by Alexey Stepin
03/25/2005 | 12:24 PM
You may have got used already to frequent visits products from Leadtek make to our test labs. Every time it is a memorable event, as it was with the WinFast A350 TDH that astonished us with its cosmic looks (see our article called Dependence of Contemporary High-End Graphics Accelerators Performance on FSAA Mode: VisionTek Xtasy 9800 PRO and Leadtek WinFast A350 TDH Graphics Cards Review for details) or the WinFast A400 Ultra TDH with its highly potent heat-pipes-based cooling system (see our article called Leadtek WinFast A400 Ultra TDH Graphics Card Review for details).
Graphics cards from Leadtek feature a very high quality of manufacture, rich accessories and a software bundle full of useful programs, but they can’t boast noiselessness, at least if we talk about high-end devices we’ve traditionally tested so far. But now we’ve got midrange cards from Leadtek, based on the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GPU (NV43).
One of them, the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH, is going to be reviewed right now.
It’s easy to read the name of a Leadtek card if you know the rules: “PX” denotes a PCI Express device, while the three letters “TDH” stand for TV-out, DVI output and hardware monitoring, respectively. Then, it’s easy to guess that “6600 GT” means we are dealing with a version of the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT graphics card.
The retail package of this product is designed like the box from the WinFast A400 Ultra TDH, but has a different size and a different picture on the front. Leadtek’s designers seem to be great admirers of fantasy: another mage, a magic staff in hand, is staring at you from the box with a PX6600 GT TDH. This paper parcel opens easily to reveal the following:
Leadtek put a special universal adapter instead of several cables, oftentimes of a doubtable quality, that you usually find enclosed with a graphics card. A short span of cable goes from the 9-pin connector which is plugged into the appropriate socket at the graphics card’s bracket and ends in a small plastic box with a full menu of outputs: composite, YPbPr (HDTV) and S-Video. You can’t output to HDTV and S-Video/Composite at the same time, but this adapter is anyway handier when several independent cables.
The user manual was printed on a thin paper, but that’s the only drawback: the installation procedure is described in detail and illustrated as necessary. Another booklet, WinFast Graphics Series General Guide, is about the software bundle, particularly about WinFox, the software suite we already described in our Leadtek WinFast A350 TDH MyVIVO review. There’s no point in repeating ourselves, but in brief, WinFox’s functionality covers overclocking, color rendition setup, and hardware monitoring. Besides that, the VGA BIOS Flash utility from this suite allows updating the graphics card’s BIOS from Windows.
The games enclosed with this card should be already known to you if for no other reason than that we use them in our reviews. They deserve a gamer’s attention for their good graphics and plot and make a good addition to the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH.
Like a majority of GeForce 6600 GT-based products, the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH doesn’t try to deviate from NVIDIA’s reference design. We’ve got the same compact and rather simple PCB here:
We found not a single point of difference from the reference GeForce 6600 GT save for the VIVO-supporting Philips SAA7715 chip being missing on the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH. It means the reviewed card cannot take video in from external sources, which is a feature of those Leadtek cards that have “MyVIVO” in their names.
The cooler installed on the PX6600 GT TDH, on the contrary, differs much from the reference one. Its design and operation resemble Thermaltake’s once-popular Orb series, but with an asymmetrical heatsink – the heatsink’s ribs are longer at the side which is closer to the memory chips. The fan is also larger than the original one: 60 instead of 50 millimeters in diameter. Its blades are profiled in such a way as to drive the sucked-in air to the sides, along the ribs. This design should keep the GPU cool, considering the low heat dissipation of the 0.11-micron chip. This solution is also going to be quiet. To prevent the GPU die from chipping, the cooler’s sole is equipped with a special frame made of soft material. Ordinary, white and rather thick thermal paste is the interface between the cooler and the chip. The whole arrangement is fastened to the PCB by means of two spring-loaded clips, which are quite enough to hold the relatively small cooler. Thanks to the tight springs and to the protective frame, the cooler sits motionless on its place, without any slackness.
Like many modern graphics cards, the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH carries GDDR3 memory from Samsung. The four chips are marked as K4J55323QF-GC20, i.e. they have an access time of 2.0 nanoseconds and are rated for 500 (1000DDR) MHz frequency. That’s exactly the frequency the memory works at on this card. The GPU is clocked at the normal 500MHz frequency (300MHz in 2D applications) and has eight pixel and three vertex processors.
The cooling system Leadtek put on the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH didn’t prove to be absolutely silent, yet its noise mostly consisted of the rustle of the air rather than of the much more noticeable and annoying buzz of the fan. We observed no overheat-related problems, so this cooler from Leadtek should be considered a good solution.
