Geforce 9600GT SLI Performance
– BFG Tech 9600GT @ Tweaktown
– XFX GeForce 9600GT at TweakTown
– PNY Verto 9600 GT @ Legitreviews
– Twintech GeForce 9600GT XXT OC Edition
– Palit GeForce 9600GT at Benchmark Reviews

GeForce 9600 GSO
– Palit Geforce 9600 GSO at TechwareLabs
– Palit 9600 GSO @ NeoSeeker

GeForce 8800 GTS
– Asus 8800GTS @ CDRInfo

GeForce 8800 GT
– BFG 8800 GT OCX @ I4U News
– ECS 8800GT 256MB @ Virtual-Hideout
– ECS GeForce 8800GT at Virtual-Hideout

Radeon HD 3870
– Sapphire HD 3870 @ Tweaktown

Radeon HD 3850 X2
– ASUS EAh4850 X2 @ ThinkComputers

Radeon HD 3650
– Diamond HD 3650 PE @ TheTechLounge
– MSI Radeon HD 3650 @ X-bit labs

Graphics Cards

geforce 9600 gso, geforce 9600 gt, geforce 9800 gtx, geforce 9800 gx2, graphics card, radeon hd 3650, radeon hd 3850 x2, radeon hd 3870, review


We already knew NVIDIA is going to heavily promote the HD movie transcoding capabilities of its GPUs through CUDA but here are some very specific numbers. According to the slide it takes a 1.6GHz dual-core CPU 10 hours and 22 minutes to encode a 2 hour long HD movie while a 3GHz quad-core processor finishes the job in 5 hours in 33 minutes.

The same 1.6GHz dual-core system with a GeForce 9600 GT will be able to complete the job in only 49 minutes! That’s more than 12x as fast and the GeForce 9600 GT isn’t even a high-end part. I can imagine that faster GPUs like the upcoming GeForce GTX 280 will be able to do it much faster.



Guru3D has reviewed Inno3D’s iChill GeForce 9600 GT with the ZEROtherm Hurricane cooler.
Read the full review HERE

The Verdict:
Much like any other GeForce 9600 GT this product offers a lot of value for the money you have to pay for it.

And once you pop it into your PC, you’ll notice that sheer silence and formidable cooling that the ZEROtherm cooler offers.

First off although this cooler is fantastic it eats up an insane three PCI slots which is just impractical. As a result you’ll have less connectivity in the PC and you definitely can forget about partnering two of these cards up in SLI.

Despite of this small error in judgment on Inno3D’s behalf, this product remains one of the best 9600 GT money can buy.

Graphics Cards

cooler, geforce 9600 gt, graphics card, hurricane, review, zerotherm


The cooler consists of a large aluminum heatsink with heatpipes, which will be enough to keep the card cool when watching movies or doing less stressful tasks, but in case you do want to game a bit, there’s also a fan that will kick in when the temperatures rise. Besides all of this, ASUS has spent some time designing the cooler, giving it a sleek and clean look.



GIGABYTE’s GeForce 9600 GT Fanless reviewed at PC Inpact (french review).
La GeForce 9600 GT Fanless de GIGABYTE testée chez PC Inpact.


Albatron’s GeForce 9600GT reviewed at legitreviews.com.


Guru3D has tested the XFX GeForce 9600 GT XXX 512MB and this is a very good product. Very much recommended!

Read the full review HERE.

Guru3D a testé la GeForce 9600 GT XXX 512Mo de XFX (trop de X!) et il en ressort que c’est une très bonne carte. Chaudement recommandée!

Lire le test complet ICI.

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nVidia GeForce 9600 GT Review


Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £129. 20

It’s fair to say that nVidia’s been ruling the roost over the past year or so when it comes to the high-end of the graphics card market. Only recently has ATI been able to offer up a solution that can compete at the bleeding edge of performance, and even then its method is one we weren’t one hundred percent confident in. However, for those of us less willing to spend upwards of £200 just to play a few games, the market has been a lot more competitive.

Ok, so the ‘midrange’, as it’s known, was a bit rubbish in the middle part of last year with the ATI HD 2600 XT and nVidia 8600 GT/GTS performing way below expectations but since then things have livened up quite a bit. First was the nVidia 8800 GT that, although a bit expensive to truly call midrange at £150-£180, offered massive performance for a much more realistic price than the 8800 GTS and GTX.

Following this, the refreshed ATI lineup arrived at the tail-end of last year, bringing with it a cracking midrange part, the HD 3850. It combined decent performance, a low price, and, with ATI still offering slightly better HD video support than the competition (nVidia are still relying on board partners to push this side of things), it had the best multimedia capabilities on the market. So compelling was this part’s price/performance ratio, in fact, that nVidia felt compelled to release the 8800 GS to fill the obvious gap in its range.

