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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  • ssidbroadcast - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Actually, me too. Now that the 8000 series is on a uniquely (to PCs, anyhow) unified-shader architecture, it seems that nVidia has a chance to re-invent SLi.

    Imagine an SLi engine that didn't simply split workload into half-frames or every-other frame. What if it simply pooled the shader resources for each frame? DX10 seems to give programmers a high degree of freedom (threading physics to the GPU, storing entire programs on the onboard memory, etc) maybe nVidia could fashion a special version of SLi geared for DX10?

    I dunno. Just an idea. I realize such engineering is much easier said than done.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Pooling the shader-resources of a pair of 8600GT/GTS cards would still only give 64 shaders in total, compared with the 96 of a single 8800GTS. No amount of improving pixel-shader efficiency in SLI is going to make a pair of 8600's faster than the 8800GTS. Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Much worse than the 8800GTS it would be priced against, plus requiring a more expensive MB, showing lack of performance improvements in some games, and probably making more heat and noise. SLI is ideal for the top end, not midrange. Reply
  • Live - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    Good reading always nice to see a follow up. I hope Nvidia gets the message and lowers the price and don't starve the memory in the future. Reply
  • Sh0ckwave - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    In other words, right now these cards suck for gaming. If prices dropped considerably and dx10 content was available it might be a different story.

    But I get the feeling these cards might not be fast enough to run dx10 features at decent framerates anyway.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    The thing I thought of was: 'wow, it took this long for nVidia to make a card that performed on par with the ATI 1950's ?'

    Yes, I understand the NV 8800 series is top dog, but look at the price difference right_now.

    Anyhow, I would have to agree, these comparred to the older 8800's are much weaker, but there is a niche for everyone/everything, as not everyone can afford $300+ for a good video card, and these seem like they would fill the general purpose niche very well, not to mention play back HD content decently also.

    After seeing how many NV 6200's have come through our shops here, I have very little doubt, that Dell/eMachine owners nation wide will be gobbling these up left and right . . .

    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - link

    I'm inclined to agree. Garbage often sells like gold. But then again, there are rumors that the Dells, Lenovos and FSC's of the world have a new lovechild with a different name.

    I expected more from a line-up that is the bread and butter of a company in this business.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    If we were looking at $130 - $150 and $170 - $200 I'd say that the 8600 series would look better.

    We will also be looking at overclocked hardware -- if we see cards with a nice healthy overclock at $150 or $200 (depending on the card) they might then be worth the price.

    We'll have to test that before we can know though.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    FYI:-

    The MSI 8600GTS OC was in stock @$189.99 on ZipZoomFly the day of release and still available from stock. (The MSI 8500GT was also in stock at ZZF the day of release of these cards @ $99.99, but is now out of stock.)
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - link

    The stalker page of the article just turns up a message reading:
    "We apologize for the inconvenience, but you have encounted an error. The error has been logged and sent to the web master."

    I hope spiderman got the message
    Reply

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