MSI GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC)

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MSI GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC)
  • MSI GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC)
  • MSI GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC)
  • MSI GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC)

Pros

  • Price, high speed shader clock, factory overclocked core and memory speeds

Cons

  • Lower texture fill rate, not a high-end card

Bottom Line

For the vast majority of gamers this card is going to be ideal. Those looking for a super powerful graphics card may have to wait or buy one of the high-end options from the previous series, but the MSI GeForce 9600GT is an excellent choice for decent mid-range gaming.

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NVIDIA has taken yet another step forward with the release of its latest GPU (graphics processing unit), the GeForce 9600GT. Our first look at the new GPU came in the form of MSI's factory overclocked GeForce N9600GT (T2D512-OC) card, a slightly tweaked version of the reference board with a faster core and memory clock speed.

The 9600GT is built using the latest iteration of NVIDIA's series 9 GPU, codenamed the G94. Very little has changed from the previous G92 chip found on cards like the 8800GT and 8800GTS 512MB. Probably the most notable change is in the number of stream processors, which have dropped from 112 on the 8800GT's G92 to just 64 in the 9600GT.

The 256-bit memory bus remains on par with the 8800GT and GTS 512MB cards, as does the 512MB of GDDR3 RAM. The standard 9600GT shares the same 900MHz (1800MHz effective) memory clock as the 8800GT, but our model has been bumped up to 950MHz (1900MHz). Subsequently, the memory throughput has increased to a maximum throughput of 60.8GBps. To substitute the lower number of stream processors NVIDIA has cranked up the shader clock to 1650MHz and the core clock runs at 700MHz, 50MHz faster than the standard speed of the 9600GT.

As a general rule we're used to seeing the high end version of a new series first. However, in this instance NVIDIA has chosen to release this mid-range card first, and will presumably launch its enthusiast cards down the track. Probably the best explanation for this is the fairly week state of the 8600 cards. They're cheap, but don't really cut it as a really viable option for those on a tight budget, not with the requirements of high-end DirectX 9 (DX9) games and certainly not the high-end DirectX 10 (DX10) games.

This card, on the other hand, performed well in our benchmarks. In each benchmark we saw results that were just behind the 8800GT and more so the 8800GTS 512MB, but were almost always above the Radeon HD3870 for both DX9 and DX10 tests. In Half-Life 2 the 9600GT averaged 117fps (frames per second), while the 8800GT scored 122fps and the HD3870 achieved 121fps. In FEAR the 9600GT and 8800GT shared a score of 68fps, while the HD3870 managed just 61fps. In 3DMark 2006 the 9600GT scored a solid 10,829.

In DX10 tests there was more of a difference between ATI's mid-range HD3870 and the 9600GT. Crysis is probably the most telling. Here the 9600GT averaged 18fps, while the HD3870 only mustered a rather disappointing 11fps. In the DX10 edition of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition we got an average of 28.5fps using all the DX10 settings at 1920x1200, while the HD3870 averaged just 19.1fps and the 8800GT scored 20fps.

Overall the new mid-range option is a good choice for the price. Heavy gamers may want to wait for something a little more gutsy, but for this price bracket you can't go wrong.

This new range of cards from NVIDIA now include the HDMI adapter in the box and, like most new cards on the market, are HDCP compliant. This means they will work with a high-definition player and screen, an important point if you want to use your PC as a media player. Unfortunately NVIDIA's chip design still requires that an extra cable be connected to get audio through the HDMI connection, unlike ATI's HD2000 and HD3000 series, which use integrated digital audio.

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