Sub-$100 gaming gets a refresh
The NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT is a budget card with a sub $100 price tag that offers up impressive features and performance for the price. Does your girlfriend or dad finally get that much-needed gaming upgrade??Introduction
Don’t get me wrong – I love products like the GeForce GTX 280 and the Radeon HD 4870 X2 as much, if not more than, the next guy. But I also am privy to the truth: the GPU giants make their cash on cards like the new GeForce 9500 GT. Though not as sexy and exciting as the world of uber-expensive and super-high-end graphics cards the budget graphics parts are gobbled up by hungry OEMs looking to build a “gaming” system and users with consistent wallet deficiency.
On a pretty consistent basis we see technologies from the high-end GPUs, like NVIDIA’s new GT200 or AMD’s new RV770, filter down into the budget realm with less performance, less memory and a that all important lower price tag. Today NVIDIA is unveiling an update to their sub-$100 GPU line up with a new products in the 9000-series of parts called the GeForce 9500 GT.
The GeForce 9500 GT GPU and Reference Card
The GeForce 9500 GT GPU is based on G92 technology, not the most recent GT200 design. Built on a 65nm process technology the core has approximately 314 million transistors – very small compared to NVIDIA’s GT200 part that comes in at 1.4 billion transistors. I should also note here that in the official informational specifications for the 9500 GT NVIDIA mentions a quick transition to the 55nm version of the 9500 GT – obviously they are trying to save money and power consumption as they did with the move from the 9800 GTX to 9800 GTX+ recently.
Obviously with a move from the 754 million transistors on the G92-based 9800 GTX to 314 million on the 9500 GT some goodies are getting cut off in the name of a lower price. But what exactly is missing on this new chip? The first change is a move from 128 shader processors to 32 SPs – these will run at 1.4 GHz while the core clock speed is set at 550 MHz for reference designs.
The memory controller is also changed from a 256-bit wide bus to 128-bit – this obviously saves on die space because of the fewer controllers required and fewer pin outs are required on the physical connections of the chip to a printed circuit board. Most GeForce 9500 GTs should ship with 256MB of GDDR3 memory though 512MB models and cards using GDDR2 will be optional as well. All of this cuts the memory bandwidth from 70.4 GB/s to about 25.6 GB/s.
For filtering functionality the 9500 GT is left with half the ROPs of the 9800 GTX, just 8, and the filtering rate for the card is 16 texels/clock totaling 8.8 GT/s compared to the 9800 GTX’s 43.2 GT/s. Obviously with these feature changes we need to adjust our expected performance levels.
The GeForce 9500 GT card itself is very unassuming – a simple single-slot cooler design that is not at all noisy and no power connection required other than the power provided by the PCI Express bus.
All of the memory on the card is located under the heatsink – nothing to see here on the back.
For external connections the 9500 GT is given a pair of dual-link DVI outputs that support HDCP and HDMI adapters; Display Port is supported by the card but depends on the vendors’ implementations. The TV output supports S-Video and HD outputs via an included dongle.
The top of the 9500 GT features a single SLI connector – dual SLI is a viable option here but no three way solutions. The small black connector next to the SLI bridge is an input for digital audio pass through on an HDMI connection.
Ripping off the heatsink reveals a pretty bare design; the 9500 GT GPU is pretty small and is only surrounded by a 4-pack of memory chips (two to each 64-bit memory controller).
Go ahead, compare this image to the one we showed you of the GT200 last month. *gasp*
The memory on our reference sample was from Samsung and was of the GDDR3 variety, rated at 1000 MHz. That’s 200 MHz below the reference speed that NVIDIA is setting this memory at so I am willing to bet overclocking this card will be incredibly easy.