Introduction and Test Setup

Last week saw the announcement of the 8600 GTS, 8600 GT, and 8500 GT graphics cards from NVIDIA. We haven't yet gotten our hands on an 8500 GT, but we've added a few more performance tests in the meantime. A deeper look at the G84's video processing capabilities will also follow, as we have a working driver, player, and HD-DVD drive.

From a pure performance perspective, we were underwhelmed with the 8600 series. While there are cases where G84 performs well, such as in Oblivion and Rainbow Six, performance wasn't very impressive in other titles like Prey and Battlefield 2. With the two more intensive graphically intensive games showing more promise, we decided that further investigation was in order.

We have thrown two RTS and two more FPS games into the mix this time. Our lineup has filled out to include the very recent titles S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Supreme Commander. We also have two returning titles in F.E.A.R. and Company of Heroes. Hopefully these additions will give us a better idea of where G84 stands.

Our test setup is nearly the same, but we have added one more graphics card to the mix: the Radeon X1900 XT 256MB. This card is a little older than the rest, but its price has fallen enough to put it in competition with the 8600 GTS. Of course, the X1900 XT 256MB might become harder to find as time goes on, and it doesn't support DX10 or offer 100% H.264 decode offloading. However, those who are only concerned with maximum performance in current games at a given price will certainly want the comparison to be made.

The only other difference is that we are now using the publicly available GeForce 8600 driver from NVIDIA's website. We still don't have an update for GeForce 7 users, in spite of the fact that the 8800 and 8600 hardware now shares a Windows XP driver.

System Test Configuration
CPU: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz/4MB)
Motherboard: EVGA nForce 680i SLI
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI
Chipset Drivers: NVIDIA nForce 9.35
Hard Disk: Seagate 7200.7 160GB SATA
Memory: Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 (1GB x 2)
Video Card: Various
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 7.3
NVIDIA ForceWare 93.71 (G70)
NVIDIA ForceWare 97.94 (G80)
NVIDIA ForceWare 158.16 (8600)
Desktop Resolution: 1280 x 800 - 32-bit @ 60Hz
OS: Windows XP Professional SP2

Without any further ado, let's get right in to the performance tests.

Company of Heroes
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  • nullpointerus - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Heres to hoping AMD/ATI and nvidia both have great ~$130 DX10 cards later this year...

    Methinks this would be a good time for a cynical retort, but I can't think of one ATM.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    We'll see, if the RV630 is competitive to these cards as it too has a 128Bit pCB as well from the rumors we have been hearing. Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Thank you for confirming the mediocrity of these cards. It is good to see a nice unbiased review that does not sugar-coat the pathetic results these cards are posting in some games and the so-so to just-okay results in other games.

    The fact remains a new generation of cards should outperform the previous generation at the same price/performance level.

    The 8600GT needs to CONSISTENTLY outperform the 7600GT, the 8600GTS needs to CONSISTENTLY outperform the 7900GS/7900GT, and neither of these cards can manage that because they are cut down too far. A 256-bit bus and 64 stream processsors on the GTS for the same price point and it would have been a success and ensured NVidia victory across the board.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Which would basically nullify any cost advantage to production the 8600 Line has, if you add a 256Bit PCB plus the increase to 64 SP, you have a card that costs more then the 7900 line to make. There wouldn't be any point, Nvidia would have to eat the costs and still sell at the mainstream price points and make less money in the end. Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    7900 series is going away, my friend. Reply
  • CalvinHobbes - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    I'd love to see some video benchmarks using CPU's that the users of these cards would most likely have. If I were building a system with an 8600 based card I would probably match it with an E4300, E4400 or 5000+. Reply
  • ssidbroadcast - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    I got your back. If you examine hardware surveys, IE Steam uses over a million unique samples, most people aren't using top-dollar processors or 2GB corsair RAM (pricey stuff). I realize the obvious benefits of using this kindof hardware for benching; cross-standardization being one, but most of us can't really afford these kind of systems.

    It'd be nice to see "modest" benchmarks on an entry-level AM2 machine, or even better, a 939 socket? Pentium equivalents as well?
    Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    They're testing the card, not the system. If they used it with a slower CPU, it would skew the results of the better cards a little lower and make the 8600s look better than they are. Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    The number one reason nVidia has had more success than ATI in the past few generations is their superior midrange cards. (The number 2 reason is product delays with new high-end part intorductions, but that isn't as severe, since the real high-end market segment will just buy the new cards anyways). nVidia has clearly dropped the ball here, and these new benches confirm what the last review seemed to indicate - that unless AMD is totally asleep, they can nail nVidia with the Radeon 2600 line.

    "The problem is that there is a huge performance gap between the 8600 GTS and the 8800 GTS 320MB." - This is the essense of the problem...the much better card is just priced much to close to these parts. The overall bottom line might have actually been better if nVidia hadn't released the 320meg part at all.

    "We also have multiple cases where NVIDIA's new offerings perform lower than similarly priced hardware from their own previous generation hardware." - This is when it becomes outright embarrassing. It's been a long time, if there ever was a time, when this was true for the boys in green.

    I'll say it again - 64 shader part at $200 will come quickly if AMDs competing parts are any good.
    Reply
  • SalientKing - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Ive been wondering how 2 8600GT would fair Reply

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