GTX on Bargain: MSI GeForce NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC Review

Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT turned out a pretty successful solution not only from the performance standpoint, but also in terms of its overclocking potential. Pre-overclocked modifications of this video accelerator were destined to appear sooner or later and today we would like to tell you about one solution like that from MicroStar International who promise the performance of a GeForce 8800 GTX for only $259.

by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
12/13/2007 | 04:23 PM

The October, 29, announcement of the Nvidia G92 GPU was a remarkable event in the world of graphics hardware for the PC. The new GeForce 8800 GT 512MB graphics card proved to be but slightly inferior to the GeForce 8800 GTX in tests but had a recommended price of only $259. It is only occasionally that the new card was beaten by the more expensive ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT and it was almost always ahead of the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB.

 

Thanks to its 65nm tech process the graphics card is not only fast but also compact and, to all appearances, economical. Another consequence of the better tech process is an improved frequency potential. The core frequencies of the reference GeForce 8800 GT are much higher than those of the GeForce 8800 GTX and this doesn’t seem to be the limit for the new technology. Many of Nvidia’s partners have come up with pre-overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GTX, most of which come with rather modest coolers due to the relatively low heat dissipation.

As we have made sure in our review of Leadtek’s version of GeForce 8800 GT, such a graphics card can offer you the performance of a GeForce 8800 GTX and sometimes even more for a relatively small financial investment. Today we’ll be discussing a similar offer from another major hardware vendor. So, let us introduce to you the NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC graphics card from MicroStar International.

Package and Accessories

The packaging of MSI products seems to be the best you can see on the market. The box is small and fits easily into any bag, and also has a handle of its own. The box is decorated in MSI’s traditional style, but instead of robots, aliens or knights in shiny armor there is a picture of a cute lass here.

The text on the box informs you about the key technical features of the product. The GPU/Shader Performance sticker indicates that the card is pre-overclocked relative to the frequencies recommended by Nvidia.

Inside the wrapper there is the main cardboard box whose contents are protected with pieces of foam rubber and a transparent cover. The card is additionally wrapped into an antistatic pack which prevents it from damage during transportation or storage. Besides the card, the box contains the following:

The accessories are not numerous, yet quite satisfactory. Free games would not be much of a gift but would raise the retail price of the product, especially as the price of the OC-suffixed NX8800GT is going to be higher than that of the ordinary version anyway.

The only problem is about the documentation. The paper user manual is too brief while a full version is not available even on the CD. The system requirements listed in the manual do not mention the possible incompatibility with PCI Express 1.0/1.0a mainboards. There are a lot of such mainboards in use currently and their owners should be warned about the potential problem, we guess. Moreover, the manual mentions systems with Intel Pentium III and AMD K7 processors that cannot support PCI Express at all. MSI might have provided a more detailed and accurate manual.

The disc with the driver contains ForceWare 167.26 whereas the official WHQL driver for GeForce 8800 GT is currently ForceWare 169.02. The software bundle also contains MSI’s exclusive utilities such as Live Update 3 for updating the graphics card’s BIOS and driver. Most of gamers prefer to download the latest official driver directly from the GPU developer’s website, though.

So, the packaging of the MSI NX8800GT should be praised for its nice design and safety, but the accessories might be better. On the other hand, the box contains everything you need to use the card. The user manual should be more detailed and updated with features peculiar to PCI Express 2.0 graphics cards. And we guess a full version of the manual should be supplied as well, at least in electronic form.

That’s enough about the accessories, let’s now check out the graphics card itself.

PCB Design, Specifications, Cooling System

The described product from MSI employs the reference PCB design but only some of these cards seem to be bought read-made from Nvidia. NX8800GT series cards with the T2D512E index, i.e. equipped with 512 megabytes of graphics memory, come in two versions, V801 and V117, which differ at least in the color of the PCB. The former uses a classic green solder mask, and the latter, a red one, the corporate color of MSI. Our sample is V801 and we can’t tell you if it differs from V117 in anything else since we don’t have the latter. Cards from the same series but with the T2D256E index, i.e. with 256MB of memory, are coming to market in the V117 version only.