We were very pleased with the overclocking potential of the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH: we managed to lift the core frequency to 650MHz, i.e. 150MHz above the default clock rate! For this overclocking test we installed an additional 120mm fan to blow at the card and tested it in an open testbed. We don’t recommend to you to repeat this experiment without improving the standard cooling of the card. The memory, unfortunately, couldn’t work at frequencies above 1020MHz – there would appear various artifacts on the screen. We could have probably got a score of megahertz more if we had installed additional heatsinks on the memory chips, but 1000MHz default clock rate is already high.
No problems with the 2D image quality – the card’s both outputs, D-Sub and DVI (via an adapter), yielded a perfect picture in all resolutions up to 1800x1440@75Hz inclusive. This item checked up, we can proceed to our tests.
We performed our tests on a testbed configured like follows:
Since we didn’t have a sample of the GeForce 6800 for PCI Express in our labs at the time of our tests, we benchmarked it on our AGP platform (these results are marked with an asterisk (*) in the diagrams):
Besides the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH, we included the following cards into this review for the comparison’s sake:
PCI Express hardware
The Catalyst A.I. option was set to “Standard”, and the Mipmap Detail Level option to “Quality” in ATI’s Catalyst driver. We also enabled the ForceWare optimizations save for the Anisotropic mip filter optimization. We used the Quality mode for Image Settings. We disabled VSync in the drivers for all the participating cards.
We turned on full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering from the game’s own menu. Otherwise we forced the necessary mode from the driver. The maximum graphics quality settings were selected in each game, the same for graphics cards on ATI’s and NVIDIA’s GPUs.
We used the following games and benchmarks for this review:
First Person 3D Shooters:
Third Person 3D Shooters:
At its regular frequencies the WinFast PX6600 GT goes abreast of the more powerful RADEON X800 XL, because Doom III runs faster on NVIDIA’s cards using some peculiarities of the GeForce6 architecture. Then, the game uses the OpenGL API, and NVIDIA’s OpenGL driver is more perfect than ATI’s. The overclocked Leadtek is on the same level with the GeForce 6800, which has 12 pixel pipelines, but works at much lower frequencies.
The PX6600 GT feels a keen lack of the memory bandwidth in the “eye candy” mode and falls behind the RADEON X800 XL. Overclocking helps to close this gap almost. The 8-pipelined RADEON X700 XT/PRO cards from ATI have very low speeds in Doom III, so they are out of competition here.
The participating cards rank up in the same order on the d3dm4 map, too. The speeds are overall higher here, since there are no monsters on this multiplayer map.
The Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is less successful here than on the Hellhole map, although it’s ahead of the RADEON X700 XT at its default frequencies. When overclocked, the Leadtek card almost overtakes the GeForce 6800 in 1600x1200, but cannot catch up with the faster devices.
Unfortunately, owing to some problems with ForceWare 66.93 all NV4x-based cards with the PCI Express interface have a lower performance maximum than ATI’s devices. So, we don’t have a correct comparison here.
We have the same problems with the driver in the “eye candy” mode, too. But we can determine the profit you gain by overclocking the PX6600 GT TDH: the extra 150MHz GPU frequency bring an 8-11% speed bonus.
The same ForceWare-rooted problem persists on the Metallurgy map.
In high resolutions, with enabled anisotropic filtering, the performance gain from overclocking the GeForce 6600 GT-based card from Leadtek is about 5-10%.
The game can use the specifics of NVIDIA’s graphics architecture that give certain advantages when rendering shadows, so the GeForce 6x00 cards have excellent speeds here. The WinFast PX6600 GT is faster than the RADEON X700 PRO and XT in all resolutions. In 1024x768, when the graphics memory subsystem has the smallest influence on the performance, the Leadtek card even outperforms the RADEON X800 XL. It makes sense to overclock the CPU – the performance gain is 10% here.
The Leadtek card fell behind the missing-in-the-shops RADEON X700 XT in the “eye candy” mode since the latter features a better memory controller and 256MB of memory, their bus widths being the same. The performance of the PX6600 GT in high resolutions is roughly on the same level with the RADEON X700 PRO. Overclocking doesn’t bring any significant gains as we couldn’t overclock the graphics memory well.
The WinFast PX6600 GT TDH shows the performance of the RADEON X700 XT in Far Cry, but the latter is hardly a mass product. So we’d better compare the Leadtek card to the RADEON X700 PRO which works at lower frequencies and has a 20% lower speed in high resolutions.
When full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are enabled, the performance of the PX6600 GT TDH falls to the level of the RADEON X700 PRO but overclocking helps the Leadtek card to overtake not only the RADEON X700 XT, but also the GeForce 6800.
The WinFast PX6600 GT is slower than the RADEON X700 XT and PRO in low resolutions, but leaves them behind in higher display modes, getting very close to the GeForce 6800. Overclocking brings a 10-15% performance boost to the Leadtek card. Yet the 16-pipelined graphics cards remain unrivalled.
