NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT Performance Preview
A year ago today the cheapest DirectX 10 graphics card on the market was the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB from NVIDIA. While the 8800 GTS was an impressive performer, putting up numbers that were stronger than a 7900 GTX or Radeon X1950 XTX, the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB was priced at over $400, making it far from an affordable upgrade for many enthusiasts. As a result, gamers on a budget that were looking for an affordable DirectX 10 graphics card were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the GeForce 8600 family and, a few months later, the Radeon HD 2600 series.
Let’s just say that many enthusiasts were terribly disappointed with the performance of these first generation DX10 mainstream cards.
The GeForce 8600 GTS debuted back in April with much fanfare. We were all eager to see how powerful NVIDIA’s latest mainstream offering would be. If you recall, NVIDIA had just released a trio of new mainstream DX9 GPUs just prior to the 8600 GTS’ release that included the GeForce 7900 GS, the 7950 GT, and the 7900 GTO. The EVGA e-GeForce 7900 GTO
in particular had really struck a chord with us as it offered performance that was near that of a 7900 GTX, but at a much more affordable $250 price tag. So when the GeForce 8600 GTS debuted delivering performance that was roughly on par with the 7900 GS, gamers were left scratching their heads: the 8600 GTS was hardly an improvement over the GeForce 7900 GS or Radeon X1950 Pro. Many gamers plucked up these cards and passed on the 8600 GTS.
AMD’s Radeon HD 2600 launch wasn’t any better in the eyes of enthusiasts. The 2600 was actually slower than the GeForce 8600 GTS and Radeon X1950 Pro!
For the most part, enthusiasts shopping the $200 graphics market opted to hang on to their GeForce 7900 GS and X1950 Pro cards hoping for something better to come along. As the months passed, nothing came. Those that could afford it picked up the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, but with its $300 price tag even it was a little too much coin for some to stomach. The GeForce 8800 GT delivered such an incredible price/performance ratio that a lot of gamers that were holding out ultimately picked one of these cards up, but shortages and retailer markups significantly hampered things early on.
Then in November the market finally got what it wanted thanks to AMD’s Radeon HD 3850: an inexpensive, sub-$200 graphics card that was a compelling upgrade over the X1950 Pro and 7900 GS. Sure, it wasn’t as fast as the GeForce 8800 GT, but it cost roughly $80-$100 less and frequently outperformed the GeForce 8600 GTS by over 30%, making it the fastest sub-$200 graphics card on the market.
The 3850 became an overnight sales success for AMD with thousands of boards being sold just ahead of Christmas.
NVIDIA and their board partners tried to counter the 3850 with the 8800 GT 256MB, but they just couldn’t get their pricing in line with estimates and the lower frame buffer memory really curtailed performance at higher resolutions. The GeForce 8800 GS was most recently concocted to rival the Radeon 3850, but with its continued use of the G92 graphics core it just wasn’t a cost effective way to counter AMD’s $180 offering. A new GPU that was cheaper to produce was needed, and it was needed fast. This is where the G94 GPU comes in.
The G94 GPU used in today’s GeForce 9600 GT launch was rushed into service to take on the Radeon HD 3850. G94 uses fewer transistors than G92 – 505 million versus 754 million – making it cheaper to manufacture for NVIDIA. But what about performance? That’s what we’re here today to find out!