After the mostly disappointing GeForce 8600 series last year, it was about time that NVIDIA returned to form in the mid-range segment and the new GeForce 9600 GT promises to do just that and revive the glory days of the GeForce 6 and 7 mid-range series. Based on the G94 core and hence belonging to the same successful pedigree as the GeForce 8800 GT, NVIDIA's new mid-range card threatens to spoil ATI's party by competing against the latter's Radeon HD 3800 series. With ATI responding with a round of price cuts to preserve its advantage, it seems like an excellent time for bargain hunting.
However, we won't get into the merits of going with ATI or NVIDIA today. Instead, the well-oiled NVIDIA machine and its many board partners have arranged to send us a bunch of shiny new GeForce 9600 GT cards and there are as many variations as there are brands. Which of course means that we have rounded them up in our usual shootout format. Who will be the champ of the new mid-range GeForce 9?
An important feature on these boards that we should mention first is that many vendors have utilized the audio input headers (S/PDIF) on the GeForce 9600 GT to splice the audio stream (from your motherboard or soundcard) to the video stream within the graphics card, thereby allowing these cards to output audio and video through a single HDMI cable. These cards then either have a HDMI port or include a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. From what we saw, not every vendor has bundled the necessary cables but consumers should be able to source the cables and adapters and enable this audio integration themselves if required.
ASUS' Glaciator cooler makes another appearance here and having known its quiet and cool performance, it was no surprise that it was superior to the reference design The catch as usual is that this cooler will take up more space than the single slot reference design but we doubt consumers will be too concerned with this. The clock speeds on this card however are the standard 650MHz for the core and 1800MHz for the GDDR3, as is the board design.
The included package is quite decent despite lacking any frills like games or applications. At least all the expected accessories and cables are present. ASUS has quoted a standard retail price of S$299, which is in line with quite a few reference boards from other brands despite its third party cooler. Here's what we found: