XFX GeForce 8600GTS XXX - nVidia's new mainstream DX10 is here!

DirectX 10 mainstream graphics cards are here in the form of nVidia GeForce 8600GTS - we check out the XFX XXX edition.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Apr 16 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: XFX Technology

Introduction





Ahhhh...new graphics cards!

New graphics cards are great, especially when they are in the "affordable for most people" range. nVidia's GeForce 8600 and 8500 series has been a long waited product. Why? Most importantly it's the first affordable DirectX 10 capable graphics card from any company and nVidia even have Windows Vista drivers ready for the new range of cards at launch time.

This product is so good for the market for two reasons - the first is that consumers who don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a PC can now buy something that is going to offer support for the next generation of graphics (DX10 / Shader Model 4.0 with games like Crysis, Alan Wake and UT2007 coming). The second is because more people will be able to buy these GeForce 8500 and 8500 cards with it's much more attractive price tag, game makers will have even more reason to put resources into making DirectX 10 supported games. The latter is something that is seriously lacking at the moment but the games are on their way slowly but surely.

The last two generations of mid-range graphics cards from nVidia have followed a GT naming scheme as the top mid-range card, the 6600GT was the best of the 6600 series and the 7600GT was the best of the 7600 series. This time around the 8600GT is the second best of the series and the new bad boy is the 8600GTS, which is exactly what we have here with us today.

XFX is the first contestant with their GeForce 8600GTS XXX. Let's continue on and discover the performance in single card configuration and see what exactly we have on offer.
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The Package




It's nice to see that XFX have moved back to the X shaped box with the latest graphics card from them. Oh what a box it is too - it looks great with our big mean wolf man on the front.



It's a very standard front box layout, this particular model is the XXX edition, which is a step up from the Extreme model and carries the highest clock speeds in the range. We have SLI compatibility, 256MB DDR-3 memory and 730MHz core clock. We can see across the top of the box that we have ourselves a copy of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, too.



Turning the box over we have a blurb across the top about XFX along with the key features of the 8600GTS. In the middle of the box we have a see through window that shows us our first glance of the new GeForce 8600GTS.



Moving inside the box we have got our normal array of goodies, two DVI to VGA connectors (finally included both - good job XFX!), S-Video cable along with a molex to PCI Express power connector just in case you don't have one on your power supply, which is also something XFX don't always do.



Diving further in the box we have some paperwork, quick installation guide, user manual and an explanation on the S-Video port. Included also in the package is a driver CD along with a copy of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as we mentioned was included on the front of the box.

The Card




With all the boring bits out the way, it's time to get down and dirty with the graphics card itself. Sitting at only 7.2" long, it is a very standard mid-range card as far as size goes.



The front of the card is dominated by the largish heat sink fan combination but on a very positive note, the cooler is thin enough that it doesn't take up any other slots. The smaller fan means that it has to spin at a higher speed to push more air which results in more noise - the card isn't whisper quiet but at the same time, it isn't what we would call unbearable either.

It could be a lot worse though as XFX managed to attain a large factory overclock with just stock cooling. We should see some modified cards over the next few months that use coolers from companies like Arctic Cooling and Zalman and possibly push clock speeds even higher as chip revisions improve but that's all still in the future.



The back of the card is as always very standard looking, we have our normal array of numbers that tell us what the card is and the normal details like serial number and what not. The heat sink fan screws in as opposed to clips which gives you a more solid and sturdy cooler.



As mid-range graphics cards become more and more powerful, we are seeing the PCI Express power connecter needed on more and more cards. nVidia's GeForce 8600GTS requires a single 6-pin PCI Express power connector and if your power supply doesn't have one XFX have been kind enough to include a converter in the package, so you should be up and running in no time.



The top of the card naturally has an SLI connector which of course if you find yourself with a second 8600GTS down the track, you can get an increase in performance of up to 90%. We will be investigating SLI performance down the track in a separate article. We also have the tension bar running across the top of the card, which is supposed to help prevent the card from bending and damaging the SLI connector but does it really help? Who knows but it looks kick ass!



