The NV43 graphics processor has been on the market for over a year and NV43-based graphics cards have come to be loved by users due to their reasonable pricing and good performance. Two main products that use that chip are GeForce 6600 GT and GeForce 6600. We have repeatedly tested numerous versions of the former card, including such truly unique products as ASUS Extreme N6600GT Silencer (for details see our article called ASUS Extreme N6600GT Silencer: Extremely Silent, Extremely Hot ). After all the tests and comparisons we have made we can now claim that we know everything about every performance-related aspect of the GeForce 6600 GT.
The GeForce 6600 has been a less frequent visitor of our labs, yet we know quite a lot about that device, too. Unlike with GeForce 6600 GT, the design of 6600 cards varied depending on the graphics card manufacturer. The specified frequencies of GeForce 6600 being 300MHz GPU and 250 (500) MHz memory, most manufacturers equipped them with cheap DDR chips that rarely had an access time of less than 5 nanoseconds. As our tests showed, it was the slow memory with a bandwidth of only 8GB/s that was the main bottleneck in the GeForce 6600 design. As a consequence, the card was acceptably fast in modern games in low resolutions only. Using full-screen antialiasing was out of the question altogether. Overclocking a GeForce 6600 was generally an unrewarding task. The GPU could often be overclocked to the frequency of the GeForce 6600 GT, i.e. 500MHz, but the slow TSOP-packaged memory had a close-to-zero overclocking potential.
As for market competition, the GeForce 6600 was almost always slower than the ATI RADEON X700 whose reference sample clocked the memory at 350 (500) MHz. It wouldn’t be so fatal since ATI Technologies permitted its partners to use slower memory on their RADEON X700 cards and they did catch at the opportunity. For example, the PowerColor Bravo X700 card is equipped with GDDR2 memory clocked at 266 (533) MHz and its performance is like that of the GeForce 6600 as a result (for details see our article called PowerColor Bravo X700 Graphics Card Review: High-End Features at Affordable Price? ). However, the GeForce 6600 got a dangerous rival when ATI announced its RADEON X1000 series. The new RADEON X1300 PRO, working at 600/400 (800) MHz frequencies, proved to be faster than the GeForce 6600 in almost all applications, despite having only four pixel pipelines (for details see our article called ATI RADEON X1300 PRO: Entry-Level Gets a Decent Performer?). Its GDDR2 memory clocked at 400 (800) MHz and accessed across a 128-bit bus contributed greatly to that result as it ensured a bandwidth of 12.8GB/s.
GDDR2 production volumes are constantly growing and the price of that memory type is becoming ever lower, while its frequency characteristics are far superior to ordinary DDR. There should also be no obstacles to increasing the frequency of the GeForce 6600 GPU. The NV43 chip has long been in production and a high yield of chips capable of working at 500MHz has been achieved. Samples that don’t support 500MHz can still be clocked at lower frequencies, like 350-400MHz.
Thus, there appeared a simple and elegant way for NVIDIA to get out of the above-mentioned trouble. The GPU frequency of the GeForce 6600 must be made higher, and the card must be equipped with inexpensive GDDR2. This is how the GeForce 6600 GDDR2 graphics card was born. The XFX GeForce 6600 GDDR we are going to examine today doesn’t differ from the reference card, except for the color of the PCB and the GPU frequency.