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BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX Graphics Card
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Date: Sep 15, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications
When it comes to graphics cards for gaming, most of us desire the creme de la creme, but few of us can justify the expense of purchasing such a product.  That fact, coupled with the additional investment in hardware necessary to adequately back-up a high-end graphics card to ensure maximum enjoyment, can lead to some serious budget concerns.

Fortunately, there are a number of mid-range products that often compete very well with higher end cards, while shaving off a fair percentage of the price.  Also common in this market segment are cards tweaked from the factory with higher clock speeds and enhanced cooling to elevate performance, which helps make some mid-range graphics cards more attractive to those looking to balance price and performance.  The latest product we'll be looking at here falls into this category, the BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX.


The BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX takes mid-range graphics up a few notches by cranking up both the memory and GPU clock speeds over NVIDIA's reference spec, while coupling a potent cooling package and intelligent temperature management for maximum stability.  In the end, BFG aims to deliver a stable product that packs an extra kick while keeping a handle on excess temperature, fan noise and price.  Check out the specs below and then we'll take a closer look and see how BFG fared with their latest creation a little later...

BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX
Specifications and Features

Performance
GPU
NVIDIA GeForce® 9600 GT

Core Clock
725MHz (vs. 650MHz standard)

Shader Clock
1850MHz (vs. 1625MHz standard)

Shader Model
4.0

Texture Fill Rate
23.2 Billion/sec.

Stream Processors
64

Memory
Video Memory
512MB

Memory Type
GDDR3

Memory Data Rate
1950MHz (vs. 1800MHz standard)

Memory Interface
256-bit

Memory Bandwidth
62.4GB/sec.

Connections
Bus Type
PCI Express 2.0

Display Connectors
2 Dual-Link DVI-I, HDTV + TV Out

RAMDACs
Dual 400MHz

Multiple Monitor Support
Yes

HDCP Capable
Yes
Dual link (Requires other compatible components which are HDCP capable. Designed to meet the output protection management (HDCP) and security specifications of the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, allowing the playback of encrypted movie content on PCs when connected to HDCP-compliant displays)

HDMI Capable
Yes
(Requires adapter and audio cable, sold separately).

Included In Box
BFG NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT OCX 512MB ThermoIntelligence graphics card
Quick install guide
DVI to VGA adapter
Dual 4-pin Molex to single 6-pin PCI Express power adapter
HDTV (component) breakout cable
Driver CD, which includes: NVIDIA ForceWare unified graphics drivers and Full installation manual .pdf

System Requirements
512MB of system memory
CD or DVD-ROM drive
100MB of available hard disk drive space for basic driver installation
Microsoft Windows Vista or XP operating system
PCI Express or PCI Express 2.0-compliant system motherboard with one vacant PCI Express x16 slot
One vacant add-in card slot below the PCI Express x16 slot. This graphics card physically occupies two slots
425W PCI Express-compliant system power supply with a combined 12V current rating of 28A or more (Minimum system power requirement based on a standard PC configured with an Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor)
One 6-pin PCI Express supplementary power connector -or- Two 4-pin Molex supplementary power connectors
NOTE: For the power requirements of multiple GeForce 9600 GT-based graphics cards in an NVIDIA SLI configuration, please visit www.bfgtech.com/slipower

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The BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX Up Close
The BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX comes with a streamlined retail package, which incluldes a Quick installation guide, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a Dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCI Express power adapter, HDTV (component) cable and a Driver CD.  Those items aside, BFG leaves the card to stand on its own, deciding not to offer any free software or games with this model.

The BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX itself is not terribly flashy.  It has a standard green PCB, but BFG does back the memory and voltage regulators with heat sinks and the GPU with a custom cooler, yet appearances still seem a bit subdued.  Then again, it's the performance and features that should matter most.





For added performance, BFG takes this GeForce 9600 GT based card and raises the core clock speed from a default of 650MHz to 725MHz while raising the Shader Clock from 1625MHz to 1850MHz.  Backed with 512MB of GDDR3, BFG added 150MHz over the reference 1800MHz speed, clocking the memory at 1950MHz for 62.4GB/s of bandwidth.  The overclocked GPU helps deliver a Texture Fill Rate of 23.2 Billion/sec.





BFG names their cooling package the "ThermoIntelligence Custom Cooling Solution" which aims to significantly reduce GPU temperatures with a nickel plated copper base and finned cooler with center mounted, green illuminated fan.   Internal BFG tests show an 18'C reduction in load temperature over standard NVIDIA reference cooling, which is positive, no doubt.  This technology should aid the card in running at the higher clock speeds while maintaining stability.  Later on, we'll try to take things further and see if there is any more headroom left through overclocking.
 
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HH Test Setup and 3DMark Vantage
   

HotHardware Test Bed
BFG
Hardware:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550
(2.3GHz - Dual-Core)

MSI P35 Platinum Combo
(Intel P35 Express Chipset)

2x1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3
CL 6-6-6-15 - DDR-1300

BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX
512MB GDDR3

Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 Toxic  

512MB GDDR4

GeForce 8600 GTS

256MB GDDR3
WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
Catalyst 8.6
NVIDIA Forceware 175.19
DirectX Redist (November 2007)

Benchmarks Used:

DirectX
3DMark06 v1.1.0
Crysis
Company of Heroes
Half-Life 2: Episode Two

OpenGL
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's default option, which uses a resolution of 1280 x 1024, with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering.







