GIGABYTE 8500GT Turbo Force Ultra

Shane takes a look at an 8500GT on steroids from GIGABYTE today; a quite capable card for gaming in fact.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Aug 31 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction






It's been a while since we have seen anything from GIGABYTE. The main reason for this isn't because they don't like us; rather the company tends to want to stand out from the pack when it comes to their products. Anyone can send us a graphics card with stock clocks and stock cooling but GIGABYTE always try to do something a bit different with their lineup of graphics cards.

The latest card to get the makeover treatment is the GIGABYTE 8500GT Turbo Force Ultra. The name alone sounds cool and has us so very intrigued, just imagine what the card is going to look like.

The 8500GT in base form isn't the card of choice for a lot of people, while it's cheap it's not much of a performer and if you're not going to game you would find yourself looking at the cheaper again 8400GS. If you do want to do a bit of gaming the extra money is usually worth being spent to enter the 8600 series.

Hopefully GIGABYTE has done big things with the 8500GT and it's something that we can find ourselves recommending to people.

The Package




The game of choice at the moment is Dawn of War, over the past few months we have seen this being used along with Call of Juarez and Supreme Commander. All are big name games so if you're a fan of this particular one you're already looking at a decent saving.



With most of the box covered in the Dawn of War theme there is still some important information scattered over it. We can of course see the model and some of the main features like PCI Express, DirectX 10, HDCP, HDTV and 256MB of GDDR3 memory. We also see mention of the fact that all solid capacitors are used along with the mention of Turbo Force and what it does for us.



Turning the box over we have some more detail on what the 8 series of NVIDIA cards can offer you along with a little blurb about the GIGABYTE model and how it boasts cinematic gaming effects, without breaking the bank.



Moving away from the box and inside the package we have with us the standard manual and driver CD along with a full version copy of WarHammer 40000 Dawn of War Dark Crusade.





Looking further we have two DVI-to-VGA connectors along with a TV-Out break-out box which offers both S-Video and Component. Overall the package is pretty good but what it's missing is some cables. If you want to make use of the TV-Out you're going to have to purchase separate cables to get it up and running, unless you happen to already have some that is.

The Card




This is where it becomes interesting, the card is clearly out of the ordinary, the whole cooler is quite full on and in your face. The big gold heatsink looks great with the GIGABYTE logo up top with a little silver shard on the left side of the cooler that shows us this model is part of the Turbo Force series.





The cooler pretty much takes up the whole front if the card and a little bit more. As you can see on the right of the card the heatsink continues going over the edge of the card making it a little longer than your standard 8500GT.



This particular cooler uses a feature that GIGABYTE call "3D-Active Fan" which is just a fancy name for "Fan only spins in games." It's designed to help keep noise down along with power usage at a minimum.



Turning the card over we can see where the heatsink hangs off the edge of the card, it grips onto the back of the PCB to prevent it from wiggling around. The whole design feels very sturdy and of quite good quality which is always important with active cooling.



With the 8500GT being an NVIDIA card it of course carries the ability to support SLI, so spinning the card around we can see the SLI connector sitting across the top of the card. Unfortunately GIGABYTE didn't choose to include an SLI bridge. If you're looking to SLI a mid-range card though we would generally recommend something like the 8600GTS which works out better value.



I/O wise the GIGABYTE 8500GT Turbo Force Ultra is packing dual dual-link DVI connectors that support up to 2560 x 1600 along with the TV-Out port which the break out box plugs into.

Looking at the specifications the card is pretty hard core, the stock 8500GT sports GDDR2 at 800MHz DDR. GIGABYTE's Turbo Force not only packs GDDR3 memory like the 8600GT but also carries with it the same 1400MHz DDR memory clock that comes with the higher end 8600GT.

Core/Shader Clocks come in at 450MHz/900MHz on the stock 8500GT. the 8600GT offers 540MHz/1180MHz while the Turbo Force Ultra from GIGABYTE carries 600MHz on the core and a hefty 1300MHz Shader Clock. It's not all rosy though, unfortunately due to the actual core limitations the 8500GT only carries a maximum of 16 Steam processors while the 8600GT has 32. Hopefully the increased speed can make up for this, and we know there's only one way to find out.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
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
Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 158.22 and DX9c

It was clear what we had to pitch the 8500GT Turbo Force Ultra against, we have with us an MSI 8500GT which is completely stock and follows the base design from NVIDIA. For good measure we have thrown in an 8600GT just to see how far away the 8500GT Turbo Force Ultra is from it.


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.




While the card offers some serious performance over the standard 8500GT, compared to the 8600GT it does lag behind.

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 more intensive 3DMark06 paints a similar picture, huge gains when compared to the 8500GT but it still can't get up to the performance of the 8600GT.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast HDR)


Half Life 2 (Lost Coast 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 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.




Moving onto real world games we see HUGE gains again over the standard 8500GT. With HDR on we have a very playable 1024 x 768 game; when we move to 1280 x 1024 though, only the 8600GT is going to handle the current detail level, you would have to drop it back on the 8500GT.

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.




We can see here that the performance of the Turbo Force card from GIGABYTE compared to the standard 8500GT is double. This is a serious increase and you can actually play Prey with the high detail settings at the lower resolution on this card.

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.






The Turbo Force offers roughly the same performance in 1280 x 1024 as the standard 8500GT offers at only 1024 x 768. It's clear though that the increased Steam processors give the 8600GT a significant advantage.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5
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.






Across the board we can see that you're going to have to get into the settings before you play COH. We again see that there are large gains compared to the stock card equating from 70% - 100% but it still just can't get to the performance of the 8600GT.

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 temperature from there, as seen in the picture.




The large heatsink keeps the card under 60c which is up on the stock clocked 8500GT but well behind that of the heat-pipe cooled 8600GT.


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 card not making any noise at idle thanks to the fan not spinning, when we go into 3D we only get a small increase in noise compared to the cooler on the MSI 8500GT.

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.




While the fan doesn't spin at idle the card manages to use the most amount of power when just sitting in your desktop doing nothing. When we go into load though it sits in between the stock 8500GT and Silent Pipe 8600GT.

Final Thoughts




Making an 8500GT that is worth owning can't be an easy job but it seems that GIGABYTE has managed to do it. The performance when compared to a stock 8500GT is simply mind boggling with the card capable of performing twice as fast as the stock 8500GT during some points.

What really gets you with this card though is the quality, it just feels fantastic. The look of the cooler, the way it clips onto the back of the card to stay 100% secure just makes it one of the best built mid-range cards we have ever had the pleasure of dealing with.

The most unique feature on the card is clearly the 3D fan which while GIGABYTE state is a "Power Saving" feature, the card is still drawing some serious power compared to the stock 8500GT, and even the stock 8600GT for that matter. The best feature of the fan would not be the fact that it's saving power but more so that whenever you're just cruising around in windows your system is extremely quiet.

Apart from the size this card would be great for a home theater environment as you get the 8 series HD processing power and don't have to deal with the noise. Tt the same time though if you want to fire up a game the card is capable of doing this too.

We should see the card pop up on store shelves in the coming weeks and hopefully the price sits below the 8600GT. The card really is a clear winner and it's nice to see that GIGABYTE can make a boring card like the 8500GT quite exciting.

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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