XFX 9600 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition 740M 512mb Page: 1
Introduction
 
We took the first look at the 9600 GT not so long ago and weren't too impressed with the advance of the series compared to ATI's offering. Of course, this card was a stock clocked example and so was outperformed by the HD3850 we used.
 
This time we're looking at an overclocked example from XFX, one of Nvidia's premier partners. Their XXX Alpha Edition 9600 GT is clocked at a huge 740MHz with a 1750MHz shader clock and 2000MHz RAM clock, which is pretty special.
 
 
Packaging
 
The packaging on the XFX 9600 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition is a little different to what we've seen from XFX before and actually looks pretty funky. Still featured is the "Alpha Dog"  but inset in a pretty cool design.
 
xfx 9600 gt packaging  xfx 9600 gt box rear
 
It's certainly an eye-catching design and will definitely stand out on shelves.
 
inside box
 
The packaging on the inside of the box looks like it will protect the card with no problems at all.
 
 
Package
 
The package that comes with the card is an impressive affair. We have:
 
* XFX Quick install guide
* I'm Gaming Do Not Disturb" door sign
* Tips & Techniques sheet
* S-Video guide
* Driver CD
* Company of Heroes full Game including DirectX 10 patch CD
* 2 x DVI to VGA converters
* 1 x DVI to HDMI converter
* S-Video to Component converter
* S-Video to S-Video converter
* Dual Molex to PCI-e power converter
 
**Please note that from 11th April the card will be bundled with Assassins Creed PC**
 
xfx 9600 gt bundle
 
A full hardware bundle is complimented by an AAA title in Company of Heroes, along with the DX10 patch for the game. A very nice bundle which is what some people look for in a top range card.
 
With the news that the card will be bundled with the excellent Assassins creed from 11th April, the bundle just got even better!
 
Specifications
 
From XFX's website.
 
Clock rate
740 MHz
Dual Link DVI - Supporting digital output up to 2560x1600
Yes (Dual)
Memory Clock
2.0 GHz
Shader Clock
1750 MHz
Chipset
GeForce 9600 GT
Memory
512 MB
Bus Type
PCI-E 2.0
Memory Type
DDR3
Memory Bus
256-bit
Output
HDMI w/ HDMI upgrade kit (included
Highlighted Features
HDCP Ready , RoHS , TV Out , SLI ready , Dual DVI Out , HDTV ready , Vista
 
Features
128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR)
Twice the precision of prior generations for incredibly realistic lighting effects—now with support for anti-aliasing.

Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista™
NVIDIA's third-generation GPU architecture built for Windows Vista give users the best possible experience with the 3D graphical user interface in the upcoming operation system (OS) from Microsoft.

Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates--up to 2048x1536@85Hz.

Dual DVI Support
Able to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution flat-panel displays.

Dual Link DVI
Capable of supporting digital output for high resolution monitors (up to 2560x1600).

Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 Support
World’s first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.

High-Definition H.264, MPEG-2 and WMV Hardware Acceleration2
Smoothly playback H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV video—including WMV HD—with minimal CPU usage so the PC is free to do other work.

NVIDIA® ForceWare® Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability, and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare provides the best out-of-box experience and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce® GPUs.

NVIDIA® Lumenex™ Engine
Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.

NVIDIA® nView® Multi-Display Technology
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.

NVIDIA® Quantum Effects™ Technology
Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation enable a new level of physics effects to be simulated and rendered on the GPU—all while freeing the CPU to run the game engine and AI.

NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration for unparalleled gaming experiences by allowing two graphics cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI dramatically scales performance on over 60 top PC games.

NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single graphics card configuration for unequaled gaming experiences by allowing two cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express® graphics, SLI technology dramatically scales performance on today’s hottest games.

NVIDIA® unified architecture with GigaThread™ technology
Massively multi-threaded architecture supports thousands of independent, simultaneous threads, providing extreme processing efficiency in advanced, next generation shader programs.

OpenGL™ 2.1 Optimizations and Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for OpenGL applications.
 
Moving on....


XFX 9600 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition 740M 512mb Page: 2
The XFX Alpha Dog XXX Edition 9600 GT - close in
 
Last time I looked at the 9600 GT it had a 3rd party cooler installed on it. This time, we're looking at the stock cooler from XFX. The Alpha Dog edition is based around a black PCB with a card-keeper-esque bracket to make sure that the whole thing doesn't flex too much.
 
xfx 9600 gt alpha dog edition xxx  xfx 9600 gt alpha dog edition
 
You'll notice that the cooler spreads all the way across the memory modules for the card, perhaps because they're running at a swift 2000Mhz.
 
xfx 9600 gt xxx edition  XFX logo
 
XFX have used all high quality Japanese capacitors for the card which gives it an air of quality. The XFX logo on the side of the card also shows a nice level of detail in the card.
 
power
 
The card requires a single 6PIN PCI-e power.
 
outputs
 
The card has two Dual DVI HDCP enabled outputs, as well as the usual TV-out S-Video. This is what we have come to expect, although I was slightly surprised HDMI wasn't included on the card itself. Still, there's a converter in the box that works just fine.
 
