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Appeared on: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Nvidia 9600GT

1. Introduction , Asus 9600GT Silent

The Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT GPU is a new mid-range graphics card in the D9x graphics family, which is manufactured in 65nm technology.
SLI-Ready,the GeForce 9600 GT chipset offers 64 stream processors, a 256-bit frame buffer, standard-setting GeForce 9 Series features and support for DirectX 10 games.

Nvidia claims that the new 9600GT offers up to a 90% performance increase over the comparable 8 Series GPU GeForce 8600 GTS.

Key features:

Below you can see all the currently available Nvidia 9xxx series models:

  Core Clock (MHz) Shader Clock (MHz) Memory Clock (MHz) Memory Amount Memory Interface Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)
9800 GX2 600 1500 1000 1 GB 512-bit 128 76.8
9800 GTX 675 1688 1100 512MB GDDR3 256-bit 70.4 43.2
9600 GT 650 1625 900 512MB 256-bit 57.6 20.8
9600 GSO 550 1375 800 384MB 192-bit 38.4 26.4

The 9600GT comes to cover the lower end market with good price/performance ratio. Looking at it specs, the onboard 512MB ram and the high core/memory clocks should cover the needs of the majority of users.

Today we have in our hands two implementations of the Nvidia 9600GT GPU, the Asus 9600GT Silent, the Gainward Gainward 9600GT Top and the Inno3D 9600GT IChill.

- Asus 9600GT Silent Edition

Asus released its own solution for quiet operation based at Nvidia's 9600GT reference card. The "Silent Edition" features a new cooler design that allows the GPU to operate at lower temperatures , called V-Cool heatsink.

The retail box is rather big, indicating that the board of the card could be slightly larger that the usual Nvidia designs.

The Asus EN9600GT Silent bulks a D-Sub15-to-DVI converter, an S-Video cable, two CD-ROM discs with drivers and utilities and of course a DVI-to-HDMI converter.

The Asus EN960GT Silent features a massive external heatsink to keep the overall core/memory banks cool. There are two DVI-D and a component output. Of course SLI configurations are possible with this card, when paired with another Nvidia based 9600GT. In order to work properly, the card needs a 6-pin molex power supply.

The card runs at the default Nvidia specifications. Later we will examine the overclocking capabilities of the card, provided that its passive cooling system could possibly make overclocking more difficult.

2. Gainward Bliss 9600GT 1024 GS

Gainward released a unique proposal based at Nvidia 9600GT series, offering not only higher core/memory clocks but also an additional 512MB of memory on board, bringing the total memory size of 1GB! More-over, there is a new cooling system that promises to keep the card really cool. Let's see how Gainward describes this product:

"...Gainward’s award Winning  Golden Sample™ Technology  and High-Performance  / Wide-Bandwidth™ hardware design powered by massive 1024MB version of 9600GT graphic card.  Bliss 9600GT 1024MB, Equipped with stunning 700+MHz on the core clock and a super fast 1000+MHz(DDR 2000+) MHz on the memory clock, leads to an ultimate performance for enthusiasts, in addition the massive 1024MB /256bits width memory interface size can undoubtedly allow the graphics processors to achieve higher resolutions without running into memory capacity bottlenecks in games.

Gaiwnard´s new revolutionary cooling system combines the advantage of silence from heat sink as well advantage of thermal conductivity from fan, offers something over and above the Nvidia reference design. 3-Phase Power Supply System Designed for  gainward’s Bliss 9600GT allows a better power solution than 2-phase power supply system in the market; as a result, the whole graphics card is able to stays in a lower temperature meanwhile lengthen the life of the graphics card and also enables the over clocking ability.

Bundled Game includes Tomb Raider and other accessories.

Smart Control Utility “ExperTool”:Reliable and easy to use the world’s first Desktop utility in the market for GF9600 series core/memory/shader clock setting with Smart fan control feature for GPU temperature monitoring, Over-heat alert, Over-heat clocking down, Over-heat GPU power down features gives a easy desktop management..."

The retail box follows the usual design of Gainward products, featuring many logos at the front. We can see clearly that the Gainward card supports the upcoming DisplayPort output among with HDMI and of course traditional DVI.

The box includes a drivers CD-ROM, CyberLink DVD Solution and the Tomb Raider Anniversary retail game. A DVI to Dsub adapter is also included among with two more cables for sound (Toslink).