Like all XFX cards the I/O give us our black plate and it includes two DVI ports capable of outputting up to 2560 x 1600 thanks to the support of Dual-Link.

nVidia's standard GeForce 8600GTS comes clocked in with a core of 675MHz and a memory clock of 2000MHz DDR. While XFX do have this model, they also have an Extreme edition that has a core clock of 720MHz and memory clock of 2180MHz DDR. Finally there is the XXX version (which is what we have with us today) with a 730MHz core and a crazy 2260MHz DDR memory clock, which is quite a boost over the regular reference versions and more than enough grant to "Play Hard".

Two of the major features are dual Dual-Link DVI connectivity and the fact that HDCP is supported. We should see HDCP support on the lower end models such as the 8500GT and 8600GT and once we see a HDMI version of the card, it is quickly going to become the graphics card of choice for home theater users as HDCP will help bring next gen movie formats like Blu-ray and HD DVD to your HDTV through a PC a lot easier.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz (366MHz x 9 and FSB 1:1)
Motherboard(s): ABIT IN9 32X-MAX Wi-Fi (Supplied by Universal ABIT)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Crucial PC8000 5-5-5-15 (Supplied by Crucial)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: Catalyst 7.3 (X1950GT) / ForceWare 158.16 (8600GTS) / ForceWare 93.71 (7900GS and 7600GT SLI)


With a multitude of graphics cards in our labs, it was time to test the XFX GeForce 8600GTS XXX edition.

We have a stock clocked reference GeForce 8600GTS to see how the overclocked XFX edition compares to a stock card. We have a pair of XFX GeForce 7600GT Fatal1ty cards in SLI dual graphics mode, Inno3D and their iChill GeForce 7900GS and Sapphire's Radeon X1950GT 256MB card. This pretty much covers the whole high-end mid-range market and what the GeForce 8600GTS should be competing against in terms of pricing.

As we currently still use the demo version of Company of Heroes and it's in built performance test we have not included the SLI GeForce 7600GT results in this test due to the known issue that is found in SLI.

After our normal run of the mill tests we then proceed to stress the cards out as much as possible with high quality AA and AF testing. We had hoped to do some overclocking tests but it would seem that XFX have really taken the card to the max with their XXX edition. We tried overclocking another GeForce 8600GTS and it hit a very similar speed wall, which may very well be the limit of the chip and memory at this point in time with regular cooling.

For now though, let's get these benchmarks underway and see how nVidia's first DX10 mainstream graphics cards compares against the rest! XFX's XXX edition is going to cost you around $240 USD (or roughly $300 AUD) in the United States (more expensive in Aus) and a regular non-factory overclocked version will cost you around $200 USD (or roughly $250 AUD).

Due to a lack of DX10 games and applications, we cannot provide any DX10 performance results but even if we could, we wouldn't have anything to compare against anyway in the mainstream VGA segment.


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.




Our first benchmark shows just how much an increase in clock speeds can help overall performance. The overclocked GeForce 8600GTS XXX from XFX brings our performance up to that of two GeForce 7600GT overclocked cards in SLI mode.

We will see if this continues to transform into real world tests in just a moment.

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.




We can clearly see that both the reference and the XXX version from XFX are ahead of the GeForce 7900GS and Radeon X1950GT in our synthetic benchmark. Hopefully this translates into real world performance, let's find out.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)


Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
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 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.






HDR test show us the overclocked 8600GTS again continues to take the lead, the stock clocked model falls back a bit with only the 7900GS beating it. Non-HDR tests show that the 8600GTS, 7900GS and X1950GT sit very similar. Half Life Lost Coast doesn't gain from an SLI setup so we can see the 7600GTs really fall back.

Benchmarks - PREY


PREY

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Timedemo
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.




GeForce 8600GTS really seems to take a bit of a hit when compared to the GeForce 7900GS in PREY, it sits a bit back at the lower resolution and further back again when we start increasing it.

We get an excellent gain with the XXX over the reference speeds but at this stage you can begin to tell we are really dealing with a mid-range card and it's not to be confused with a high-end product.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R.

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer 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. has always benefited greatly from SLI and we can see that at the higher resolution the GeForce 7600GT in SLI mode has a sizeable lead. High resolution gaming puts us in line with the 7900GS though at the lower resolution we can see the 8600GTS reference and XXX model are the fastest single card solution.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
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.






One of the most recent ATI Catalyst driver releases saw big performance increase for COH which gives it the honors of being the fastest card here, performance between the XXX and the 7900GS are very similar with the reference clocked card sitting as the slowest. Even at 1280 x 1024, you're going to want to ease of the detail to bring the minimum FPS up a little.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


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.




