Closer Look at the Cards
The first card we are going to show you here is the PNY Verto 9600 GT. As you can see in the images below, this card doesn't differ significantly from NVIDIA's reference design.
Included with the PNY Verto 9600 GT, you will find an installation CD, a multi-language quick installation manual, two DVI-to-VGA adapters, an S-video cable, an HDTV (component video) break-out cable, and a "Y" adapter power cable. Just like this spartan bundle, the card itself is rather simple, as you can see in the pictures above. Just like the other two cards in this round-up, the Verto 9600 GT sports two DVI connectors and an HDTV/S-video connector.
The single-slot cooler features a small yet relatively quiet fan that works with the heatsink to do a respectable job keeping the GPU cool. At idle, the temperature reported for the GPU was 43°C. During the 3DMark06 benchmark, the temperature rose to 62°C. Our overclocking results with the Verto 9600 GT were similar to our previous 9600 GT attempts. We were able to reach 750 MHz for the core and 2,200 MHz for the memory, which is not too shabby.
Next up, we have the MSI N9600GT OC, which doesn't look much like the NVIDIA reference design at all. The cooler is red and features a bigger fan. Additionally, this is a two-slot solution rather than single-slot.
With its big red cooler, it's impossible not to notice the MSI N9600GT OC. If you read the specifications on the previous page, you already know that this card is the only overclocked card in the bunch for this round-up. MSI obviously wanted to make sure its overclocked 9600 GT stays cool. As you can see from the pictures, the cooler uses two heatpipes and a relatively large clear/frosted fan.
Like the PNY offering, the MSI bundle is simple, but it's not the same. The N9600GT OC bundle includes an installation CD, a general MSI video card quick user's guide, a N9600GT series quick user's guide, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, an S-video cable, an HDTV (component video) break-out cable, a "Y" adapter power cable, and an audio cable for use with HDMI (connects from a header on the card to an S/PDIF header on your motherboard or sound card). One more aspect of the bundle worth mentioning is that MSI also includes a bunch of handy utilities on the installation CD.
If you assumed that the MSI N9600GT OC's cooler does a better job cooling the GPU than the PNY's reference cooler, then you assumed correctly. At idle, the N9600GT OC's GPU temperature was 39°C. During 3DMark06, the temperature hit 53°C, which was 9°C cooler than the PNY's reference design. Thanks to its more efficient cooler, the N9600GT OC overclocked a bit better as well. While we achieved the same memory overclock (2,200 MHz), we were able to push the core clock 50 MHz higher, resulting in an 800 MHz core. What's more, the cooler is at least as quiet as the PNY's reference cooler at idle and during load. Nevertheless, we have to point out that the N9600GT OC is very loud during boot and POST, but the fan quiets down once the login prompt appears and the driver are initialized.
Finally, the last card in this round-up is the ASUS EN9600GT SILENT, which also departs quite a bit from the NVIDIA reference design. As the name suggests, this card is completely silent thanks to its fanless, passive design. The quiet approach is always appealing, but the downside here is that the design results in a two-slot wide card.
Every time new NVIDIA or ATI cards come out, we look forward to seeing if companies will create silent versions of those cards, and we are happy to see ASUS do just that with the EN9600GT SILENT. Like the PNY Verto 9600 GT, the ASUS EN9600GT SILENT utilizes NVIDIA reference speeds for the core, memory and shader clocks. This really isn't too surprising since it is a passively cooled card. As you can see in the pictures, the cooler sports three heatpipes and a large slab of metal.
The EN9600GT SILENT package includes a quick setup guide, a VGA driver/utility CD, a multi-language manual CD, an "HDMI Adapter / SPDIF Cable Connection Instruction" booklet, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, an HDTV (component video) break-out cable, a "Y" adapter power cable, and an audio cable for use with HDMI (connects from a header on the card to an S/PDIF header on your motherboard or sound card).
Some silent coolers can actually do as good of a job as or better than fan-based coolers, but that didn't prove to be the case here. Both the PNY card with its reference cooler and the MSI card with its custom cooler do a better (albeit noisier of course) job at keeping the GPU cool. At idle, the ASUS EN9600GT SILENT runs at about 60°C, and during 3DMark06, the GPU temperature reached 75°C. The silent cooler also didn't allow us to overclock the EN9600GT SILENT as high as the other two cards. The high stable overclock we reached was 725 MHz for the core and 2,000 MHz for the memory.
We noticed something interesting once we laid all three cards next to each other: the ASUS EN9600GT SILENT is actually shorter than the other two cards by approximately half an inch. This means that ASUS uses a custom PCB with the EN9600GT SILENT as well.