Gigabyte GeForce Compared - IntroductionIntroduction
It is no doubt that the graphics chip war between nVidia and ATI has never been bigger than it is now. Unit recently one company has had the ultimate edge on the other. ATI had so much more going for it when nVidia released the GeForce FX graphics chip, as nVidia had its GeForce 4 towering over the 8000 series Radeon graphics chip. Now the gaps are closing in, and its now not matter of who to choose, but what to choose. Companies in the past would have been burnt at the stakes for offering graphics cards from both companies, now it's a common occurrence.Gigabyte, one of ATI's biggest partners follows the two street path with both ATI and nVidia cards and today we are looking at three of them.With us in our labs we have their 6800GT AGP, 6600GT PCI Express and the 6200 PCI Express. Today isn't so much of a test against the other cards on the market, but to showcase just what has been done by one of ATI's biggest partners on the nVidia front and what card is best for your needs.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - The Cards - GeForce 6600GTGigabyte NX66T Graphics Card
The NX66T series is Gigabyte's mid-level graphics card, but one thing is for sure, it's packaged more like a high-end graphics card. The box is actually one of the biggest I have seen for a graphics card, and when you get the card out, it becomes apparent that the card is aimed at the gamers when you open the box and reveal the contents. First off you have your card, a Driver CD with the V-Tuner II program for overclocking and monitoring, PowerDVD 5 disk, user manual, S-Video/HDTV splitter box and one of the best games I have ever personally played Doom 3 all within the one package.
The card size and layout is that of the nVidia reference design, however, Gigabyte has made a few changes for aesthetics. First off the PCB isn't the same green one we saw from nVidia's reference card but a night deep blue, which has been the colour of the nVidia based cards from Gigabyte for a little while now. The heatsink also is quite different, as you can see, the heatsink on the reference cards tend to cover the memory (though most of them don't cool the memory) Gigabyte has gone with a gold coloured smaller heatsink.
With the heatsink removed we see the core used for the NX66T. The GeForce 6600GT core is the first core from nVidia to be a native PCI Express based graphics core. nVidia's design up till the release of the 6600 core was to design their GPU's for the AGP bus type and use a bridge chip in order to translate the AGP signals of the GPU into the PCI Express signals used by the newest Northbridge chipsets.Due to limits of the AGP bus type, nVidia has now moved over to native PCI Express designs and using the same bridge chip in reverse to convert PCI Express over to AGP signals.
GDDR 3 memory is the latest memory to come out for graphics cards. GDDR 3 memory is designed on the same basis of memory used for system memory; however, latencies and clock speeds are set for graphics cards - 128MB of Samsung 2ns FBGA memory in a 128-bit memory array.
The 6600GT as most know has support for SLI functions, and Gigabyte has included the SLI port on the top of the card. Gigabyte specifies that the SLI function will only work with the exact same cards; however, we haven't been able to do any tests to see if this is correct or not as yet.Overclocking Results
For our overclocking tests we used the Coolbits registry command and has been one of the best utilities for overclocking nVidia cards for some time.With a default clock speed of 600MHz on the on the GPU and 900MHz DDR on the memory, we didn't know what to expect. We managed (with the stock cooling setup Gigabyte provides) a core clock of 720MHz and a memory clock of 1.14GHz DDR which is a very good overclock result indeed.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - The Cards - GeForce 6800GTGigabyte N68T Graphics Card
Now we take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The N68T graphics card series is Gigabyte's mid to high-end video card. Gigabyte has done some revolutionary designs with the N68T graphics card as you will see very shortly. Firstly before we look at the card we will have a look at the packaging and contents. The box that the card comes in is 30% bigger than that of the 6600GT box.Inside the same package is included. Driver CD, S-Video/HDTV video out module, user manual, power splitter cable and the Doom 3 are all included.
Now we get a look at the card. One thing you will notice is the cooling straight away. Heatpipes have been used for some time; in fact they were pioneered by Zalman in the early GeForce 4 days. Gigabyte has started to use Heatpipes on their video cards in order to reduce the amount of heat generated as well as keep the noise down.The Heatpipe unit comes in two pieces; one is the main body that cools the GPU and the back memory modules. This unit has a fan on the back in order to keep the card cool. Over this sits a large passive cooler which goes over the main body and cools the memory modules only on the front.
With the outer heatspreader removed you can actually see the main body pipe unit sitting on the GPU. This unit has two pipes that go over the GPU and lead to the back of the card where the pipes are then cooled by the single fan. The passive heatsink on the front that cools the memory modules does not make contact with the main body which allows the heat generated by the GPU to remain separated from the memory module cooling. One thing you must remember is that your case needs to have good air flow if you want to get good overclocking out of the card, as the memory modules on the front are passively cooled.
With the entire Heatpipe assembly removed we get our look at the core. The nVidia GeForce 6800GT core is simply a re-badged 6800 Ultra based core. It keeps the same 16 pixel and 6 vertex engines as well as its support for native AGP. Due to the AGP design there are no SLI capabilities.
