XFX 9600GSO 384mb vs Sapphire HD4670 512mb

Life is so much easier when things are labelled correctly don’t you think? A Sweater, XL for me please. A car, I’ll take a 3.0i thank you very much. A mid range graphics card….er, now I’m lost. You see, I honestly believe ATI and more to the point, NVidia, are slowly running out of numbers and letters to label their cards. So much so, in fact, that the mid range area of the GPU market is so muddled it is hard to separate the chaff from the wheat. Take the two cards up for review today – the 9600GSO and the HD4670 are both mid-range cards that don’t follow suit in the general scheme of things, but instead spawn a new mid-high-mid range that only NVidia and ATI themselves can decipher. So as the dust settles at the top of the pile, a new war is waging in the bread and butter mid-range sector where both these cards are aiming to be top dog in their own department.
 XFX Logo
In the green corner may I present to you the XFX 9600GSO. The card is currently priced aggressively at £69.31. Although the 9600GSO is a new addition to the NVidia lineup, it isn’t exactly new technology. The 9600GSO shares the same technology as the 8800GS, which was a slightly cut-down version of the mid/high-end favourite, 8800GT. While this may seem annoying to those who thought they were buying into new technology, it is a stroke of genius from NVidia and possibly a great bargain should it perform anywhere near that of the 8800GT, especially considering it weighs in at a paltry £69. Nvidia then it seems, are sticking to the tried and tested method of offering cut down versions of last generation (but high performing) GPU’s at a knock down price. It will be intriguing to see if this was a wise move with ATI spreading their new technology across the range.
 Sapphite logo
In the red corner and costing a little under £5 less than the NVIDIA card at £64.59, we have the RV730XT, otherwise known as the HD4670 512mb version from top tier ATI partners – Sapphire. A new card based on the same 4000 architecture as the mighty 4850 and 4870 cards which have all seen off NViIDIA competition at the higher end of the market. It will be interesting to see if it can do the same with a trimmed down version. Having the same number of stream processors as the HD3870 and a similar core to the 4870 should see the HD4670 perform quite well. Especially when AA is applied to games which is unusual for a mid range card as this is an area where they tend to suffer. With an estimated price of around £60 this could out-strip the 9600 GSO as the bargain of the year should it match its low price with high performance.
So then, the scene is set and the battle lines are drawn. While the two top tier manufacturers’ get rubbed down in preparation for the head-to-head benchmarking, lets take a closer look at each card.
 As per usual, ATI cards are clocked much higher than their NVIDIA counterpart. The interest for me however is whether the 512mb of memory the ATI card has will offer much of an advantage over the GSO. The Sapphire also has many more processors than the XFX card and along with an improved fabrication process, the Sapphire card looks to be a very strong contender.
Lets take a look at each of the cards in turn, starting with the XFX 9600GSO.