 

As you can see, the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC in its V801 version doesn’t differ in anything from Nvidia’s reference card except for the stickers on the cooler and fan. The picture on the cooler’s casing shows the same girl as on the box, and the sticker on the fan displays the MSI logo. The whole card is covered by the cooler casing, except for the PCI Express connector, and you can’t learn anything about the design of the card without removing it. As we had learned with the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme, it is not so easy to take it off. The plastic-like casing is actually made from metal and is not only secured with seven locks but also glued to the heatsink to prevent rattling. So, we had to dismantle the whole cooler (you can see the pictures of the same cooler in our previous article called From Extreme to Mainstream: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT from Leadtek).

The card uses a three-phase power circuit governed by a Primarion PX3544 PWM-controller, and there are seats for elements of a fourth phase on the PCB. This must be a reserve for future cards that will be based on a fully unlocked G92 with 128 active shader processors. A simpler chip, Intersil ISL6549CBZ, is responsible for the memory chips. The card has one external power connector (a traditional, 6-pin, one) that is more than enough to satisfy the modest appetite of the G92. A piezoelectric speaker to the left of it emits a warning sound in case of problems with power supply.

The memory chips are placed in a semicircle around the GPU. The card carries 8 GDDR3 chips (Qimonda HYB18H512321BF-10, 512Mb capacity, 16Mbx32) in FBGA-136 packaging for a total of 512MB of graphics memory accessed across a 256-bit bus. The rated frequency of such chips is 1000 (2000) MHz but they are clocked at 950 (1900) MHz, which is 50MHz higher than the memory frequency of the reference GeForce 8800 GT card. This ensures a memory bandwidth growth from 57.6GB/s to 60.8GB/s, which is still below the GeForce 8800 GTS’ 64GB/s. This factory overclocking can’t provide a considerable performance boost, yet it leaves some elbowroom for your own experiments with the clock rates.

The GPU has open-die packaging. The frame should be quite enough to protect the die since the G92 has a smaller area than the G80.

This sample of the revision A2 G92 core was manufactured at the 40th week of 2007, in early October. The GPU has a standard configuration with 112 unified ALUs, 28 texture modules with two address units per each two filter units, and four rasterization units equivalent to 16 ROPs. Nvidia claims the core to have 56 texture-mapping units but the texture processors are actually equivalent to 28 TMUs (such as in the G80 core) due to the lower performance at tri-linear and/or anisotropic filtering.

The main domain frequency is increased by MSI from 600 to 660MHz. The shader domain frequency is lifted up from 1500 to 1650MHz. That’s somewhat lower than the frequencies of the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme (680/1700MHz), yet should bring about some benefits in games.

The MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC offers a standard selection of connectors: two dual-link DVI-I ports with support of display resolutions up to 2560x1600, a universal 7-pin port for analog video output (Composite, S-Video, YPbPr), and a MIO connector for SLI configurations. The DVI ports are protected against dust with yellow plastic caps.

Notwithstanding the increased clock rates, the manufacturer limited himself to the reference cooler. We discussed it in our Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT review and will give you just a brief description here.

The new cooler developed by Nvidia for the GeForce 8800 GT has a single-slot form-factor. The cooler’s copper sole has immediate contact with the GPU die and transfers the heat to the heatsink consisting of thin aluminum plates by means of three flat heat pipes. The whole thing is installed on an aluminum foundation that has juts for contact with the memory chips and power circuit elements. Fabric pads soaked in white thermal grease are used there to ensure a proper thermal contact. Dark-gray thick thermal grease is used as a thermal interface between the GPU and the copper sole of the cooler. The grease covers almost the entire base of the cooler for some reason, although the G92 with its small die area doesn’t need that much. The cooler is secured on the card by means of 12 spring-loaded screws.

The cooler is equipped with a small but powerful blower with a 4-pin connection. Most of the time this fan has a reduced speed, but it is loud at its max speed when the system is started up. The heatsink is placed at an angle to the card’s longer side, so the hot air is exhausted towards the side panel of the system case, away from the card, and towards the DVI connectors. We don’t think it’s the best solution possible – Nvidia’s earlier coolers had a better design. For example, the fan of GeForce 6800/7800 cards was located near the interface connectors and exhausted the hot air at the card’s back, cooling the power circuit elements along the way.

