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Conclusion

The tests bring no surprises. Modern games having too harsh system requirements, you can only use high display resolutions in them if you’ve got a senior GeForce 8800, i.e. a GTX or an Ultra. These are capable of delivering comfortable performance in resolutions up to 1920x1200 inclusive even if you have enabled full-screen antialiasing to improve the image quality. The exceptions, such as Call of Juarez and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., are rare, yet the average frame rate provided by GeForce 8800 Ultra/GTX is quite high. By the way, there is not much reason in hunting for a rare and expensive GeForce 8800 Ultra because the GeForce 8800 GTX copes with 3D games just as well, but costs much less. Moreover, the latter card is available in pre-overclocked versions that are even less slow than the GeForce 8800 Ultra.

If you want to use a resolution of 2560x1600 pixels in your games, buying a GeForce 8800 Ultra makes sense, but a SLI tandem of two GeForce 8800 GTX will anyway deliver higher performance. Thus, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is the only choice when you need the maximum speed possible today, but the GeForce 8800 GTX seems more optimal otherwise.

The GeForce 8800 GTS, with 640MB or 320MB of graphics memory, runs modern games at an acceptable speed and provides comfortable gaming conditions in resolutions up to 1600x1200 and, occasionally, even to 1920x1200. The results of the two versions of the card are in fact identical and purchasing the more expensive 640MB version isn’t reasonable. You may want to add some more money and buy a GeForce 8800 GTX instead. These two cards also have a dangerous rival, ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, which beats them in quite a lot of tests. You should choose basing on what games you like most, but the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB seems to be the most optimal solution to us. It isn’t any slower than the 640MB model in usable resolutions but has an official price of only $299.

The GeForce 8600 GTS doesn’t look well in today’s games. It is only in few of them that it can deliver acceptable performance in 1280x1024 at maximum level of detail and with enabled transparency antialiasing. This graphics card cannot satisfy a fastidious gamer who wants to have not only a high speed in his favorite games but a high image quality as well. It is rather a product for undemanding gamers with a limited PC budget as well as for people whose PC is used mainly for multimedia tasks. The 8600 GTS may even be preferable to any GeForce 8800 when it comes to the latter application due to its advanced hardware video-processor. The low power draw and the simple cooler also make the GeForce 8600 suitable for media centers.

As for the GeForce 8500 GT, this card doesn’t offer enough performance for modern games. It is targeted at undemanding users who want to have DirectX 10 support and the multimedia capabilities of the GeForce 8 series.

Now, we want to add a few words about the particular products tested.

The Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H Silent Pipe 3 is an excellent choice for a home multimedia system. This graphics card has all the pros and cons of a GeForce 8600 GTS, but its unique design does not require additional power, making it easier to assemble the system, and its silent cooler won’t disturb you with its noise when you are watching a movie or listening to music. Moreover, you will be able to play modern games, even though you will probably have to give up FSAA and high display resolutions.

Highs:

  • Pretty good performance for this class of a solution;
  • Unified architecture (32 shader processors);
  • DirectX 10 support;
  • Excellent anisotropic filtering quality;
  • Hardware HD-video decoding;
  • Requires no additional power;
  • Efficient and noiseless cooling system;
  • Low level of power consumption;
  • Comes with full version of RTS Supreme Commander.

Lows:

  • Dual-slot cooling system;
  • The price may be a little too high for the provided performance level.

The MSI NX8500GT-TD256E is an good ordinary GeForce 8500 GT. With its quiet cooler it might have done well in a multimedia system, but the lack of DHCP support negates the advantages of the PureVideo HD processor. And as we said above, the GeForce 8500 GT cannot run modern 3D games fast. The MSI NX8500GT-TD256E may be an improvement for those who have been using an integrated graphics core, though. You may also buy it if you want a card with modern functionality but for little money, probably as a temporary solution until you’ve got enough cash for a more advanced graphics card.

Highs:

  • Unified architecture (16 shader processors);
  • DirectX 10 support;
  • Excellent anisotropic filtering quality;
  • Hardware HD-video decoding;
  • Generates very little noise;
  • Low power consumption.

Lows:

  • Low gaming performance;
  • Not very rich set of accessories;
  • No HDCP support.
 
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