GeForce 9600 GT/GTS 250/GTX 260 Non-Reference Roundup

It’s no secret that, when it comes to buying PC components, neither the cheapest nor the most-expensive products available represent that value sweet spot where price and performance intersect. More often than not, it’s the equipment a tier or two under the bleeding-edge, high-end hardware able to offer the most best bang for your buck.

In today's graphics card market, Nvidia offers a few great products that fall within that most-attractive range. On the low end of the spectrum, the GeForce 9600 GT can be had for under $100 (though it's under heavy fire from the compelling Radeon HD 4770). It serves up reasonable performance, though. A few dollars more gets you into GeForce GTS 250 territory, which turns out to be a re-badged GeForce 9800 GTX+ with a new coat of paint, more memory, and the same great performance. At the top of the price/performance value ladder is Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260, with models coming in under $200 and providing exceptional power for that price.

Today, we will scrutinize a few GeForce cards in this range, each of which offers a unique spin compared to the reference model that Nvidia designed (the implementation that we usually review for a launch). We’re going to see unique cooling solutions, overclocks, powerful tweaking tools, and other bells/whistles associated with these cards to help each stand out from the pack and appeal to customers who want a little more than what the average model can provide.

On the plate we have: Gigabyte's GV-N96TSL-1GI, Gigabyte's GV-N96TZL-1GI, Asus' ENGTS250 Dark Knight, Zotac's GeForce GTS250 AMP! Edition, Asus' ENGTX260 Matrix, and MSI's N260GTX Lightning Black Edition. We’ve got a lot of cards and data to cover, so let’s dig in.

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  • Mottamort
    I was rather disappointed with this article. Not the article itself but with the slightly misleading Title/Intro. When clicking the article I thought I was going to find a massive battle between these vendors on different tiers, instead you show us different instances of 2 slightly different cards of the same type from one vendor....if that makes sense
    I mean you have Gigabyte vs Gigabyte in the 9600gt section, Asus vs Asus in the 250 section and so on.

    :-/
    -3
  • dragonsprayer
    Great article
    i wish it had more cards, i think you need 4 parts, try some back cards like the 4870x2 darkknight? good stuff as always!
    thx!
    2
  • randomizer
    Man, this article makes my 9600GT look so old.
    0
  • crisisavatar
    wow how is the gts 250 performing so close to the gtx 260 wasn't the gtx 260 20% faster ?
    0
  • enterco
    It's not clear to me why are you comparing '3dmark score' when you should post 'GPU score'.... It's a graphics card comparision, not platform comparision.
    2
  • randomizer
    entercoIt's not clear to me why are you comparing '3dmark score' when you should post 'GPU score'.... It's a graphics card comparision, not platform comparision.

    Nothing but the cards is changed so you're not comparing platforms.
    0
  • acasel
    We cannot see clearly the bang for the buck card there if we ain't seeing some ati cards like the 4770 and others..


    The drop down menu sure is fast... :-)
    0
  • xsamitt
    You noticed that too hey LOL.Check out my lovely Avatar.
    0
  • enterco
    randomizerNothing but the cards is changed so you're not comparing platforms.

    Sure. A reason more to show GPU score. 3dmark score is too much influenced by CPU's power, and it's no longer relevant, the way it used to be once...
    By using a Quad Core and a low-performing GPU you can achive same 3dmark score as using a dual core combined with a considerably stronger GPU, 3dmark Vantage gives too much credit to CPU. But the overall FPS in games it's often higher in the second case: dual core + better GPU.
    2
  • marraco
    Recent review showed the 260 being neck to neck with the 4870; both in price and performance, those cards are in the same point.

    Since my 8800GT should be between the 9600 and the 250, I guess that the best upgrade path is to buy a second 8800GT, reaching probably 260/4870 performance.

    I searched the web for 8800GT SLI benckmark running in i7 920, but got no one single review...

    I think that tomshardware should review non up-to-date cards as the 8800 and the ATI equivalents, in crossfilre/SLI, since for many users, it should make sense to buy a second card that to upgrade to a 260/4870.

    older reviews on those cards does not accounted for the scalability on I7 x58 platform, and probably ATI and Nvidia dedicated more time tweaking drivers for newer cards, so maybe the 8800GT does not perform well today (the SLI on core 2/Quad did not worked very well in the past)
    3
  • zuke
    I'll second Marraco's suggestion above. I got an aging 8800GTS, and so I'm wondering if I should SLI it or buy a new Nvidia 250/260... I'm not gonna get anything by trying to sell it used.
    3
  • marraco
    marraco...I searched the web for 8800GT SLI benckmark running in i7 920, but got no one single review...
    It looks like I searched the wrong queries.
    here are some benchmarks. They show performance like a pair of 4770 (better than 4890), But I trust much more Tomshardware benchmarks :)


    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?p=3775122
    1
  • cleeve
    entercoIt's not clear to me why are you comparing '3dmark score' when you should post 'GPU score'.... It's a graphics card comparision, not platform comparision.


