The overall benchmark performance of the Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB is very good for a mainstream video card. In some games, it can compete with higher-end video cards, while dropping back to mainstream levels in others. The Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS competes extremely well at standard resolutions and detail levels, often outperforming the GeForce 7900 GS and GT cards, but once we hit extreme levels like 1920x1200 with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, the scores dip considerably. This is understandable for what is supposed to be a mainstream graphics card, and it doesn't tarnish the fact that the GeForce 8600 GTS still rules the mainstream roost. As price levels on high-end, last-generation DirectX 9 cards continue to drop, it does bring up some potential conflicts with the GeForce 7900 GS/GT and Radeon X1950 Pro video cards.
The Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB currently sells in the $170-$190 range, which isn't much more expensive than the $160-$175 range of a bare bones GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB card, and about on par with a top name brand model. This is a great value, when you consider the Gigabyte model features a silent cooling fan design and an excellent retail bundle. It also compares well against other mid-range and high-end cards like the GeForce 7600 GT 256MB ($90-$110), Radeon X1650 XT 256MB ($105-$115), Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB ($105-$120), GeForce 8600 GT 256MB ($110-$125), Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB ($135-$150), and GeForce 7900 GS 256MB ($140-$160). For a mainstream, DirectX 10 card, the Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB offers an excellent value, especially for those building low-noise systems. The Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB is another very competitive video card, and recent price drops have only closed the gap.
* Please note that online prices reflect Retail models when possible, only OEM where noted. Prices are taken at the time of review, and are not intended to reflect long-term trends.
The wave of mainstream DirectX 10 cards walk a very fine line between performance on current games, and cutting edge support for upcoming ones. Some of the lower-end DirectX 10 models have not hit the right mix, but the more powerful GeForce 8600 GTS has achieved a nice balance. The Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB offers exceptional performance for a mainstream card, and while the 128-bit memory interface does limit the card when it comes to ultra high-end widescreen resolutions and anti-aliasing support, the card is powerful enough to make use of its DirectX 10/SM4.0 feature set. The Silent-Pipe heatsink also gets the Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB high marks, as does it rock solid design and excellent retail bundle.