When the Smoke Clears & Prices Settle: GeForce 9600 GT vs. Radeon HD 3870by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 22, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT vs. ATI Radeon HD 3870
Across 9 games and 12 benchmarks the Radeon HD 3870 and the GeForce 9600 GT trade blows. If you want specifics, the 3870 wins 7 benchmarks while the 9600 GT wins 5. However, whenever the 9600 GT manages a win it is usually by a larger margin - an average of 24% across our benchmarks compared to a 9.9% average margin of victory for the Radeon HD 3870.
The 9600 GT's average margin of victory in the games it does well in is so great mainly because of two titles: Quake Wars and Call of Duty 4. The strange thing is that we've seen ATI GPUs do better in both games, only to see performance go down in the last driver update. Quake Wars also recently got updated to the 1.5 patch so it's possible that the new patch also slowed things down for the Radeon HD 3870, but we suspect that both of these performance outliers are driver related and can be remedied. If ATI could achieve performance parity in these two titles that would reduce the 9600 GT's average margin of victory to 8.9%, very close to the 3870's current advantage in the benchmarks it does win.
However we must recommend based on presently available data, and right now it looks like the GeForce 9600 GT is the better buy. It's cheaper than the Radeon HD 3870 and offers a better overall performance case thanks to its larger margin of victory when it comes ahead in a game.
If you look at the cheapest available Radeon HD 3870 ($184.99 from Newegg) then the 9600 GT price advantage all but disappears, and if you don't play Quake Wars or CoD4 then the 3870 ends up being just as good of an option as the 9600 GT.