NVIDIA 9500 GT: Mainstream Graphics Updateby Derek Wilson on September 5, 2008 10:15 PM EST
- Posted in
Mainstream Graphics Today
Much of the time integrated graphics solutions are enough for business or casual computing needs, but when they are not there needs to be an affordable next step up in the current generation of hardware. Low end cards are generally not designed with gaming in mind, but that doesn't mean that they are not important to gaming.
Many are interested in this low level of add-in graphics card. The volumes on these parts are much higher than at other price points. Some people don't need to worry about 3D and others as non-gamers and non-tech-savvy are not interested in looking past marketing (and also desire a low price). They either don't know or don't care about the kinds of applications that will have a tough time performing well on their systems.
The reason this impacts PC gaming and game development is because publishers are not going to limit the potential sales of their games to consumers who are already gamers and have at least mid-range graphics cards. In order to attract the money that studios need to develop games on the scale that is the current trend, the target market needs to include a much greater slice of PC owners. It needs to reach down to at least the 9500 GT, if not integrated graphics.
We've said this just about every time we've published an article on lower end hardware: the low end is an anchor tied to the neck of game developers. Well, that's not entirely fair, as the previous generation acts the same way as not everyone with a graphics card upgrades every 18 months. But that just means the low end of the previous generation is the real problem.
There are a lot of amazing things possible with the latest and greatest hardware. But not many developers have the time and energy to really focus on getting the most out of today's $400+ graphics solutions. The bulk of their time needs to be put in to making the game playable on the vast majority of hardware that is currently out there. Sure, sliders and settings exist that do make prettier pictures with more powerful computers, but if the bottom line were more powerful it would impact the performance and quality at every level.
The worst offenders are certainly still integrated solutions. These parts are notoriously slow. Even the faster offerings from AMD and NVIDIA, while the are superior to Intel's dismal graphics components, don't do us any favors. But the lowest end add-in cards, while offering quite a boost over integrated graphics in terms of performance, are still under performers in terms in terms of gaming.
Yes, we know that hardware guys can just give performance away for free. But while casual computer users who have something on this level of hardware will be less frustrated than integrated graphics users, they will still not likely be inspired by anything that is possible on their hardware either.
The value of getting real gaming experiences on mid-range to high end hardware with high production value games cannot be understated. Ever since the days of the Commodore 64 and the Atari ST, the general public has been shown ridiculous things that don't reflect game play. Even today there is an over abundance of time spent showing off cut scenes and non-interactive parts of games that aren't actual game play. People who don't already know what is and is not possible aren't going to buy into the hype.
The best thing that could happen for gaming is for lower end hardware to offer more power so that anyone who had an add-in graphics card could download any demo out there and experience a real taste of what is really possible rather than what they currently get.
Don't get us wrong here -- the industry has seen good steps up in performance on the low end and game developers fitting a good range of features into their titles that are at least playable on low end parts. We just want more. Intel integrated seems to be a lost cause at this point, and even NVIDIA and AMD need to step up their integrated segment as well. The low end parts are where the real war is fought and the future of PC gaming, in large part, is defined by the capabilities of this segment.
Ever wonder why consoles come out of the gate with better looking, better performing games than PCs seem capable of offering? It is because game programmers know exactly the hardware they have to work with and develop exclusively for that. Over the next 5 years, eventually the lowest end part that PC game developers are targeting meets or exceeds the performance of the hardware in consoles and for a short time PC game quality leads the curve (until the next next generation consoles come out with current generation mid-range parts and quality that blows the PC away once again).
If the graphics hardware industry is serious about PC gaming (and we firmly believe they need to be going forward), for the next round of console launches all the players in the graphics market need to be willing to come out with a low end part that meets (or comes really close to) the performance and capabilities of what ever graphics hardware is within the consoles.
Yes, there will still be a significant amount of older hardware in systems that developers will target for a time. But time the consoles spend on top will be significantly reduced, and if people could get the quality of a console on the computer they already own for about $75 rather than the three to four hundred dollar and higher prices of next gen consoles, imagine how many people would opt to upgrade their PC than to run out and buy a new console.
Leveling the playing field in terms of production value is one thing. Time and energy still need to be spent on quality and gameplay. Imagine how much more time can be spent on that if shoe horning graphical effects onto low quality hardware wasn't necessary and developers could spend more time making their game competitive by making it good rather than by making it look as good as possible on the crappy hardware they need to target.
Anyway, things aren't always the way they should be. We can dream quite a bit, but reality probably won't shift because we believe it to be in the best interest of the industry. We'll leave this topic and move on to the hardware that stands to limit the innovation of game developers for the next couple years.
The NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT goes up against the previous range of NVIDIA hardware from the 8500 GT to the 8600 GTS. As for competitors from AMD, we are looking at the Radeon HD 2400 series. Though we have yet to see AMD's refresh part yet, we will certainly be waiting and hoping to get more out of it than what we are expecting with the 9500 GT.