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XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition

XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition

Manufacturer: XFX
UK Price (as reviewed): £64.96 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): TBC

Core Clock: 680MHz
Shader Clock: 1,700MHz
Memory Clock: 1,900MHz (effective)
Memory: 384MB GDDR3
Warranty: Two years (parts and labour)

It’s fair to say that Nvidia has lost the plot in recent times when it comes to the way it is naming its products. The first product affected by the landslide was the GeForce 8800 GTS 512, which was a card with completely different performance characteristics to the original GeForce 8800 GTS.

Since then there has been a massive amount of rebadging in Nvidia’s lineup and one such card that went through a rebranding exercise was the GeForce 9600 GSO. It originally started life as the GeForce 8800 GS and was launched as a competitor to the then well-priced Radeon HD 3850 because originally, Nvidia’s closest competitor to AMD’s new product was the GeForce 8600 GTS – as you can imagine, that was a pretty one-sided contest.

When the GeForce 9600 GSO ‘launched’, Nvidia kept quiet because there was nothing new to talk about – it was, after all, just a rebranding exercise like most of the GeForce 9 series. At the time, we felt there was no need to look at the 9600 GSO because we’d already covered the GeForce 8800 GS in quite a bit of depth, but things have changed since then.

XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition
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XFX has introduced a new, heavily overclocked GeForce 9600 GSO that sports impressive clock speeds of 680MHz core, 1,700MHz shader and 1,900MHz (effective) on the memory. Core and shader clocks are up by almost 24 percent over the reference speeds of 550MHz and 1,375MHz respectively, while the memory has been bumped by nearly 19 percent from 1,600MHz (effective).

The XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition, to give it its full name, has been squarely targeted at AMD’s recently announced Radeon HD 4670 and since the launch of AMD’s card it has come down in price as we were promised. We’ve now also got final retail pricing on the 4670 as well, as that’s something that wasn’t available to us at launch – all we had was AMD’s expected pricing in the US at launch. The card itself is branded in the same way as other XFX graphics cards we’ve seen recently – the heatsink shroud has a rather colourful “9” on it, along with a few bullet cases for added effect.

XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition
Click to enlarge

It’s clear that XFX is gunning for the Radeon HD 4670 with this card – yes, I went there and I’m sorry. Regardless, the heatsink is a single slot copper design with 19 fins (or 38 if you count the bends). Unsurprisingly, there’s no heatpipe because it’s made out of copper but interestingly the fins don’t cover the GPU core fully. Air is pulled over the fins via a slow-spinning, temperature controlled radial blower – it remained quiet and didn’t speed up for the duration of our testing.

The PCB itself is black and fits right in with the card’s overall design. Like the reference card, there’s a six-pin power connector on the PCB, which is required in order for the card to operate – there’s one of those annoying little speakers to tell you that you’ve not plugged the card in, too. The GPU is fed with two power phases and there’s another separate phase for memory – this is pretty standard for this class of product.

To complement the black PCB, XFX has used a boltgun metal PCI bracket equipped with a pair of fluorescent yellow DVI ports and the obligatory HDTV-out connector. Along the top edge of the card, there is an XFX-branded support bracket – in our opinion it’s more style over substance, but it looks great and again fits in with the card’s design.

XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 680M XXX Edition
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The bundle that comes with the card includes all of the necessary cables and connectors to get the card working – there’s a six-pin PCI-Express power adapter, a pair of DVI-to-VGA converters, a component breakout box and a one metre S-video cable. In terms of software, there is a copy of Company of Heroes and a driver/utility CD. The extras are rounded off with a quick install guide and a door hanger that isn’t up my street, but it might be ideal for those who don’t want their parents walking in on them when they’re, ahem, gaming.

Warranty

XFX supplies the card with a two year warranty in Europe that covers the cost of parts and labour – this isn’t anything special and it’s what most other board partners offer. Having said that, XFX spices the deal up by making the warranty transferable if you choose to sell the card on.

The company urges customers to register their purchase on its website, as this makes a warranty claim a lot more efficient. Upon registering, you’re given a registration code that can then be passed on when you sell the card – it also opens up a support avenue with XFX directly using the company’s web-based technical support system, which includes a real-time chat service for Live technical support, but this isn't available on all purchases.

For those products that are eligible, XFX makes support assistants available during normal business hours. If that doesn't help you, XFX offers a standard support ticket system as well and say it responds to technical support requests within 24 hours. And if you're unable to get onto the Internet to submit your RMA, the company has a technical support telephone number, but calls cost 60 pence per minute in the UK at the time of writing.