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.

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  • ThermoMonkey - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    Don't you think this card is better Suited for HTPC???

    I mean it has an SPDIF input to pass audio over HDMI and that wasn't even mentioned! Wouldn't that provide 8-channel SPDIF (dependent of the sound card)

    Sure its a nice budget card that can game a bit. But I would never use this card for gaming when I can still buy a 8800GTS 512 G92 for $150 that games much better.

    Maybe I missed something in the article, anyone have any comments?
    Reply
  • BernardP - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    Simply because it is the most powerful card that fits in my case. It's true that price/performance is much better wih ATI HD3850 and NVidia 9600GT, but these cards are too long to fit in a smallish ATX case with all three hard-disk slots filled-up. As a casual gamer, I have to choose between getting a short video card or taking one of the HD's out...I get the shorter card. Reply
  • nubie - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    That is one choice, if all or some of your drives are 250Gb you can upgrade to 500GB for ~$75 and then choose a better card.

    An argument could also be made for getting a bigger case (if you need 3 drives now you are maxed for space already) or using a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter for your other drive.

    I can see your point, but if you are going to get a video card at all you might as well solve your case problem and then get a video card that delivers a good value for the price you pay.

    Your case sounds poorly designed, for example, this PC http://sportcompactpc.com/web/">http://sportcompactpc.com/web/ http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/gt3/">http://www.overclockersclub.com/reviews/gt3/ and an external dual HDD enclosure* can handle a Dual Slot 8800GTS (any card up to 235MM, it will supply 150watts for the video card) and 3-4 HDDs.

    I would bet that setup takes up less volume than your current case (it can also hold a second hard drive or a PCI card)

    If you don't want to change cases you can choose to pay more money for an inferior card based on your situation, or simply buy a card that will fit your case and delivers the same performance for less money.


    *(Like a WD 1TB book for example, or one using Firewire or SATA/eSATA)
    Reply
  • BernardP - Tuesday, September 09, 2008 - link

    Thanks for these thoughts, At this point, I am not willing to spend much on a two and a half year old machine. As soon as the new ATI HD46xx is out, prices should fall on the 9500GT. I want to go with NVidia as I currently have NVidia integrated graphics and NVidia drivers offers better scaling options at non-native resolutions, a must for me. Reply
  • Kougar - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    Hi guys.

    I know you get plenty of these, but even if not all the errors can be caught out the gate, certainly they should've been fixed three days after release. I'd use the quote option but it won't function on this PC with either browser, sorry. Such as:

    "People who don't already know what is and is not possible aren't going to buy into the hype."

    Following the context of the paragraph, they're one to many negatives in here. Ya just said the reverse of what you intended.

    "Alternate" was meant to be "alternately" on page 3.

    And worst of all, your specifications chart on page three is labeled "9600GT", when clearly it should have been labeled 9500GT. ;)

    This is not Dailytech, and I know y'all both love to dictate through voice recognition software, but that just makes the issue of Editing the articles afterwards all the more important. I didn't have time to read past page 3 so there are likely more errors to be found...

    Cheers



    Reply
  • Megaknight - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    I really hope AMD does a better job than Nvidia with the 46xx series. 9500GT has almost the same performance as 7600GT, 2 generations older! Reply
  • toyota - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    I hate to tell you but even though the 9500gt is wimpy, its still about twice as fast as 7600gt in modern games. Reply
  • psybience - Sunday, September 07, 2008 - link

    There is a mistake on this article on page 3. The 9600 GT actually has:

    64 stream processors
    1625 mhz shader clock
    16 ROPs
    650 mhz core clock
    256bit memory bus width
    1800 mhz memory clock
    Reply
  • toyota - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    well it is anandtech and they are not known for their proof reading... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    While you are correct on the 9600 GT, this article is about the 9500 GT. That's part of the *huge* problem with NVIDIA right now. The G9x parts never should have been called 8000 series GPUs, but at launch the 8800 GT 256/512 didn't get the 9000 name because they weren't universally better than the 8800 GTX/Ultra. Now we have 8600 and 8800 parts renamed to the 9000 series just to make them seem like they aren't two generations old.

    9800 GT == 8800 GT 512
    9600 GSO = 8800 GS (a limited release 8800 GT with 96 SPs and 12 ROPs)
    9500 GT = 8600 GT Overclocked

    If you look at the mobile world, things become even worse. http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=335...">Here's a quick overview. 8700M = 9600M, 8600M = 9500M, 9800M = 8800M ... just change a few letters on the end.

    Honestly, I think NVIDIA has somehow come to the conclusion that obfuscation and confusion in their part naming is a good thing. Maybe not good for the consumer, but apparently it helps their partners and their bottom line. If not, why do they keep doing it? ATI at least seems to have calmed down on renaming and overlapping names. Not that performance is always clear when we're comparing stuff like 2600, 2900, 3600, 3800, and 4800 parts.

    The real failure, however, is what Derek indicates in this article: the huge gap between the entry-level $75 parts and the $100~$150 parts is inexcusable. Last-gen parts that sell for $100 are still twice as fast as "new" parts selling for $75. These $75 parts are really only worth $50 if you look at the performance offered.
    Reply

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