GeForce 9500 GT Performance Preview
After getting off to a sluggish start, the DirectX 10 gaming era is now in full swing. Since the end of last summer, we’ve witnessed the arrival of dozens of new DirectX 10 games, and many more are in the works for debut later this year. Even blockbuster console games like Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed have been ported to the PC with enhanced DirectX 10 graphics; expect this trend to continue as well.
But DirectX 10 isn’t the only reason why we’re excited about the current generation of GPUs. Today’s latest GPUs can be used for much more than just playing games. Video features such as Blu-ray and DVD playback are old hand by now, while the addition of advanced post-processing effects such as dynamic contrast enhancement have given the GPU features that many high-end dedicated Blu-ray players don’t support.
We’re approaching a new era in 3D graphics where even more tasks that were traditionally handled by the CPU can now be tackled by the GPU, with improved performance. Whereas today transcoding one 1080p video can be a time-consuming process for the CPU, in the near future you’ll be able to do it in half the time on the GPU, or transcode multiple 1080p videos simultaneously. Adobe even plans to bring GPU acceleration to Photoshop later this year. (And of course NVIDIA doesn’t want you to forget physics.)
Eventually other common tasks such as audio encoding and 3D rendering could potentially be handled by the GPU.
For the average joe consumer, what’s really exciting is you don’t have to fork over hundreds of dollars to get this capability. Any DX10 card will do. Thanks to the latest round of GPU price cuts, this means you can spend anywhere from $50-$500 to get started. The most exciting developments are arguably occurring in the sub-$200 space. Here both ATI and NVIDIA offer a wide range of products: NVIDIA alone has offered ten different GPUs in this price range over the course of the last year.
And with today’s introduction of the GeForce 9500 GT, you can now add an 11th.
Slated just below the GeForce 9600 GT, NVIDIA’s GeForce 9500 GT replaces the GeForce 8600 GPUs in NVIDIA’s lineup. Its G96 GPU sports 32 stream processors and is built on TSMC’s 65-nm and 55-nm manufacturing process, with the chip containing 314 million transistors total. In comparison, the G84 chip powering NVIDIA’s GeForce 8600 series was built on TSMC’s larger 80-nm manufacturing process and contained 289 million transistors. GeForce 9500 GT cards are expected to retail for about the same price as today’s GeForce 8600 GT cards. We haven’t been given an exact MSRP, but expect a price tag in the low $80s range.
But how does NVIDIA’s new G96 GPU stack up in comparison to its predecessors? Let’s take a closer look under the hood?