All of which means, right now the graphics market is as good as it’s been for quite some time. No matter what your budget there’s a card that will offer you a fair level of performance without compromising on features. So, with this in mind nVidia’s latest card is going to have to make a big splash if it’s to establish itself. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is why nVidia has chosen now to start the rebranding of its cards under the 9000-series moniker – it’s a higher number, so it must be better! However, we rather suspect the opposite is true and the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512 should’ve been the first 9000-series parts. The reason they weren’t, though, is the new parts would’ve killed off sales of the older, more expensive, 8800 GTS/GTX parts that were still in the channel. By holding off on the rebranding, nVidia ensured this old hardware was sold at competitive prices.

nVidia are also emphasising the fact this card represents the largest generational increase in performance they’ve ever released and being that it has twice the number of shaders as the 8600 GT/GTS, this is no surprise. However, this fails to take into account the fact the 8600 series offered hardly any increase in performance over the previous generation, the 7600 GT, so if you want to look at it that way it’s actually more like a two-fold increase in performance over two generations, which isn’t quite so impressive.

Whatever the reasons and regardless of the market situation, though, the nVidia GeForce 9600 GT has arrived and it’s here to stay. So over the next few pages we’re going to give it a thorough once over, put it through its paces in a variety of games, and ultimately see if it is the choice card in this sector.

The G94 core that powers the 9600 GT is to all intents and purposes the same as the G92 that sits inside the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512, only with less stream processors and different clock speeds. The 9600 GT has just 64 stream processors, or just over half the amount in the 8800 GT, and as a result there’s significantly fewer transistors in G94 (505 milliion as opposed to 754 million). At 650MHz, the core clock is actually 50MHz faster than that of the 8800 GT and, in line with this, the shader clock is also a bit faster at 1625MHz. All of which is pretty much as you’d expect.

However, there’s a twist in the 9600 GT’s tail as, unlike most other mid-range cards that are made from cut-down versions of more powerful parts, it actually has the same memory bandwidth, and number of ROPs as its bigger brothers. This means there’s a massive imbalance between the card’s shader processing capabilities and its sheer pixel output.

If none of that really means anything to you then think of it like this. The stream processors are like the inner workings of a car manufacturing plant. The combination of people and machines can churn out a finite number of cars per hour at any particular quality level. So, if you want small cheap cars you can get 20 an hour or if you want beautiful handcrafted works of art you can only get one an hour. It’s the same with all those in-game graphics settings – if you turn them all up you get a higher quality end product but it takes longer to produce.

Now, think of the ROPs and memory bandwidth as the delivery services that come and go from the factory. If the delivery trucks don’t drop off enough supplies or take away enough completed cars, the factory grinds to a halt. So, you need the trucks to be coming and going at least as fast as the factory is producing. However, go too much faster than needed and you end up with trucks making wasted trips, which is the situation the 9600 GT finds itself in. If you turn in-game details down, the card can crank out the frames because of the higher memory-bandwidth and number of ROPs (faster trucks) but if you turn the details up the shader’s can’t keep up (trucks making wasted trips).

Anyway, that’s quite enough of that analogy. Just know that while performance may by impressive in older games, the card may struggle as more and more shader-heavy games are released.

Elsewhere the card offers the same HD video capabilities as the rest of nVidia’s latest cards but due to a recent driver improvement nVidia is now offering a number of new video post-processing techniques – called Dynamic Contrast Enhancement and Dynamic Blue, Green, and Skin Tone Enhancements – that leverage the huge processing power of all those stream processors to improve video quality. There’s also support for dual-stream decoding, which enables you to accelerate two videos at the same time. As a result of this, you can now watch HD movies without Aero being disabled.

The card we received for review is made by Leadtek but, as is often the case at launch, it is exactly the same as the reference design except for a different sticker on the cooler. Leadtek do offer an Extreme edition of the card, which comes factory overclocked to 670MHz/1800MHz core/memory, but we received the standard clocked version so, to all intents and purposes, we’ll be treating it as a reference card.

The dimensions of the 9600 GT are exactly the same as the 8800 GT with it measuring a full 228mm. Considering the lower power of the card, it’s a shame nVidia couldn’t have shrunk the card a bit but this is hardly something to dwell on.

The cooler design has been tweaked slightly from that of the 8800 GT and a larger fan is being employed. The fundamentals are the same though, with the fan sucking in air and blowing it across the heatsink towards the back of the card. We have already raised concern about the single slot design on the 8800 GT potentially leading to overheating as it doesn’t actually expel the hot air it creates – it just blows it back into your case. However, having ample ventilation in your case should eliminate this concern.

The standard display output configuration is that of two dual-link HDCP enabled DVI connections, so you can watch copy-protected HD movies without any problems, and a seven-pin analogue TV-out port. The former of these enables you to use DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-HDMI dongles to connect to any monitor, old or new, while the latter provides S-Video and, with the help of a dongle, component and composite output for old TVs. Also, DisplayPort and HDMI are now natively supported so in the future we may be seeing partner cards with these outputs onboard.

New to the 9600 GT is a standard connection point for a S/PDIF digital audio cable that can be used to take the audio signal from your sound card and pipe it out through HDMI or DVI (via a DVI-to-HDMi dongle). It’s still not quite as elegant a solution as ATI uses on its 2000- and 3000-series cards but at least the connection is now standard.