The reference cooler does its job well enough notwithstanding the increased clock rates of the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC, but if you are seriously into overclocking or want to enjoy an absolute silence, you will have to replace it.

Overclockability, Noise, Compatibility

We tried to overclock the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC as it was, without installing a liquid cooling system or volt-modding the card. The maximum GPU frequency we achieved with the card’s native cooler was 700MHz, which is 100MHz higher than the reference frequency of GeForce 8800 GT, but 20MHz less than we achieved with a similar card from Leadtek. The shader domain was clocked at 1750MHz at that. The memory chips sped up better than on the Leadtek card, notching 1070 (2140) MHz. That’s quite a lot for chips rated for a clock rate of 1000 (2000) MHz. We didn’t test the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC at the overclocked frequencies since the frequency growth was rather small.

The MSI card coming with the reference cooler developed by Nvidia, its noise level was just as expected:

The level of ambient noise was 36dBA at the time of the test. The level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from a working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA.

Like any other GeForce 8800 GT, the MSI card has good noise characteristics and is unlikely to be audible among the other noise-producing components of a regular gaming system. In a silent system the card is going to be heard more distinctly, yet not annoyingly. The option of manual control over the fan speed is blocked and quite properly. Considering the rather moderate performance of the new reference cooler, the card may overheat if the fan speed is reduced too much.

As for compatibility, the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC could work with three out of five mainboards we had at our disposal: ASUS P5N32-E SLI, ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe and DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G. The card refused to work with an Intel Desktop Board D925XCV and an EPoX EP-9NPA+ SLI: the screen remained blank and if we booted the OS up using an auxiliary graphics card on the PCI bus, the Device Manager wouldn’t see the installed PCI Express card. Obviously, the support for PCI Express 1.0a is not itself an obstacle to using the GeForce 8800 GT because the card was perfectly compatible with the ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe which supported that PCI Express standard. Perhaps the problem roots in the specifics of the graphics card’s and/or mainboard’s BIOS. You should make sure the GeForce 8800 GT is compatible with your mainboard before purchasing it.

Testbed and Methods

To test the performance of MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC we assembled the following standard test platform:

Since we believe that the use of texture filtering optimizations is not justified in this case, the ATI and Nvidia graphics card drivers were set up to provide the highest possible quality of tri-linear and anisotropic filtering. Also, to ensure maximum image quality, we enabled transparent texture filtering - Adaptive Anti-Aliasing/Multi-sampling for ATI Catalyst and Antialiasing – Transparency: Multisampling for Nvidia ForceWare. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings looked as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia ForceWare:

For our tests we used the following games and benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

RPG

Strategies

Synthetic Benchmarks

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way. Games supporting DirectX 10 were tested in this particular mode. Performance was measured with the games’ own tools or, if not available, manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.1. We also measured the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

With a few exceptions, the tests were performed in the following standard resolutions: 1280x1024/960, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200/1440. We used “eye candy” mode everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR/Shader Model 3.0/Shader Model 4.0. Namely, we ran the tests with enabled anisotropic filtering as well as MSAA 4x antialiasing. We enabled them from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of Catalyst and ForceWare drivers

MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC will be competing against the following graphics accelerators participating in our test session:

Performance in First-Person Shooters

Battlefield 2142

This game doesn’t support display resolutions of 16:10 format, so we use a resolution of 1920x1440 pixels (4:3 format) instead of 1920x1200 for it.

The clock rates of the MSI NX8800GT OC are slightly lower than those of the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT, but it doesn’t show up in this test. The difference between the cards is less than 1fps and both of them deliver the same speed as the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX. Besides other things, it means that the flagship product of the GeForce 8 series is about to retire because the ordinary GeForce 8800 GT is a mere 11% behind it in the worst case, which is very little considering the difference in the technical characteristics, particularly in the memory subsystem parameters, and in price.

BioShock

BioShock doesn’t support FSAA when running in Windows Vista’s DirectX 10 environment. That’s why we benchmarked the cards without FSAA.

The overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT feel all right here, outperforming the GeForce 8800 GTX. This may be due to their using a ForceWare driver from the newer 169 branch whereas the rest of the GeForce 8800 series uses the 163 branch of the driver. Anyway, the card costing $250-300 is successfully competing with the $599 product here. The version with the reference frequencies is slightly behind the GeForce 8800 GTX, yet provides comfortable performance at a resolution of 1920x1200.

