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Video cards

Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Review

By Vince Freeman August 22, 2007

Introduction

NVIDIA offered up the first true DirectX 10 card in November of 2006, but after the GeForce 8800 Series laid claim to the overall performance crown, a mainstream follow-up was a long time coming. That certainly changed in a hurry, and not only did NVIDIA unleash their GeForce 8400, 8500 and 8600 series, but AMD/ATI also followed with a set of Radeon HD 2600-based mainstream cards. This makes for a very interesting market at the $100-$200 price range, with many potential DirectX 10 cards at a wide range of budgets. The GeForce 8600 GTS is one of the more appealing models, as it is the most powerful NVIDIA option in this range, and offers a very nice combination of price, performance and features.

The GeForce 8600 GTS

The GeForce 8600 series is comprised of the GeForce 8600 GT and GTS, and both use the 80nm G84 graphics processor, which features 32 Stream processors, clocked at 1.19 GHz for the GeForce 8600 GT and 1.45 GHz on the GeForce 8600 GTS. These two models also differ in terms of core and memory clock speeds, running at 540 MHz/1.4 GHz for the GeForce 8600 GT and 675 MHz/2.0 GHz on the GeForce 8600 GTS. The GeForce 8600 series follows the 8800 line by offering a unified shader architecture that supports the DirectX 10/SM4.0 feature set. The GeForce 8600 GT and GTS include 256MB of GDDR3 by default, and supports features such as NVIDIA Lumenex, Pure Video HD, nView, and SLI technologies.

The core architecture of the GeForce 8600 GTS includes 8 texture address units, 16 texture filtering units, and 8 ROPs, making it similar to the GeForce 7600 GT, albeit a super-charged edition. The only potential issue with the architecture is the decision to use a 128-bit memory interface. This is a big step down from the 256-bit memory link featured on last-generation high-end video cards, not even mentioning the 384-bit memory link on the GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra. To get around this limitation, NVIDIA has set the clock speed at 2.0 GHz, but this doesn't clear up all the issues. We expect some concessions for a mainstream graphics card, but the 10.8 GT/s fillrate and 32 GB/s of memory bandwidth are still respectable numbers.

The Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Card

The Gigabyte edition of the GeForce 8600 GTS does not deviate from the base specifications, and runs at the standard clock speeds of 675 MHz core, 1.45 GHz shaders, and 2.0 GHz memory. The physical design is the exact opposite, and Gigabyte has gone the passive cooling route with a Silent-Pipe 3 design. This incorporates a large heatsink, which connects to a back-mounted heatsink/cooling device using dual heat pipes. This pulls cool air into the chassis, which flows over the GPU and heatsink, exiting the case through an internal fan or PSU. This does make the Gigabyte card a bit heavier than a base GeForce 8600 GTS card, which weighs in at 325-375g compared to approximately 570g for the Gigabyte model.

The overall design is expansive, but much slimmer than previous generation formats from competitors, and we had no problem installing it in our test rigs. The card does take up two motherboard slots, but the top/back of the PCB is flush, and the entire heatsink faces down in a standard tower case. Another change is the absence of a PCI Express power connector, and with no fan to power, Gigabyte has managed to get all the juice from the PCIe connector. This is a huge plus for SFF system designers, as not needing to use a power cord just simplifies the overall construction. Stability is not impacted in the least, and the Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS was rock solid throughout all our testing.

The remainder of the Gigabyte design list is standard GeForce 8600 GTS. The card's backplate features two dual-link DVI ports that support resolutions of up to 2560x1600, along with a single HDTV/S-video out port. As with all GeForce 8 Series models, the Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB is HDCP capable and offers SLI support right out of the box.

When it comes to retail bundles, Gigabyte is one of our favorite companies, and their GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB certainly does not disappoint. In terms of standard options, Gigabyte provides all the basics needed to get up and running. This includes a pair of DVI-to-VGA dongles, a Molex-to-PCI Express power cord, and an HDTV break-out box. The detailed Installation Guide was a very nice surprise, and the ubiquitous driver CD was present and accounted for. The big surprise was not only finding a bundled game, but also the fact that it is a very good one to boot. Supreme Commander is a relatively new game, and still very popular, and Gigabyte has even bundled the DVD edition. Gigabyte also offers a 3-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 Gigabyte 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 Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB Review
    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, Value and Conclusion

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