Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT LowPower LowProfile

Today we have something a little different for you. We are taking a look at a brand new LowPower LowProfile video card from Galaxy aimed at the HTPC crowd. The Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT LP LP is designed for small form factor systems such as those from Shuttle and Dell. We will be putting it to the test using NVIDIA’s PureVideo HD and CUDA along with power, temperature and overclock testing.

Introduction

Galaxy may be a familiar brand to gamers, but it is certainly not one of the best-known. Founded in 1994, Galaxy Technology manufactures video cards, motherboards, and TV tuners. Galaxy's video cards exclusively feature NVIDIA GeForce GPUs, and their motherboards exclusively feature NVIDIA nForce core logic.

Today, we'll be evaluating the brand new Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT LowPower LowProfile video card. This video card is now available at Best Buy for $139.99. On the linked product page above, on the left hand side, you will notice Galaxy manufacturers several different GeForce 9600 GT based video cards. Galaxy offers two "LowProfile" (half-height) 9600 GT based video cards, but only one "LowPower and "LowProfile" 9600 GT, this is the one we will be evaluating. You will notice that the other LowProfile video card has a 6-pin PCIe auxiliary power connector on its rear, and the LowPower version does not. All the other 9600 GTs are full-height video cards, with varying specifications.

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Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT

We got our first look at a GeForce 9600 GT powered video card on February 21st 2008, with an OC version. NVIDIA has specified a reference GPU frequency of 650MHz and a shader frequency of 1.625GHz and 512MB of GDDR3 at 1.8GHz for the 9600 GT. In the past, we have looked at a number of different 9600 GT models; we have seen Silent versions and we have seen Manufacturer Overclocked versions. Today however, we will look at another unique category: Low Power and Low Profile.

This model of the Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT is a Low Power and Low Profile video card that has the potential to be a great card for those cramped HTPC (Home Theater PC) systems. In order to make this card both Low Power and Low Profile some sacrifices had to be made, and that means lower clock frequencies in order to get the power requirement down. Clocked at 600MHz on the GPU, the Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT LowPower LowProfile video card is 50MHz slower than reference. The shaders on our video card are clocked at 1.5GHz (according to our testing, and despite what the website says) which is 125MHz less than reference. The 512MB of GDDR3 remains at 1.8GHz.

While these lower clock speeds will affect gaming performance, they will not necessarily impede PureVideo HD performance for HTPC systems. All other specifications of the GPU remain the same, including the 65nm nature, 64 shaders and 16 ROPs. When all is said and done, this "Low Power" video card only requires a 350 Watt power supply (with 12v rating of 26A) and no external power connectors.

You will find such features supported as DX10, PhysX, SLI, 1080P support, PCIe 2.0, PureVideo HD, CUDA and HDCP with HDMI and DVI.

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The front of the box is adorned a tiger, alongside are numerous logos and text. One of the most notable pieces of information on the front is the Low Power Consumption and Profile text that goes over the video cards benefits: Requiring only a 350W PSU, no 6-pin power adapter, and its small form factor. Also of note to us is the text on the bottom listing specifications of the 9600 GT. However nowhere on the box does it state the frequency sacrifices that have been made on the GPU or shaders to achieve the lower power profile.

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On the front of the card the tiger theme from the box appears again. The cooling solution has a copper base and pushes air towards the front of the computer case over the power circuitry. While this does mean the video card will add heat inside the computer case, we can hardly fault Galaxy for this considering the I/O slot is already full and the fact it is a half-height video card. On the front of the card are the DVI and HDMI ports. On the back of the video card as mentioned before, there is no auxiliary power connector.

One thing that may be hard to tell from these pictures is how slim this video card is. The length measures in at 8" long, which is 1" shorter than a standard full-height 9600 GT at 9". The width, due to the half-height nature, is only 2.25" in width. A standard 9600 GT is 4" in width, so it is not quite half the width, but close.

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The video card comes with all the basics we have grown to expect: a Driver CD, multiple installation guides, a DVI to D-Sub adapter, and an internal audio cable for HDMI. The one unique addition with this card is a full size I/O plate to replace the low profile I/O plate the card ships with.

The Focus

The focus of our evaluation today is going to be a little different from our norm. Since we have extensively evaluated the gameplay experience of the GeForce 9600 GT in the past, we are instead going to look at the HTPC side of this video card, as well as some physical tests. Besides the form factor and the HDMI port of the Galaxy GeForce 9600 GT, a couple of features that make this video card well suited for HTPC systems is that it supports PureVideo HD and CUDA.

For those interested in watching Blu-ray movies, PureVideo HD allows the GPU to take over the duties of decoding your videos. This lets you get away with using a much slower CPU and still be able to watch your HD movies smoothly, with great image quality. It does however have some limitations. First off, PureVideo HD only decodes H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2 videos. Secondly, and most importantly, you have to purchase media player software that supports PureVideo HD. For those interested in transcoding media files before you take them off your HTPC, CUDA will allow you to harness the power of your GPU. Again, you must first find software that is written to take advantage of CUDA and purchase it.

For our testing, we have chosen to use four popular programs. The first two are media players: Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 and ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3. With both of these programs, we will play a Blu-ray movie and compare the results with and without PureVideo HD. We will then switch gears and take advantage of CUDA with ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 Slim HD, and CyberLink PowerDirector 7, and Pegasys TMPGenc. ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 Slim HD takes advantage of CUDA and allows you to upscale MPEG-2 media files while you are watching them. While both PowerDirector 7 and TMPGenc use CUDA to help speed up transcoding times. In these three scenarios, we will enable and disable CUDA to see if there are any real advantages. We will finally finish off with some power and temperature testing. So let’s begin.