The Good Faster performance than anything from ATI in this price range; makes most games playable at medium or better quality settings (depending on resolution); box includes all necessary cables and adapters.
The Bad Still requires audio pass-through cable for audio output over HDMI.
The Bottom Line Nvidia's new GeForce 9600 GT graphics chip gives the Asus EN9600 GT some of the best bang-for-the-buck we've seen in a midrange 3D card. If your goal is reliable frame rates in the latest PC games, you should pick this card up as soon as you can.
Asus EN9600 GT
ATI's Radeon HD 3850 returned respectability to the $150 to $200 3D graphics card last year. Unfortunately for ATI, Nvidia's new GeForce 9600 GT chip wrests the midrange crown away and knocks out a more expensive contender in the process. Cards that use Nvidia's new chip, like the Asus EN9600GT featured here, will go for about $175, and they deliver generally faster performance than an ATI card that retails for around $200. If you're a home theater PC builder and you have an aversion to internal cables, you might balk; but if you're a gamer looking for a 3D card bargain, you should put the GeForce 9600 GT at the top of your list.
Despite the new 9000-series product line, the GeForce 9600 GT relies on the same core architecture as the new GeForce 8800 GT chip from earlier this year. If you ask Nvidia, you'll get a different story, but our hunch is that the chip graduated to a new number at least partly because ATI recently bumped its own chips up from the 2000 series to the 3000 series last November, despite no major update to the processing core. Keeping up with the Joneses aside, the GeForce 9600 GT might as well be a new card for the vast improvement it brings at its price point compared with the GeForce 8600 GT from last year.
Before we get into the benchmarks, though, we'll compare the core specs of the GeForce 9600 GT with its closest competitor, the Radeon HD 3870. Nvidia originally compared its new chip with the less expensive Radeon HD 3850, but we might as well look at the higher-end ATI chip, because the 9600 GT beats them both.