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nVidia GeForce 9600 GT - The Card
The card we received for review is made by Leadtek but, as is often the case at launch, it is exactly the same as the reference design except for a different sticker on the cooler. Leadtek do offer an Extreme edition of the card, which comes factory overclocked to 670MHz/1800MHz core/memory, but we received the standard clocked version so, to all intents and purposes, we'll be treating it as a reference card.
The dimensions of the 9600 GT are exactly the same as the 8800 GT with it measuring a full 228mm. Considering the lower power of the card, it's a shame nVidia couldn't have shrunk the card a bit but this is hardly something to dwell on.
The cooler design has been tweaked slightly from that of the 8800 GT and a larger fan is being employed. The fundamentals are the same though, with the fan sucking in air and blowing it across the heatsink towards the back of the card. We have already raised concern about the single slot design on the 8800 GT potentially leading to overheating as it doesn't actually expel the hot air it creates - it just blows it back into your case. However, having ample ventilation in your case should eliminate this concern.
The standard display output configuration is that of two dual-link HDCP enabled DVI connections, so you can watch copy-protected HD movies without any problems, and a seven-pin analogue TV-out port. The former of these enables you to use DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-HDMI dongles to connect to any monitor, old or new, while the latter provides S-Video and, with the help of a dongle, component and composite output for old TVs. Also, DisplayPort and HDMI are now natively supported so in the future we may be seeing partner cards with these outputs onboard.
New to the 9600 GT is a standard connection point for a S/PDIF digital audio cable that can be used to take the audio signal from your sound card and pipe it out through HDMI or DVI (via a DVI-to-HDMi dongle). It's still not quite as elegant a solution as ATI uses on its 2000- and 3000-series cards but at least the connection is now standard.
To accompany this new feature, Leadtek now includes a DVI-to-HDMI converter in the box, as well as the required S/PDIF cable, a DVI-to-VGA dongle, and a TV-out cable. So, unless you have an exotic multi-monitor setup, there's everything you need to get going right out of the box.
Leadtek are also bundling the game Overlord with its cards, which is an added bonus. It's not the most up to date game but we gave it a reasonable 8/10 and, as we've said before, if you want fancy extras you going to have to pay for them and bearing in mind the price the Leadtek PX9600 GT is selling for, you certainly aren't paying a premium for the game.
Finally, the warranty on this card is only two years, which is much lower than the ten years some other partner boards come with. However, with the way computer graphics progresses, two years is a fair lifetime for a graphics card so this shouldn't overtly put you off.
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