In our article devoted to the announcement of the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GPU we said that the company had problems positioning its produce in the retail market due to the lack of a modern and fast mainstream graphics processor for the AGP 8x bus (For more details please see our review called Knowing the Depths: NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT Architecture).
The release of the GeForce 6600 alleviated the problem somewhat, but didn’t remove it altogether. Why? Because the GeForce 6600 was originally developed for the PCI Express platform. The PCI Express bus is rapidly gaining popularity, that’s true, but the majority of PCs are still equipped with the older AGP interface.
Thus, NVIDIA found itself incapable of offering an affordable mainstream graphic card for the general body of PC users even after the release of the GeForce 6600. Graphics cards of the GeForce FX family didn’t suit for that role as their architecture couldn’t manage modern games like Far Cry, for example. Moreover, graphics cards based on ATI’s RADEONs had already conquered almost the whole market of ready-made PCI Express systems among the major PC manufacturers in middle 2004, making it impossible for NVIDIA to become competitive with its GeForce 6 series in the fall of the same year.
Yet NVIDIA found a solution at last – it was the same small chip they had used in the GeForce PCX 5750 and PCX 5900. We mean the NVIDIA HSI bridge that added the PCI Express interface to products originally intended for the AGP bus. By a lucky chance NVIDIA’s retrograde approach to building its first PCI Express compatibles served it well now, allowing for an elegant transition of the GeForce 6600 processor to the AGP platform. The NVIDIA HSI bridge can work in either direction, so NVIDIA had only to design an appropriate PCB, with space left for a HSI chip, to make an AGP version of the GeForce 6600 GT.
Thus, NVIDIA very easily complemented its product line-up with a new mainstream AGP graphics card capable of challenging such time-tested solutions as ATI’s RADEON 9800 XT and PRO. It is to the AGP-interfaced GeForce 6600 GT that this review is dedicated.