by Rob Williams on March 31, 2008 in Graphics & Displays
NVIDIA’s 9600 GT card is a great offering for the price range, but ASUS ups the ante by offering a TOP version that adds 70MHz to the core and 100MHz to the memory. Add in HDMI support and the ability to overclock the card even higher… then the EN9600GT TOP proves to be a great offering.
In testing power consumption for our graphic cards, the system components are kept consistent to help keep accurate results. To capture wattage, a Kill-a-Watt is used. It is plugged straight into the wall and the PSU is plugged in directly to it. After the computer is booted into Windows and is left idle for five minutes, the idle wattage is captured.
To capture the average, a run of 3DMark 2006 is run while keeping an eye on the voltage for the first two minutes. I record the value that the Kill-a-Watt reported the majority of the time. Sometimes the wattage might go higher, but scale right back down, and vice versa.
As we saw in our charts throughout the review, the EN9600GT TOP managed to keep very close to both of our 8800 GT cards in all of the tests. It was never able to surpass those cards, but that’s a given with the lesser amount of stream processors. What’s important to note though, is that even though our EN9600GT TOP kept so close to the 8800 GT performance, it used far less power while doing so.
When NVIDIA first launched their 9600 GT, skeptics were abound. For good reason though, as the original prices left a bit to be desired. But a month has now passed, and 9600 GT stock is plenty throughout many e-tailers, so prices today are much more reasonable.
The ASUS EN9600GT retails for an average of $180, while the TOP version will probably be priced at $20 higher. At $200, it’s hard to out-right recommend this card, because the lesser-expensive 8800 GT models, which perform around >10% better, cost only $10 – $20 more. Some 8800 GT’s are retailing for exactly $200 at many e-tailers, so it will pay to shop around.
If you are looking to save even a little bit of money and want superb performance, it’s hard to go wrong with the 9600 GT. The non-TOP version of this card would be a far better deal though, since it retails for $180… a full $20 – $40 less than most 8800 GT cards.
Like most 9600 GT cards, overclocking is where the EN9600GT TOP shines, and I would expect no less of the non-TOP version. Reference clocks for the 9600 GT are 650MHz Core, 900MHz Memory and 1625MHz Shader, while ASUS TOP card ups those to 720MHz, 1000MHz and 1800MHz, respectively. Our top overclock ended up being 785MHz Core, 1100MHz Memory and 1962MHz Shader. Overclocking is what this card was made for.
I should note also that the overclocked settings were indeed very stable. To stress, I ran a loop of 3DMark 06 for five hours at 2560×1600 resolution and 2xAA, and afterwards, I played a few matches of UT III and also retested CoD4 and Crysis. In the end, our max overclock increased our avg FPS by 4 – 7%. Not bad for free!
It goes without saying that the 9600 GT is a fantastic GPU and ASUS improves on it with their TOP version. For those who want a great overclock out of the box without having to get their hands dirty, you can’t go wrong here. Sadly, no game is included with many lower-priced ASUS cards, but the addition of an HDMI adapter may sweeten the deal for some.
- Performance comes close to 8800 GT
- Overclocking ability is superb
- Both VGA and HDMI adapters included
- Glaciator cooler is effective and makes the card look great
- TOP version is hard to find in stock anywhere
- TOP version pricing will put it close to lower-priced 8800 GTs
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