Biostar GeForce 9600GT (V9603GT52)

Apr 9th, 2008 | By

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Biostar GeForce 9600GT (V9603GT52)


Date
: 04/9/08 – 02:54:24 AM

Author
:

Category
: Video Cards


Page 1 : Index

Manufacturer:
Biostar

NVIDIA has had the performance crown in the high end market ever since they released their 8 series of video cards nearly 2 years ago. Often lost among all the hype of the high end cards are their little brothers in the middle of the pack. Our expectations were never really high for these mid level cards, but lately this has changed. Since the release of NVIDIA's 8800GT and ATi's 3870, you can get quite a bit of performance and features for very little. Following on the heels of the very successful 8800GT, NVIDIA has released the first card in the 9 series, the 9600GT.

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Today I have the pleasure of taking Biostar's 9600GT card for a spin around the testing block. With the release of the 9600GT, NVIDIA's model lineup seems to get even more confusing for the average user. Where does the 9600GT stand in line when looking at performance and price? Coming in at roughly $30 cheaper than the 8800GT at launch, is your money better spent on the older series? Read on and hopefully we can answer some of these questions.


Page 2 : Package and Accessories

Let's start out by exploring the box Biostar's 9600GT comes in.

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Seems that just about every video card package comes complete with a rendered female adorning the front, and Biostar's 9600GT is no exception. The front of the box gives you your typical feature set including the various NVIDIA features, model and memory size. Notice also that this 9600GT is an eGate card and comes with Biostar's latest overclocking utility, VRangerII. The line you see along the left side of the box is actually a slice that came courtesy of customs officials, so I don't expect your product to receive the same treatment.

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The back of the box is also pretty standard for most video cards with a more in depth look at some of the features included in the card. On the right side is a check list of sorts for what you would need to run the 9600GT in SLi. The sides of the box do not include any information other than SKU, so I won't bore you with those details.

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Opening up the box there are 4 different compartments containing the card and various accessories.

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Included with Biostar's 9600GT is an instruction manual, HDTV component out breakout box, DVI to VGA adapter, molex to 6 pin PCI-Express power adapter and CD. On the CD are drivers and applications.


Page 3 : Specifications

Taken straight from the Biostar product page for the 9600GT here are some features of the first of the Geforce 9 series cards.

ENGINE CLOCK: 650MHz
MEMORY CLOCK: 1800MHz
MEMORY SIZE: 512MB
MEMORY TYPE: DDR3
MEMORY BUS: 256-bit
STREAM PROCESSORS: 64
INTERFACE: Support PCI-E 2.0
MAX RESOLUTION: 2048 X 1536@85Hz
OUTPUT: S-Video
Dual-DVI
ACCESSORIES: 1 x HDTV Cable
1 x Power Connector
1 x DVI-VGA Adapter
1 x Driver CD
1 x User's Manual
PRODUCT FEATURES:

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PRODUCT CERTIFICATION:
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Page 4 : The Card Itself

We've seen the packaging and specifications, now let's take a closer look at the card itself.

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On first glance the 9600GT looks identical to the 8800GT. Biostar uses the NVIDIA reference design and cooler so no real surprises here.

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The 6 pin power connector is located at the end of the card which could be a potential issue if you do not have a lot of room to work with in your case. While I use a full tower and this shouldn't be an issue in mine, it could be a potential problem should you have a cramped area inside your case. I will take a closer look at this once the card is installed.

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Looking along the top edge of the card is the SLi connection, along with an SPDIF connection for streaming audio through the video card to your home theater setup.

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The I/O panel includes the now almost standard dual link DVI and video out connections. The inclusion of the dual link DVI ports ensure you can use the 9600GT on the larger 30′ monitors.


Page 5 : Installation

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the install, since installation of video cards is pretty much a no brainer anymore.

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As you can see the 9600GT is identical in size to the 8800GT, in this case an XFX model. With this longer length you will have to take this into consideration with the space inside your case.