 
The Cooler
 
The cooler on the XFX 9600 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition is the stock Nvidia cooler. With a copper base and copper fins it should do the trick to keep the GPU cool. Running at around 35°C idle and 58°C load, the card certainly does keep the GPU cool and does it's job very well.
 
9600 gt fan
 
BUT (you knew it was coming!), the cooler is obnoxiously loud at pretty much all times. Recording the sounds at idle and at load I uploaded them for you to hear:
 
Idle
Load
 
As you can hear, the card is very loud and even though it is bound to be a little quieter inside a case (the test setup is on a bench), it is whiny enough to get very annoying. This is slightly disappointing considering Nvidia's partners generally have been doing pretty well keeping these cool cards quiet.


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Test Setup
 
To test all of our GPU's, we use a system that bottlenecks them as little as possible. Here's the trusty test rig:
 
Intel Core2Quad Q6600 @ 3.6GHz
Asus P5E3 DDR3 Motherboard
Kingston HyperX PC3-11000 CL7 DDR3 2gb Kit
Tagan 1100w Turbojet
Hitachi 7K160 HDD
Samsung DVD-RW
Noctua NH-U12P Cooler
Dell 2405FPW Display
 
Please note that we have set the overclock on the Q6600 to be able to keep our test setup fairly consistent as the speeds of CPU's increase in the near future. 
 
 
Benchmarks Used
 
Again, Overclock3D has revised it's benchmark setup to really test the new DX10 GPU's, while still including some old favourites in there:
 
games tested
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
 
Please note all Synthetic benchmarks were run at stock settings; just as the free ones would be, as well as 1920 x 1200, with 4 x AA added. All benchmarks are repeated three times for consistency.
 
FutureMark 3DMark03
FutureMark 3DMark05
FutureMark 3DMark06
 
 
Gaming Benchmarks
 
All gaming benchmarks are run through at a demanding stage of the game with no savepoints to affect FPS. These are manual run-though's approximating 3 minutes and all gaming benchmarks are run three times through the same points for consistency. We hope that this gives an accurate and interesting depiction of "real-life" gaming situations. Note the resolutions and AA each game was run at.
 
All gaming tests were performed in Windows Vista Ultimate, under DX10 if available.
 
Call of Duty 4 - 1920 x 1200, 4 x AA set in-game
Oblivion - 1920 x 1200, 4 x AA set in drivers and HDR set on in-game. Settings on "Ultra"
F.E.A.R. - 1920 x 1200, 4 x AA set in game, soft shadows enabled
Bioshock - 1920 x 1200, all settings to maximum in-game
Unreal Tournament 3 - all settings set to maximum in-game
Company of Heroes - DirectX10 patch. 1920 x 1200 with in game settings as here.
Crysis - 1680 x 1050, all in-game settings set to "High"
 
Again, all game run-through's are repeated three times for consistency and accuracy.
 
We hope that this represents a good band of games and benchmarks for people wanting a performance overview of gaming at this current time.
 
 
Cards tested
 
Here are the cards tested in the benchmarking:
 
XFX 9600 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition 512mb
 
Asus 9600 GT. GPU: 650MHz. Memory: 900MHz (2000MHz). Stream processor clock: 1650MHz.
 
Asus 8800 GT Top Edition. GPU: 700Mhz. Memory: 1000MHz (2000MHz). Stream processor clock: 1650MHz
 
XFX 8800 GTS 512 XXX Alpha Dog Edition. GPU: 678Mhz. Memory:  986 (1972MHz). Stream processor clock: 1650MHz.
 
Powercolor HD3850. GPU:  720Mhz. Memory: 900MHz (1800MHz).  Stream processor clock: 690Mhz.
 
MSI 8800GTX. GPU: 575Mhz. Memory: 900 (1800). Stream processor clock: 1350MHz.
 
Overclocking of all of the Nvidia cards tested was performed in the Nvidia drivers using the Ntune add-on.


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FutureMark - 3DMark03

3DMark03 is a benchmark that uses mainly a DirectX 8 featureset including several pixel fillrate tests. I included this test in the review to see an approximation of how well old games will play on the current gen cards, as well as how well each card copes with the fill-rate tests.
 
3dmark03
 
3DMark03 shows a marked improvement with the XFX XXX Edition over the stock clocked 9600 GT.
 
 
FutureMark 3DMark05

3DMark05 is a benchmark based on DirectX 9 with more advanced shading and bump-mapping techniques, as well as a tough CPU test integrated.
 
3dm05
 
Again the overclocked 9600 GT puts out some good numbers in 3DMark06. These put it up there with the 8800 GT's.
 
