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

2.0GHz

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
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  • pmonti80 - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    That's probably becuase it's a transicional product, in one or two months you won't be able to buy one. Reply
  • poohbear - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    nice review, but i expected to see more cards compared with the 9600gt from a site like anandtech, especially the 8800gt 512mb version which everybody's been buying. are you guys on a budget or something? Reply
  • anachreon - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    Somehow this review feels a little sloppier than the past AnandTech video card reviews I have come to trust. The cards represented in various tests are inconsistent, and the lack of a 512mb 8800 GT, as well as AA and AF, in the tests is baffling. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    I don't understand what you mean about the cards represented being inconsistent. We tested the exact same six cards in every tests and the same 2 multiGPU configurations as well ... the only graph that lacks anything is the WiC 16x12 graph because we could not get the 3850 to complete the benchmark at that resolution.

    The 512 MB 8800 GT isn't really in competition with these cards in terms of price. Since AMD dropped the price so dramatically, it's more of a direct comparison, and if we had known before hand we would have included something else from the next price point up (like the 512MB 8800 GT).

    We can't test everything for every review, and we've got to make trade offs. Sometimes we make the wrong call, and not including the 512MB 8800 GT was one of those time. We'll certainly include it in follow up testing.

    Thanks,
    Derek Wilson
    Reply
  • pmonti80 - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Dereck I think what he means is that at 1st sight the results are little bit strange. I had to check several reviews to see that the results are the same (how could i ever doubt you? ;)).
    An example of strange results at 1st sight is the 256MB 8800GT. Also the fact that filters give an advantage to the 9600 GT and the test without filters give an advantage to the 3870.
    Reply
  • GTaudiophile - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    So if I have a eVGA GeForce 7900GT, which would be the better upgrade? A 8800 GT with 512MB RAM or a 9600GT? Can you get a 9600GT with 512MB RAM? Reply
  • xsilver - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    7900gt to 9600gt wouldnt be a colossal upgrade. It would probably be better to get the 8800gt or 8800gts otherwise stick it out with what you've got until the next 9xxx part rolls around. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    No AA/AF makes these benchmarks nearly useless. Also, while Oblivion is a great game, it is now a dated game, and no longer a good standard to measure cards by.

    I'm sorry, but I couldn't base a buying decision off of this review.
    Reply
  • semo - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    wouldn't it be better to put in 2 higher clocked dual core processors. aren't 4 cores more than enough for games today? Reply
  • peldor - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    What's up with no AA tests at all and in some cases no AF? Seems like half a review without those. Reply

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