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With the 9600GT installed, you can get a better view on space requirements. There are no issues as far as obstructions with my board, a Foxconn Nforce 570SLi. Biostar's 9600GT is longer than budget cards like the Biostar 8600GTS that was reviewed here at OverclockersOnline last year.


Page 6 : Testing Setup

Below are the system constants followed by the comparison video cards that will be used for testing.

CPU: AMD AM2 5000+ Black Edition
MB: Foxconn nForce 570 Sli
RAM: Mushkin 2x1GB PC8400
PSU: Ultra X3 1000W
HD: Seagate 1TB SATA
DVD-Rom: LG 18x DVD Burner – SATA
Case: Lian Li G70B
Ambient Temperature: 24-25C
OS: Microsoft Windows XP w SP2

Video Cards
:
Sapphire Radeon HD 2900 XT 512mb (Catalyst 8.2)
XFX 8800GT 512mb (Forceware 169.21)

Biostar 9600GT 512mb (Forceware 174.16)

The 2900 XT was ATi's top performing card in their initial foray into DX10 hardware. While it did not dethrone Nvidia from the performance crown, it is a strong performing card and should be interesting to see how well a budget card of today compares to a higher end card of last year. I am also throwing in an XFX 8800GT for comparison as this chipset was extremely well received when released late last year and set the bar for price and performance.

For testing I ran all three cards through benchmarks using resolutions of 1024×768, 1280×1024 and 1680×1050 on the following games and applications: FarCry, Half Life 2:Lost Coast, World in Conflict, Company of Heroes, Cryis and finally 3DMark06. Read on to find out how the Biostar 9600GT fares in this gauntlet of tests.


Page 7 : FarCry and Half Life 2:Lost Coast

For benchmarking FarCry I am using the built in timedemo on the Regulator map with the game patched to version 1.4. All settings set to Ultra High with 8x Anisotropic filtering.

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At the lowest resolution all three cards are bunched up together but, as the resolution increases the Biostar 9600GT and the 8800GT break away from the 2900 XT. While the 8800GT defeats the 9600GT throughout, the gap is pretty small. I would almost label this a moral victory for the cheaper Biostar 9600GT.

Next in line is Half Life 2: Lost Coast. Half Life 2 is still a favorite among many gamers and each episode released draws attention. Lost Coast was released as basically a technology demo to showcase the Half Life 2 engine. I will use the built in video stress test with all settings to their highest with 6x MSAA and 16x Anisotropic filtering.

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I have to say this really perplexed me that there was almost no difference in scores between the two lower resolutions. While I anticipated some similar results as were seen in the FarCry benchmark, we have quite a different story here with the 9600GT running neck and neck with the 2900 XT while surprisingly the 8800GT trails behind. Once again a very strong performance by the Biostar 9600GT.


Page 8 : Company of Heroes and World In Conflict

In the past first person shooter titles were typically the only titles used to benchmark video cards, this changed somewhat with the release of Company of Heroes. I will be using the built in benchmark to get comparable results with settings set to their max.

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Here we can see the 9600GT stays neck and neck with the 8800GT until we reach the widescreen resolution of 1680×1050. The Biostar 9600GT edges out the 2900 XT throughout the entire benchmark.

World in Conflict is another extremely demanding real time strategy game that has brought many a system to its knees. For testing I set details to Very High and ran the built in benchmark.

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AS you can see all three cards are within a few FPS of each other at all resolutions. While all three are heavily taxed, the 9600GT keeps neck in neck with both cards, I grow more impressed with this card as benchmarking keeps going.


Page 9 : Crysis and 3DMark06 Professional

I don't think Crysis needs any introduction as it was one of the most highly anticipated titles for its graphics engine alone and is extremely demanding on video cards. For testing everything is set to high with no AA and the built in timedemo benchmark was run.

