The rather disappointing levels of performance available from nVidia's mid-range graphics cards (and AMD's for that matter) have long been lamented. While the GeForce 8600 was great for casual gamers, it wasn't particularly much of a step up from its predecessor, the GeForce 7600. Hoping to right all these wrongs nVidia has today launched its 9-series' midrange offering, the GeForce 9600 GT.
As the name suggests, the card is a direct successor to the 8600 and will slot in to about the same price range. In terms of specs, though, the card is definitely not comparable. Stream processor count is doubled from 32 on the 8600 to 64 on the 9600, the memory interface has been widened to a 256-bit bus and there are now 16 ROPs.
In terms of speeds the stock card will carry 650MHz, 1.625GHz and 1.8GHz core, shader and memory clocks respectively. On paper, then, this should make the 9600 about twice as fast as its predecessor. In terms of looks, the standard card design follows in the vein of the 8800GT, in that it uses single-slot cooler covering the whole board and there is a single 6-pin power connector.
Various board partners are likely to offer overclocked versions, carrying appropriate premiums, but there is a slight problem with the current pricing structure. While some cards are available in the region of around £125, the more expensive cards push up into the realms of the Radeon 3870 and 8800 GT at nearer £150. At this price, you'd be hard pushed not to save the extra £20-odd and buy the better card, so remember to shop around - and of course to check out our comprehensive review.