Review: 20% (up to 30%) better than the last-gen mainstream 8600 GTS
Our today’s test subject is Galaxy's 9500 GT graphics card, and it’s based on an overclocked Nvidia G96 graphics processor. Compared to the previous generation this chip brings much better performance into the low-end segment. It’s supposed to replace G86 graphics processor and the cards based on it – Geforce 8400/8500.
Nvidia claims Geforce 9500 GT should be a hit card in entry level segment, bringing up to three times better performance compared to the previous generation, meaning Geforce 8500. This of course sounds nice, but 9500 GT will have to pack a punch in order to beat the cards in this segment (€65-80); HD 3850 and 9600 GSO to name a few but you can still find Geforce 8600 GT and GTS cards priced at around €45-60. It’s important to note that technical characteristics of G96 chip match those found on G84 chip on Geforce 8600 card (a mainstream graphics card), which means that 9500 GT has to prove it’s better if it is to sell well. Our Galaxy card runs at high 700MHz which is a first prerequisite to beat the 8600 GTS card running at 675MHz.
Reference Geforce 9500 GT card runs at 550MHz, the shaders at 1400MHz, whereas memory speeds depend on the design. Reference speeds of GDDR2 are 400MHz (800MHz effectively) while GDDR3 models feature memory running at 800MHz (1600MHz effectively). This makes it clear that reference 9500GT with GDDR3 memory are somewhere between GDDR3 cards: 8600 GT (540/1190/700 MHZ) and 8600 GTS (675/1450/1000 MHz).
The following picture shows Geforce 9500 GT; the one above shows Geforce 8600 GTS, and below it you see Geforce 8500 GT. Geforce 9500 GT even matches 8600 GTS length-wise.
We’ve mentioned that technical characteristics of G96 and G84 cores match – 32 shader units with 16 texture units, 8 ROPs, but in both cases we’re talking about 128-bit memory interface. The new 55nm process brought about many improvements and this card should easily lock horns with the faster 8600 GTS card. Apart from that, there’s PCI Express 2.0 interface and PureVideoHD3/VP3 engine that make this card a nice treat in the low-end market segment.
Although the G96 on Galaxy Geforce 9500 GT card is built in 65nm, Nvidia is preparing 55nm 9500 GT versions that we’ll probably see as soon as they get rid of 65nm chip supplies. We don’t expect much improvement with this smaller chip, except maybe it’ll be less hot and maybe be more overclocking friendly, but we do expect it to be cheaper, which should help Geforce 9500 GT to stay in the run for the low-end title.
Geforce 8500 GT (G86 core) is definitely out of the game – the card uses GDDR2 memory, 16 shader units with 8 texture units and 8 ROPs, and it runs at 450/900/400MHz.
Our test card, Galaxy Geforce 9500 GT, comes with overclocked GDDR3 memory running at 1000MHz and features a frame buffer of 512MB. This much memory is not standard in the low-end market, but it will definitely come in handy. The Shaders run at 1650MHz and the GPU at 700MHz. Taking into account that reference speeds are 550MHz, this card should perform much better.
The following picture shows reference Nvidia Geforce 9500 GT card with a single slot cooler. You’ll notice that the biggest difference between Galaxy and reference card is the large cooler and PCI Express power connector not found on reference card. Nvidia claims that G96 will consume up to 75W (reference card is said to consume no more than 50W), and we put those claims to the test, testing Galaxy 9500 GT with no additional powering. The card ran stable and we even managed to overclock it further. By launching their juiced up 9500 GT card, Galaxy definitely pushed the low-end performance further.
Galaxy opted for in-house cooler design. This is a large dual-slot cooler with an 8mm heatpipe that runs silently, and it would probably do well on some even more powerful cards.
The following picture clearly shows that this is a card that will take up two slots on your motherboard, but since silent operation is more important most of the time – we’ll let that slide.
Among 9500 GT cards, there are versions with standard TV-out, D-sub and DVI port with HDCP support and HDMI (through the dongle), but if you want to route sound in the same cable you should decide on a card with an S/PDIF in. Galaxy’s card has one and it’s located left to the SLI connector. DisplayPort is still an option, but we’re yet to see someone implement it on 9500 GT.
Galaxy 9500 GT card features one TV-out and two dual-link DVI ports with HDCP and 2560x1600 support.
9500 GT supports PhysX and CUDA (Badaboom software is currently the most famous). While most know what PhysX is, Badaboom is yet to be popular. This is currently the only app that managed to utilize CUDA-based approach and thus enable transcoding video content using GPU capabilities of parallel data processing.
We put it to the test and it works, but we’ll leave comparisons to CPU transcoding to some later date when we see the final version of this software. Only a fraction of Badaboom app is currently usable and transcoding time is limited to about 2 minutes. The good thing is that MPEG2 content transcoding is quite fast and we managed to transcode a 2:40min video to iPhone-readable format .mp4 in 1:15min.
Galaxy 9500 GT uses 512MB of Samsung’s GDDR3 memory running at 1000MHz (2000MHz effectively). Both sides of the card feature 4 modules and the memory has no special cooling.
We mentioned that the cooler is extremely quiet, and during operation temperatures hit up to 43°C. This number quickly ducked to 33-34°C in idle mode.
The box is quite appealing and it will definitely let you know that it contains an overclocked card.
Xtreme Tuner is a tool for simple overclocking and you can find it on the installation CD. Even more so, you can use it to flash the card’s BIOS.
We tried to overclock the card, but 800MHz proved to be too much, as we couldn’t finish the tests. After downclocking it to 770MHz, the card ran stable.