Leadtek WinFast 8500 & 8600GT with HDMI

We've got two graphics cards on the table from Leadtek today which are most suited to HTPCs with their residing HDMI.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Dec 9 2007 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





HDMI video cards have been growing and growing in the market place thanks to the pickup of high definition TVs. While a lot of TVs still carry a VGA port which for the most part does an excellent job, the ability to also have the sound go to the TV with just the one cable is bliss to a lot of people.

With items like Blu-ray ROMs becoming cheaper as well, it makes sense that you may as well use the best digital connectivity when it's available. Not all companies are jumping on the HDMI bandwagon in full force, and while a lot of companies include DVI to HDMI adapters in their package, manufacturers choosing to include native HDMI ports are still few and far between.

Leadtek is the latest company to jump on the bandwagon though, and they haven't tried to go down the sneak "Decoder Card" route like another company did. They have instead released two models, an 8500GT and an 8600GT both sporting a HDMI port straight on the I/O.

What we'll do is have a look at the cards, run some gaming benchmarks to see which card is best for you and talk a bit about the HDMI connectivity.

The Packages




Both boxes are very similar with the cards coming in under the Winfast naming scheme. You can clearly see the model of the card along with the fact that it has HDMI. HDMI is actually plastid at both the bottom and the top of the box which is good.





Both cards support Direct X 10, use a PCI Express interface and come with 256MB of memory. The only difference is that the 8600GT comes with DDR3 while the slower 8500GT comes with DDR2. From a gaming point of view this is a problem, but from a home theater point of view people will enjoy the cost cut using DDR2 that the 8500GT brings.





The back of the boxes are almost identical with just extended information on what the cards are capable of. We again see the mention of HDMI and the bottom left corner shows us the main specifications of the two cards.



Moving inside the boxes, as far as the Manual/CD goes both packages include exactly the same disk and quick installation guide.



Diving deeper inside the package we can see the 8600GT comes with an S-Video to Component cable, DVI to VGA connector and an audio connector so you can get sound out of the HDMI port.



While the 8500GT package is similar with the audio connector and DVI to VGA connector being present, thanks to the low profile nature of the 8500GT Leadtek have also included some low profile brackets for people who are going to be making use of the feature.

The packages are pretty standard; the lack of a game is to be expected considering the main focus of the cards is for the home theater. What is disappointing is that Leadtek have gone out and included low profile brackets for the 8500GT which is simply awesome, but chosen not to include a HDMI cable.

This seems to be a bad habit across most companies; so far we have seen MSI, Palit, Twintech, Albatron and now Leadtek HDMI video card offerings with none of them having chosen to include a HDMI cable. The inclusion of one in the 8500GT would have made it almost the perfect HTPC graphics card bundle.

The Cards




The two cards are actually quite different physically. The 8600GT is a full height card which carries with it an active cooler, while the 8500GT is a low profile offering and chooses to use a passive cooler.





The heatsink on the 8600GT is pretty run of the mill. However, we can see when taking a closer look at the 8500GT we have a nice big copper pipe running out the back of the card and going around the other side. Copper is something generally saved for more expensive cards so it's nice to see it included on the 8500GT from Leadtek.



Like all 8600GTs, the Winfast version carries with it an SLI connector across the top which isn't present on the 8500 series. Something also not seen on both cards is a PCI Express power connector thanks to both models not needing it.



The I/O department between the two cards is also quite different, both included a DVI connector and of course the HDMI connector which is the whole reason we're here. There is also the S/PDIF connector but the full height 8600GT carries with it a standard TV-Out port which can be used with S-Video or Component with the included cables.

The inclusion of TV-Out isn't a huge deal, but if you wanted to grab a card now and you didn't have that HDTV just yet you still have a perfectly good video card which can output onto a TV with no dramas.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): ASUS Blitz Extreme (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista
Drivers: Forceware 169.09 and Catalyst 6.11

With both Leadtek HDMI offerings in hand, we have strapped it up against the HD 2600 XT 512MB Super model from Palit. We have run a cut down version of our benchmarks which is normally seen in the Catalyst round up, though we have the inclusion of our normal Sound, Temperature and Power tests.