Samsung FBGA memory once again populates the card. The modules are 2ns modules, identical to that of the 6600GT cards. The main difference here is that the card has a total of 256MB of memory onboard and uses a 256-bit memory array.Overclocking Results
Again for overclocking Coolbits was used. With a default core clock of 400MHz and memory at 1GHz we managed with the stock cooling a stable core speed of 530MHz and a memory clock of 1.2GHz.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - The Cards - GeForce 6200Gigabyte NX62T Graphics Card
Now we get to the value end of the Gigabyte nVidia line.
The NX62T is Gigabyte's value based nVidia PCI Express video card. Being a value card you wouldn't expect too much in the way of extras in the box. Gigabyte supplied only the base essentials - Driver CD, S-Video/HDTV adapter, Power DVD CD and a user manual complete the package.
The card itself is based directly off the nVidia reference design. The simple reason no changes have been made apart from the GPU heatsink is that the price is kept down, as R&D is not required, only to follow the design layout that nVidia specified.
The core used is the nVidia GeForce 6200 PCI Express graphics chip. This chip is nVidia's most recent addition to the GeForce 6 family. Up to 128MB of memory can be allocated in a 128-bit memory bus, allowing for reasonable low-end performance.
The memory modules used on this card are plain DDR from Hynix. 4ns TSOP modules cover the front of the card for a total of 128MB of memory in a 128-bit array.Overclocking Results
Overclocking on the 6200 video card was simple and quite interesting. With its 0.11um manufacturing process we managed to push the core to 500MHz and a maximum memory of 510MHz. With memory cooling it might be possible for more, however, with 4ns modules we wouldn't expect too much more.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - Test Systems and 3DMark03Test SystemsAGP SystemProcessor
: Intel Pentium 560 (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications
: 2x 512MB DDR-533 OCZ Hard Disk
: 2x Maxtor Maxline III 250GB RAID (RAID 0 on ICH5R and ICH6R)Motherboard
: ABIT AS8 (Supplied by ABIT
: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers
: DX9c, nVidia 66.93PCI Express SystemProcessor
: Intel Pentium 560 (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications
: 2x 512MB DDR-533 OCZHard Disk
: 2x Maxtor Maxline III 250GB RAID (RAID on ICH5R and ICH6R)Motherboard
: MSI 915P Combo (Supplied by MSI Australia
: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers
: DX9c, nVidia 66.933DMark03Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 3.5.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
3DMark03 is the latest version of the highly favored 3DMark series. By combining full DirectX9.0 support with completely new tests and graphics, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being industry standard benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
At 1024x768 the 6600GT and the 6800GT are just about equal. When running higher resolutions we see that the 6800's increased memory bandwidth and size helps keep it out well in front.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - 3DMark053DMark05 Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 1.1.0 Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/ Buy It Here
3DMark05 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher. For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
3DMark05 pulls more off the graphics card and here we see that the 6600GT falls behind quite a bit even at 1024x768.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used:
1.1Timedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here
Doom 3 shows just how far ahead of the pack the 6800GT is with its 16 pixel engines to work with.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - Far CryFar CryVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.3Timedemo or Level Used:
DefaultDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.comBuy It Here
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry doesn't require as much power with modern graphics cards so the gap between the 6600GT and 6800GT isn't as great.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2004Unreal Tournament 2004Version and / or Patch Used:
1.2Timedemo or Level Used:
as_convoyDeveloper Homepage: http://www.atari.comProduct Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament.com/ut2004/Buy It Here
Unreal Tournament 2004 or UT2004 for short is the latest instalment to the Unreal Tournament series. The full version of the game is based on DX9 (the demo only uses DX8.1 like UT2003) and has faced quite a big make over and is a lot more intensive then its predecessor.
In the last of our regular tests we see the gap even less than before.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh Quality AA and AF
All tests were run with 4 times FSAA and 4 times Antistrophic Filtering enabled with the screen resolution set to 1024 X 768.When running these aggressive detail settings in 1600 x 1200, games really do become unplayable and if people are after image quality they will have to drop the resolution back down to reach playable levels.1024x768 was chosen as it is still the preferred playable resolution with these settings enabled
With AA and AF on, we can see that the limited bandwidth of the 6600GT and 6200 can't compare with the 6800GT with the wider bus and extra memory.
Gigabyte GeForce Compared - Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Now that we have had a look at the range of nVidia cards out there we hope it has made your decision on what to buy a little easier.Gigabyte has been one of ATI's biggest partners in the past, and now with the release of nVidia cards again, it is great to see that they have managed to put together such a great range with plenty of features and great performance.The 6800GT video card is definitely one for the user who wants to have the power of the 6800 GPU without paying the full price; after all, overclocking is something to be done and our results with this card in this department were quite good. The games bundle and support for AGP makes it a great upgrade card for the AMD Athlon XP, P4 478 users and older 939 AGP boards.On the 6600GT side, this card has become one of the biggest talking points for nVidia. Designed as the first of the PCI-E native cards, nVidia has done a fantastic job. SLI capability makes this card a much better option for the end users, by simply adding in an extra card you can get a very decent performance increase.When is comes to the budget market, GeForce 6200 cards take the cake all the way. With PS3 support, 128-bit bus and 128MB of onboard RAM, it makes it a better option than that of the ATI X300 series.For a great features, game bundle and price tag we have given the 6600GT from Gigabyte our TweakTown "MUST HAVE" Best Value Award!