NVIDIA 9500 GT: Mainstream Graphics Updateby Derek Wilson on September 5, 2008 10:15 PM EST
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Even though sub $100 hardware is very high volume, we don't often see a lot of heated debate surrounding them. People don't usually get excited about mainstream and low end hardware. The battle for who can run the newest game with the coolest effects at the highest resolution, while not applicable to most people, tends to generate quite a bit of interest. There is a lot of brand loyalty in this industry, and people like to see the horse they backed come out on top. Others, while not siding with a particular company, jump on the wagon with what ever company has the fastest part at any given time. I, myself, am a fan of the fastest hardware out at any given time. I get excited by how far we've come, and how much closer the top of the line gets us to the next step. Keeping up with top of the line hardware is more like attending a sporting event or taking in a play: the struggle itself is entertainment value.
For some, knowing what's best does have relevance. For many many others, it is more important for to keep track of hardware that, while cheap, is as capable as possible. And that is where we are today.
At the end of July, NVIDIA released their GeForce 9500 GT. This part (well, the GDDR3 version anyway) is almost a drop in replacement for the 8600 GT as far as the specifications go. In fact, the prices are nearly the same as well.
No, it isn't that exciting. But even these very low end add in cards are head and feet above integrated graphics solutions. While we'd love to see everything get more performance, the price of the 8600 GT has dropped significantly over time. We haven't gotten to a point where people who aren't willing or able to spend above $100 on a graphics card can get good experiences on modern games. At least software and hardware complexity tend to parallel each other to the point where the disparity in how new a title can be played on cheap hardware isn't getting any worse.
So with so many similarities, why release this part? There won't be an endless supply of G84 hardware going forward. Thus the G96 comes along with nearly the same specs selling at the same price. The decreased die size of the 65nm G96 (as opposed to the 80nm G84) will also help to increase profits for NVIDIA and board partners on this hardware while they sell at the same price point. There are rumors that NVIDIA will even move the G96 to 55nm later this year further increasing their saving and possibly enabling passive cooling solutions. But we will have to wait for a while yet to find out if that will actually happen.
Before we get into the 9500 GT itself, let's take a look at the state of the industry that brought us to this point.