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Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT 512MB

An excellent product on the surface of it.

May 12, 2008



We haven't reviewed Gigabyte graphics cards for a long time already. But engineers from this company were not idling about, and the range of products from this company is constantly growing. Today we are going to examine a new Mid-End product - GeForce 9600 GT.

The baseline article about 9600 GT was published not long ago, but these graphics cards have already become very popular. This article is a continuation, it will give more details about products with the above mentioned GPU.

The most powerful graphics processors from NVIDIA contain 128 unified processors, budget products - 32 and fewer. The market apparently needed Mid-End products with 64 unified processors. And such a product was launched. Moreover, its memory bus retained its width - 256-bit, as in more expensive representatives of graphics cards.

What if raise operating frequencies of this card and equip it with a noiseless cooler without a fan? What will happen? We'll see it in this review.

Graphics card

Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512 MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 9600 GT (G94)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 720/1800 MHz (nominal - 650/1625 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective): 1000 (2000) MHz (nominal - 900 (1800) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 64
  • Texture processors: 32 (BLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 190x100x33 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: blue
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).



Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512MB PCI-E
The graphics card has 512 MB of GDDR4 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1000 (2000) MHz.





Comparison with the reference design, front view
Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT


Comparison with the reference design, back view
Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT


Gigabyte engineers created a new PCB, although it's still based on the reference design, of course (memory chips are arranged around the GPU.) This modified design was necessary to accommodate a special cooler and to reduce manufacturing costs (it DOES NOT MEAN that non-reference cards are worse! The manufacturer just found a way to reduce manufacturing costs WITHOUT lowering the quality and operating stability). Sometimes non-reference designs are based on cheaper components of lower quality, of course, which makes the cards worse. But these cases are rare. And it certainly has nothing to do with Gigabyte products.

The card has TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV set via S-Video or RCA. You can read about the TV-Out in more detail here.

Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. The bundle also includes DVI-to-HDMI adapters (these graphics cards support video/audio transfer to HDMI receivers), so there should be no problems with such monitors. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface (all DVIs with Dual-Link).

What concerns MPEG2 playback features (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on modern graphics cards does not exceed 25%.

What concerns HDTV. You can read one review here.

The card requires additional power supply, so it's bundled with an adapter from molex to 6-pin, even though all modern PSUs are equipped with these cables.

Cooling system

Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512MB PCI-E

Such coolers have been used by engineers from this company for a long time. It consists of two heat sinks connected with copper heat pipes.

One of the heat sinks is installed right on the core, the other one is at some distance. Some of its fins are installed outside to be cooled by external air. There is no fan, of course. So cooling efficiency depends on air flows inside a PC case as well as on the environment temperature.

The cooler is quite big, so it takes up two slots on the motherboard. You should take it into account when you buy the graphics card.



We monitored temperatures using RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder). Here are the results:

Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512 MB PCI-E

We've got stunning results! Our PC case has a standard ventilation system, room temperature does not exceed +24°C, but temperature of the GPU core rose above 100°C!

It's very dangerous! Not for the card itself, but for other PC components: CPU (a heat wave from the card rises to the processor), sound card, etc. So the card's cooling system is blameworthy.

Bundle

The basic bundle must include the following items: User's Manual, CD with drivers and utilities, DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-HMDI adapters, CrossFire bridge, component output (TV-Out) adapter, and an external power splitter. And now we'll show what other components are bundled with the card.

We got an OEM card, so there was no bundle as such. So we have nothing to say about this issue.

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Intel Core2 (775 Socket) based computer
    • CPU: Intel Core2 Extreme QX9650 (3000 MHz)
    • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 on the Intel X38 chipset
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1066 MHz (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
    • PSU: Tagan 1100-U95 (1100W)
  • OS: Windows XP SP2; DirectX 9.0c
  • OS: Windows Vista 32bit; DirectX 10.0
  • Monitor: Dell 3007WFP (30")
  • Drivers: ATI CATALYST 8.3; NVIDIA 174.74
  • VSync disabled

We used the following benchmarks:

  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (HDR), demo. Tests were run with maximum quality settings. The batch file is included.

  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 1.003 (GSC Game World/THQ) - DirectX 9.0, demo. You should unpack the files into the game folder with savegames (Documents and settings). When the game starts up, load ixbt3, open the console, and start the demo: demo_play ixbt3. Test settings - maximum (DYNAMIC LIGHTS are ENABLED).