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We can see the 8800GT flexes its muscles here a bit and leaves the 9600GT behind though not by too much. I knew the cards would take a beating and it's obvious that to get the game to playable levels at 1680×1050 some settings will need to be played with and adjusted. You can still get a very enjoyable experience out of this punishing game from the Biostar's resilient 9600GT.

While 3DMark06 Professional won't tell you how well your video card will perform in any given game, it is a universally accepted benchmark and is a good tool for overall comparisons. Stock settings are used aside from resolutions.

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As you can see all three cards are within 200 points of each other in the lower resolution. All three cards show nearly identical numbers in the Shader Model 2.0 tests, but the 9600 lags a bit behind both of the other cards in the Shader Model 3.0 tests. When the resolution is bumped up a little to 1280×1024, we get a bit of a surprise when the 9600GT edges out the 8800GT. I reran the tests because quite honestly this result surprised me but I got roughly the same results each time.

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For the most part order is restored to what we have generally seen throughout, however the 9600GT is nipping at their heels.


Page 10 : Temperatures and Overclocking

So the gauntlet of tests is complete, or is it? What would be a review without some overclocking?

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As mentioned earlier Biostar includes their overclocking utility, VRangerII with the 9600GT. First let's start out with this little gem of a program.

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When firing up the VRangerII, we are first greeted with this warning and I grow a little excited in hoping we are given voltage controls within this utility, but alas much like Biostar's 8600GTS it seems it is missing the hardware onboard to allow this.

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So first off like a kid in a candy store, I decide to hit auto and see what happens. When I keep seeing the numbers rise, I was amazed and hitting the test button resulted with a pass. I knew this was too good to be true as it promptly crashed my computer when launching 3DMark06. While it is a very nice addition, I needed something with a little more detailed control, so I turned to RivaTuner v2.07 so I could get a more accurate readout of the settings and temperatures and used GPU-z to capture the settings.

A little footnote before I move on, I was aware that many 9600GT being reviewed were found to have slightly different core clock speeds than what was advertized as found here at techPowerUp!. I found no such discrepancy in Biostar's 9600GT.

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With much adjustment and many tests run, I settled on a stable overclock of
735
Mhz GPU,
1837
Mhz shader clock and
1025
Mhz for the memory, from stock results of
650/1625/900
respectively. Very nice results for out of the box on stock cooling. Now how exactly do these results translate ingame? I used two of the more demanding games, Crysis and World in Conflict, to measure our gains after the overclock.

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I would count this as quite a success when you consider that an overclock achieved on stock cooling pushes the Biostar 9600GT ahead of both the 8800GT and 2900 XT in World in Conflict and puts it just 2 FPS behind the 8800GT in Crysis. With an aftermarket cooler and some adjustments to the voltage, I can see achieving some very nice results from the 9600GT. As you will see in the next graph, overclocking led to a minimal increase in temperatures.

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Now this is the part that really amazed me with this card is how cool it runs with the NVIDIA reference cooler which is known to be quite loud on the 8800GT, and I can attest to this from my testing for this review. What I found however was that it remained rather quiet, even under full load, as opposed to the leaf blower sound the 8800GT and the 2900 XT produced under load.


Page 11 : Conclusion

So after all this testing and benchmarking, what are my thoughts? Right now is a great time for anyone looking for performance on a budget. The mid-range market is crowded with plenty of great performing video cards, and Biostar's 9600GT is no exception. While it may not be all out faster stock to stock than the 8800GT, its only slightly behind it and with a little overclocking it can nearly match the 8800GT. The fact of the matter is you get a lot of performance for not a whole lot of price.

About the only complaint I can find about Biostar's card is the lack of voltage controls via their VRangerII application. This is more of a complaint for those tweakers out there that like to push their hardware and get the most out of it they can, but this doesn't affect anything for the normal user.

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Positives

  • A lot of bang for your buck

  • Quiet
  • Good overclocking

Negatives

  • Still no voltage love for the mid-range cards

Overclockers Online would like to thank Biostar for supplying the 9600GT for review.

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