NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT Launch and 3-Way Shootout
Palit GeForce 9600 GT Sonic
Even though the GeForce 9600 GT is brand new to market, it’s a good bet that Palit’s GeForce 9600 GT Sonic will take the cake for the most bizarre looking release based on this GPU. From its reflective green box emblazoned with some sort of Terminator robot frog, to its bright orange heatsink shroud, Palit has the oddball marketed cornered. It’s definitely a sight to behold. Those who have seen the card and box in person just stand there, mouth agape, trying to make sense of what is going on here. Frankly, we still don’t know.
However, while it may look to be an odd-duck, in reality Palit has created what is likely the most interesting GeForce 9600 GT release that we've seen thus far. Palit’s Sonic lineup is their high-end line, and this card will retail for about $220, which is in the same price lineup as a GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB. Palit will also be releasing a less eye-catching version with lower clock speeds soon after to fit into the sub-$200 market, but we haven’t laid our hands on this product. The Palit 9600 GT Sonic features a unique blend of non-reference clock speeds, a custom cooling system, and a port cluster unlike anything we’ve seen to date.
In terms of raw performance, the Palit 9600 GT Sonic does ship factory overclocked, at a clock speed of 700 MHZ (7.7% over reference) along with 512 MB of GDDR-3 memory running at 2,000 MHZ (11% over reference). This bumps the memory bandwidth level up to a hefty 64 GB/s, compared to 57.6 GB/s on the reference design.
Despite the bump in clock speeds, the card actually runs far cooler compared to boards running a single-slot reference cooler, as Palit has included a double-slot cooling system which features a copper base, copper heatpipes, and aluminum thin-fins. Centered in the middle is a 70mm PWM-enabled fan which runs extremely quiet. During intensive testing, we found that this cooling system allowed the GPU to run roughly 30F cooler compared to NVIDIA’s reference cooling system, and quieter as well. The entire cooler is surrounded by Palit’s bizarre orange plastic shroud, which features airflow cutouts and space for the heatpipes and power connectors. We wish Palit would have gone for a metal-based system to help grab some heat, along with a less eye-grabbing color, but we’re just nit-picking. The cooler is very efficient and does its job very well.
Palit GeForce 9600 GT Sonic - Left
Even though its factory overclcoked out of the box, we were able to push this card up to 775 MHz GPU clock speed along with memory clock speeds of 2.1 GHz, which is quite impressive considering this board is already factory overclocked. This equaled out to another 5% or so in terms of raw graphics performance compared to its stock speed, and basically right on par with a GeForce 8800 GT card.
However, the real attraction is the port cluster. Palit not only includes two dual-link DVI ports, but it also includes HDMI and DisplayPort functionality. DisplayPort enabled monitors are just hitting the market, and now you can connect to them via a slim, sexy cable compared to a bulky DVI connector. HDMI is popular with home-theater environments of course as well, and works in conjunction with the S/PDIF audio inputs on the board in order to push audio and video through a single HDMI port. The board features an optical S/PDIF input port on the rear, along with a 2-pin S/PDIF connector on the top of the board next to its SLI connector. Palit’s card does not feature an S-Video output port, but when you’ve got a much more impressive HDMI output as a backup, we’re plenty fine with it.
All in all, the Palit 9600 GT Sonic card is the best showcase for how flexible NVIDIA’s new graphics processor is, both in terms of output ports and clock speeds. The board features just about everything we could want in a GeForce 9600 GT product, with the exception being its alarmingly orange heatsink shroud. Judge this one on its performance and features, folks, not by its looks. It’s got personality that's for sure.