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    Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Review
    By Vince Freeman :  August 10, 2007


    Since the release of the GeForce 8800 series in November of last year, the DirectX 10 graphics market has been a very interesting one. The area was high-end only for half a year; first, we had the interminable ATI delays, the NVIDIA wait-and-see approach, until finally the GeForce 8 Series hit the entry-level and mainstream markets. These cards came in the form of the GeForce 8400, 8500 and 8600 lines, with the higher number denoting faster gaming performance. The GeForce 8400 GS is a baseline OEM card, while the GeForce 8500 GT, 8600 GT and 8600 GTS provide the entry-level, mid-range and high-end options in the mainstream market.

    The GeForce 8600 GTS is by far the most interesting product in the group, as it offers the fastest game performance, as well as full DirectX 10 compatibility. This blend of performance and feature set is combined with a sub-$175 price tag, producing a very attractive DirectX 10 graphics card for the mainstream masses. Today, we're looking the Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, and putting it up against a set of mainstream and high-end cards from the GeForce 7 Series and Radeon X1000 product lines to see exactly where it fits in the performance hierarchy.

    The GeForce 8600 Series

    The GeForce 8600 series offers the GeForce 8600 GT and GTS cards, both of which are based on the 80nm G84 graphics core. Like all GeForce 8 Series models, the G84 offers a unified shader architecture and is designed to support the latest DirectX 10/Shader Model 4.0 feature set. As usual, these cards differ in terms of clock speeds, but the rest of the features are consistent. The G84 features 32 Stream processors, which are clocked at 1.19 GHz for the GeForce 8600 GT and 1.45 GHz on the GeForce 8600 GTS. The GeForce 8600 cards include 256MB/512MB of GDDR3, and support features like NVIDIA Lumenex, Pure Video HD, nView, and SLI technologies.

    The core and memory speeds are similarly differentiated for the GeForce 8600 GT (540 MHz/1.4 GHz) and GeForce 8600 GTS (675 MHz/2.0 GHz) cards. The Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB uses the more powerful of the two G84-based GPUs, and the above architecture and clock speeds translate into some very nice performance specifications like a 10.8 GT/s fillrate and 32 GB/s of memory bandwidth. The core architecture also includes 8 texture address units, 16 texture filtering units, and 8 ROPs, which is similar to the base structure of the GeForce 7600 GT, but with a slightly more powerful GPU running at a higher clock speed.

    It's all not wine and roses when it comes to the GeForce 8600 GTS, and many have complained that NVIDIA created too much of a gap between the top mainstream and lowest high-end GeForce 8 Series cards. The 32 Stream processors may seem a big jump back from the GeForce 8800 series, but this type of architecture is to be expected for a mainstream card. The major negative with the GeForce 8600 GTS design is its 128-bit memory interface. This is a step back from last-generation high-end cards, which commonly use a 256-bit interface, and well behind the 384-bit memory link on the GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra. NVIDIA has compensated with extremely high clocks speeds, but it doesn't solve all the problems.

    The Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Card

    The Albatron version of the GeForce 8600 GTS PCI Express card keeps on the straight and narrow, running at the standard NVIDIA clock speeds of 675 MHz core, 1.45 GHz shaders, and 2.0 GHz memory. The card is a single-slot design that offers a diminutive, Albatron-branded heatsink-fan that runs nearly silent during operation. The Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS does require an external PCI Express power connector, and in many ways, is equivalent to the design of the last-generation GeForce 7600 GT 256MB. The card's backplate features two dual-link DVI ports that support resolutions of up to 2560x1600, as well as a single HDTV/S-video out port. Like its GeForce 8 Series brethren, the Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB is HDCP capable and offers SLI support right out of the box.

    The Albatron retail bundle is quite standard, but it does include all the basics needed to get up and running. It features a DVI-to-VGA dongle, a Molex-to-PCI Express power cord, and an HDTV break-out box. A Quick Installation Guide is also present, as is a driver CD, but there are no games of any sort. This is hardly surprising given the lack of DirectX 10 titles in the wild, especially low-cost OEM games, but we always like to find something that the new buyer can fire up and test out the new card. Albatron offers a conditional 2-year warranty on their VGA cards.

    As this is a new architecture, it's very difficult to compare the GeForce 8 Series in terms of "pipelines" and other common terms of the previous GPU generations. Instead, we have assembled a set of specifications and performance metrics that should illustrate exactly where the Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB fits in:

    Graphics Processor Core Clock (MHz) Fill Rate (MT/s) Memory Clock (MHz) Memory Bandwidth Memory Bus
    Radeon X1650 Pro 600 2400 1400 22.4 GB/s 128-bit
    GeForce 7600 GS 400 4800 800 12.8 GB/s 128-bit
    Radeon X1650 Pro 600 2400 1400 22.4 GB/s 128-bit
    GeForce 7600 GT 560 6720 1400 22.4 GB/s 128-bit
    Radeon X1650 XT 575 4600 1380 22.1 GB/s 128-bit
    GeForce 7900 GS 450 9000 1320 42.2 GB/s 256-bit
    Radeon X1950 Pro 575 6900 1380 44.2 GB/s 256-bit
    GeForce 7900 GT 450 10800 1320 42.2 GB/s 256-bit
    GeForce 7950 GT 550 13200 1400 44.8 GB/s 256-bit
    GeForce 8600 GTS 675 10800 2000 32.0 GB/s 128-bit

    Of course, the best performance metric is real-world testing, and to that end, we've assembled a wide range of game benchmarks in the next section.

  • Page 1 The Albatron GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Card
    Page 2 Test Setup and Benchmark Software
    Page 3 DOOM 3 and Quake 4 Performance
    Page 4 Farcry and Supreme Commander Performance
    Page 5 F.E.A.R. and Company of Heroes Performance
    Page 6 Lost Planet DirectX 9/10 Widescreen Performance
    Page 7 3DMark06 Advanced Feature Performance
    Page 8 Benchmark Analysis, Overclocking, Value, and Conclusion

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