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Conclusion

Nvidia Corp. has once again left its rival ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, behind in terms of time-to-market with its mainstream-class DirectX 10 graphics accelerators. But is performance of the flagship option of the new series – Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS – truly impressive? Well, let’s sum everything up.

The GeForce 8600 GTS graphics card from Asustek Computer performs as good as the GeForce 7900 GS, a product that has been available on the market for 8 months already. In most benchmarks the 8600 GTS is faster, in other, it is slower (F.E.A.R., Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Prey, Hitman) than the GeForce 7900 GS, but in the vast majority of real-world situations it lags behind the Radeon X1950 Pro. Several good things about the GeForce 8600 GTS is that it features better image quality compared to both of its rivals, supports DirectX 10 and has significantly improved video processing engine. But those, who already use the Radeon X1000, will hardly notice quality improvements and will not be able to experience DirectX 10 applications for several months to go.

So, those, who already own a GeForce 7900 GS or a Radeon X1950 Pro, will hardly find it useful to switch to the GeForce 8600 GTS just now: performance in current games with current drivers does not really impress and it remains to be seen whether the 8600 GTS is a good performer in DirectX 10-based games. Still, the new PureVideo HD engine may be just what the doctor ordered for video enthusiasts (it should be kept in mind, however, that at press time Nvidia only guaranteed new PureVideo HD features for Windows Vista operating system).

Traditionally, successful performance-mainstream parts at $199 price-points offered performance level similar to former flagship offerings released a year or a little more before. This was the case with the GeForce 6600 GT, which could easily outperform the Radeon 9800 XT; the same was true for the GeForce 7600 GT, which could offer performance of the GeForce 7800 GT at much lower price-point; the Radeon X1950 Pro outperformed even the Radeon X1800 XT in certain cases, while the GeForce 7900 GS provided same level of speed in games as the GeForce 7800 GTX. When it comes to the GeForce 8600 GTS, we cannot see it leaving the GeForce 7950 GT behind, not talking about more powerful GeForce 7900 GTX.

It should be kept in mind, however, that Asus EN8600 GTS graphics card that we tested operated at 675MHz/1.45GHz for the graphics core/unified shader processors and 2.0GHz for the memory, whereas there will be factory-overclocked graphics boards with clock-speeds boosted towards 720MHz/1560MHz for the GPU/SPs and 2.10GHz for memory. Those graphics cards are likely to offer higher performance compared to our today’s hero, though, we would not expect tremendous performance increases. It is interesting to note that Asus EN8600 GTS could not be overclocked at all with ForceWare 101.02, but when a beta version of the ForceWare 158.16 was installed, the board could be easily pushed to over 760MHz/2360MHz frequencies.

We do not know the exact reasons for Nvidia to cut-down computing power and performance of the GeForce 8600 so significantly when compared to the high-end brethren, but it would be logical to assume that the company wanted to get a very cost-efficient graphics processing unit (GPU) which could serve performance-mainstream and mainstream markets for a while. In fact, we would assume that the GeForce 8600-series may have the same destiny as the GeForce FX 5600, which was a mediocre DirectX 9 choice in spring/summer 2003, but which was quickly replaced by more powerful GeForce FX 5700 in fall 2003. Considering current performance of the GeForce 8600 GTS and keeping in mind that its die size is already quite large, we would assume a more powerful performance-mainstream GPU based on the G80 architecture made using 65nm process technology coming in sometime in late Q3 or early Q4. That said, we would strongly suggest end-users to consider the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB instead of the GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, as for about $75 - $100 premium you will be able to get performance that may be 100% higher.

Now, let’s summarize all the pros and cons of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS as well as Asus EN8600 GTS.

Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS

Highs:

  • DirectX 10 support
    Excellent quality of anisotropic filtering
  • Supports the new CSAA method of antialiasing
  • Wide choice of antialiasing modes
  • Supports FSAA and floating-point HDR simultaneously
  • Supports hardware decoding of H.264 and other HD video formats
  • Unified architecture with 32 shader processors
  • Efficient cooling system with relatively low noise level
  • Low power consumption

Lows:

  • Performance in line with GeForce 7900 GS and lower compared to Radeon X1950 Pro
  • Initial price-points of $199 - $229 are too high for this level of performance

Asus EN8600 GTS 256MB

Highs:

  • DirectX 10 support
    Excellent quality of anisotropic filtering
  • Supports the new CSAA method of antialiasing
  • Wide choice of antialiasing modes
  • Supports FSAA and floating-point HDR simultaneously
  • Supports hardware decoding of H.264 and other HD video formats
  • Unified architecture with 32 shader processors
  • Efficient cooling system with relatively low noise level
  • Low power consumption
  • Product bundle enough for using the graphics board and includes some exclusive software features

Lows:

  • Performance in line with GeForce 7900 GS and lower compared to Radeon X1950 Pro
  • Initial price-points of $199 - $229 are too high for this level of performance
  • Product bundle could have been better
 
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