XFX GeForce 9600GT XXX Edition

The G94 GPU core that powers the 9600GT has quite the heritage. It is in effect a derivative of the grandfather G80 core that powered the venerable 8800GTX. Nvidia's 9600GT has given the average consumer a video card option that lets them enter the high definition gaming era with only a $125 investment. This particular model of the 9600GT comes from XFX with a warrantied overclock and therefore fetches a slightly higher price at $160. With 505 million transistors, the 9600GT is a rather tiny performance GPU, for comparison's sake the G92-200 from the 8800GT has a whopping 754 million transistors.

Today I've got the XFX XXX Alpha Dog Edition 9600GT with model number PV-T94P-YHS4 to review. I only mention this model number as XFX has 14 9600GT models available and of those 4 are XFX XXX Alpha Dog Edition cards. Each XXX Alpha Dog Edition only varies in the game bundled with the card so if you plan on purchasing more than one card, grab different models so you don't double up on the bundled games.

XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition

I'll be comparing this XFX XXX Alpha Dog Edition 9600GT to a factory overclocked Gigabyte 8800GT. To make it easier to understand precisely what we are comparing here today, below I've created a table that includes all the vital statistics on both cards along with the clockspeeds that both cards were set to operate at when launched. Both the Gigabyte 8800GT and the XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition have factory overclocks so this isn't precisely an apples to apples comparison however these overclocks are guaranteed from the manufacturer and to the user they are invisible performance boosts.


 Card Core
Shader
Memory
SPU
ROP
TMU
Transistors
Default 9600GT
650MHz
1625MHz
1800MHz
64
16
32
505 Million
XFX 9600GT XXX
740MHz
1850MHz
2000MHz
64
16
32
505 Million
Default 8800GT
600MHz
1500MHz
1800MHz
112
16
56
754 Million
Gigabyte 8800GT
700MHz
1705MHz
1840MHz
112
16
56
754 Million



Bundle and Layout

XFX 9600GT

The XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition came in a themed box that wasn't too garish or disturbing. Video cards and motherboards are notorious for having terrible box art, XFX didn't go too far with their box and it fits in with the theme of it being an Alpha Dog card. The card itself was safely stored in a anti-static bag and secured within a form-fitted foam mount within the box. Underneath the card there was a slew of goodies from XFX including a copy of Call of Duty 4. The bundle included all the connectivity you would need to connect two monitors and a television.


XFX 9600GT

XFX 9600GT

The card itself features a custom single-slot cooler featuring a solid copper plate and fin assembly. Because of all the copper the card is quite hefty, hopefully a good sign. Sitting underneath the cooler is the G92 core and 512MB of GDDR3. A quick glance over the card shows a single SLI connector at the top of the card and a decal on the stock cooler that matches the box art.


XFX 9600GT

The card features two HDCP compliant DVI ports and a S-Video port. If you need analog ports XFX has included two DVI to analog converters for your convenience.


XFX 9600GT

The PWM end of the card shows a two-phase core PWM and single-phase GDDR3 circuit. The card requires a 6-pin PCIe connector for additional board power with a powersupply rated at 400w and 26 amps on the 12v rail. The PWM area is cooled by the exhaust for the cooler and while the air blowing over it can get to be a bit warm it is all well within spec for these components.

Test System


XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition

For both video cards I used my test-bed featuring a Gigabyte X48T-DQ6 and high-speed DDR3. It should be noted that for the 9600GT I used a Rev 1.1 X48T-DQ6 and for the 8800GT I used a Rev 1.3 X48T-DQ6. Neither revision differs greatly but for onboard cooling changes. Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit was utilized with SP1 installed. Company of Heroes was patched to the latest DX10 patch and all other titles used were patched to the latest revisions. In all game tests the graphical settings were set to their maximum values, so for Crysis this meant Very High settings, Devil May Cry 4 was set to High, and Company of Heroes was set to High. The CPU was run at 3.0GHz and the memory was run at 1333MHz with 6-6-6-18-1T timings. In the overclocking segment no additional fan cooling was applied to the card, all results were achieved with stock cooling on an open air testbench.


Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650

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Motherboard

Gigabyte X48T-DQ6

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Memory

Corsair PC3-14400C7 Dominator 2x1GB

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Video Card

See Above

Click Here

Hard Drive

Seagate 7200.10 320GB

Click Here

Cooling

QX9650 Box Cooler

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Power Supply

OCZ 700w GameXStream

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Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate

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Game Test Results


In nearly all the game tests the 8800GT lead the 9600GT by a little more than 10%. There was only one instance where the 9600GT blew the 8800GT out of the water, Crysis at 1680x1050. There must have been a driver issue as I could repeatedly achieve 19.17 to 19.64 average frames per second but only at stock clocks. I believe the 9600GT wasn't rendering something as this repeatable anomaly was most odd. For the Devil May Cry 4 benchmark I recorded the value from the second stage of the test which was by far the most strenuous of the four. In Devil May Cry 4 and Company of Heroes the 9600GT was playable at maximum settings up to 1920x1200 without anti-aliasing enabled. Crysis with it's Very High graphical settings looked beautiful and was still playable up to 1680x1050. Dropping down to High quality settings resulted in playable performance up to 1920x1200. I used the maximum graphical settings as they stress the GPUs the most and remove any CPU bottlenecks.


Company of Heroes XFX 9600GT

Crysis XFX 9600GT

Devil May Cry 4 XFX 9600GT

3DMark Test Results

The 3DMark performance from the 9600GT was quite surprising. Given that it has nearly half the stream processors of the 8800GT, ~60% of the TMUs, and identical TMUs, I expected the card to perform much lower. Just like the game tests, the 8800GT lead the 9600GT by 10% with a few instances of a 20% lead. 12.1k 3DMarks in 3DMark 2006 with a 3GHz processor was very good for the price of the card. With two 9600GT's in SLI you could easily see 18k in 3DMark 2006 and 26k in Entry Vantage.

XFX 9600GT 3DMark2006



XFX 9600GT 3DMark Vantage

Overclocked Results

XFX 9600GT Stock Clocks

This was the stock speeds that the XFX Alpha Dog Edition 9600GT ran at.

XFX 9600GT Overclocked

This was the maximum overclock sustainable on the stock cooler.

The XFX Alpha Dog Edition 9600GT is a factory overclocked card so I wasn't expecting much of an additional overclock with the card. The card performed rather well though in overclocking and I was able to achieve 800MHz on the core, 2050MHz on the shaders, and 1101MHz on the memory. Compared to the original 9600GT clockspeeds this is quite a substantial jump in performance. When overclocked the card was able to compete toe to toe with the 8800GT and in most cases beat it rather soundly. I found the Devil May Cry 4 improvement to be quite stunning, when overclocked the card positively took off.


XFX 9600GT Devil May Cry 4 Overclocked Results

XFX Crysis Overclocked Results

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

XFX 9600GT

XFX 9600GT 

The XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition provides a solid performance/price card that easily fits into most gamer gamer budgets. Given it's minimal power requirements and single-slot cooler, the 9600GT would be at home in the meekest OEM computer or a mid-range custom gaming computer. The XFX 9600GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition is definitely not the fastest option available on the market but it is one of the better buys when you are trying to get the best bang for your buck. If you are gaming at 1280x1024 I would highly recommend the 9600GT as a solid purchase that will hold strong for another 12  months with medium to high quality settings in current and upcoming titles.

Installing the card was a very simple task however the moment you power on the fan you'll notice an immediate problem. Since the card utilizes a single-slot cooler, it has a high-speed fan that upon startup emits a high pitched whine and even in Windows at 25% fanspeed still emits an audible noise above the heatsink and hard drive drone. Those of you that are looking to run this in an HTPC may want to either invest in an aftermarket heatsink or utilizing Rivatuner to manually adjust the fanspeed to a more tolerable setting.


Legit Bottom Line:The XFX Alpha Dog Edition 9600GT puts the "bang" in bang for buck. Priced at $160 for this particular variant, the card is a fantastic buy for the mid-range gamer looking for a quick boost in performance.