Graphics Cards Guide

NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 512MB GDDR3 (Reference Card) review

NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 512MB GDDR3

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The Expanding GeForce 9 Family

The Expanding GeForce 9 Family

For all the noise NVIDIA had made recently about streamlining its product lineup, it seems that such a day has not arrived yet. Because the company has announced the availability of three new GeForce 9 GPUs, two higher end GeForce 9800 models and a new mainstream part, the GeForce 9500 GT. Together with the newly introduced GeForce 9 mobile GPUs, it means that the GeForce 9 family has probably doubled in the past weeks and not necessarily for the better (don't get us started on the confusing nomenclature NVIDIA uses for its GeForce 9 mobile GPUs)

Of course, not all of this is news to enthusiasts. The GeForce 9800 GTX+ has been available for some time now in retail to combat the competition posed by ATI's Radeon HD 4850 against the now obsolete 9800 GTX. It uses a die shrunk G92 core of the 55nm process technology with slightly higher clock speeds. Meanwhile, the other new member of the GeForce 9800 series, the 9800 GT is a rebadged 8800 GT, with NVIDIA throwing in HybridPower support to align it with the rest of the GeForce 9800 series. Hence, the most interesting of the three 'new' GeForce 9 GPUs is the GeForce 9500 GT and we'll be looking closely at its performance today.

As its numerical name suggests (NVIDIA's nomenclature is not completely illogical yet), the GeForce 9500 GT is a notch less capable than NVIDIA's current performance mainstream GPU, the 9600 GT. Technology is often evolutionary however, thus the new kid has more in common with NVIDIA's older GeForce 8600 series, with a similar internal configuration of stream processors, ROPs and texture filtering units. The clock speeds are not exactly the same and there are naturally some enhancements within the G96 core which result in a greater transistor count than the GeForce 8600 GPUs. GeForce 9-only features like Hybrid SLI, PhysX, CUDA and the latest PureVideo HD engine will also be present on the 9500 GT.

While these new GPUs will be manufactured eventually using a 55nm process, initial batches are built on 65nm. NVIDIA has prepped a couple of variants for its board partners to market and customize, with the use of GDDR2 or GDDR3 memory the main difference, along with some minor memory clock variations. These GPUs will also fall into the same price segment (US$100 and below) as the older GeForce 8600 cards and are therefore the designated successors. Below, we have the specifications of the new GPU and some of its expected competitors.

The Mainstream Graphics Crowd
Model NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 256/512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3850 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 512MB
Core Code G96 G84 G84 RV670 RV635
Transistor Count 314 million 289 million 289 million 666 million 378 million
Manufacturing Process 65nm (Initial), 55nm (Eventual) 80nm 80nm 55nm 55nm
Core Clock 550MHz 675MHz 540MHz 670MHz 700MHz
Stream Processors 32 Stream Processors 32 Stream Processors 32 Stream Processors 64 Shader units consisting of 320 Stream Processors 24 Shader units consisting of 120 Stream Processors
Stream Processor Clock 1400MHz 1450MHz 1190MHz 670MHz 700MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 16 16 16 16 8
Raster Operator units (ROP) 8 8 8 16 4
Memory Clock 1600MHz GDDR3 or 1000MHz GDDR2 2000MHz GDDR3 1400MHz GDDR3 1660MHz GDDR3 1600MHz GDDR3
DDR Memory Bus 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 25.6GB/s (GDDR3) 16.0GB/s (GDDR2) 32.0GB/s 22.4GB/s 53.1GB/s 25.6GB/s
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 x16 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16
Molex Power Connectors No Yes No Yes No
Multi GPU Technology Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI) Yes (CrossFire) Yes (CrossFire)
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDCP Output Support Yes Yes Vendor dependent Yes Yes
Street Price US$70 - 90 US$90 - 110 US$70 - 90 US$99 - 139 US$60 - 90