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

Gigabyte’s GV-N96TSL-1GI And GV-N96TZL-1GI: Different Personalities

We’ll start with the GeForce 9600 GT-based cards from Gigabyte. While these products are based on identical printed circuit boards (PCBs), their value-added features make them stand out from each other in practice.

Gigabyte’s GV-N96TSL-1GI: Silent running for home-theater PC (HTPC) users who want to get their game on

The GV-N96TSL-1GI's most salient selling point is silence, thanks to a large, dual-slot Silent Cell cooler that does without a fan. The impressive dual-slot cooler does not push the GPU-heated air out of the back of the case, as most dual-slot coolers do. Instead, the GV-N96TSL-1GI draws cool air in from behind your chassis, which lowers the temperature of the graphics card. The heated air then travels upward, blown out through the case's fans and PSU. Gigabyte claims the Silent Cell 3 cooler can be up to 18 degrees Celsius cooler than the active fan heat sink of the GeForce 9600 GT reference design. Of course, this heatsink/fan combo relies completely on the case fans in your PC, so if you have poor chassis airflow, then you might want to address that before installing the GV-N96TSL-1GI.

The GV-N96TSL-1GI's GPU and memory clock speeds are identical to those of the reference board (that is to say 650 MHz for the GPU core, 1,625 MHz for the shader clock, and 900 MHz [1,800 MHz DDR] for the memory). Performance will therefore be very close to that of the GeForce 9600 GT reference card, although the 1 GB of RAM might help a bit in certain situations.

Gigabyte’s GV-N96TZL-1GI: A low-priced, overclocked gaming card with 1 GB of RAM

The GV-N96TZL-1GI is a straightforward improvement over the GeForce 9600 GT. It is quieter, cooler, and overclocked. Its thermal and acoustic enhancements come courtesy of a Zalman heat sink and a fan that is thick enough to make the card take up two slots of space, although, like the aforementioned card, this one also doesn't exhaust heated air out of your case.

With regard to overclocking, the card's 700 MHz core represents a mild 50 MHz increase in GPU speed compared to the reference design. And at 1,800 MHz on the shaders, the board features a 175 MHz increase. Memory speed is identical to the reference at 900 MHz (1,800 MHz DDR).

Packaging and Bundle

Our samples didn’t include a retail box or bundle, but we're told that they will be shipped with a Molex-to-PCI Express (PCIe) converter cable and an audio cable. Note that audio over HDMI isn’t natively supported in the GeForce cards, and this is what amounts to a workaround. A manual and a driver/utility CD are also included. Gigabyte’s Gamer HUD Lite utility is on the CD, which can also be downloaded from the Gigabyte Web site.

The only difference between the two models' bundles is that the GV-N96TZL-1GI comes with a DVI-to-VGA dongle, while the GV-N96TSL-1GI includes a DVI-to-HDMI dongle. This this goes to emphasize how the silent card is targeted to the HTPC user who can make use of more HDMI inputs rather than another VGA input.