To accompany this new feature, Leadtek now includes a DVI-to-HDMI converter in the box, as well as the required S/PDIF cable, a DVI-to-VGA dongle, and a TV-out cable. So, unless you have an exotic multi-monitor setup, there’s everything you need to get going right out of the box.

Leadtek are also bundling the game Overlord with its cards, which is an added bonus. It’s not the most up to date game but we gave it a reasonable 8/10 and, as we’ve said before, if you want fancy extras you going to have to pay for them and bearing in mind the price the Leadtek PX9600 GT is selling for, you certainly aren’t paying a premium for the game.

Finally, the warranty on this card is only two years, which is much lower than the ten years some other partner boards come with. However, with the way computer graphics progresses, two years is a fair lifetime for a graphics card so this shouldn’t overtly put you off.

We put the 9600 GT through its paces using our usual selection of games and we’ve compared it against all the competitors at this price range. Each game is tested at a variety of resolutions and anti-aliasing settings and the tests are repeated three times to ensure an accurate figure is obtained. Once three stable figures have been achieved we average them out and report that number to you.

We have used alpha blending to smooth edges of semi-transparent textures, where appropriate, and kept all in-game settings at their maximum to ensure we are getting the best video quality possible. All except Crysis, that is, which we’ve run with everything set to High, as opposed to Very High, as the latter produces unplayable framerates.

Considering the stiff opposition, the 9600 GT actually slots in rather well in terms of performance. It is comfortably below the 8800 GT and more often than not it finds itself ahead of the HD 3870 and HD 3850. Those claims of double the performance of the 8600 GT are also holding up and were it not for the points we made earlier this would be very impressive stuff.

Now, there was much ado yesterday when the 9600 GT first launched as retailers seemed to be charging rather over the odds for this new card (no doubt looking to cash in on the rush), which put rather a large dent in the value of the card. And, considering the competitiveness of this segment of the market a small fluctuation in price makes all the difference.

However, currently this Leadtek card can be had for £129, which is bang on the money and we’d recommend it based on that price. If, however, you’re looking at the factory overclocked cards that cost £150 then you’re getting very close to 8800 GT and HD 3870 territory and we’d suggest you save just a little more for the latter cards.


nVidia can’t do much wrong in the discrete graphics card market at the moment and the 9600 GT is a perfect example of why. It has all the features you need and plenty of performance to boot. Just make sure you don’t spend over £130 on one, though.




Score in detail

  • Value 8

  • Features 9

  • Performance 8

NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT review: GPU specs, performance benchmarks

Buy on Amazon

GeForce 9600 GT videocard released by NVIDIA; release date: 21 February 2008. At the time of release, the videocard cost $179. The videocard is designed for desktop-computers and based on Tesla microarchitecture codenamed G94.

Core clock speed — 1625 MHz. Texture fill rate — 20.8 billion / sec. Pipelines — 64. Floating-point performance — 208 gflops. Manufacturing process technology — 65 nm. Transistors count — 505 million. Power consumption (TDP) — 96 Watt.

Memory type: GDDR3. Maximum RAM amount — 512 MB. Memory bus width — 256 Bit. Memory clock speed — 900 MHz. Memory bandwidth — 57.6 GB / s.


G3D Mark

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

G2D Mark

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

CompuBench 1. 5 Desktop
Face Detection

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

735.800 mPixels/s

0.465 mPixels/s

GFXBench 4.0

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

69225 Frames

3161 Frames

GFXBench 4.0

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

69225. 000 Fps

3161.000 Fps

GFXBench 4.0

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

27823 Frames

127 Frames

GFXBench 4.0

Top 1 GPU
This GPU

27823.000 Fps

127.000 Fps

Name Value
PassMark — G3D Mark 503
PassMark — G2D Mark 58
CompuBench 1. 5 Desktop — Face Detection 0.465 mPixels/s
GFXBench 4.0 — T-Rex 3161 Frames
GFXBench 4.0 — T-Rex 3161.000 Fps
GFXBench 4.0 — Manhattan 127 Frames
GFXBench 4.0 — Manhattan 127.000 Fps

Specifications (specs)

Architecture Tesla
Code name G94
Launch date 21 February 2008
Launch price (MSRP) $179
Place in performance rating 1453
Price now $39. 99
Type Desktop
Value for money (0-100) 23.72
Core clock speed 1625 MHz
CUDA cores 64
Floating-point performance 208 gflops
Manufacturing process technology 65 nm
Maximum GPU temperature 105 °C
Pipelines 64
Texture fill rate 20.8 billion / sec
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 96 Watt
Transistor count 505 million

Audio input for HDMI S / PDIF
Display Connectors 2x DVI, 1x S-Video, HDTVTwo Dual Link DVI
Maximum VGA resolution 2048×1536
Multi monitor support
Bus support 16x PCI-E 2. 0
Height 4.376″ (11.1 cm)
Interface PCIe 2.0 x16
Length 9″ (22.9 cm)
SLI options 2-way
Supplementary power connectors 6-pin
DirectX 10.0
OpenGL 2.1
Maximum RAM amount 512 MB
Memory bandwidth 57.6 GB / s
Memory bus width 256 Bit
Memory clock speed 900 MHz
Memory type GDDR3
3D Vision


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GeForce 9600 GT


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GeForce 9600 GT


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Radeon R5 220 OEM

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GeForce GT 720

Nvidia’s GeForce 9600 GT graphics processor

For a while there, trying to find a decent DirectX 10-capable graphics card for somewhere around two hundred bucks was a tough assignment. Nvidia had its GeForce 8600 GTS, but that card didn’t really perform well enough to measure up similarly priced DX9 cards. On the Radeon side of things, AMD had, well, pretty much nothing. You could buy a cheap, slow DX10-ready Radeon or a faster one with a formidable price tag. Between them, crickets chirped as tumbleweeds blew by.

