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XFX 9600 GT 700M XXX play hard tested

by on14 March 2008
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Review: A natural born gamer

 

XFX has a very elegant naming system for its graphics cards, and the card we tested today is branded XFX 9600 GT 700M XXX Edition. This means that this particular 9600 GT is clocked at 700MHz, plain and simple. The reference clocked card bears the 650M designation, and for consumers who can't make up their minds, there's a 680M, too. As you can see, the card we're about to test is the fastest XFX 9600 GT.

Its memory is clocked at 1,000MHz (2000MHz effectively). That's 100MHz above the stock clock. Unlike ATI, Nvidia clocks its Shaders separately and XFX didn't forget to overclock them, as well. The Shaders run at 1750MHz, while the stock clock is 1625MHz. So, what we've got here is one 9600 GT with some nicely bumped up clocks and it comes bundled with a lot of goodies.



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As you can see, XFX spared no ink on the box and the huge "9" is there to let everybody know that this card is part of Nvidia's new 9 Series. A military spec job, to say the least. "A natural born Gamer," that's XFX's slogan when it comes to marketing these cards, but the fact is that this card doesn't really deserve its 9 Series designation. Nvidia's 9600 GT is based on an 8th generation chip, and it doesn't really boast anything new compared to previous high-end 8 Series cards.

XFX is doing its best to show it cares about its customers by including a copy of Company of Heroes with this card, and that's a much more sensible way of promoting a product. Apart from the giant "9", on the box, you'll see the most important specs, such as 700MHz core, 512MB GDDR3, PCI Express 2.0, SLI and HDMI. Of course, the memory bus is 256-bit, and this makes a world of difference compared to previous Nvidia mid-range cards. You can't even compare it to the old 8600 GT in any reasonable way, as it will wipe the floor with it and ask for more.

The back of the card is also packed with info, but it's making us airsick, so we will slowly move along.

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As you can see the card uses a reference PCB and cooler design, but that's not a bad thing. The reference cooler is more than powerful enough to cope with the overclocked core. What's more, it almost silent and in this department you should have no complaints whatsoever.

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The cooler itself is a single slot design, akin to the 8800GT cooler. So far, several partners launched 9600 GT cards with fancy, non-reference coolers. We really see no need for them, as the reference solution is good enough, but if you want to go passive that's another issue. Nvidia's reference cooler kept the GPU temperature at a pleasant 45°C whilst idle. Under load it went up to 65°C, which is still pretty low. We left the automatic fan speed control on to see how it copes with the OCed core. When idle the fan spun at just 35 percent RPM and under load it went up to 50 percent. Even under load the fan was very quiet, almost silent and the core temperature raised up to 67°C.

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Of course, the card is powered via a 6-pin PCIe power connector. Luckily, it is well placed and easily accessible.

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Another welcome feature of the 9600GT is HDMI support. In order to channel the sound through the card you need to connect an S/PDIF cable to it. You can clearly see the black pinhead connector on the picture below. When you connect it, you just need to stick the HDMI dongle onto the card and you're set to go.


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The audio cable and the HDMI dongle are bundled with the card, along with some other cables and dSUB dongles.

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The XFX 9600 GT 700M XXX, like all 9600 GT cards, is much more powerful than the 8600 GT. There was really no need to include 8600 series cards in our chart, as they're just not in the same class. We chose to compare it against several other 9660 GT cards instead.


Testbed:

Motherboard:
EVGA 680i SLI (Ustupio EVGA)

Processor:
Intel Core 2 Duo 6800 Extreme edition (Ustupio Intel)

Memory:
OCZ FlexXLC PC2 9200 5-5-5-18  (Ustupio OCZ)
        na testu CL5-5-5-15-CR2T 1066MHz at 2.2V

PSU:
OCZ Silencer 750 Quad Black ( Ustupio OCZ)

Hard disk:
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 80GB SATA (Ustupio Seagate)

CPU-Cooler:
Freezer 7 Pro (Ustupio Artic Cooling)

Case Fans:
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 8 PWM


Futuremark tests

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Thanks to its higher clocks the XFX 9600 GT 700M outperformed the reference clocked 9600 GT cards, but it was still slower than MSI's and Zotac's overclocked 9600 GT cards. Further overclocking gives us a 5.6 percent performance boost in 3Dmark06, which results in a 12 percent performance advantage over reference clocked cards. In fact, after we overclocked it to 760MHz, the XFX card's score was comparable to that of the 8800GT. However, in game tests we rarely saw results close to the 8800GT.

Game tests

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F.E.A.R. loved Zotac's 9600 GT, but the XFX was on par with MSI's 730MHz 9600GT. Overclocking at 1600x1200 got us another 10 FPS on the XFX card. The Geforce 9600 GT outperformed ATI's Radeon HD3870 in this test.

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XFX fares well against other 9600 GT cards. It's around 11 percent faster than the reference card and the the MSI's 9600GT clocked at 730MHz is around 4 percent better. Since we could easily push the XFX card all the way up to 770MHz, we were able to push the framerate by another 10 percent in some resolutions.


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In Crysis, the XFX scores close to a reference clocked 8800 GT and, but this just shows that a 9600 GT is still no match for a stock clocked 8800GT. At 700MHz, XFX's 9600 GT 700M XXX is close to other overclocked 9600 GT cards. The new Catalyst 8.3 driver is out and it should give ATI cards a 10-15 percent performance increase in Crysis, but only under Vista.

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"Bad in Antialiasingu" seems to be the motto of Radeon cards these days and we can see why in Half Life 2,  Episode Two.


Conclusion


The XFX 9600 GT 700M XXX is a great replacement for any 8600 series card and it's a good choice if you're looking for a low-priced and fast card. With an overclocked 700MHz core XFX's 9600 GT performs well compared to the cards in our charts. It was easy to overclock it to 770MHz too.

The Geforce 9600 GT is no match for the 8800 GT, which is still one step beyond. However, the 9600 GT can easily take on ATI's HD3870, so if you prefer an Nvidia card over ATI, you've got a choice in this price segment.

XFX's referenced clocked 9600 GT 650M is priced at €145, while the 680M and 700M go for €145 and €155, respectively. Considering that XFX's 700M has the highest GPU clock and that it comes with a rather good game, it starts to sound like the best deal of the lot.

We can recommend it to all gamers looking for an affordable card capable of running most contemporary games at resolutions of up to 1600x1200. In this particular price segment you won't easily find a more powerful card.

Last modified on 08 February 2009
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