Last week Nvidia launched their first GeForce 9 series product and surprisingly it was not a $500+ high performance part. Instead, they unveiled the GeForce 9600 GT which is currently priced at $180 and already available in large quantities.
What we have learned so far is that for a mid-range graphics card, the performance of the 9600 GT is impressive, far more impressive than the 8600 GTS ever was. However, this time there is an existing ATI product that will limit the blow delivered by the 9600 GT.
AMD/ATI were quick to cut prices across the mainstream Radeon HD 3800 series immediately after the GeForce 9600 release, and instead of going head to head with the HD 3850, the GeForce 9600 GT will have to meet with the more capable Radeon HD 3870. This card is now being sold in the $190 price range, which is a great value considering it was considerably more expensive just a month ago. Furthermore, feature-wise there is nothing that can be found on the new GeForce 9600 GT that is not on the Radeon HD 3870.
As we learned last November, the Radeon HD 3870 is no slouch. When that card was first released though, we preferred the GeForce 8800 GT as it generally offered better performance for a slight price premium. But as we write this, the average 8800 GT will cost roughly $230-$260, making it considerably more expensive than the Radeon, and thus redefining how we looked at mainstream cards this past holiday season.
The great debate right now is which of these two graphics cards, the new GeForce 9600 GT or the Radeon HD 3870, is faster and represents the best value for gamers. We have put both products to the test in both single card and multi-GPU mode (SLI and Crossfire) to determine which product is king in the sub-$200 graphics market.