Call of Juarez

 

Call of Juarez is one of the few games in which the ATI Radeon HD 2900 series has a strong position. Here, the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB is just a few frames-per-second worse than the overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT and beats the reference GeForce 8800 GT as well as the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX. Ironically, this game had taken part in Nvidia’s The Way It’s Meant to Be Played program but it is currently not on the official TWIMTBP program list.

The game has serious graphics memory requirements in DirectX 10 mode. As you can see, the standard amount of 512 megabytes is not enough for it at resolutions above 1280x1024 – that’s why the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX with its 768MB of memory goes ahead so suddenly. It is followed by the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. At a resolution of 1280x1024 the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB is the only card to feel the shortage of memory, yet even the best result of 23fps from the GeForce 8800 GTX is not good enough for comfortable play.

Crysis

Crytek maintains its reputation of a developer of heavy applications. Far Cry was a burden for the best graphics cards at the time of its release, and Crysis is such for the best graphics cards of 2007.

The game features exquisite visuals but its Very High level of detail is hardly really available for normal play even for people who have two Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra in SLI mode. Notwithstanding the disabled FSAA, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT and GTX cannot provide more than 20fps at 1280x1024, and overclocking doesn’t help here at all. Theoretically, the results of the MSI card are close to those of the GeForce 8800 GTX, except for 1920x1200, but this information has no practical value for the gamer. The current generation of graphics cards only allows to play Crysis at the High or lower level of detail.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

The frame rate is fixed at 30fps in this game as this is the rate at which the physical model is being updated at the server. Thus, this 30fps speed is the required minimum for playing the game.

The overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT are just as fast as the GeForce 8800 GTX at a resolution of 1280x1024 but the head of the GeForce 8 series doesn’t lose as much speed as the G92-based products at the higher resolutions. The memory bandwidth is a performance-affecting factor in this game, probably due to MegaTexture technology (for details see our article called Unreal Battlefield: Enemy Territory Quake Wars Performance Preview). The results of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB do not support this supposition but we can recall that ATI’s support for OpenGL has never been perfect. Insufficiently optimized drivers may be the explanation of the Radeon’s results as well.

Far Cry

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX is in the lead on the Pier map, increasing the gap at higher resolutions. That’s a result you could expect considering that it has more TMUs and a more efficient TMU architecture, and a higher memory bandwidth as well. However, each version of GeForce 8800 GT and the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB all make the game playable at any resolution. The same goes for the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. Although its average performance is much lower than that of Nvidia’s solutions, it is never lower than 60fps even at 1920x1200.

The Research map puts forth different requirements and the higher frequency of the shader domain allows the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT to compete with the GeForce 8800 GTX at resolutions up to 1600x1200 and 1680x1050 inclusive. The flagship product wins at 1920x1200 but its advantage over the MSI NX8800GT OC amounts to 13% only. Every graphics card allows playing the game comfortably at 1920x1200.

 

It’s different when we use HDR but disable FSAA: the overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT are as fast as the GeForce 8800 GTX in both open and closed scenes. The reference version isn’t much slower and only at high resolutions. This must be due to the less strict memory bandwidth requirements in this test mode.

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate

Like Battlefield 2142, this game does not support resolutions of 16:10 format. So, we use 1920x1440 (4:3 format) instead of 1920x1200 in this test.

Perseus Mandate brings a number of innovations into the gameplay but does not affect the technical aspect, so the performance of the cards remains the same with the new add-on pack. All the three versions of GeForce 8800 GT included into this review show an acceptable speed at resolutions up to 1920x1200 inclusive. The pre-overclocked version from Leadtek is ahead of the MSI card, but the gap is really negligible.

For some reason the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX feels diffident in comparison with the GeForce 8800 GT at 1920x1200 although it should be otherwise. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB has a good average frame rate but its minimum of speed is much lower than that of Nvidia’s solutions. That’s why we don’t think that the game is really playable on that card at resolutions above 1280x1024.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

The MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC is slower than the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme by 0.9-1.5fps. This negligible difference can be disregarded since both cards deliver about the same performance as the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX. There is no difference between the GeForce 8800 GT and 8800 GTX when it comes to playing this game. The same goes for the reference card since you can overclock it to the same level as the cards from MSI and Leadtek.