Happily, the GPU makers saw fit to remedy this situation, and in the past few months, we’ve gained an embarrassment of riches in video card choices between about $170 and $250, including the screaming GeForce 8800 GT and a pair of solid values in the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870. Now, that embarrassment is becoming positively scandalous, as Nvidia unveils yet another new GPU aimed at graphics cards below the $200 mark: the GeForce 9600 GT.

Where does the 9600 GT fit into the daunting mix of video cards available in this price range? How does it match up with the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870? Why is this new GPU the first installment in the GeForce 9 series? We have no idea about that last one, but we’ll try to answer those other questions.

The GeForce 9600 GT laid bare

Welcome the new middle management

Let’s get this out of the way at the outset. Nvidia’s decision to make this new graphics card the first in the GeForce 9 series is all kinds of baffling. They just spent the past few months introducing two new members of the 8-series, the GeForce 8800 GT and the confusingly named GeForce 8800 GTS 512, based on a brand-new chip codenamed G92. The G92 packs a number of enhancements over older GeForce 8 graphics processors, including some 3D performance tweaks and improved HD video features. Now we have another new GPU, codenamed G94, that’s based on the same exact generation of technology and is fundamentally similar to the G92 in almost every way. The main difference between the two chips is that Nvidia has given the G94 half the number of stream processor (SP) units in the G92 in order to create a smaller, cheaper chip. Beyond that, they’re pretty much the same thing.

So why the new name? Nvidia contends it’s because the first product based on the G94, the GeForce 9600 GT, represents such a big performance leap over the prior-generation GeForce 8600 GTS. I suppose that may be true, but they’re probably going to have to rename the GeForce 8800 GT and GTS 512 in order to make their product lineup rational again. For now, you’ll just want to keep in mind that when you’re thinking about the GeForce 8800 GT and the 9600 GT, you’re talking about products based on two chips from the same generation of technology, the G92 and G94. They share the same feature set, so choosing between them ought to be a simple matter of comparing price and performance, regardless of what the blue-shirts haunting the aisles of Best Buy tell you.

Not that we really care about that stuff, mind you. We’re much more interested in the price and performance end of things, and here, the G94 GPU looks mightily promising. Because Nvidia has only excised a couple of the SP clusters included in the G92, the G94 retains most of the bits and pieces it needs to perform quite well, including a 256-bit memory interface and a full complement of 16 ROP units to output pixels and handle antialiasing blends. Yes, the G94 is down a little bit in terms of shader processing power and (since texture units are located in the SPs) texture filtering throughput. But you may recall that the GeForce 8800 GT is based on a G92 with one of its eight SP clusters disabled, and it works quite well indeed.

Here’s a quick look the G94’s basic capabilities compared to some common points of reference.

ROP output:








Bilinear FP16







Radeon HD 38×0 16 16 16 320 256
GeForce 9600 GT 16 32 16 64 256
GeForce 8800 GT 16 56 28 112 256
GeForce 8800 GTS 20 24 24 96 320

The 9600 GT is suitably potent to match up well in most categories with the GeForce 8800 GT and the Radeon HD 3850/3870. Even the older G80-based GeForce 8800 GTS fits into the conversation, although its capacities are almost all higher. As you know, the RV670 GPU in the Radeons has quite a few more stream processors, but Nvidia’s GPUs tend to make up that difference with higher SP clock speeds.

In fact, the GeForce 9600 GT makes up quite a bit of ground thanks to its clock speeds. The 9600 GT’s official “base” clock speeds are 650MHz for the GPU core, 1625MHz for the stream processors, and 900MHz (1800MHz effective) for its GDDR3 memory. From there, figuring out the GPU’s theoretical potency is easy.

fill rate

Peak bilinear


Peak bilinear

FP16 texel


Radeon HD 3870 12. 4 12.4 12.4 496 72.0
GeForce 9600 GT 10.4 20.8 10.4 312 57.6
GeForce 8800 GT 9.6 33.6 16.8 504 57.6
GeForce 8800 GTS 10.0 12. 0 12.0 346 64.0

As expected, the 9600 GT trails the 8800 GT in terms of texture filtering capacity and shader processing power, but it has just as much pixel fill rate and memory bandwidth as its big brother. More notably, look at how the 9600 GT matches up to the GeForce 8800 GTS, a card that was selling for $400 less than a year ago.