We have also only benched up to 1600 x 1200 due to the cards being of the mid to low-end variety.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here




3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.




Straight away we can see the passive cooled 8500GT is not a quick card and sits way back compared to the other two offerings. We do see the 8600GT and HD 2600 XT quite close though.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




The 8500GT seems to perform at about half the speed of it's bigger brother which manages to just sit behind the AMD offered HD 2600 XT.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here




By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode One opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode One with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




Low resolution gaming is going to be a bit of a chore on the 8500GT, but if you wanted to do a bit of gaming at 1280 x 1024 you shouldn't have any dramas with the 8600GT and any source based games.

Benchmarks - Prey


Prey

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here




Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.




Thanks to the better optimization for OpenGL the 8600GT manages to stay closely behind the HD 2600 XT again; we also see ourselves not running into any real trouble for low resolution gaming here. If you wanted to game with the 8500GT on the other hand, you're not going to be having much luck at all.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.






While the minimum of 17.9FPS isn't too healthy, with a bit of sacrifice in the detail department you should be able to play a more modern game like Company of Heroes on the 8600GT. The 8500GT really continues to be more of a HTPC only offering.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



AMDs lack of AA performance means that the 8600GT which tends to be slower in other tests is able to come out ahead here.


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)



We again see the 8600GT come out ahead, and even the 8500GT is not as far behind as usual. It just goes to show how much of a performance hit AMD users take when turning on AA.


Prey



We again see the 8600GT come out ahead, but with an average of 40 FPS you're not actually going to be able to game at these settings.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - Vista


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Much like our XP tests we see that the 8600GT is only just a little slower than the HD 2600 XT, while the 8500GT continues to sit at the back of the pack.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista


Call of Juarez (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/
Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.com

Buy It Here



Call of Juarez is a Western-themed FPS from Techland. The North America release was one of the first games to utilize DX10.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.





COJ performance across the board is very low and you will probably find yourself just avoiding this game period.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.




We see that COH takes quite the hit when we move to DX10 under Vista. It's probably best to stick to its less intensive DX9 counterpart.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.




The passive cooled 8500GT gets HOT! While our system doesn't have any active cooling over it, when installed in a case and fans are pushing air around the temperatures should be a lot more desirable. The 8600GT sits at a pretty standard temperature for a mid-range active cooled graphics card.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




With the 8500GT being a passive cooled graphics card its noise level is of course 0, while we see that the 8600GT sits at a pretty moderate mid 60dB.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




You're not going to find yourself needing anything too powerful to run these systems.

Final Thoughts




HDMI based graphics cards are clearly becoming something that more and more home theater PC enthusiasts want, and like we have mentioned it seems only fair since it is the best connectivity option to our TVs these days.

From a HDMI stand point both cards perform excellent and have no troubles putting out 1920 x 1080; they don't have any dramas with playing a Blu-ray at native resolution thanks to the inclusion of PureVideo HD, and they generally seem to be pretty well rounded.

The 8500GT offering is fantastic; thanks to its passive cooled heatsink and low profile nature it really is the more versatile option. It does miss out on the standard TV-Out that the 8600GT sees, but it's not the end of the world. Of course if you wanted to do a bit of big screen gaming you're not going to be having a whole lot of luck as it simply isn't a performance video card.

The 8600GT also has its pros with the ability to do a bit of low resolution gaming and of course offer the standard TV-Out port. It's good for those people who are looking for a HDMI video card in future but need something now.

The biggest let down on both the packages is of course the complete lack of HDMI cables, and especially in the 8500GT offering as this card really does seem focused purely for that environment. The inclusion of low profile brackets was really above standard, so to see them skip out on the HDMI cable is just disappointing. Hopefully Leadtek try to address this in the near future, it doesn't have to be long as we understand they're quite pricey, but a 0.8m or a 1.2m should be plenty. It's not that hard most the time to re adjust your HTPC to fit.

All in all we have two good cards which really market to two different kinds of HDMI users.


Leadtek WinFast PX8500 GT TDH HDMI

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Leadtek WinFast PX8600 GT TDH HDMI

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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