Episode Two is much more demanding than Episode One, and the average frame rate of the pre-overclocked cards is higher than 60fps at 1280x1024 only. At a resolution of 1600x1200 it is close to 50fps. Subjectively, the game is playable in the latter case, but we don’t recommend you to turn FSAA on for playing at 1920x1200.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

The game doesn’t support FSAA when you enable the dynamic lighting model, but loses much of its visual appeal with the static model. This is the reason why we benchmarked the cards in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. using anisotropic filtering only.

At a resolution of 1280x1024 the MSI NX8800GT OC is only 3.5% behind the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX. The gap grows 9-11% at the higher resolutions but the minimum speed of the GeForce 8800 GT is below 25fps at 1920x1200, which is a problem since your aiming accuracy is most important for this game. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB is still slow in this game.

Unreal Tournament 3

Contrary to the developer’s promises, Unreal Tournament 3 doesn’t support FSAA even in the Windows Vista environment. Forcing FSAA from the graphics card’s driver doesn’t produce any effect. Perhaps the FSAA support will be added by means of a patch.

Unlike the hardware-burning Crysis, this game has a rather moderate appetite. Moreover, it doesn’t have a predilection to any of the GPU developers and runs equally fast on the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT. The MSI card is about 10% behind the GeForce 8800 GTX at 1920x1200 and differs by only 4% from the speed of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. The average frame rate is always above 60fps, so every graphics card included into this review allows playing this game with full comfort.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

It’s uncertain what hardware the developer kept in mind when working on Lost Planet. None of modern graphics cards can provide even 25fps at the maximum graphics quality settings. We can compare the cards anyway, and it’s clear that the pre-overclocked versions of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT are not any worse than the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX while the non-overclocked version is the best choice in the $249 price category.

If you want to have a playable speed in this game, you should change some settings from High to Medium as we described in our review of DirectX 10 games.

Tomb Raider: Legend

  

The MSI NX8800GT OC isn’t any worse than the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX starting from a resolution of 1600x1200 and even provides a better minimum of speed. The frame rate remains high at every resolution, unlike with the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB that has a poor minimum of speed in spite of a good average frame rate.

Performance in RPG

Gothic 3

The current version of the game doesn’t support FSAA, so we performed the test with anisotropic filtering only.

The MSI card has a considerably better minimum speed than the Leadtek while having the same average frame rate. This must be due to the inherent inaccuracy of the manual test method – the game doesn’t provide built-in benchmarking tools. Anyway, the NX8800GT OC is not any worse than the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX and can be successfully used at resolutions up to 1920x1200 inclusive, unlike the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The game loses much of its visual appeal without HDR. Although some gamers argue that point, we think TES IV looks best with enabled FP HDR and test it in this mode.

Every card delivers comfortable performance in closed environments and dungeons, and the per-overclocked versions of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT look best, while the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB is the worst one here.

There are similar results in open scenes: all the versions of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT and the GeForce 8800 GTX deliver almost the same performance. Their results are high enough even for a first-person shooter that requires accurate aiming and shooting: the average frame rate is never lower than 60fps and the minimum speed is always above 30fps.

Users of ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB and Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB should feel comfortable while playing this game, although the min speed may bottom out below 25fps at high resolutions.

Performance in Strategies

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

The new add-on to Company of Heroes is tested in DirectX 10 mode only since it provides the highest quality of the visuals.

There are two groups again: one includes all versions of GeForce 8800 GT and the GeForce 8800 GTX. These cards deliver high average performance. The other group includes the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB and the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB – these have a worse average speed due to the lack of graphics memory in the former and the poorly optimized driver of the latter. Both groups have problems with minimum speed, though. The cards of the first group make the game playable anyway, but the second group suffers slowdowns to 5-6fps.

Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars

The game having a frame rate limiter, you should consider the minimum speed of the cards in the first place.

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB has a low minimum of speed at 1920x1200, but that shouldn’t affect your playing comfort. The other cards are equal as concerns running this game.

World in Conflict

The demo version of this game was described in our The Second Encounter: DirectX 10 Games vs. Contemporary Graphics Accelerators review and now we’ve included it into our regular test program.