The “eye candy” mode doesn’t affect the performance of the card as negatively here as it did on the Pier map. Even at its default frequencies the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is as fast as the RADEON X700 XT and leaves the GeForce 6800 behind in high resolutions.
Our supposition that the speed of the new Painkiller depends on the GPU frequency more than on the number of pixel pipelines, comes true: the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH outperforms not only the GeForce 6800, but also the 6800 GT! The RADEON X700 XT has almost the same speed here.
It’s overall the same in the “eye candy” mode, except 1600x1200 resolution where the Leadtek is slower than the GeForce 6800 GT. The RADEON X700 XT and PRO cards are anyway at their ease even in the highest resolution.
The problem of ForceWare 66.93 with PCI Express-compatible graphics cards shows up in Half-Life 2, but in 1600x1200 the PX6600 GT produces roughly the same frame rate as the RADEON X700 PRO and GeForce 6800.
The cards retain their respective positions after the activation of full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, but the GeForce 6800 with its 256-bit memory bus advances somewhat. There’s water to be rendered on this map, and ATI’s cards are better at doing that. Let’s see what we have on a map where there are fewer complex pixel shaders.
Against our expectations, the Leadtek performs on the d3_c17_12 level like on the previous map, delivering the speed of the RADEON X700 PRO. Overclocking helps to reach the level of the RADEON X700 XT and GeForce 6800, which is a good result.
At its default frequencies the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is slower even than the RADEON X700 PRO in the FSAA + anisotropic filtering mode. Once again, we should regard the results of NVIDIA’s PCI Express cards in Half-Life 2 with some discretion due to the above-mentioned problem.
The numerous visual effects of this game are created with the help of pixel shaders and this should give an advantage to GPUs from ATI Technologies. We test this game in the “pure speed” mode only, since it has problems with full-screen anti-aliasing. The memory subsystem affecting the performance but slightly, the overclocked PX6600 GT TDH almost overtakes the GeForce 6800 and 6800 GT. When at its default frequencies, the Leadtek card can only compete with the RADEON X700 PRO.
The WinFast PX6600 GT is racing abreast of the RADEON X700 PRO, and when overclocked, with the RADEON X700 XT. None of the 8-pipelined cards can catch up even with the GeForce 6800, although the overclocked Leadtek is close to that in 1024x768.
Thanks to its efficient OpenGL driver, the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH puts on an excellent performance in Aces in the Sky, being only slower than NVIDIA’s cards of a higher category. Overclocking helps the Leadtek to get close to the GeForce 6800, but the GeForce 6800 GT remains an unrivalled leader in this test.
The Leadtek card looks even better in the “eye candy” mode. Even at its default frequencies it is only inferior to the 16-pipelined GeForce 6800 GT, being ahead of the rest of the participants.
The Leadtek shows a sparkling performance in Lock On, too. It’s on the same level with the GeForce 6800. When overclocked, it is similar to the GeForce 6800 GT.
The PX6600 GT feels even more confident with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. At least, it’s only slower than the GeForce 6800 GT and only at the default frequencies.
Colin McRae Rally 2005 prefers cards that execute pixel shaders quickly and have large amounts of graphics memory. That’s why the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is slower even than the RADEON X700 PRO here. Overclocking improves this situation for the Leadtek card somewhat.
In the “eye candy” mode, however, the Leadtek can’t do much even at the overclocked frequencies. The exception is 1600x1200 resolution where the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH equals the RADEON X700 PRO, but both yield too low, uncomfortable frame rates.
Dawn of War is very sensitive to the number of pixel pipelines the graphics card has. The 16-pipelined GPUs run this game at the maximum speed, the 12-pipelined GeForce 6800 is a little slower, and the mainstream 8-pipelined cards like RADEON X700 XT and Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH share the third place. Overclocking the latter ensures a nice performance gain that helps the Leadtek card to challenge the GeForce 6800.
When full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are enabled, the cards with more than 8 pipelines and a 256-bit memory bus find themselves far ahead of the rest of the participants. As for the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH, its performance is on the same level with the RADEON X700 PRO. When overclocked, this card leaves the X700 PRO behind, but cannot catch up with the top-end solutions, although the overclocking gain amounts to 20% and more here.
As you know, graphics cards with a higher pixel shader performance have usually won this test, but it’s different now and the game seems to prefer NVIDIA’s cards for some reason. As is often the case, the reason may lie somewhere in the driver, but it’s not improbable that the ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe mainboard influences the performance. We rechecked the results of this test, but got the same numbers. As you see, the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is successfully contending with the ATI RADEON X800 XL even at the default frequencies! And we didn’t observe any problems with the quality of the image.
To even higher surprise, the WinFast PX6600 GT outperforms the RADEON X800 XL in the “eye candy” mode, too!
The above-mentioned problem with PCI Express graphics cards on GeForce 6x00 GPUs and ForceWare 66.93 occurs in this benchmark, too. These graphics cards all have identical speeds here.
The WinFast PX6600 GT TDH and the RADEON X700 XT have almost the same speeds in Aquamark3, which is an easy test from the pixel shader standpoint. The overclocked Leadtek is as fast as the GeForce 6800.
The new graphics card is somewhat worse with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering: it’s competing with the RADEON X700 PRO here. Overclocking brings it back to the level of the RADEON X700 XT in all resolutions.
The Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH scores almost the same number of points as the RADEON X700 XT: the ATI card has only 106 points more. Overclocking adds about 1100 points to the Leadtek’s score, but it’s still not enough to catch up with the GeForce 6600.
The Leadtek card looks very good in the first test, especially at the increased frequencies. It’s no wonder as this test is the simplest in 3DMark03 and only uses DirectX 7.
We enable full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering to see the PX6600 GT slowing down as the resolution grows: in 1600x1200 it is on the same level with the RADEON X700 PRO. At the increased frequencies the Leadtek card is ahead of the RADEON X700 XT and equals it in the highest resolution.
The second game test runs faster on NVIDIA’s cards due to the employed rendering techniques. This time the PX6600 GT is far ahead of the RADEON X700 XT. When overclocked to 650MHz GPU frequency, the Leadtek card comes very close up to the RADEON X800 XL.
The WinFast PX6600 GT TDH can’t rival the RADEON X800 XL in the “eye candy” mode, but it is ahead of mainstream graphics cards from ATI Technologies.
The third game test is technologically identical to the second one, so the overall picture is the same here.
Again, the results of the “eye candy” mode of the third test are analogous to what we’ve seen in the second.
It is astonishing, but the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is as fast in the fourth test as the RADEON X700 XT, although there’s a lot of complex pixel shaders here which NVIDIA’s cards have always processed worse than their rivals from the ATI camp. Overclocking gives such a tremendous boost to the Leadtek card that it overtakes the GeForce 6800 and nearly equals the RADEON X800 XL!
There’s a curious situation in the “eye candy” mode: the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH doesn’t want to give way to the RADEON X700 XT even here! The overclocked Leadtek keeps next to the GeForce 6800.
The Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH has a considerably lower total 3DMark05 score than the RADEON X700 XT at the default frequencies, but a much higher score at the increased frequencies. Let’s examine this result in more detail.
The PX6600 GT is negligibly slower than the RADEON X700 XT in this first, 3D-shooter-like test.
It’s hard to say anything about the “eye candy” mode, as graphics cards with 128 megabytes of graphics memory refuse to launch this test in resolutions above 1024x768, and the Leadtek card is among them.
In the second test the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is less than 1fps behind the RADEON X700 XT.
The same is true for the “eye candy” mode with its full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.
Strangely enough, the graphics card from Leadtek doesn’t seem willing to give up its ground in the third test that actively uses very long and complex pixel shaders. Overclocked, it is successfully competing with the GeForce 6800.
ATI’s architecture is, however, more efficient with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. The RADEON X700 XT is by far faster than the Leadtek card.
The Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH graphics card leaves a highly positive impression, not just due to its cooling system which proved to be quieter than the reference one, but also due to its accessories with two fine games. Otherwise, the product is an exact copy of the reference GeForce 6600 GT.
The performance of the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH is generally on the same level with the RADEON X700 XT, but as ATI had refused to issue this card into market, we should compare the Leadtek card to the RADEON X700 PRO. This latter comes with 256MB of onboard memory but works at rather low frequencies. As a result, it often turns to be slower than the Leadtek WinFast PX6600 GT TDH, especially in games that use OpenGL and don’t use complex pixel shaders, and without full-screen anti-aliasing, too.
At the current moment, the GeForce 6600 GT is one of the best mainstream graphics cards in terms of both performance and technical capabilities: the NV43 GPU supports Shader Model 3.0, UltraShadow II technology, hardware video processing with NVIDIA’s PureVideo engine. In near future, however, the GeForce 6600 GT will have to face a dangerous rival – the ATI RADEON X800 equipped with 12 pixel pipelines, 6 vertex processors, and a 256-bit memory bus. Considering that ATI positions this card as a mass solution priced below $200, the GeForce 6600 GT is going to have hard times ahead.
As for the particular implementation of the GeForce 6600 GT that you have seen today, the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH graphics card from Leadtek, it really deserves your consideration. If you want video-capturing functionality, consider a VIVO version of this card with the Philips chip, while overclockers are offered the WinFast PX6600 GT TDH Extreme version with faster memory and 550/1120MHz frequencies.