An interesting package hit my door step yesterday and in it were two graphics cards of unknown origin. Well, not completely unknown since I bought them from a PC Perspective Forums
member, but their REAL origin is a mystery. Why the secrets? Turns out these cards unreleased GeForce 9600 GT cards. No, really. And yeah, I just BOUGHT them.
Here are the goods: two NVIDIA reference cards that look similar to 8800 GTs but have slightly different cooler designs.
Just to compare: an XFX 8800 GT 512MB
up top and the new 9600 GT on the bottom. The 9600 GT cooler definitely uses the larger fan that the updated 8800 GT cards used which makes sense.
What do we know about the 9600 GT? Not a whole lot yet, but enough to be dangerous. Based on the as-yet-unseen G94 chip that is built on the G92 design but has fewer stream processors but the same 256-bit memory bus. These cards also feature 512MB of on-board memory though I have heard rumors of a 256MB version that probably won't see the light of day.
Taking the covers off this card shows the GPU and memory chips that make up the reference design. The angle of the GPU is interesting if only because the G92 cards were not laid out that way.
The GPU cooler is pretty bland on the underside but looks very similar to what we have seen in the recent G92 refreshes.
Up close on the GPU itself we can tell that this core was manufactured in the 43rd week of last year and is the second spin, A1.
But that's about it: no word on how many ROPs but we can assume to see 1/2 the texture addressing and filtering units as we saw on the G92.
While the GPU continues to hide its secrets, the memory on these reference cards is GDDR3 rated at 1000 MHz - might we see the 9600 GT with memory clocks up around that high or will they scale it down to allow headroom for the add-in card vendors.
For a die size comparison, here I have included both an image of a G92 core next to a US quarter and below is the G94 core.
Though the angles are just SLIGHTLY off, you can clearly see that the new G94 is a smaller die - that means money savings for NVIDIA and of course the likely results of there being fewer SPs hidden inside. Those of you used to "unlocking" pipes on GPUs are going to be SOL here.
We'll have more for you later in the week but for now, I thought you all would like to know that we had our hands on NVIDIA's new mid-level performance part. Keep your eyes on PC Perspective!
You can check out more information on the architecture behind the NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT in our 8800 GT review from November or the 8800 GTS 512MB review from December. There is a lot of discussion about these cards, including from the user that sold them to us, here in our video card forum.