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

Gigabyte’s GV-N96TSL-1GI And GV-N96TZL-1GI: Identical PCBs And Overclocking

GV-N96TZL-1GI backGV-N96TZL-1GI back

GV-N96TSL-1GI BackGV-N96TSL-1GI Back

These cards are both based on the same non-reference GeForce 9600 GT board unique to Gigabyte. At 8.5" long, the cards are a bit shorter than the reference 9600 GT, but they pack Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable VGA feature, which includes 2 oz. of copper on the PCB, Samsung or Hynix memory, Japanese solid capacitors, ferrite core chokes, and Low RDS (on) MOSFETs.  Gigabyte claims that Ultra Durable VGA offers a 5% to 10% lower GPU temperature, a 10% to 30% increase in overclocking capability, and a 10% to 30% reduction in power-switching loss compared to Nvidia’s reference model. If they turn out to be accurate, then we expect some cool temperatures and nice overclocks.

GV-N96TZL-1GI OutputsGV-N96TZL-1GI Outputs

GV-N96TZL-1GI sideGV-N96TZL-1GI side

Both of these cards have HDMI, VGA, and dual-link DVI outputs. Without two dual-link DVI outputs, though, these cards can’t run a pair of 30” 2650x1600 monitors at the same time. As with most cards, only two of the three video outputs can be used at the same time.

GV-N96TSL-1GI outputsGV-N96TSL-1GI outputs

GV-N96TSL-1GI sideGV-N96TSL-1GI side

Neither of Gigabyte’s 9600 GT cards has memory heat sinks, but since the usefulness of memory heat sinks has always been questionable, we don't consider that a significant limitation. Speaking of memory, both cards come with 1 GB, which is twice what a garden-variety GeForce 9600 GT sports.

To provide auxiliary power to the card, these Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT models require a six-pin PCIe connector, which is par for the course.

Overclocking the Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT cards

Gigabyte offers a simple utility that it calls the "Gamer HUD."

The Gamer HUD has only three adjustable settings: GPU speed, shader speed, and memory clock speeds. There are also handy temperature- and GPU-usage readouts.

Using this utility, we managed to get the GV-N96SL-1GI overclocked to 815 MHz on the GPU, 1,810 MHz on the shaders, and 950 MHz (1,900 MHz DDR) on the memory. This is a respectable overclock, considering that this card has no active cooling fan.

As for the GV-N96ZL-1GI, we managed to up the ante a little, but not by much. Our final stable overclock was 820 MHz on the GPU, 1,820 MHz on the shaders, and 1,010 MHz (2,020 MHz DDR) on the memory. Essentially, the GPU/shader overclock was identical to that of the GV-N96SL-1GI, while the GV-N96ZL-1GI had more agreeable memory.

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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.

    :-/
  • 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!
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • cleeve
    mottamort...Asus vs Asus in the 250 section and so on.:-/


    The GTS 250 cards were ASUS vs. Zotac.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. :)
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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