The GeForce 9600 GT reflects a new strategy in which Nvidia is serving the majority of customers first, rather than introducing the highest-performing technology for the important, but fewer, customers who want the latest-and-greatest graphics processing units for playing the most demanding PC games.
Traditionally, Nvidia would introduce the top-of-the-line product and let the technology gradually drop to the lower price point as new higher-performing products are introduced. Such a strategy caters to serious PC gamers willing to pay what it takes to make full use of the most advanced capabilities of the latest graphics-intensive games.
The majority of Nvidia customers, however, are looking for enough power to run PC games without draining the wallet, and it's this segment that Nvidia has decided to serve first with the introduction of the new product line. The GeForce 9600 GT sells for $199.
The new product can replace its predecessor, the 8600 GT, running in a PCI Express slot in a PC. "The first product to be introduced in the GeForce 9 family gives gamers the horsepower to play cutting-edge DirectX 10 games at a price they will love and can afford," Ujesh Desai, general manager of GeForce desktop GPUs at Nvidia, said in a statement. DirectX 10, which is only in Windows Vista, is the latest graphics technology from Microsoft.
The latest graphics card has a better performance-per-watt ratio than its predecessor, Nvidia said. Contributing to the performance boost is 64 stream processors versus 32 for the older model. In addition, the new card has a 256-bit memory interface running at 900 MHz.
The new GPU also leverages Nvidia's latest technology for playback of high-definition movies in either HD DVD or Blu-ray formats, the company said. The new video-processing engine does all the high-definition H.264 decoding, freeing the computer's CPU to perform other tasks.
Nvidia competes for the wallets of gamers with Advanced Micro Devices, which entered the market for PC graphics cards in 2006 with the $5.4 billion acquisition of ATI Technologies. AMD last month launched a two-chip graphics card that it hoped would give it a lead in price and performance over Nvidia.
The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 combines two graphics processors on a single board, giving it nearly double the performance of the single-chip Radeon HD 3870 introduced in November. The product would compete with Nvidia's GeForce 8800 Ultra, which starts at $630. The Radeon HD 3870 X2 has a suggested retail price of $449.