Making these theoretical comparisons to entirely different GPU architectures like the RV670 is rather tricky. On paper, the 9600 GT looks overmatched versus the Radeon HD 3870, even though we’ve given the GeForce cards the benefit of the doubt here in terms of our FLOPS estimates. (Another way of counting would cut the GeForces’ FLOPS count by a third.) We’ll have to see how that works out in practice.

Incidentally, the 9600 GT’s performance will be helped at higher resolutions by a feature carried over from the G92: improved color compression. All GeForce 8-series GPUs compress color data for textures and render targets in their ROP subsystems in order to save bandwidth. The G92 and G94 have expanded compression coverage, which Nvidia says is now sufficient for running games at resolutions up at 2560×1600 with 4X antialiasing.

The chip

Like the G92 before it, the G94 GPU is manufactured on a 65nm fabrication process. That leaves AMD with something of an edge, since the RV670 is made using a smaller 55nm process. Nvidia estimates the G94’s transistor count at 505 million, versus 754 million for the G92. AMD seems to count a little differently, but it estimates the RV670 at a sinister 666 million transistors.

Here’s a quick visual comparison of the three chips. By my measurements, the G94 is approximately 240 mm², quite a bit smaller than the G92 at 324 mm² but not as small as the RV670 at 192 mm². Obviously, the G94 is very much in the same class as the RV670, and it should give Nvidia a much more direct competitor to AMD’s strongest product.

The cards

I’ve already told you about the 9600 GT’s basic specs, but the products you’ll see for sale will have a few other common parameters. Among them is this very nice development: cards will come with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, standard. I’m pleased to see this memory size becoming the new baseline for enthusiast-class products. Not every game at every resolution requires more than 256MB of memory, but a mid-range card with 512MB is a much nicer compromise, especially given RAM prices these days. On top of that, running two GPUs in SLI makes a lot more sense with 512MB of memory than it does with 256MB, where you’re facing a serious mismatch in GPU horsepower and available memory.

Most 9600 GTs will sport a single-slot cooler similar to the one on the 8800 GT. Nvidia rates board power consumption at 95W, so the 9600 GT requires the help of a single six-pin PCIe aux power connector. And, as we’ve hinted, prices should slot in just below the 8800 GT at about $169 to $189, according to Nvidia.

Of course, there will be a range of GeForce 9600 GT cards on tap from various board makers, and many of them will be clocked at higher frequencies than Nvidia’s defaults. That’s decidedly the case with the 9600 GT we have in the labs for review, Palit’s flamboyant GeForce 9600 GT Sonic.

Do you find Palit’s palette palatable?

This puppy’s dual-slot cooler is shrouded in bright Lego/Tonka yellow, which pretty effectively broadcasts that this isn’t a stock-clocked creation. In fact, Palit has turned up the GPU core clock to 700MHz, the shader clock to 1.75GHz, and the memory to 1GHz.

Also, there’s an atomic frog. With, I think, a flamethrower. I’ve learned a lot about video cards over the years, but some things I will never fully understand.

Anyhow, Palit has loaded this thing up with more ports than the Pacific rim. Check it out:

There are two dual-link DVI outputs, an HDMI out, a DisplayPort connector, and an optical S/PDIF output. You’ll need to connect an audio source to the card’s two-pin internal plug (using the supplied internal audio cable) in order for HDMI audio and the S/PDIF output to work, since unlike the RV670, the G94 GPU lacks an audio device. Still, that’s a very impressive complement of ports—the most complete I’ve seen in a video card in some time. You’ve gotta give these guys credit for making something different here.

Unfortunately, different isn’t always better, as we found out when we tried to plug the six-pin portion of our adaptable eight-pin PCIe aux power lead into the card. Regular six-pin-only connectors work fine, but the eight-pin one didn’t fit.

Such problems could be resolved fairly easily by removing the shroud altogether, which exposes the card’s nifty cooler and would probably lead to better cooling anyhow. All other things being equal, I’d prefer a cooler designed to exhaust warm air from the case, like most dual-slot coolers do these days. However, I have to admit that this cooler did a fine job on our test card and made very little noise. This puppy has it where it counts, too, with a copper base connected to copper heatpipes routed into aluminum fins. The fan is speed controlled, and although it can be quite noisy when first booting or in a pre-boot environment, it’s impressively quiet in Windows—even when running a 3D application or game.

Palit’s festival of transgression against the reference design continues at the board level, where the firm has replaced the standard two-phase power with a three-phase design, intended to enhance board longevity and overclocking potential. Again, we like the initiative, and we’ll test the board’s overclocking headroom shortly.

This card ships with a copy of Tomb Raider Anniversary, which apparently isn’t a bad game, as hard as I find that to believe. Palit says the card’s MSRP is $219, but it’s currently selling for $209 on Newegg. Obviously, you’re paying extra for all of the bells and whistles on this card, which take it nearly into 8800 GT territory. Palit has a more pedestrian model selling for $179, as do a number of other board makers, including XFX and Gigabyte. MSI even has one with a 700MHz GPU core selling at that price.

The competition hits the juice

AMD has no intention of ceding ground to Nvidia in this portion of the market without a fight, which is good news for you and me. In order to counter the 9600 GT, AMD and the various Radeon board makers have recently slashed prices and juiced up their Radeon HD 3850 cards. Clock speeds are up, and many of the boards are now equipped with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, as well.