Looking at the card, we see a massive copper heatsink that covers the GPU area and of course a 80mm fan that keeps both the core and memory banks cool.

SLI is possible with the Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS graphics card.

A big heatsink at the bottom side of the board should further keep the temperature in low levels.

The interface panel is quite interesting. The board comes with not only 2xDVI-D outputs but also an HDMI and DisplayPort output!

A closer look at both HDMI and DP ports...

After installing the graphics card we can find more details about its main features and specifications. The card's clock speeds are higher than Nvidia's native specifications. The main core is clocked at 700MHz, while memory runs at 1000MHz. The Shaders are also clocked high at 1750MHz.

3. Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL Edition

Inno3D's 9600GT proposal comes with a different cooling system, following the company's iChilLL ZEROtherm brand name. By looking at the card we can say that is comes with several "enhancements" compared with a generic Nvidia 9600GT card, such as the golden plated outputs.

The retail box of the Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL follows its own unique design.

When we opened the box we just found a rather big cooler. But where is the 9600GT card? Probably in the one carton box that its showed at the left...

Actually, the cooling system has not been attached to the main board of the graphics card, allowing you to experiment a little bit before setting the card ready for installation and use.

The retail box includes two smaller boxes. We will find two discs with utilities/drivers and of the Ghost Recon 2 Advanced Warfighter retail game . There are also two printed sheets with an installation guide for the iChiLL hurricane GPU cooler.

The Inno3D 9600GT card at its glory, fully naked, waiting for installing the Hurricane gpu cooler.

There are several holes around the gpu area that will be used for the secure installation of the the iChiLL cooler.

The cooler has a massive heatsink and a a rotating fan.

What's rather cool is the fact that the card's design allows you to either install the provided cooling system or to choose to use a passive cooling solution for quieter operation.

The installation process is rather simple, unless you choose to follow the printed instructions. The printed sheet indicated that the hole number 3 was the suitable for 9600GT series, however by simply placing the mounting holes you can see that the correct hole is number 2. Anyway a small glitch that shouldn't trouble you that much.

As always, don't forget to apply some thermal paste before attaching the cooler on the GPU,

and then place the numb rotated mounting screws to keep the cooler at its place.

Here is how the Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL edition should look like after placing the cooler.

In the second pic below you get an idea of the thickness of the card.  To answer the question, yes, or at least when installed to our test PC, the Hurricane cooler blocked off two PCI-E slots due to its size.

The two DVI-D outputs are gold platted.

The card runs higher than Nvidia's specifications. The core is clocked at 720MHz , memory runs at 970MHz and shaders at 1625MHz.

4. Tests and setup

All test were conducted using the following PC setup:

All three graphics cards were done using the same graphics driver revision. We used many games and applications to evaluate each graphics card's performance. In addition we used FRAPS software to measure in game performance when needed.

DirectX 9


5. Testbed DirectX9, DirectX10
- Testbed DirectX9

For all the tests we used the default settings of 3DMark05 as following:

Again we left all the default settings:

- Testbed DirectX10


We used the build-in benchmark with all details maxed out.

We used hocbench Crysis benchmark tool for three resolutions; 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and finally 1920x1200. We run the benchmark software either with High and Very High details in order to find out at which resolution the game is playable.

We maxed out all visual details, including 4x AA Multisampling and of course 16x AF. We used FRAPS to record the game-in experience after recording a two minutes runout.

6. FutureMark Hall Of Fame

The Futuremark benchmarks have been highly discussed between gamers and reviewers. For your information we post the results from 3DMark 05, 3DMark 06 and of course the newly released 3DMark Vantage that gives you a rough idea of what can you expect from the tested graphic cards.

As was expected the higher core/memory/shader clocks does affect the overall 3D Mark 05 and 3DMark 06 scores..

Passing to 3DMark Vantage, we have a clearer view about the card's performance at various resolutions, starting from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200. The Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS has more onboard memory and seems to do the trick at producing higher 3DMark Vantage scores. At 1280x1024 the performance difference is higher, but even at 1920x1200 there is still a noticable difference. The Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL and Asus 9600GT Silent peformed very closely in all three resolutions.

