GeForce 9000 series makes its debut

NVIDIA wasn’t about to sit back and let the HD 3850 and HD 3870 cards from AMD have all the fun in the $200 graphics card price point. Sure, the 8800 GT was SUPPOSED to be there, but it just didn’t pan out. The 9600 GT looks to be a worthy successor though.


Some would speculate, and I would agree, that in many ways the GPU world has been pretty stale over the past 2 years or so.  We haven’t seen any incredibly dramatic shifts in technology or even performance, but perhaps the shift from DX9 to DX9c and then to DX10 just has us spoiled.  The fact that the 8800 GTX/Ultra remains the single fastest GPU on the market since November of 2006 makes us pine for the good old days of rapid change — at least a little.

That doesn’t mean that ATI/AMD or NVIDIA have been sitting still; quite to the contrary both company are continuing to find ways to remarket and resell their tweaked products, even if they are a bit too similar to previous options.  When the 8600 parts launched we said then that the performance and feature advantages over the 7600 GT were few and far between and it seemed the mid-range parts, the best selling parts, were stuck in the mud.  AMD started to mix things up with the release of their Radeon HD 3850 and 3870 parts and then NVIDIA’s own G92-based 8800 GT cards flipped the coin again. 

NVIDIA is back again with another new mid-range part, this time under the disguise of the GeForce 9000-series descriptor.  The GeForce 9600 GT aims at the price point that AMD’s HD 3850 sits in, from $170-$200, and will surely push their previous 8600-series cards out the door once and for all. 

The New GeForce 9600 GT GPU

Codenamed G94, you can already guess that the new 9600 GT has a lot in common with the G92 aka the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512MB.  Built on the same 65nm process technology, the G94 takes the great features of hte G92, cuts it down just a bit, and comes up with the following features:

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The interesting bits start with the 64 stream processors that run at 1625 MHz on GPU core that runs at 650 MHz.  If you remember, the 8800 GT had 112 SPs while the GTS had 128; the GTS SPs also ran at 1625 MHz with a 650 MHz core speed.  The 9600 GT still sports a 256-bit memory bus that is used for transfer of data between it and the 512MB of GDDR3 memory that runs at 900 MHz on the card.  There are 16 ROPs on the G94 giving it more than enough fill rate to power some high end gaming titles.

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Also of note is the display support on the card: all 9600 GTs will support HDCP and have the option for DisplayPort and HDMI connections.  We even have a new DVI-to-HDMI adaptor to work with here, just as we did when AMD introduced it last year.  Though NVIDIA’s card don’t have an on-board sound controller to implement audio over the HDMI, some cards will ship with a connector to attach to your audio card for HDMI pass through. 

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The GPU itself is comprised of 505 million transistors and is smaller than the G92 core making it easier and more cost efficient to produce.  The markings on this GPU that I tested seem to show the GPU was fabbed in the second week of 2008. 

BFG GeForce 9600 GT 512MB Review - NVIDIA G94 Tested - Graphics Cards 85

Other than those features chages, NVIDIA was eager to promote some “new” features that the GeForce 9600 GT.  I say “new” like that only because these features ALREADY existed on the G92 cores of the 8800 GT and GTS, they just weren’t advertised as heavily.  Take this compression technology that allows more efficient transfer of data from memory to the GPU – NVIDIA is comparing it to the G80 in the graph above, not G92.

BFG GeForce 9600 GT 512MB Review - NVIDIA G94 Tested - Graphics Cards 86

Also “new” to the 9600 GT is support for an improved PureVideo HD that allows for a new feature called Dynamic Contrast and Color Enhancement.  This is a software update the existing VP2 engine that exists on the G92 cards as well, and support for it should be quietly rolling back for owners of those cards soon. 

BFG GeForce 9600 GT 512MB Review - NVIDIA G94 Tested - Graphics Cards 87

Finally, its always nice to see how companies compare themselves to the competition.  With the release of the 9600 GT, NVIDIA again has a sub-$200 part that they are pushing as the main competition to the AMD Radeon HD 3850 that has been so successful over the past three months. 

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