Recently, NVIDIA has gone into manufacturing overdrive, releasing a slew of new graphics cards in a bid to bury the competition.

We've seen the excellent 8800GT arrive, quickly followed by weaker iterations of the same card at lower prices. Now we have the Gigabyte 9600GT, a relatively low-budget graphics card that makes the others in the sub-£200 market all but redundant.

NVIDIA's latest budget graphics card

The gaming performance is on a par with the G92-based 8800GT, dropping a few frames per second here and there, but never enough to really make a difference to the naked eye at standard resolutions.

Of course, if you're driving a very hi-res panel at 2,560 x 1,600 then you're going to have trouble getting smooth framerates at the native resolution, but if you're willing to pay out for such a mammoth screen then you'll be able to afford at least two of these, or the upcoming 9800GTX, to boost performance.

Tramples the competition

Compared to NVIDIA's 8800GS and the awful 8800GT 256MB version - both of which are still retailing at well above the cost of the 9600GT - this card walks all over them.

This is due in no small part to the 512MB of GDDR3 memory, but also because of the new GPU core beating at the heart of the 9600GT.

If you look hard enough you can find these cards retailing for nearer the £100 mark, making this the budget gamer's card of choice at the moment - that is, if they want to get games featuring Vista's new graphics showcase, DirectX 10, working at playable framerates.

Impressive performance

We're finally seeing performance at this price bracket that previously we were having to shell out at least double for barely three months ago. Such is the march of progress in the graphics world of late.

If you're looking at getting hold of a low-price PC gaming rig you can now pick up some real bargains shaped around the 9600GT for around £500, and if you're just looking to upgrade an existing PCI-E machine then you'll be hard pushed to find another way to boost your gaming experience this much for £100.