Palit GeForce 9600 GSO Sonic review

Price when reviewed

Alarm bells rang when Nvidia announced – with little fanfare – the latest addition to its 9-series of GeForce cards. A few minutes of research revealed that the 9600 GSO’s core specification is identical to that of the old GeForce 8800 GS card: the same 550MHz core clock speed, 96 stream processors, and 384MB of GDDR3 memory. It’s almost as if Nvidia needed a cunning way to clear its old stock.

Palit, though, has attempted to wring more performance out of the older architecture with its “Sonic” version of the 9600 GSO and it comes complete with a range of enhancements that attempt to boost performance.

The core clock, for instance, has seen an increase of 50MHz, to 600MHz; the shader clock has also been improved, from 1,375MHz to 1,500MHz. The biggest area of improvement, though, is the memory: the 384MB of GDDR3 RAM in the original card has doubled to 768MB, and the clock speed now runs at 900MHz, up from 800MHz.

These various alterations contribute to improved performance figures when compared to both the old 8800 GS and newer 9600 GT cards. In our low Crysis benchmark all three cards produced stunning figures, but it was our medium test that began to show just how tightly packed the mid-range graphics market has become. There were only 5fps between the slowest card of the three – the 8800 GS, with 49fps – and the fastest, which was the 9600 GSO. The 9600 GT occupied the middle ground and ran at 51fps.

The high Crysis benchmark is where the limits of playability are reached for these mid-range cards, and the gulf in performance continued to narrow. In fact, there was only a frame of difference between the 8800 GS, which scored 22fps, and the two 9600 cards, which both limped through the test at 23fps.

This just goes to show that pure performance will be roughly similar no matter which mid-range card you decide to invest in. Luckily, there are a few areas where this “Sonic” 9600 GSO offers more than rivals. The 768MB of memory is sure to provide more headroom for forthcoming games than the 9600 GT – with 512MB of GDDR3 – and the 384MB of the standard GSO and 8800 GS.

it_photo_5790The Palit card also benefits from having a large heatsink and a fan that runs relatively quietly. Compared to the 8800 GS, which has a small fan that whirrs incessantly, it’s a bonus that the 9600 GSO Sonic won’t disturb quieter moments in games and movies.

These are minor plusses, though, to a card that’s a little too average to stand out in an already crowded marketplace. At most, performance is only a few frames per second faster than the competition, even with Palit’s overclocking. And a standard 9600 GT will cost around the same amount and doesn’t need to be pushed to its limits like this – you could even do some overclocking yourself – so we’d stick with that over the GSO for now.

Core Specifications

Graphics card interfacePCI Express
Cooling typeActive
Graphics chipsetNvidia GeForce 9600 GSO
Core GPU frequency600MHz
RAM capacity768MB
Memory typeGDDR3

Standards and compatibility

DirectX version support10.0
Shader model support4.0


DVI-I outputs2
DVI-D outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
S-Video outputs0
HDMI outputs0
Graphics card power connectors6-pin


3D performance (crysis), medium settings54fps
3D performance (crysis) high settings23fps

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