Under heavy load we can see that the XXX 8600GTS sits just behind the SLI 7600GT again. The reference 8600GTS sits ahead of the GeForce 7900GS and Radeon X1950GT though still.




With no SLI advantage again we see that the GeForce 8600GTS XXX sits in line with the GeForce 7900GS while the slower clocked reference card is in line with the Radeon X1950GT.




Finishing with PREY we can see that the GeForce 7900GS is again the fastest card, the GeForce 8600GTS sits in line with the Radeon X1950GT from ATI.

Final Thoughts




So, two questions, what do we think of nVidia's new GeForce 8600GTS and what do we think about the XFX XXX incarnation. From what a bit of research has shown us, the XFX XXX version is going to be the fastest GeForce 8600GTS graphics card on the market and this is of course going to come with the typical price premium. Before we get too much into that though, let's just have a quick look at the 8600GTS on the whole.

By the end of my benchmarking, I was slightly disappointed -not sure if I should expect more or what but the 8600GTS just didn't "wow" me like I thought it would. When thinking about it for longer, I came to the simple conclusion that the 8600GTS didn't "wow" me because of the huge amount of graphics cards we test. You become so use to hitting the "benchmark" button on 3DMark06, then turning back 10 minutes later and seeing a score in excess of 10000 marks and then you see something under it and lose excitement about the lower performing product.

Having said that though, nVidia's GeForce 8600GTS is a fantastic graphics card; it does exactly what it's supposed - it gives budget conscious users the opportunity to climb into the DX10 gaming arena for when PC games like Crysis, UT2007 and Alan Wake are released later this year.

The lowest resolution I use on a day to day basis is 1920 x 1200 and more often than not I'm sitting in front of 2560 x 1500 but I'm part of a minority. If everyone had 24" and 30" screens, we wouldn't need a low and mid-range VGA market. nVidia's GeForce 8600GTS is designed for users of 22" monitors and lower - 1680 x 1050, 1600 x 1200 and 1280 x 1024 are going to be the resolution of choice with this product and should offer fairly decent performance even in DX10 gaming titles.

We've established that the actual 8600GT chip design from nVidia is great but what about XFX and their further refinements? XFX has also done a fantastic job - out of the box clock speeds are simply fantastic. They offer huge gains in performance over the standard clocked version and to the best of our knowledge XFX is offering the highest clock speed out of any nVidia partner. XFX seemed to have gone right to the edge with the XXX edition - only a jump of a few MHz on the core would result in a screen full of artifacts. Is this the limit of the 8600GTS, period?

nVidia are really on the ball at the moment and hopefully we begin to see some DX10 games released in the coming months, as it really is the only thing missing. While AMD's R600 Radeon HD 2900XT might only just be around the corner for a May launch, the majority of gamers who deal with a realistic budget will be out buying their brand new mid-range nVidia GeForce 8000 series cards, at least that's what we suggest and see happening.

So, should you buy a GeForce 8600GTS if you have the money? If you already have a GeForce 7900GS or Radeon X1950PRO (which is slightly faster than the 7900GS), we wouldn't recommend buying as you're not really upgrading, unless you must have DX10, Dual-Link DVI or HDCP support. If you're using something older or slower such as GeForce 6600GT, 7600GT or Radeon X1650XT and you're ready to make an upgrade, it's a totally brilliant choice with the future in mind. XFX's GeForce 8600GTS XXX edition is going to cost you around $240 USD at launch (today) and a regular version without factory overclocking will set you back around $200 USD, making the product something to take into serious consideration in our opinion.


- Pros
DirectX 10 gaming support for the masses
Fantastic factory overclock from XFX!
Full version game and all required cables included
Great mid-range performance
XFX XXX edition much faster than regular 8600GTS
Silent slot cooling
SLI support
HDCP and dual Dual-Link DVI support
Full driver support including Windows Vista

- Cons
XFX XXX price premium


Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Performance Award




We'll soon be following up with a look at Gigabyte's GeForce 8600GT (cut down with slower clock speeds), BFG's GeForce 8600GTS OC in SLI and MSI's 8500GT, 8600GT and 8600GTS all in SLI mode later this week - so stay tuned!

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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