Diamond kindly agreed to send us its latest 3850 for comparison to the 9600 GT. This card is emblematic of the new wave of Radeon HD 3850s. It’s clocked at 725MHz with 512MB of GDDR3 memory running at 900MHz, and it’s selling for $169.99 right now. Those clock speeds put it darn near the base clocks of the Radeon HD 3870, although as we learned in our recent video card roundup, 3870 clocks are making something of a northward migration, as well.

Diamond isn’t alone in offering this class of product. In fact, we paired up the Diamond card with a similarly clocked HIS Hightech TurboX 512MB card for CrossFire testing.

Our testing methods

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Core
2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz
2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz
(266MHz quad-pumped)
(266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Gigabyte
nForce 680i SLI
F7 P31
680i SLI SPP
ICH9R nForce
680i SLI MCP
update 8. 3.1.1009

Matrix Storage Manager 7.8

(4 DIMMs)
(4 DIMMs)
x Corsair
DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
x Corsair
DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
latency (CL)
4 4
to CAS delay (tRCD)
4 4
precharge (tRP)
4 4
time (tRAS)
18 18
2T 2T
Audio Integrated

with RealTek 6. 0.1.5497 drivers

nForce 680i SLI/ALC850

with RealTek drivers

Graphics Diamond Radeon HD
3850 512MB PCIe

with Catalyst 8.2 drivers

8800 GT 512MB PCIe

with ForceWare 169.28 drivers

Dual Radeon HD
3850 512MB PCIe

with Catalyst 8.2 drivers

Palit GeForce
9600 GT 512MB PCIe

with ForceWare 174.12 drivers

Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe

with Catalyst 8.2 drivers


Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe

with Catalyst 8. 2 drivers

Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB PCIe

with Catalyst 8.2 drivers

9600 GT 512MB PCIe

with ForceWare 174.12 drivers

8800 GT 512MB PCIe

with ForceWare 169.28 drivers

GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB PCIe

with ForceWare 169.28 drivers

8800 Ultra 768MB PCIe

with ForceWare 169.28 drivers

Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
OS Windows
Vista Ultimate x86 Edition
KB936710, KB938194, KB938979,
KB940105, KB945149,
DirectX November 2007 Update

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their quality, service, and support are easily superior to no-name DIMMs.

Our test systems were powered by PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W power supply units. The Silencer 750W was a runaway Editor’s Choice winner in our epic 11-way power supply roundup, so it seemed like a fitting choice for our test rigs. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 1.4
  • Crysis 1.1
  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars 1.4
  • Half-Life 2 Episode Two
  • Unreal Tournament 3 1.1
  • 3DMark06 1.1.0
  • FRAPS 2.9.4

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Sizing up the new guy

We’ve already talked some about the 9600 GT’s theoretical capabilities. Here’s a quick table to show how it compares with a broader range of today’s video cards, including the juiced-up Diamond Radeon HD 3850 512MB card we’re testing. I’ve included numbers for the Palit card at its higher clock speeds, as well.

fill rate

Peak bilinear


Peak bilinear

FP16 texel


GeForce 9600 GT 10. 4 20.8 10.4 57.6 312
Palit GeForce 9600 GT 11.2 22.4 11.2 64.0 336
GeForce 8800 GT 9.6 33.6 16.8 57.6 504
GeForce 8800 GTS 10. 0 12.0 12.0 64.0 346
GeForce 8800 GTS 512 10.4 41.6 20.8 62.1 624

GeForce 8800 GTX

13.8 18.4 18.4 86.4 518
GeForce 8800 Ultra 14.7 19.6 19. 6 103.7 576
Radeon HD 2900 XT 11.9 11.9 11.9 105.6 475
Radeon HD 3850 10.7 10.7 10.7 53.1 429
Diamond Radeon HD 3850 11.6 11.6 11.6 57.6 464
Radeon HD 3870 12. 4 12.4 12.4 72.0 496
Radeon HD 3870 X2 26.4 26.4 26.4 115.2 1056

Now the question is: how do these theoretical numbers translate into real performance? For that, we can start with some basic synthetic tests of GPU throughput.

The single-textured fill rate test is typically limited by memory bandwidth, which helps explain why the Palit 9600 GT beats out our stock GeForce 8800 GT. The multitextured test is more generally limited by the GPU’s texturing capabilities, and in this case, the 8800 GT pulls well away from its upstart sibling. The 9600 GT easily outdoes the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870, though, which is right in line with what we’d expect.

3DMark’s two simple pixel shader tests show the 9600 GT at the back of the pack, again as we’d expect. Simply put, shader arithmetic is the place where Nvidia has compromised most in this design. Whether or not that will really limit performance in today’s game is an intriguing question. We shall see.

Among the GeForce 8 cards, these vertex shader tests appear to track more closely with shader clock speeds than with the total shader power of the card. I don’t think that’s anything worth worrying about.

