The Card and The Test

The Hardware

Palit provided us with a rather amazing little 9600 GT, but we received it a little later than our EVGA parts and we didn't have two of the Palit cards to test SLI either. We've done our testing here with the parts EVGA sent us, but there are some very interesting 9600 GT parts coming out.

The Palit part absolutely deserves a mention, and we will be testing it out as soon as we get a chance. Among the notable features is the fact that Palit has provided not only 2 dual-link DVI ports, but interfaces for both HDMI and DisplayPort. There is also an optical SPDIF input on the back enabling audio to be sent over HDMI.

But let's get back to the hardware at hand. NVIDIA reports that the GeForce 9600 GT will draw about 95W in real world apps. This means it does require a PCIe power connector to provide the added juice over the 75W available from the motherboard via the PCIe x16 slot.

The reference design used by EVGA is single slot and makes use of a fan shroud that covers the entire front face of the card. The Palit card we received is a two slot solution, but the main reason for this seems to be the inclusion of all the added I/O. The EVGA part isn't very loud, but we will be interested in comparing the noise levels between the reference design and Palit's larger solution to see if there is any real advantage from going with the wider model.

Our Test Setup

All of today's tests were performed on the 64-bit version of Windows Vista running on a monster of a system. We test all of our graphics cards on high end hardware in order to eliminate the bottlenecks associated with anything but graphics. This means it isn't likely that our numbers will reflect what our readers will see when actually playing a game, but what it does show is which video card is actually capable of providing a better experience when in a situation where graphics processing is the bottle neck.

Isolating the graphics subsystem is important for a few reasons. We can't know what is in your system and we haven't (yet) been able to test every graphics card with every CPU and system memory configuration out there. If you run a system slower than our test bed, you may run into CPU or system memory limited situations, in which case average frame rate won't be governed only by the GPU.

So why is graphics card selection still important? Because the graphics card has the most impact on graphics quality and performance of any single component in the system, and because even in highly CPU limited situation we can still see slow frames come along and throw the GPU a curve ball. Having a more powerful GPU in your system will provide a smoother experience even in CPU limited situations that show less difference between two competing solutions. In a system limited case, dropping in a higher performance GPU will also enable you to turn on more features. We can't decide what eye candy is "better" as every gamer is different and will make their own trade offs. And for new GPU launches, we don't have the time to benchmark every permutation of every setting in every game we test.

The bottom line is that better performance from a GPU in a high end system will translate to more flexibility with options and smoother performance in a lower end system.

Here is our test configuration:

Test Configuratoin

Test Setup
CPU 2x Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775 @ 3.20GHz
Motherboard Intel D5400XS (Skulltrail)
Video Cards ATI Radeon HD 3870
ATI Radeon HD 3850 256MB
ATI Radeon X1950 XTX
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 256MB
NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT 512MB
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS
Video Drivers Catalyst 8.2
ForceWare 169.28
ForceWare 174.12 (9600 GT only)
Hard Drive Seagate 7200.9 120GB 8MB 7200RPM
RAM 2xMicron 2GB FB-DIMM DDR2-8800
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

 

Power Tests

We did run some power tests, but keep in mind that they will be a little high due to the fact that this is, afterall, Skulltrail we are running.

Power Consumption at Idle
 

Power Consumption under Load (Oblivion 2560 x 1600)
 

AMD's hardware shines at idle power with CrossFire even coming in below the 9600 GT. NVIDIA absolutley remains competitive in terms of power consumption under load, which is good to see.

Index Crysis Performance
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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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