As we draw close to the launch of the new GeForce 8600 and 8500 series from nVidia next week, we will likely see users getting rid of their current mid-range graphics cards and upgrading. When you got your 7600GT, you said to yourself, "I will get a second one eventually for SLI, when I can afford it". Well, this might be the perfect time to pick up some very capable DX9 graphics cards with a reduced price tag to make way for the new upcoming models.We have with us today the GeForce 7600GT Fatal1ty from XFX (the version clocked at 650MHz core as opposed to the cheaper 560MHz) which is a bit fancier when compared to our standard run of the mill 7600GT. We're going to have a look at exactly what the cards are capable of when running in SLI but also by itself.Being a special hyped up version bearing the Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel branding, they are quite a lot more expensive than regular reference style 7600GT's but it'll be interesting to see what type of extra performance and features we see by spending some more cash.We will also crank up the AA and AF and try some overclocking before we sum it all up. Let's continue on and examine if it's really worth spending the extra dollars on a graphics card. At least in the United States, it's about $50 USD or roughly 30% more expensive than the regular model from XFX but in Australia, it is much more expensive.Let's get started and see exactly what we have here!
The PackageThe Package
Normally we are used to seeing fancy X shaped boxes from XFX but this time around they have opted for a smaller rectangle shaped one that is quite simple. The front of the box has a black/red theme with 3/4 of Fatal1ty's face along with his nick name and logo on the front of the box.
Looking closer at the box in the bottom left hand corner in small text we can see that it's a 7600GT, we can see it uses SBD or "Silent but Deadly" cooling technology and also features 650MHz core clock speed, 256MB DDR-3 and support for SLI.
Turning the box over we can see the card and we also get a break down on some of the main features of the card including the SBD cooling technology and a blurb on Fatal1ty and how he "chooses" XFX.
Getting inside we have driver CD, a single DVI to VGA connector, S-Video cable for TV Out a quick install guide and a run down on the TV out connection on the card and what you can and can't use with it.Personally I wonder what the importance of a package is sometimes - I don't think it's a huge deal breaker normally but when you market a card differently by calling it an "Extreme" model or "Fatal1ty" edition like this one here today, you do expect a bit more. Considering that Fatal1ty is a professional gamer, one would think that the most logical move would be to include one of his favorite games in the package. Or even just two DVI to DVI to VGA connectors since the card is dual DVI.Fancy box but it's certainly missing some gear inside. Let's move onto the graphics card itself now.
The CardsThe Cards
With the box and its content out the way, it's time to check out the card itself.Like most silent cooled graphics cards, the front of the card is mainly taken up by a large heat sink and this isn't any different here either. We can see the big "F" logo on the front of the card along with the two heat pipes that pop out the top and go to a separate heat sink which is used to dissipate heat using the air flow inside your case.
The heat pipes that lead out to the separate heatsink stretches over the back of the card, as the core heats up the heat moves through the heat pipes and then proceeds to dissipate through the second heatsink keeping the main part of the card as cool as possible at all times.While the card does not operate hot even when under load, it doesn't run briskly cold either but nothing to cause us any concerns at the same time. Of course, the great benefit to this cooling setup is that it is completely silent and that's great for the increasing amount of users out there who consider silence a bonus. Will this effect overclockability? We'll find out a little later on how well XFX did with the cooling.
The back of the card also gives us our standard run of the mill circuitry and of course the screws to keep the large heat sink in place.
While majority of the top of the card is taken by the second heat sink, we can also see the SLI connector that we will be making use of today as well as a tension bar across the top which XFX tend to use quite a bit. Few companies make use of this additional feature and you do have to wonder how useful it is but from an aesthetic point of view, it does make the card look trendier and XFX do have a pretty good track record with that type of thing. XFX have been using it on their card for a while now.It is designed to prevent any bending of the card and protect the SLI connector - as someone though who has used bucket loads of graphics cards without it and never had a problem with an SLI connector in the past, you do wonder if it's actually needed but it's there anyway for good measure.
The black color scheme is transferred to the I/O side of things with a black plate used. We have the HDTV out port as we mentioned earlier along with two DVI ports. Unfortunately the card does not support HDCP which means you won't be using in a HTPC for playback of HD DVD or Blu-ray movie discs.As far as clock speeds go and that's a pretty important factor of the XFX "Fatal1ty" 7600GT considering you are paying extra dollars for this souped up version. XFX's 7600GT XXX edition (also factory overclocked) comes in with clock speeds of 590MHz core clock and 1.6GHz DDR memory clock and costs roughly $130 USD. The version we are looking at today comes in with clock speeds of 650MHz on the core clock and 1.6GHz DDR on the memory clock and in the United States costs about $160 USD, which is not too much more to pay for the silent cooling and faster core clock speed.In Australia though, the same card costs a staggering $270 AUD (cheapest price) and compare that to the XFX 7600GT XXX (overclocked edition with 590MHz core clock and same memory speeds) which costs a more respectable $185 AUD - something is not quite right. In Australia the "Fatal1ty" edition is $85 AUD (or roughly $70 USD) more expensive than the XXX edition and in the USA it's only $38 AUD (or roughly $30 USD) more. Clearly you're better off buying this card in the US or from the US where possible, if you are really considering it as an option, especially if you want two for SLI dual graphics.Keep in mind that nVidia are set to launch their GeForce 8600 and 8500 cards next week and you probably will see some small price drops fairly soon for the old models to make way for the new, so keep an eye out for that also.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05Test System SetupProcessor(s):
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz (366MHz x 9 / 1:1)Motherboard(s):
ABIT IN9 32X-MAX Wi-Fi (Supplied by Universal ABIT
2 X 1GB Crucial PC8000 5-5-5-15 (Supplied by Crucial
Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2 Operating System:
Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers:
nVidia ForceWare 93.71 and DX9cWith two GeForce 7600GT's in hand from XFX there was only one thing to do, slap them both into our ABIT IN9 32X-MAX 680i SLI motherboard and see what happens when these bad boys get together and party in dual graphics mode.Like we said earlier, with the new GeForce 8600 and 8500 coming out from nVidia, we should see a flurry of 7600GT's hit the second hand market (as well as probably cheaper on shop shelves), with XFX we are able to see what kind of performance increase you will get with a second 7600GT in SLI mode - not only that though, we will see how the 7600GT overclocked "Fatal1ty" edition from XFX performs itself and sum it all up.Last month (March 2nd) nVidia released their ForceWare 101.41 Vista driver which enabled SLI dual graphics under Microsoft's latest OS for the GeForce 6 and 7 series GPU's (but not DX10) but because still the vast majority of our readers are still using Windows XP, we won't be providing Vista benchmarks at this stage. At the same time though, it's good to know if you want to run these XFX cards in SLI mode, you can do so under Windows Vista now.Let's not ramble anymore and see what kind of performance increase we get by putting two of these bad boys together for some SLI fun!3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 130Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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 off the mark we can see that we get a significant increase across the board when we move to SLI mode.