    Franly, I find the 3DMarks show a more realistic performance difference than the GPU score.
    -2
  • cleeve
    mottamort...Asus vs Asus in the 250 section and so on.:-/


    The GTS 250 cards were ASUS vs. Zotac.
    0
  • cleeve
    dragonsprayerGreat article wish it had more cards, i think you need 4 parts, try some back cards like the 4870x2 darkknight? good stuff as always!thx!


    We had a lot of vendors submit non-reference GeForce cards so this is the article we had the parts for. I'm trying to make more graphics card reviews happen so I'm planning on a Radeon version in the future.
    0
  • cleeve
    zukeI'll second Marraco's suggestion above. I got an aging 8800GTS, and so I'm wondering if I should SLI it or buy a new Nvidia 250/260... I'm not gonna get anything by trying to sell it used.


    If your card has 512MB, your 8800 GTS is simply an underclocked GTS 250. If you overclock it you'll bring performance much closer to the new GTS 250, I wouldn't upgrade... just add another one if your board supports it.
    0
  • cleeve
    acaselWe cannot see clearly the bang for the buck card there if we ain't seeing some ati cards like the 4770 and others.


    This isn't a budget card roundup, it's a GeForce non-reference roundup. Of course we'll have articles that focus on Radeon vs. GeForce, but this isn't one of 'em. :)
    0
  • cleeve
    marracoRecent review showed the 260 being neck to neck with the 4870; both in price and performance, those cards are in the same point.Since my 8800GT should be between the 9600 and the 250, I guess that the best upgrade path is to buy a second 8800GT, reaching probably 260/4870 performance.I searched the web for 8800GT SLI benckmark running in i7 920, but got no one single review...


    Absolutely, a second 8800 GT is the way to go for you.

    If you want to know what two 8800 GTs can do, remember that the 9800 GT is simply a re-badged 8800 GT. Just google something like "9800 GT SLI benchmark" and you'll have a good idea what your cards can accomplish.
    1
  • nerrawg
    Great article guys.
    One thing that I think is blatantly obvious, at least from the cards in this article, Is that there is a price premium for NVidia cards in the low-mid price ranges ($60-120). Lets compare non-reference ATI and NVIdia cards focused on gamers: (Not counting MIRs)

    Low-Mid range gamer card: (512MB)
    9600GT 512 MB gigabyte overclocked edition: $100
    9600GT cheapest $77
    9800GT cheapest - $115
    4670 cheapest $65
    4830 cheapest - $84
    4770 cheapest - $100
    4850 cheapest (Non-reference OC model) - $110

    Comparing these prices to Cleeve's relative performance chart it looks like NVidia takes a bit of a premium for their lower end cards. So I ask, why?

    Mid-high range: (512MB)
    Cheapest 250 - $130
    Cheapest 4870 - $165

    Mid-high range: (1GB)
    Cheapest GTS 250 - $145
    Cheapest 4870 - $175

    Things look better for Nvidia in the mid-high range, as the GTS 250 is priced in between 4850 and the 4870 - which is were everyone says it lies performance wise.

    So why do we perceivably pay a premium for low range NVidia cards? Could it be that there is a general conception amongst the consumers purchasing GPUs in this price range that NVidia is better than ATI - regardless (or in ignorance) of the bench marks? Or is it that NVidia is arrogant in their pricing?

    I ask you
    0
  • nerrawg
    Great article guys.
    One thing that I think is blatantly obvious, at least from the cards in this article, Is that there is a price premium for NVidia cards in the low-mid price ranges ($60-120). Lets compare non-reference ATI and NVIdia cards focused on gamers: (Not counting MIRs)

    Low-Mid range gamer card: (512MB)
    9600GT 512 MB gigabyte overclocked edition: $100
    9600GT cheapest $77
    9800GT cheapest - $115
    4670 cheapest $65
    4830 cheapest - $84
    4770 cheapest - $100
    4850 cheapest (Non-reference OC model) - $110

    Comparing these prices to Cleeve's relative performance chart it looks like NVidia takes a bit of a premium for their lower end cards. So I ask, why?

    Mid-high range: (512MB)
    Cheapest 250 - $130
    Cheapest 4870 - $165

    Mid-high range: (1GB)
    Cheapest GTS 250 - $145
    Cheapest 4870 - $175

    Things look better for Nvidia in the mid-high range, as the GTS 250 is priced in between 4850 and the 4870 - which is were everyone says it lies performance wise.

    So why do we perceivably pay a premium for low range NVidia cards? Could it be that there is a general conception amongst the consumers purchasing GPUs in this price range that NVidia is better than ATI - regardless (or in ignorance) of the bench marks? Or is it that NVidia is arrogant in their pricing?

    I ask you
    -2