NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT Review - Budget Gaming Redux
GPU-Z, Testing Methodology and System Setup
GPU-Z didn't yet have a version that completely understood the GeForce 9500 GT GPU but it got most of the information we needed:
Okay, the reporting of the GPU-Z application caused me to ask NVIDIA some questions - what clock rates were they really sending out reference cards at? The 550 MHz they showed in all the documentation or the 600 MHz showing up here?
Graphics card testing has
become the most hotly debated issue in the hardware enthusiast
community recently. Because of that, testing graphics cards has become
a much more complicated process than it once was. Before you might
have been able to rely on the output of a few synthetic, automatic
benchmarks to make your video card purchase, that is just no longer the
case. Video cards now cost up to $500 and we want to make sure that we
are giving the reader as much information as we can to aid you in your
purchasing decision. We know we can't run every game or find every bug
and error, but we try to do what we can to aid you, our reader, and the
community as a whole.
With that in mind, all the
benchmarks that you will see in this review are from games that we
bought off the shelves just like you. Of these games, there are two
different styles of benchmarks that need to be described.
The first is the
"timedemo-style" of benchmark. Many of you may be familiar with this
style from games like Quake III; a "demo" is recorded in the game and a
set number of frames are saved in a file for playback. When playing
back the demo, the game engine then renders the frames as quickly as
possible, which is why you will often see the "timedemo-style" of
benchmarks playing back the game much more quickly than you would ever
play the game. In our benchmarks, the FarCry tests were done in this
matter: we recorded four custom demos and then played them back on each
card at each different resolution and quality setting. Why does this
matter? Because in these tests where timedemos are used, the line
graphs that show the frame rate at each second, each card may not end at the same time precisely
because one card is able to play it back faster than the other -- less
time passes and thus the FRAPs application gets slightly fewer frame
rates to plot. However, the peaks and valleys and overall performance
of each card is still maintained and we can make a judged comparison of
the frame rates and performance.
The second type of benchmark
you'll see in this article are manual run throughs of a portion of a
game. This is where we sit at the game with a mouse in one hand, a
keyboard under the other, and play the game to get a benchmark score.
This benchmark method makes the graphs and data easy to read, but adds
another level of difficulty to the reviewer -- making the manual run
throughs repeatable and accurate. I think we've accomplished this by
choosing a section of each game that provides us with a clear cut path.
We take three readings of each card and setting, average the scores,
and present those to you. While this means the benchmarks are not
exact to the most minute detail, they are damn close and practicing
with this method for many days has made it clear to me that while this
method is time consuming, it is definitely a viable option for games
without timedemo support.
The second graph is a bar
graph that tells you the average framerate, the maximum framerate, and
the minimum framerate. The minimum and average are important numbers
here as we want the minimum to be high enough to not affect our gaming
experience. While it will be the decision of each individual gamer
what is the lowest they will allow, comparing the Min FPS to the line
graph and seeing how often this minimum occurs, should give you a good
idea of what your gaming experience will be like with this game, and
that video card on that resolution.
Our tests are completely based around the second type of benchmark method mentioned above -- the manual run through.
System Setup and Comparisons
The estimated pricing on the 9500 GT is at something like $90 according to NVIDIA's internal documents. For our testing comparison I decided to pit it against the GeForce 8600 GTS (a card well over a year old) and the latest overclocked Sapphire Radeon HD 3650 512MB card priced similarly.
Test System Setup
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Value
|NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 256MB
Sapphire Radeon HD 3650 512MB
BFG 8600 GTS 256MB
|NVIDIA Forceware 9500 GT Beta
AMD Catalyst - 8.6
|Power Supply||PC Power and Cooling 1000 watt|
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
- Call of Duty 4
- Unreal Tournament 3
- Power Consumption