Benchmarks - 3DMark063DMark06Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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 large gap continues to show when we move to the more intensive 3DMark06. It might not be double but it's a significant increase none the less.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy 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 Lost Coast 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 Lost Coast 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
Lost Coast as we have seen in the past sees no gains with SLI with and without HDR.
Benchmarks - PREYPREYVersion and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
HardwareOC Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com Product Homepage: http://www.prey.comBuy 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.
PREY sees some excellent gains and really shows us a difference - we can see that with SLI we are able to play at the higher 1600 x 1200 and 1920 x 1200 resolutions thanks to the huge increase in average FPS.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.vugames.com Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/Buy It Here
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. is one game that has consistently seen performance increases with SLI mode enabled and the 7600GT setup from XFX is no different here with large gains making F.E.A.R. very playable at the higher resolution for a setup which is going to cost around $320 USD, which isn't too bad compared to other single card solutions.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh 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.
We again see a very nice increase in our synthetic test that seems to carry over to most games.
Even with all the settings up high we continue to have no performance increase when running in SLI.
PREY like our non AA/AF tests sees an excellent gain when running SLI.
Benchmarks - OverclockingOverclocking
Our next step on the list is overclocking - we fired up our favorite clocking tool ATI Tool and got things under way.We were able to increase the default XFX 7600GT "Fatal1ty" clock speeds from 650MHz / 1600MHz DDR to 688MHz / 1768MHz DDR, which is quite impressive for a graphics card that is not only already overclocked but passively cooled as well.Let's go ahead and see what type of difference this makes to the overall performance in just a sample of tests. None we are testing in single card mode here, no SLI.
We see a little bump in performance and we roll over 4000 points in 3DMark06 using a single card - not too shabby.
PREY also sees about a 5% increase in performance.
Finally we see Company of Heroes get a small bump in the minimum FPS which is probably more important than the average in a game like this.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
You really have to wonder - are people actually going to buy a more expensive graphics card just because it has "Fatal1ty" stamped on the front? To be honest and perfectly frank, I can't really see it happening. What are the chances that Fatal1ty is gaming on a pair of GeForce 7600GT's in SLI? Pretty low... He's more than likely running something along the lines of a couple of GeForce 8800GTX cards.In more seriousness though, there is a lot we like about the XFX 7600GT "Fatal1ty" card - the heat sink is a great design of course being completely silent with no need for fans and it only takes up a single slot. You've got dual DVI, it comes overclocked out of the box and sports all our standard 7600GT features like 256MB of DDR-3 and so forth but it does lack HDCP support, which could be a hassle for some.At first we thought the card may have issues with overclocking using a passive cooling solution. Nevertheless, we fired up some overclocking and managed some good increases which increased average FPS higher.The biggest gripe we have is that if you're going to slap the name of a professional gamer on your product, why would you not include a full version game? It seems like the right thing to do and to us the bundle is lacking considering the extra price you are paying, especially in Australia but the United States is not too bad at only $30 USD more than XFX's XXX version.We are disappointed with the package and very surprised about the retail price down under but it's much more respectable in the United States ranging between $160 USD - $186 USD. In any case, we suggest you hold off for 2 or 3 weeks before buying and see if prices fall with the 8500 and 8600 launch and determine whether or not it would be better to buy the new or the old model based on the performance numbers.If you cannot wait that long, you should be quite pleased with XFX 7600GT "Fatal1ty" and even more so if you've got extra cash to buy a couple for SLI gaming. Don't expect the best gaming performance but it's not half bad either offering a good gaming experience for most current PC games at 1600 x 1200 with graphics quality settings turned up quite high in SLI mode.- Pros
Sexy black PCBDual DVICompletely silent passive coolingOnly single slot taken upOverclocked significantlyContinues to OC despite silent operationGood performance in SLI mode- Cons
Disappointing bundle (where is the full version game?)No HDCP and missing a DVI to VGA adapterMuch more expensive in Australia than USReplaced soon by GeForce 8600 models- Latest Pricing Rating - 8.5 out of 10