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) - DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, trilinear filtering.

  • CRYSIS 1.2 (Crytek/EA), DirectX 9.0c/10.0, shaders 3.0/4.0, (batch file to start the test), test settings in MS Windows Vista - Very High (DX10), Windows XP - High (DX9), RESCUE and HARBOR levels). You can e-mail us to get the timedemo.

    We express our thanks to CRYTEK for writing timedemo for iXBT.com.

  • Company Of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, startup batch file. When you start the game, you should go to options, choose the graphics section, and press the test button. Tests were run with maximum quality.

  • 3DMark06 1.10 (FutureMark) - DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, trilinear test settings.

If you have a decent understanding of 3D graphics, you may draw your own conclusions for the diagrams below. However, if you are interested in our comments on test results, you may read them after each test. Anything that is important to beginners and those who are new to the world of video cards will be explained in detail in the comments.

First of all, you may want to look through our reference materials on modern graphics cards and their GPUs. Be sure to note the operating frequencies, support for modern technologies (shaders), as well as the pipeline architecture.

ATI RADEON X1300-1600-1800-1900 Reference
NVIDIA GeForce 7300-7600-7800-7900 Reference

If you have just begun realizing how large the selection to choose a video card is, don't worry, our 3D Graphics section offers articles about 3D basics (you will still have to understand them - when you run a game and open its options, you'll see such notions as textures, lighting, etc) as well as reviews of new products. There are presently two companies that manufacture popular GPUs: AMD (its ATI department is responsible for graphics cards) and NVIDIA. We can also mention Matrox, S3. However, their share of the discrete graphics market is less than 1%, so we can discard them. So most of the information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly i3DSpeed that sums up all comparisons of graphics cards for various price segments.

Thirdly, have a look at the test results of our today's cards. We are not going to analyze each test in this article, primarily because for us it makes sense to draw a bottom line in the end of the article. We will, however, make sure that we make our readers aware of any special circumstances or extraordinary results.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

FPS CHARTS: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.



CRYSIS, Rescue, DX9, High

FPS CHARTS: CRYSIS, Rescue, DX9, High



CRYSIS, Harbor, DX9, High

FPS CHARTS: CRYSIS, Harbor, DX9, High



CRYSIS, Rescue, DX10, Very High

FPS CHARTS: CRYSIS, Rescue, DX10, Very High



CRYSIS, Harbor, DX10, Very High

FPS CHARTS: CRYSIS, Harbor, DX10, Very High



Call Of Juarez

FPS CHARTS: CoJ



Company Of Heroes

FPS CHARTS: CoH



3DMark05: MARKS

FPS CHARTS: 3DMark05 MARKS



3DMark06: SHADER 2.0 MARKS

FPS CHARTS: 3DMark06 SM2.0 MARKS



3DMark06: SHADER 3.0 MARKS

FPS CHARTS: 3DMark06 SM3.0 MARKS


Conclusions

Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT with Passive Cooler (GV-NX96T512HP) 512MB PCI-E looks like an excellent product on the surface of it. It demonstrates very good performance and outperforms competing cards considering higher operating frequencies. But if we take into account its heat release and inefficient passive cooling, we cannot recommend it to all users. You can buy it only if you have a PC case with a well thought-out ventilation system. However, such PC cases are not quiet as a rule, so the idea of a noiseless cooler will be compromised.

Alas, we decided not to use this graphics card for a long time. Especially in a closed PC case. There would have been more noise, because fans would have to speed up - such a hot device wouldn't contribute to quietness inside a PC case.

And another thing that we are not tired to repeat from article to article. Having decided to choose a graphics card by yourself, you have to realize you're to change one of the fundamental PC parts, which might require additional tuning to improve performance or enable some qualitative features. This is not a finished product, but a component part. So, you must understand that in order to get the most from a new graphics card, you will have to acquire some basic knowledge of 3D graphics and graphics in general. If you are not ready for this, you should not perform upgrades by yourself. In this case it would be better to purchase a ready chassis with preset software (along with vendor's technical support,) or a gaming console that doesn't require any adjustments.

To find more information regarding the current graphics card market and the performance of various cards, feel free to read our monthly special i3DSpeed.

We express our gratitude to
Gigabyte Russia and Anna Chupakova
for the provided graphics card.

PSU provided by TAGAN,
Monitor provided by NVIDIA.

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