Review: Almost 800MHz
The first Geforce 9th generation card that we got wasn’t a high-end card. It was the Geforce 9600 GT, a card that arrived to the mid-range market segment fully aware of its strengths.
Geforce 9600 GT actually came as a replacement for a year old Geforce 8600 (G84) graphics card. Its fierce competitors are Radeon HD 3850 and HD 3870 cards, and they really pack some nice bang for your buck. Geforce 9600 GT is based on G94, a crippled version of G92 core – the same one that already famous 8800 GT/GTS cards run on.
Although G94 is a crippled G92 core, it still has some aces up its sleeve. A powerful core with 64 stream processors (8800 GTS has 128) runs at 650MHz with Shaders at 1625MHz. However, G94 packs a 256-bit memory interface, a feature that G84 didn’t have, that combined with 512MB of memory makes a lethal duo. Last mainstream generation, 8600GT, had slower 128-bit memory interface that’s now exclusive to low-end cards. Memory characteristics of 9600GT are equal to those on 8800 GT, and even the memory speeds, at 900MHz, are identical.
Let us now concentrate on our today’s menu – Gainward Geforce 9600 GT 1024MB PCX Golden Sample. And yes, this card packs 1024MB of memory.
Before we move on to 9600GT 1024MB detailed characteristics, we must say that our opinion of Gainward gets better with each card we test. All the cards we tested lately show great overclocking potential, and if you’re not the overclocking type then no worries – Gainward sells factory overclocked cards too. Of course, we’re talking about GLH series (Goes Like Hell), but we can’t forget Golden Sample +MHz, where “+” means that it too can do some serious overclocking.
Today’s guest is visually not that different from Geforce 9600 GT 512 PCX Golden Sample (GS) card that we tested previously, and we’ll use it for comparison with 1024MB version. Both cards come with a “+” suffix, and we know what that means. In order to get better overclocking results on 9600 GT GS cards, Gainward opted for their own cooler, replacing the reference single slot one. Cores on both 9600 GT GS cards run at 700+MHz, whereas Shaders got a 125MHz boost and now run at 1750MHz. The memory also got overclocked and compared to reference 900MHz, it now runs at 1000+MHz.
You can clearly see from the picture that the cards are not that different at a glance. Both feature the same cooler with two heatpipes and central quiet fan. Geforce 9600 GT 1024MB is the one above. If you take a look on the picture below, you’ll notice that, even with the coolers off, it’s still hard to tell these cards apart.
Careful observation results in seeing some changes in power components that regulate voltage on the memory. Gainward 9600 GT 1024MB has additional 512MB of memory on the back of the card. They used Samsung’s memory running at 1000MHz (K4J52324QE-BJ1A).
The memory on the front is cooled with a black heatsink, and the same is done on the back of this 1024MB card. The black heatsink covers the memory modules and makes sure that they’re adequately cooled.
Display Port is also a new thing that Nvidia offers with this card, but the implementation is left up to the partners. Gainward was one of the first that embraced it, and they managed to squeeze in an HDMI port and two DVI outs. There’s no doubt that’s space well used.
Geforce 9600 GT also brings some minor improvements in Pure Video 2 engine also found on 8800GT/GTS (G92)-based cards.
Pure Video HD is a video engine integrated into the core, and meant for video processing acceleration. By handling the load of video processing, your CPU is free to perform other tasks. What Pure Video HD engine does is improve the quality of high and low definition video. Managing video is a difficult task for a CPU so it definitely comes in handy when graphics cards handle that task. We can consider this task as HD acceleration but that’s not al. HD video quality can and should be improved, so 9600 GT video engine also brings some post processing capabilities.
This card is capable of real-time dynamic color and contrast enhancement, and you can enable it in your ForceWare drivers. An important improvement for Vista users is that you’re no longer reverted to the basic theme when HD video is played, and you can keep your beloved Aero.
You can see below how the I/O interface on Gainward 9600 GT GS card looks, and note that it packs a DisplayPort next to HDMI.
With Gainward BLISS 9600 GT GS card, you get an optical SPDIF cable, as well as a regular SPDIF cable that you might need in case you don’t have optical SPDIF out on your motherboard/soundcard. Since this card features HDMI port, you can connect it directly to your HDTV, whereas the DisplayPort will be a feature exclusive to those who own Dell’s 30 inch DisplayPort-ready monitor.
Gainward Geforce 9600 GT 1024MB Golden Sample supports DirectX 10, Shader Model 4.0, OpenGL 2.1 and DisplayPort. It has a quiet dual-slot cooler and can churn out enough muscle to provide pleasant gaming and HD video experience. What sets it apart from the rest of the pack is 1024MB of memory. We’ve always been skeptical towards 1GB cards, but most of them run at reference speeds, anyway. Gainward dared and overclocked the memory to 1000MHz (2000MHz effectively). We’ll see in a moment just how fast this card can go and how it handles the competition.