In the overall score, the BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX fell 200 points below that of the Sapphire HD 3870 which sports higher fill rates and memory bandwidth.  With the GPU 1 test, both cards returned near identical performance while the Sapphire card held a 12% edge over the 9600 GT OCX in the GPU 2 test.  In all three tests, the popular GeForce 8600 GTS struggled to match the scores put up by the 9600 GT or 3870 by rather large margins across the board.

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Benchmarking with Company of Heroes and Crysis


Performance Comparisons with Company of Heroes
Details: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com/

Company of Heroes
Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows, but recent updates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details. The game features a built-in performance test, which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at a resolution of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X Anti-aliasing and all of the game's image quality settings set to "High"



Company of Heroes performance leaned in favor of the BFG 9600 GT OCX, which topped the Sapphire HD 3870 by 15.3FPS at 1280x1024 and 12.5FPS at 1600x1200.  With the older GeForce 8600 GTS, the results lagged by a minimum of 50% when compared to either the BFG 9600 GT OCX or Sapphire HD 3870.
 

Crysis v1.2
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.



With Crysis, the results shifted in favor of the Sapphire HD 3870, which lead the BFG 9600 GT OCX by 1.83FPS at 1280x1024 and 4.17FPS at 1600x1200.  Once again, the GeForce 8600 GTS was outgunned by more than double its score in this test.

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Benchmarking with Half Life 2:EP2 and ET: Quake Wars
  

Half Life 2: Episode 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Half Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.



Half-Life 2 EP2 was a positive showing for the BFG 9600 GT OCX.   In this test, the BFG 9600 GT OCX held a 20% edge at 1280x1024 which reduced slightly to a 16.8% advantage at 1600x1200.  Consistent with all previous tests, the GeForce 8600 GTS struggled, returning results half that of the Sapphire HD 3870 Toxic.
 

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to High with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering.



When running at a resolution of 1280x1024, both the BFG 9600 GT OCX and Sapphire HD 3870 Toxic performed on the same level, however, once the resolution was increased to 1600x1200, the BFG card registered a significant performance hit, dropping behind the Sapphire HD 3870 Toxic by about 16 FPS.  Once again the GeForce 8600 GTS was outgunned by hefty margins.

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Overclocking the BFG 9600 GT OCX
 

Overclocking the BFG Tech GeForce 9600 GT OCX
Not worth the effort

Our final test of the BFG 9600 GT OCX was to evaluate what additional overclocking headroom the card had to offer.  Using NVIDIA's nTune software, we managed to add 8.25% to the GPU clock, resulting in a 60MHz boost.  With the GDDR3 memory, we managed to increase 9% or 88MHz (176MHz DDR).






While both the GPU and Memory overclocked over 8%, the gains in performance did not scale as high.  At 1280x1024, the scores jumped 3.5% while at 1600x1200 the difference was closer to 1.5%, a small reward for our efforts.
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Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Analysis:  The BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX compared favorably to the Radeon HD 3870.  While the BFG card did lag in 3DMark Vantage and slightly in Crysis, it held a firm lead in Company of Heroes and Half-Life 2 Episode Two.  Enemy Territory favored the Sapphire HD 3870 at 1600x1200, but the two cards were tied at 1280x1024.




When shopping for a mid-range graphics card on a tight budget, it can be difficult to find the right balance between price and performance when there are so many different options out there.  In our testing, we found the BFG Tech GeForce 9600 GT OCX to be worthy of consideration from a performance standpoint, with the tests tipping in its favor overall when compared to a factory overclocked Radeon HD 3870.  However, performance is only part of the equation as price is an equally important factor when assessing overall value.

In researching price points, we found the BFG Tech GeForce 9600 GT OCX available for as low as $165, while the Sapphire HD 3870 Toxic we used as a comparison weighed in closer to $160, making for a fairly tight race.  However, we would have to give the nod to the Sapphire HD 3870 Toxic edition in thins comparison since it has a much stronger retail package, which includes a copy of 3DMark 06, several Cyberlink titles and a free voucher for "The Black Box" at Steam, whereas BFG offers no free software whatsoever.  Conversely, the BFG Tech GeForce 9600 GT OCX has in its favor free 24/7 support and a limited lifetime warranty, while Sapphire offers a 2 year warranty and free support with registration.

In the end, we feel both models are valid mid-range considerations with the ultimate decision being based on what is most important to the potential buyer, whether it be a robust retail package or stronger warranty and support options.  Either way, both models should deliver similar performance at a near identical cost.
 
 

 

  • Good Performance
  • Great Image Quality
  • 512MB Frame Buffer
  • Custom Cooler
  • Overclocked
  • Spartan Retail Package
  • Drab Green PCB




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