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

Test System And Benchmarks

I'm going to preface this test system information by pointing out that, while the CPU is an older Q6600 model, it has been overclocked to 2.7 GHz and should perform on par with a brand-new Core 2 Quad Q9400 CPU. Some readers have suggested in the comments section that the platform will severely bottleneck the system, but evidence and experience have shown that this should not be the case. A 2.7 GHz Core 2 Quad will perform well enough and allow these video cards to stretch their legs.

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System Hardware
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo Q6600 (Kentsfield), 2.7 GHz, FSB-1200, 8 MB Cache
PlatformMSI P7N SLI Platinum Nvidia nForce 750i, BIOS A2
RAMA-Data EXTREME DDR2 800+ 2x 2,048 MB, DDR2-800, CL 5-5-5-18 at 1.8 V
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA 500 GB, 7,200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0 GB/s
NetworkingOn-Board nForce 750i Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics CardsGigabyte GV-N96TSL-1GI 1 GB DDR3 PCIeGigabyte GV-N96TZL-1GI 1 GB DDR3 PCIeAsus ENGTS250 Dark Knight 1 GB DDR3 PCIeZotac GeForce GTS250 AMP! Edition 1 GB DDR3 PCIeAsus ENGTX260 Matrix 896 MB DDR3 PCIeMSI N260GTX Lightning Black Edition 1,792 MB DDR3 PCIe
Power SupplyUltra HE1000X, ATX 2.2, 1,000 W
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit 6.0.6001, SP1
DirectX VersionDirectX 10
Platform DrivernForce Driver Version 15.25
Graphics DriverNvidia GeForce 185.68
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CrysisVersion: 1.2.1, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: CPU Benchmark + Tom’s Hardware Tool
Left 4 DeadVersion, Video Quality: all settings at maximum, Demo: Tom's Custom Benchmark
Fallout 3Version 1.4, Video Quality: Ultra, Demo: Tom's Custom Benchmark + FRAPS
World in ConflictVersion:, Video Quality: Very High Details, Demo: Game-Benchmark
Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate BoxVersion 1.1, Video Quality: All settings at maximum, Demo: Tom's Custom benchmark and FRAPS
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3DMark Vantage                                Version: 1.0.1, Demos: Performance, High, and Extreme Presets
  • 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.

  • 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!
  • randomizer
    Man, this article makes my 9600GT look so old.
  • crisisavatar
    wow how is the gts 250 performing so close to the gtx 260 wasn't the gtx 260 20% faster ?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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... :-)
  • xsamitt
    You noticed that too hey LOL.Check out my lovely Avatar.
  • 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.
  • 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)