However, have a look at the difference in scores between the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870 in the simple vertex shader test. This is not a fluke; I re-tested several times to be sure. The 3850 is just faster in the simple vertex shader test—at least until you get multiple GPUs involved. After consulting with AMD, I believe the most likely explanation for the 3870’s low performance here is its use of GDDR4 memory. GDDR4 memory has a transaction granularity of 64 bits, while GDDR3’s is half that. In certain cases, that may cause GDDR4 memory to deliver lower performance per clock, especially if the access patterns don’t play well with its longer burst length. Although this effect is most pronounced here, we saw its impact in several of our game tests, as well, where the Radeon HD 3850 turned out to be faster than the 3870, despite having slightly slower GPU and memory clock frequencies.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

We tested Call of Duty 4 by recording a custom demo of a multiplayer gaming session and playing it back using the game’s timedemo capability. Since this is a high-end graphics card we’re testing, we enabled 4X antialiasing and 16X anisotropic filtering and turned up the game’s texture and image quality settings to their limits.

We’ve chosen to test at 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600—resolutions of roughly two, three, and four megapixels—to see how performance scales. I’ve also tested at 1280×1024 with the 9600 GT and its closest competitors here, since some of them struggled to deliver completely fluid rate rates at 1680×1050.

The 9600 GT delivers jaw-dropping performance in CoD4, keeping frame rate averages above 40 FPS even at 1920×1200 resolution. That’s astounding, because we’re talking about a great-looking modern game running with 4X antialiasing, 16X aniso filtering, and peak quality options. In fact, the 9600 GT shadows the GeForce 8800 GT, trailing it by only a few frames per second.

Note that in this game, I’ve also provided results for a stock-clocked GeForce 9600 GT (at 650/900MHz), for comparison. Although dropping from the Palit card’s frequencies to Nvidia’s reference clocks puts a little more distance between the 8800 GT and the 9600 GT, it doesn’t drop the 9600 GT into Radeon territory. Both the 3850 and 3870 are consistently slower.

Sadly, just when you need SLI, at 2560×1600, it fails. The story is the same on both the 9600 GT and the 8800 GT. My best theory: they may be running out of video memory, which would explain the big drop in performance.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

We tested this game with 4X antialiasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled, along with “high” settings for all of the game’s quality options except “Shader level” which was set to “Ultra.” We left the diffuse, bump, and specular texture quality settings at their default levels, though. Shadows, soft particles, and smooth foliage were enabled. Again, we used a custom timedemo recorded for use in this review.

The 9600 GT’s strong performance continues here, where it again finds it itself between the GeForce 8800 GT and the Radeon HD 3870. Dropping down the Nvidia’s base clock frequencies brings the 9600 GT closer to the 3870, but it’s still a tick faster. These are very minor differences of a few frames per second, though, to keep things in perspective.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

We used a custom-recorded timedemo for this game, as well. We tested Episode Two with the in-game image quality options cranked, with 4X AA and 16 anisotropic filtering. HDR lighting and motion blur were both enabled.

The 9600 GT’s advantage over the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870 carries over to Episode Two. And two 9600 GTs in SLI can deliver playable frame rates at 2560×1600 with 4X AA and 16X aniso, believe it or not.


I was a little dubious about the GPU benchmark Crytek supplies with Crysis after our experiences with it when testing three-way SLI. The scripted benchmark does a flyover that covers a lot of ground quickly and appears to stream in lots of data in a short period, possibly making it I/O bound—so I decided to see what I could learn by testing the 9600 GT and its closest competitors with FRAPS instead. I chose to test in the “Recovery” level, early in the game, using our standard FRAPS testing procedure (five sessions of 60 seconds each). The area where I tested included some forest, a village, a roadside, and some water—a good mix of the game’s usual environments.

Please note that all of the results you see below for the Radeons come from a newer graphics driver, version 8.451-2-080123a, than the ones we used for the rest of our tests. This newer driver improved Crysis performance noticeably. These driver enhancements for Crysis should be available to the public soon in Catalyst 8.3.

The cards tend to cluster together at 1280×800, and multi-GPU rendering doesn’t seem to help performance much at all. A low of 23 frames per second isn’t too bad, when you think about it, and I’d classify any of these cards as running Crysis at playable speeds at this resolution. Obviously, there’s very little difference between them.

At 1680×1050, the field begins to separate just a little, while CrossFire and SLI actually start to help. The 9600 GT is technically faster than the Radeons, but not by enough to matter much.

Unreal Tournament 3

We tested UT3 by playing a deathmatch against some bots and recording frame rates during 60-second gameplay sessions using FRAPS. This method has the advantage of duplicating real gameplay, but it comes at the expense of precise repeatability. We believe five sample sessions are sufficient to get reasonably consistent and trustworthy results. In addition to average frame rates, we’ve included the low frames rates, because those tend to reflect the user experience in performance-critical situations. In order to diminish the effect of outliers, we’ve reported the median of the five low frame rates we encountered.

Because UT3 doesn’t support multisampled antialiasing, we tested without AA. Instead, we just cranked up the resolution to 2560×1600 and turned up the game’s quality sliders to the max. I also disabled the game’s frame rate cap before testing.