7. Crysis (DirectX10)

Crysis is probably the defacto benchmark game since almost none currently available card can offer acceptable frame rates when very high quality settings are selected. All three 9600GT cards can have acceptable frame rates at 1280x1024 with high quality settings. The Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS offers higher frame rates compared to its competitors. This is approximately 4FPS higher on both average and max values.

Enabling the very high quality settings has a impact (over 50%) on the performance of all tested 9600GT cards. The Gainward 9600GT 1024GS still has a lead due to its higher onboard memory and higher shader clocks.

Pushing resolutions even higher at 1680x1050 and 19200x1200 showed us that the specific game was practically not playable:

8. Company Of Heroes v1.71 (DirectX 10)

Company Of Heroes is a well known action/strategy game with many fans around the world. The game was the first ever that utilized the DirectX10 and its game physics are very impressive. We maxed out all visual details and used the the build-in benchmark in order to measure the performance of each card.

At 1280x1024, the average performance of all tested video cards is very good. The Gainward 9600GT 1024GS tops the competition, due to its higher clocks. We can see that the Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL did not post any significant performance difference compared to the Asus 9600GT, despite its higher core/memory clocks. Continuing with the 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 resolutions, the performance difference seems to be very small for all tested video cards, with the Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS to have a slight lead.

9. Assassins Creed (DirectX 10), Half Life 2 Episode 2 (DirectX 9)

- Assassins Creed (DirectX 10)

Assassins Creed is a new game from Ubisoft that supports the DirectX 10.1 extensions. The graphics are highly demanding, especially with all details maxed out. We tested the graphic cards at 1920x1200 resolution only, since the game has very high frame rates at lower resolutions. Using FRAPS we recorded the same fight scene and the game results are presented below.

We can see that all tested cards have an almost similar performance. There is a 4FPS performance difference between the Asus 9600GT Silent and Gainward 9600GT 1024GS.

- Half Life 2 Episode 2 (DirectX 9)

Half Life 2 is a first person shooter game that everybody has played and loved. The game at Episode 2 has several image quality improvements and hopefully all tested cards will perform very well. By enabling 4xAA and 16AF we have a visual improvement.

The Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS gave the highest frame rates at all tested resolutions.

10. Overclocking

Overclocking a graphics card could be a very easy task, depending on the available cooling system and overall core/memory frequencies. All tested 9600GT cards are overclockable, but each card has its own limits, which can be found with a trial-error testing procedure.

We used the latest RivaTuner software and gradually increased the core/memory/shader frequencies until we got an error-free 3 round Crysis benchmark.

Graphics Card
Asus 9600GT Silent
Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS
Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL

The Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL turned out to be the most overcloclable card. The core/memory clocks reached very high levels, although we didn't manage to get Shaders higher than 1625Mhz, at least at the highest clocks. The Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS also scored well giving the highest shader clocks. The passively Asus 9600GT Silent followed, as it was expected.

- Asus 9600GT Silent

- Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS

- Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL

11. Conclusion

Today we tested three different implementations of the Nvidia's 9600GT GPU. All three tested graphic cards have different core/memory/shader clocks that directly affect their overall performance. The Asus 9600GT Silent comes with a passive cooling and it is not overclocked, aka a generic board. The Gainward 9600GT 1024GS is a special graphics card, offering with not only some additional 512MB of memory on board but also an HDMI and a DisplayPort output, making it seriously futureproof. The Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL uses a flexible cooling design that can be also used for passive cooling , offering users more options.

The various tests showed that higher clocks mean a higher performance. The additional 512MB of Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS did help to get higher FPS with Crysis, but the performance boost was not as much as we hoped, especially at the highest resolutions of 1920x1200 . Below you can see the retail prices of all the tested graphics cards.

Asus 9600GT Silent
~170 Euro
Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS
~ 210 Euro
Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL
~ 150 Euro

The Gainward 9600GT 1024 GS would cost you some additional €40 compared to the Asus and Inno3D solutions. In any case the three tested proposals are reasonably priced and will not let you down with their performance. The 9600GT GPU offers high overclocking margins making them popular among enthusiasts.

If we had to pick up a card, it would be Inno3D 9600GT iChiLL series due to its smart GPU cooler design that allows for quiet operation when the card is used for either gaming or most importantly playback of DVD/ HD movies. Aggressively priced, I think that you could consider it as a good purchase, especially if you plan to upgrade your video card.




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