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Conclusion

Without a doubt the new G94 graphics processor is a good solution. It is a real breakthrough in the belo-$200 segment if compared with the obviously weak G84. The new GPU is similar to the G92 which has become a sensation in the below-$349 category.

Formally belonging to the ninth generation, the GeForce 9600 GT doesn’t have any new capabilities and is not based on a new architecture as you might have guessed. It is still a DirectX 10.0-supporting chip that offers the same functionality as the GeForce 8800/G80 released a year and a half ago. We don’t say this functionality is not enough, yet users may ask for something fundamentally different from the GeForce 9 series. The main new feature is the new level of performance in every price segment as is demonstrated by the GeForce 9600 GT.

As we have seen in the gaming tests, 64 execution units are enough for most of modern games. We’ve only seen a serious performance hit in comparison with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB in such games as Bioshock, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3 and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. In a few tests the GeForce 9600 GT was even faster than the more expensive and advanced GeForce 8800 GT 512MB due to the higher frequency of the core. Thus, the new card is indeed a well-balanced solution without bottlenecks, unlike the GeForce 8600 series that was greatly limited by the small number of execution units. Nvidia has corrected the earlier mistakes. There is still a huge gap between the GeForce 9600 GT and GeForce 8600 GTS, so we are likely to see cheaper versions of G94-based cards as they can use rather simple PCBs. Besides everything else, the GeForce 9600 GT wiped out the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB, which suffered from the well-known problem of Nvidia’s cards – inefficient memory management.

The RV670 chip from the former ATI Technologies was unrivalled in the below-$200 sector for a while, but Nvidia stuck back a heavy blow. You can take a look at the table below that shows the current situation in the mentioned price category:

Well, notwithstanding the worse support on the game developers’ part, the ATI Radeon HD 3870 feels quite confident, especially at high resolutions. But at 1280x1024, which is the main resolution for most gamers who are interested in below-$200 graphics cards, this card is only superior in four tests, including both versions of 3DMark and the highly demanding Crysis. In six more tests the Radeon HD 3870 delivers the same performance as its opponent. Among these games are Call of Juarez DX10 Enhancement Pack, Hellgate: London and World in Conflict, which are too demanding to run normally on mainstream cards. So, Nvidia’s card obviously suits better for users whose monitors support resolutions up to 1280x1024. If your monitor has a native resolution of 1600x1200 or 1680x1050, you may want to prefer the ATI Radeon HD 3870.

As for the ATI Radeon HD 3850, it is inferior to the Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT in most tests excepting Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3, but equal to it in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, TES IV: Oblivion and Command & Conquer 3. Considering that the recommended price of the 3850 model is $169 while the Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT is going to cost about $190 or even more at first, we can’t say that the new card totally beats the Radeon HD 3850 on the market. As the GeForce 9600 GT will be getting cheaper, the Radeon HD 3850 will feel the pressure unless AMD cuts the price, too. Anyway, it is the buyer who wins because his shopping choice has become broader.

The Gainward Bliss 9600 GT 512MB GS doesn’t ensure a considerable performance gain in comparison with the reference card because its performance growth varies from 3% to 8% only but it offers more important benefits instead. First, it has a quiet and effective cooler. Second, it’s got a wide selection of interfaces, including a DisplayPort and S/PDIF TOSLINK. So this card is going to be a good choice for a modern multimedia center that can also be used for playing games. The only prerequisite is that you need a roomy system case that allows installing dual-slot graphics cards. This niche product cannot be cheap, so you are unlikely to find a Gainward Bliss 9600 GT 512MB GS selling at its recommended price. It is going to cost more than $200 we guess. Anyway, this card will surely find its buyer due to its unique characteristics.

Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT: Summary

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in for its price range;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Excellent quality of anisotropic filtering;
  • Hardware HD video decoding support;
  • 512MB of graphics memory with 256bit interface;
  • PCI Express 2.0 support;
  • Integrated DisplayPort support;
  • Low power consumption;
  • Low noise.

Lows:

  • Yields to ATI Radeon HD 3870 in high resolutions;
  • May be priced a little bit too high at first.

Gainward Bliss 9600 GT 512MB GS: Summary

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in for its price range;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Excellent quality of anisotropic filtering;
  • Hardware HD video decoding support;
  • 512MB of graphics memory with 256bit interface;
  • PCI Express 2.0 support;
  • Integrated DisplayPort support;
  • Sound over HDMI support;
  • DisplayPort, HDMI and S/PDIF TOSLINK outputs;
  • No compatibility problems;
  • Low power consumption;
  • Efficient cooling system;
  • Low noise;
  • Bundled with full version of Tom Raider: Anniversary game.

Lows:

  • Little performance improvement over the reference card;
  • Yields to ATI Radeon HD 3870 in high resolutions;
  • Dual-slot cooling system may be a problem for compact system cases;
  • Outdated software for work with media content;
  • High price.
 
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