Read the [H]ardOCP article here
[img]http://www.hardocp.com/images/articles/1074718520oYg20c69fx_1_5_l.jpg' width='200' height='120' border='0' alt='click for full size view'>
[img]http://www.hardocp.com/images/articles/1074718520oYg20c69fx_1_17_l.jpg' width='200' height='120' border='0' alt='click for full size view'>
Image Quality: [this references two screenshot comparisons within the article]
Above you see two screenshots comparing an image taken on the 5700U on the top and the 9600X on the bottom. In the first picture above the car is positioned far away from the buildings. You will notice in both pictures the buildings have similar lighting. If you look to the road however you will see the lighting differences in the barricades on the ground. On the 5700U picture the lighting has a harsh bright to dark light. The 9600XT has a lesser difference in the light.
Now look at the second picture. The car is much closer to the buildings and all of the sudden the buildings on the 5700U have become brighter. What is happening is that when you are far away from objects they are lit normally, but as you move toward them they become brighter all the sudden like someone just turned on the lights. There is no transition, its very abrupt, one second its dark, the next itís bright. If you look at the 9600XT screenshot you will see the lighting has not changed on the buildings. It so happens that as you are driving with the 5700U video card objects in front of you do this hard dark to light transition detracting your eyes away from the road interfering with gameplay. The 9600XT does not do this and all the lighting is very smooth.
Letís quickly go over performance comparisons first. In Halo which is a very demanding game for any video card we found that we had to keep the resolution down to 800x600 in order to get the best gameplay. We were able to have all the in-game video quality settings at their highest though on both cards, that means Pixel Shader 2.0 in all its glory. The GV-R96X128D was able to go one step above the GV-N57U128D and enable anisotropic filtering and still maintain higher performance. We also found this trend to be true in Tomb Raider: AOD and Need For Speed: Underground. In Tomb Raider: AOD we were able to run the R96X at 2XAA whereas the N57U had to have AA and AF both disabled to achieve playable performance. In NFS: Underground we were able to run at the R96Xís highest anisotropic level and still maintain faster performance overall.
There were some situations where performance between both cards was extremely close, so close in fact you would not be able to discern the difference in actual gameplay. Those games were Flight Simulator 2004, Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament 2003 and XIII. When it comes to performance being so close like that you also have to look at image quality being offered by both cards to make the determination of which one has the best gameplay experience. When we do that the choice is clear that the R96X is better. In Need For Speed: Underground there is a clear lighting problem with the GFFX 5700Ultra, most likely a driver problem. But it is such a problem that it distracts from gameplay which is never good. The 9600XT renders this game smoothly with light transitions that donít take you away from the game. Flight Simulator 2004 is another game where the 9600XT shines through. There is clearly much better texture quality on the 9600XT than the 5700Ultra. When you factor in the better Anti-Aliasing image quality of the 9600XT in every game thatís just the icing on the cake in the image quality department.
So when you combine the fact that the GV-R96X128D is able go one step further with AA and AF settings in a few games and generally performs better. Also combined with the better image quality in NFS: U, Flight Sim 2004 and AA overall it makes it an easy choice to choose the GV-R96X128D over the GV-N57U128D. The R96X simply offers an overall better gaming experience, but it is not by a huge margin.
Now, looking at each video card from Gigabyte we donít really notice anything about them that sets them apart from other 5700Ultraís or 9600XTís. There isnít any defining quality about the hardware that makes them any different from the rest. Their overclocking results were average and nothing to write home about, their performance was right on par with other 5700Ultraís and 9600XTís and the cooling solutions were benign compared to some other extravagant designs weíve seen.
The one quality that does stand out with these cards is the software bundle. They do include three very current games and it is welcomed to see that. They also have the latest version of PowerDVD version 5.0. Usually you see version 4.0 being used. The one main caveat we have with the R96X bundle is the choice to not include Half Life 2 free with the card. There are many other manufacturers out there still offering HL2 free with their 9600XTís. Yet Gigabyte has chosen not to. So if you want this game for free, and you are going to be getting a 9600XT, look elsewhere. But if you donít mind not getting the coupon and need a 9600XT or perhaps want these games included then the Gigabyte cards are here for you.
Looking at the prices of these video cards at a very popular online seller we found that the Gigabyte 9600XT is going for $169.99 and the Gigabyte 5700U is going for $185.99 full retail packages. When you look at the results gathered in this review and the prices these cards are being offered it makes picking the best value easy. You want to be getting the most for your money, and looking at these prices it is very clear that the Gigabyte 9600XT is the better value overall. Better image quality, faster performance, lower price. The decision doesnít get any easier than that.