On a budget and need the best bang for the buck? NVIDIA’s new 9600 GSO might be the answer, despite not being that different from a 9600 GT. We are taking a look at Palit’s Sonic version of the card, which comes pre-overclocked, doubles the memory and includes adapters for both HDMI and VGA.
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 boots 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 reports the majority of the time. Sometimes the wattage might go higher, but scale right back down, and vice versa.
Palit’s GSO card consumed a little more power than any of the 9600 GTs we’ve used, which does seem a little odd given the lower specs. However, since Palit’s card utilizes 3-phase power, it’s bound to consume a little more. Having the additional stream processors may make a difference as well.
Although the 9600 GSO was released a few weeks ago, it’s taking a while to see the cards hit e-tailers, and at the time of writing, not a single e-tailer I checked had one in stock. According to Palit, their cards should be appearing in the days to come, and we can assume others will follow suit as well.
Before testing, I was a little confused as to the purpose of the GSO, and really, that confusion hasn’t faded. The GSO just didn’t need to be released, as all it does is saturate the market more than what is necessary. NVIDIA no doubt has chips to push before the next-gen cards arrive, but it would have been nice to see a huge push for the 9600 GT, instead of releasing an entirely new model. Especially from a company who’s trying to improve the confusion between current models.
But that said, the GSO is not a bad card by any metric, and it does indeed have certain benefits over the GT. In the end, a reference GSO is going to be slower in almost all tests compared to the GT, except maybe those that utilize very high resolutions. Palit’s card comes pre-overclocked, to it actually pushes ahead in a few tests, most notably with higher resolutions.
As seems to be the norm, the success of the GSO will be dependant on its pricing. When the 9600 GT first launched, it carried a $159 SRP, while the GSOs are being released at $20 cheaper. Card vs. card, the pricing differences seem valid, since although the GSO is a little slower than the GT, it’s not by much, and where it should be much slower, it’s not, thanks to the increased stream processors.
Right now, there are countless 9600 GT cards available for around $150 on average, and many are available for even less than that with the help of mail-in rebates. So for the GSO to succeed, it will need to be priced at $130, or even less. We won’t likely see it much cheaper than that, since in the end, it’s not that that slower than a 9600 GT.
If money is no real issue and you happen to have $150 to spend, the GSO can still be considered, and that’s why things are confusing. If you happen to play games that thrive on more stream processors (Crysis, STALKER), then it might be a good buy, but you have to choose carefully. Overall, the GT will perform better in the majority of games, while the GSO will excel in very few. So when in doubt, the GT will be a better deal.
If you are on a tight budget and happen to need a new card, then the GSO would make a good choice… as long as it’s priced right at launch. This particular Palit card should only carry a $10 premium, I’ve been told, so it looks to be the best GSO offering out there at launch, making it even more worthwhile. Throw in some overclocking, and it’s just as impressive as a 9600 GT, and more so in some cases.
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