Culver City (CA) - Hardware review sites have typically plastered up charts, numbers and flashy pictures with every new graphics card release, but we're going to do something a little different today with our review of the Palit 9600 GT card. We already know that most modern cards have more than enough power to play most games, so we'll concentrate the card's HDMI output capabilities, namely can you connect the card to your HD television set and how does the picture look.
The 9600 card is the first in Nvidia's line of next generation video cards capable of playing DirectX 10 games. Compared to the previous generation 8800 GT, the 9600s have half the stream processors and do less filtering work per clock cycle. However, the new card makes up for this with a higher clock speed.
If you want gory technical details, several hardware review sites have their comprehensive reviews up and we've given you the links below. A quick comparison of numbers shows the 9600 GT card as a solid performer on most games, but people wanting the highest frame-rates should stick to their 8000 series Ultra cards.
Other 9600 GT reviews
AMD/ATi and Nvidia typically publish reference designs which specify minimum features, clock speeds and memory sizes for the first boards in a series. Most manufacturers will release a reference design board because it's an easy option and gets them to the market quicker.
The Palit 9600 GT card (9600TSX0252 to be exact) we reviewed is definitely not a reference design as it has a faster core and memory clock - 700 Mhz versus 650 Mhz and 1000 Mhz memory versus 900 Mhz on the reference design. The card also has a huge shroud that covers the heat pipes along with 2 DVI, 1 DisplayPort and 1 HDMI output.
We are fortunate to have a 56" Samsung rear-projection television set in our apartment and we've often wondered how World of Warcraft and other games would look in 1920 by 1080 high definition. Well after playing with the Palit card, we can confidently say that it looks GREAT!
The 9600 GT does have a SPDIF audio output, but unlike competing cards from AMD/ATI the Nvidia cards don't have an on-board audio chip. That means you have to use an audio-pass through cable on the video card to get audio out to your television. A much simpler method for us was to just connect the SPDIF cable to our sound card.
The card doesn't include an HDMI cable so we just unhooked the HDMI cable from our PlayStation 3 and popped it into the back of the 9600 GT. We immediately got a picture that was slightly larger than our screen dimensions - we were looking at our desktop, but the taskbar and start menu were below the bottom edge of the screen.
Here's the tough part, the Nvidia control panel allow you to resize the screen, but the settings just wouldn't stick. We would click apply and the screen would rebound to the original size. It took about five minutes of fiddling around with other settings like changing the signal (720P, 1080i) and rebooting to finally a correctly sized picture.
The effort was worth it as we played World of Warcraft and Crysis on the beautiful screen. Our consensus was that the picture was flicker-free and very playable. We even fired up Firefox and watched both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies (fortunately our computer has both players). To our eyes, the Blu-Ray video looked identical to what we would have seen on the PS3.
Ok we do have a few benchmarks for you. We didn't compare multiple computer or graphics configurations because we just don't have the manpower or equipment (computer parts don't fall out of trees for us). Our test system had the Palit 9600 GT card on a Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 system with 2 GB of RAM. The benchmarks were 3D Mark 06, Crysis and Call of Duty.
World of Warcraft addicts will be happy to know that the card will run WoW on maximum settings and 1680 by 1050 pixels at an average of 80 frames-per-second. WoW on our television set was run at 1920 by 1080 pixels at an average of 60 to 70 frames-per-second. Of course, this game isn't very graphics intensive and we would expect almost all cards made with the last 2 years to be plenty fast for WoW.
Our test system setup
(Game numbers are in frames per second)
The Palit 9600 GT can play Crysis just fine at the lower resolutions and graphics settings
Call of Duty 4 doesn't even faze the card and you get very fast frame rates even at 1680X1050 with all the settings on high
Palit's 9600 GT card is fast enough to run most modern games at decent frame rates and settings. It is powerful enough to play graphically-intensive games like Crysis, but at lower resolutions and minimal settings. But for us, the HDMI output was the most important feature of the card.
After the initial difficulty in setting up the screen size, all the games and movies displayed on our HDTV looked great and we actually had to rip one reviewer away from the screen ("ahh must get level 40 to buy my mount!").
People wanting the absolutely fastest video card will not buy the 9600 GT, but it doesn't appear that Nvidia or Palit is marketing the card for that market. This card is meant for the gaming enthusiast who wants a "fast enough" card for most games along with the added value of HDMI out. If you want to show your console buddies that a computer can game just as well as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, then the Palit 9600 GT is for you and at around $200 it definitely won't break the bank.