NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT Review - Budget Gaming Redux
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Sub-$100 gaming gets a refresh
Don't get me wrong - I love products like the GeForce GTX 280 and the Radeon HD 4870 X2 as much, if not more than, the next guy. But I also am privy to the truth: the GPU giants make their cash on cards like the new GeForce 9500 GT. Though not as sexy and exciting as the world of uber-expensive and super-high-end graphics cards the budget graphics parts are gobbled up by hungry OEMs looking to build a "gaming" system and users with consistent wallet deficiency.
On a pretty consistent basis we see technologies from the high-end GPUs, like NVIDIA's new GT200 or AMD's new RV770, filter down into the budget realm with less performance, less memory and a that all important lower price tag. Today NVIDIA is unveiling an update to their sub-$100 GPU line up with a new products in the 9000-series of parts called the GeForce 9500 GT.
The GeForce 9500 GT GPU and Reference Card
The GeForce 9500 GT GPU is based on G92 technology, not the most recent GT200 design. Built on a 65nm process technology the core has approximately 314 million transistors - very small compared to NVIDIA's GT200 part that comes in at 1.4 billion transistors. I should also note here that in the official informational specifications for the 9500 GT NVIDIA mentions a quick transition to the 55nm version of the 9500 GT - obviously they are trying to save money and power consumption as they did with the move from the 9800 GTX to 9800 GTX+ recently.
Obviously with a move from the 754 million transistors on the G92-based 9800 GTX to 314 million on the 9500 GT some goodies are getting cut off in the name of a lower price. But what exactly is missing on this new chip? The first change is a move from 128 shader processors to 32 SPs - these will run at 1.4 GHz while the core clock speed is set at 550 MHz for reference designs.
The memory controller is also changed from a 256-bit wide bus to 128-bit - this obviously saves on die space because of the fewer controllers required and fewer pin outs are required on the physical connections of the chip to a printed circuit board. Most GeForce 9500 GTs should ship with 256MB of GDDR3 memory though 512MB models and cards using GDDR2 will be optional as well. All of this cuts the memory bandwidth from 70.4 GB/s to about 25.6 GB/s.
For filtering functionality the 9500 GT is left with half the ROPs of the 9800 GTX, just 8, and the filtering rate for the card is 16 texels/clock totaling 8.8 GT/s compared to the 9800 GTX's 43.2 GT/s. Obviously with these feature changes we need to adjust our expected performance levels.