The MSI NX8800GT OC is slightly slower than the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB at high resolutions, which is quite a surprise. Even the reference version of GeForce 8800 GT is only inferior to the GeForce 8800 GTS in the amount of raster operators and in the memory bandwidth (very slightly), but we’ve got an overclocked version of the card here. These results may come from the different architecture of texture processors, or maybe the use of FSAA together with numerous military machine models makes the 20 ROPs of the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB a serious factor in this test. Anyway, these graphics cards cannot provide a comfortable frame rate at the maximum graphics quality settings.

Note the rather low results of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. The new ATI Radeon HD 3800 can hardly be much better as its architecture doesn’t differ much from its predecessor’s.

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark05

Some overclockers use the overall 3DMark score as the point of reference although it has little to do with a graphics card’s performance in real-life conditions. Here, the overall scores suggest that the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX is inferior not only to the pre-overclocked versions of the GeForce 8800 GT but also to the reference version but it is not so as we know from the gaming tests. So, let’s consider the results of the individual 3DMark tests we got when benchmarking the cards with anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing.

The first test shows that the reference GeForce 8800 GT is no faster than the GeForce 8800 GTX, especially at high resolutions. This is a prerogative of the pre-overclocked versions from MSI and Leadtek. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB performs poorly in this test, contrary to its overall score.

The MSI card is ahead of the GeForce 8800 GTX in the second test at 1280x1024 only. At other resolutions the gap is less than 1fps due to the weaker memory subsystem of the new card. The AMD/ATI card feels more confident than in the previous test, yet it is still far behind even the reference GeForce 8800 GT.

The third test agrees that it’s only at overclocked frequencies that the GeForce 8800 GT can outperform the GeForce 8800 GTX. However, it is only 2% behind the flagship of the GeForce 8800 series at 1280x1024 and 5-6% behind it at 1920x1200.

Futuremark 3DMark06

Being a more modern benchmarking suite, 3DMark06 has it a different way: there is no equality between the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB and Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GT and GTX. The pre-overclocked G92-based cards score over 11.000 points, which is quite impressive for their rather modest price.

The GeForce 8800 GT shows a bigger effect from overclocking in the SM2.0 than in the SM3.0/HDR tests, but the latter tests prove how important the GPU’s computing capacity is when the graphics card has to process numerous complex shaders – just look at the results of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT.

Overclocking has the biggest effect on the performance of the GeForce 8800 in the first test, which is sensitive to the graphics card’s texturing speed. The same effect is smaller in the second test where the MSI NX8800GT OC is a mere 0.6fps ahead of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX, for example.

The MSI NX8800GT OC goes neck and neck with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX in the first of the SM3.0/HDR tests but the flagship card is unrivalled in the second where the number of execution subunits must be the decisive factor.

Conclusion

The MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC graphics card has passed our tests just as successfully as the previously tested Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme, being often equal to or even better than the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX. We should note that many modern games, e.g. Crysis and World in Conflict, are so heavy for the graphics subsystem that even an Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra cannot run them at an acceptable speed with the highest graphics quality settings. Anyway, we are quite sure that the described card from MSI is one of the best options for a gamer who doesn’t want to spend over $500 for a GeForce 8800 GTX which has but a small advantage over G92-based solutions. Unfortunately, these excellent graphics cards are still rather rare and sell at increased prices.

You will hardly find the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC selling for the recommended price of $259, especially as it is a pre-overclocked version, but it is going to be cheaper than a GeForce 8800 GTX anyway. The only thing you should make sure of is that this card is compatible with your mainboard. And like with other GeForce 8800 GT, there is no clear correlation with the version of the PCI Express interface supported by the mainboard. The card may work in one PCI Express 1.0/1.0a mainboard and refuse to work in another.

Apart from the increased GPU and memory frequencies, the MSI card doesn’t differ from the reference GeForce 8800 GT. It doesn’t have gorgeous accessories or an advanced cooler, but it copes with its main job quite well – it delivers high performance in games. So, if you are not interested in such bonuses as free games, if you are not into extreme overclocking, and if ou are experienced enough to do without a detailed user manual, the MSI NX8800GT-T2D512E-OC is going to suit you just fine.

Highs:

Lows: