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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  • dm0r - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    Ca we say the best midrange nvidia card ever?
    Good review.Ill keep tunned for more testing.I also would like to see the 256MB variant.Thanks
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    No, I don't think you can say best mid-range card ever. The past year has been so bad, it just makes this look like a good deal. This is what the mid-rnage should have always been like. Some better mid-range cards in the past

    Better mid-range cards that I've owned in the past

    Voodoo3 1000 - $45 card, performed better than $100 cards at the time
    Ti4200 - $120, very overclockable
    Radeon LE - $65 - bios update to perform like a $165 card
    6600GT - defacto mid-range card for a long time
    Radeon X800GTO2 - Bios update to 16 pipes, X850XT PE speeds

    There are others, these are just very good mid-range cards that I've owned, that I would say offered the same or better bang-for-buck as the 9600GT.

    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    The 6600 was a great card for it's time, and further back than that the 4200ti was incredible - though you could argue that it wasn't technically mid-range. Reply
  • dm0r - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    oh, forgot to mention the temperature tests Reply
  • knitecrow - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    It is a good preview but I would like to see more in depth benchmarking, esp. with titles like Gears Of War, and Bioshock Reply
  • Spivonious - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    Is the 3850 included in the benchmarks at 256MB or 512MB? Reply
  • hadifa - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    Tomshardware has done some tests with the 512MB version Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, February 23, 2008 - link

    I don't know why anyone bothers with the 256mb version anymore. The 512mb is cheap as dirt and does wonders on those higher resolutions.

    I was planning on getting one, but this 9600gt is looking a little better.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Thursday, February 21, 2008 - link

    Nevermind, I read the whole last page now :) Reply

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