The UT3 results pretty much confirm what we’ve seen elsewhere. Any of these cards can, incredibly, run UT3 well enough at this resolution, but you’ll probably want to drop down to 1920×1200 for the best experience with either of the Radeon HD cards. Their performance seemed a little choppy at times to me. And, heh, you’ll probably have drop down a little bit to match your monitor’s native resolution.

Power consumption

We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using an Extech power analyzer model 380803. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.

The idle measurements were taken at the Windows Vista desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running UT3 at 2560×1600 resolution, using the same settings we did for performance testing.

Note that the SLI configs were, by necessity, tested on a different motherboard than the single cards, as noted in our testing methods section.

Whoa. The 9600 GT draws even less power under load than the Radeon HD 3850. That makes it one heck of an energy efficient GPU, given its performance.

Noise levels

We measured noise levels on our test systems, sitting on an open test bench, using an Extech model 407727 digital sound level meter. The meter was mounted on a tripod approximately 12″ from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card. We used the OSHA-standard weighting and speed for these measurements.

You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems’ noise levels were measured, including the stock Intel cooler we used to cool the CPU. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card’s highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.

Unfortunately—or, rather, quite fortunately—I wasn’t able to reliably measure noise levels for most of these systems at idle. Our test systems keep getting quieter with the addition of new power supply units and new motherboards with passive cooling and the like, as do the video cards themselves. I decided this time around that our test rigs at idle are too close to the sensitivity floor for our sound level meter, so I only measured noise levels under load.

Like I said, Palit’s cooler is nice and quiet. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a GPU that draws so little power (and thus generates little heat) onboard.

GPU temperatures

Per your requests, I’ve added GPU temperature readings to our results. I captured these using AMD’s Catalyst Control Center and Nvidia’s nTune Monitor, so we’re basically relying on the cards to report their temperatures properly. In the case of multi-GPU configs, well, I only got one number out of CCC. I used the highest of the numbers from the Nvidia monitoring app. These temperatures were recorded while running UT3 in a window.

Yeah, those numbers seemed wrong to me at first, too. I tried again a few times, and the GPU temps never really got any higher. Palit’s copper heatsink with heatpipes may be overkill for this GPU. Then again, it’s the kind of overkill I like.


So how far will this little GPU go? Finding out was surprisingly easy using Palit’s little overclocking tool. I just kept nudging the sliders upward until something went sideways and caused a Vista display driver crash in my 3D test app. Then I backed off a little bit and watched for visual artifacts. In the end, the 9600 GT was stable with a 810MHz GPU core and a 1.9GHz shader clock.

Turning up the memory clock didn’t work out so well, though. Even going to 1050MHz produced immediate visual corruption and a system lock. I gave up and ran a few tests at my known-good overclocked speeds.

A little overclocking gives the 9600 GT enough of a boost to surpass the 8800 GT—just barely. I’m curious to see how much the more pedestrian 9600 GTs out there will overclock. I suspect Palit’s spiffy cooler and three-phase power have given this card more headroom than most.


The pattern in our performance testing was unmistakable: the GeForce 9600 GT is just a little bit slower than a GeForce 8800 GT and a little bit faster than the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870. Of course, that statement needs some qualification, since we tested the 8800 GT and HD 3870 at bone-stock clocks, while the 9600 GT and HD 3850 we tested were both overclocked considerably. But the basic trends we spotted were consistent, even when we reduced the 9600 GT card to Nvidia’s base clock speeds. The 9600 GT also impressed us with the lowest power draw under load of any card we tested and very low noise levels—despite its amped-up clock speeds.

I’m struggling to figure out what’s not to like here. One could argue that the practical performance difference between the Radeon HD 3850 512MB and the GeForce 9600 GT in our testing was largely nil. Both cards ran most games well at common resolutions like 1680×1050, even with quality levels cranked up. Image quality between the two was comparable—and uniformly good. When there was a performance difference between them, it was usually fairly minor.

This is true enough, but the performance differences were large enough in Call of Duty 4 and Half-Life 2: Epsiode Two to distinguish the 9600 GT as the better choice.

One could also argue that the 9600 GT’s strong performance today may give way to relatively weaker performance down the road. If game developers shift their attention to using more and more complex shaders, the 9600 GT could end up running tomorrow’s games slower than the Radeon HD 3850, which clearly has more shader processing power.

This is a possibility, I suppose.

But at the end of the day, that just means there are a couple of very good choices in the market right now. The GeForce 9600 GT is one heck of a deal in a graphics card at around $179, and that’s something we like very much. If you haven’t upgraded for a while and don’t want to drop a lot of cash when doing so, it’s hard to go wrong with the 9600 GT. This card should offer roughly twice the performance of a DX9-class graphics card like the GeForce 7900 GS or the Radeon X1950 Pro, based on what we’ve seen. If you want to spend a little more and get a GeForce 8800 GT, you’ll get some additional future proofing in the form of shader power and just a little bit higher frame rates in today’s games. Whether that’s worth it will depend on your budget and your priorities. I will say this though: if there has ever been a better time to upgrade, I sure as heck don’t remember it.

Specs MSI Geforce 9600GT NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT 1 GB GDDR3 Graphics Cards (N9600GT-T2D1G)

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