 
FutureMark - 3DMark06

3DMark06 is a more complex 3D benchmark, using many of the more advanced techniques found in DirectX 9.0c such as utilising Shader Model 3.0 and HDR lighting to create a tough benchmark that stresses the GPU and CPU.
 
3dm06
 
The more advanced and newer benchmark 3DMark06 also shows a fairly large point jump over the stock clocked card.


XFX 9600 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition 740M 512mb Page: 5
Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full featureset. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions and is fast and furious, perfect for our test suite.
 
cod 4
 
COD4 shows that the higher clocked 9600 GT has benefits in all areas of framerate production.
 
 
F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. This is a fairly old game but was a very testing one at the time of release and still looks fantastic, so we've kept it in.
 
FEAR
 
F.E.A.R. tells a similar story with the gameplay being a little smoother in all areas.
 
 
Bioshock

Bioshock is a game based on the Unreal Engine 3. It uses some DirectX10 features such as awesome water and smoke effects. The detail level in the game, combined with a frantic pace makes for an excellent benchmark.
 
bioshock
 
Bioshock was a nice framerate boost over the standard 9600 GT too and overall again was far more playable on the overclocked XFX.


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Oblivion

Oblivion is a game that really taxed all of the cards at the time of it's release. Well over a year on and the current generation of cards simply fly through it. However, with advanced HDR, excellent draw distances, detailed grass and scenery as well as fantastic water/magic effects it's a good game to gauge performance for those who love RPG's.
 
Oblivion
 
Oblivion doesn't show a very big gap between the 9600 cards, although I felt gameplay was slightly smoother.
 
 
Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes is a WWII-based RTS game that has an enormous amount of world detail. I played a DirectX patched version of the game that gives modern GPU's a bit of a workout.
 
COH
 
Interestingly CoH showed a very small drop in minimum FPS, but again the, maximum and average frames were that little bit higher than the stock card.


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Unreal Tournament 3

I have included UT3, even though it is another UE3 game as it is a fast, frantic and furious multiplayer mash-up experience. Using advanced DirectX 9.0c features, the Unreal Engine looks fantastic and runs on almost all half-decent modern GPU's making it an ideal all-round test.
 
UT3
 
Unreal Tournament 3 shows a significant increase in performance across the board with the frames really being boosted by the increased core clock and shader processor speed.
 
 
Crysis

Crysis has to be our most challenging benchmark to date. Running under Windows Vista and using DirectX 10 path, Crysis is currently limited to using "High" settings, rather than "Very High" using any of today's single cards. I also ramped down the resolution to 1680 x 1050 to make sure that I was happy with the framerates.
 
crysis
 
Crysis again showed gains in FPS with the average FPS being higher and feeling quite significantly smoother than the stock 9600 GT.


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Overclocking

Overclocking was performed using Nvidia's drivers and the nTune plugin. No hard or soft mods were performed on the cards and overclocking in this way is meant to represent an "easy overclock", giving value for money on each card without making too much effort.

Results
 
overclock
 
Due to the relatively high clock speeds, the overclock wasn't huge. although the memory managed a very reasonable 106Mhz overclock. I got 800/1106 which is pretty nice.
 
3dmark06 overclocked
 
This produced a nice speed bump, but not a huge one. Perhaps with superior cooling the GPU could see a further boost (at the risk of the warranty).


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Conclusion
 
The 9600 GT wasn't my favourite GPU when it came out. The lack of clock speed and the fact that it wasn't as competitive in pricing as it should have been was a little disappointing.
 
The good news is that there's been a few drops in pricing since the 9600 GT came to light and this speedy XFX 9600 GT Alpha Dog XXX 740M Edition is a super fast super charged version that you can pick up for as little as £114 @ Dabs.
 
That gives a new focus on price and performance and shows that Nvidia's partners were aware that the stock 9600 GT was simply clocked too slow. It's also worth mentioning that XFX are bringing out a 1GB version of the 9600 GT, which should be at an even more competitive price point.
 
The one major downfall of the XFX card is that the cooler is quite frankly: appallingly loud. Whilst the 9600's are pretty cool anyway, even using Rivatuner slows the fan down to a minimum of 25% which is totally unacceptable noise-wise. This is a total shame as the card is a decent performer apart from this and the cooling capabilities of the cooler are very good.
 
I'm giving the XFX 9600 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition 740M 512mb an OC3D Recommended Award, along with a Value Award, perhaps with a proviso that you replace the cooler with something a little more friendly to the ears.
 
 
The Good
+ Good performance per £
+ Great bundle
+ Decent looking

The Mediocre
* Still not blinding performance

The Bad
- Awfully loud cooler
 
 
recommended  value award 
 
 
Thanks to XFX for the review sample
 
Gonna get one (and replace the cooler!)?Tell us in the Forums