Head to Head: ATI Radeon 9800 Pro vs. NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Before we get to the full set of benchmarks we wanted to look at a couple of important direct comparisons to the 6600GT. 

First we have ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro; using our RealTime Price Engine we see that the 128MB ATI Radeon 9800 Pro is currently selling for $214

Under Doom 3, the 6600GT performs at a minimum of 27% faster than the 9800 Pro at the lowest resolution we tested. Ramping up in resolution only widened the gap between the cards. The 6600GT remains playable all the way through our testing, while the 9800 Pro falls to less than half the 6600GT's frame rate at our highest resolution. Not only is this generation's midrange card outperforming a top of the line card from last year, but technologically and dollar for dollar this 6600GT is the very clear winner here as well.

Doom 3 Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

82.9

105.9

27.7%

800 x 600

63.9

100.3

57.0%

1024 x 768

45.1

82

81.8%

1280 x 1024

30.5

58.7

92.5%

1600 x 1200

21

43.4

106.7%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

The CS: Source VST also shows an increasing performance advantage with resolution. In two of the most demanding apps, the 6600GT is able to scale much better than its competition at this price point. These numbers are not as dramatic as the Doom 3 scores, but at the same time, NVIDIA cards have traditionally been stronger under OpenGL titles while ATI cards tend to hold there own when put to the DirectX test. Of course, this fact just amplifies the victory for the 6600GT.

Counterstrike: Source Visual Stress Test Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

185.3

191.8

3.5%

800 x 600

153.1

175.3

14.5%

1024 x 768

103.3

133.3

29.0%

1280 x 1024

65.8

83.3

26.6%

1600 x 1200

51.2

68

32.8%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

The two contenders traded blows in this DirectX 8.1 based game. The numbers are close across the board. The 6600GT leads at lower resolutions, while the 9800 Pro inks ahead above 1280. None of these numbers are hugely significant, and this game is a classic toss up. The engine is tried and true as it's based on the same technology used in UT2K3. It doesn't really push the hardware like other games we see on the list, but it is still a good test because many games licensed the Unreal Engine.

 

Unreal Tournament 2004

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

69.9

72.3

3.4%

800 x 600

69.3

71.4

3.0%

1024 x 768

68.4

70.5

3.1%

1280 x 1024

64.2

62.8

2.2%

1600 x 1200

51.1

50.2

1.8%

Winner

-

-

Tie

 

With the exception of UT2K4, Far Cry revives a trend: the 6600GT increases its lead in the benchmark as we increase the resolution. Far Cry didn't show as much favor toward the 6600GT as in Doom 3 or the Source VST, but the trend is still the same. While the 20% lead the 6600GT maintains at 1600x1200 is impressive, 37 fps may or may not be playable depending on how demanding of a gamer one may be. We like to see 40 to 45 fps in shooters at a minimum, but there is a subjective element to it, and we'll leave the final call to the reader.

 

Far Cry 1.3 Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

88.8

86.3

2.8%

800 x 600

77.7

80.8

4.0%

1024 x 768

62.2

67.9

9.2%

1280 x 1024

44.3

48.7

9.9%

1600 x 1200

30.9

37.1

20.1%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

Another DirectX 9.0 game shows that the 6600GT card has a resolution scaling advantage over the 9800 Pro that gives it much more bang for the buck. Halo's performance advantage numbers fall somewhere between Doom 3's and the Source VST's. Between the 9800 Pro and the 6600GT, current and future games will definitely see more benefit from the NVIDIA card.

 

Halo 1.05 Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

119.4

131.7

10.3%

800 x 600

88.9

111.7

25.6%

1024 x 768

60.9

82.4

35.3%

1280 x 1024

39.8

56.9

43.0%

1600 x 1200

27.7

41.3

49.1%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

In this older OpenGL title, we see the 9800 Pro scale better than the 6600GT, but the NVIDIA card still maintained a lead throughout the testing. Since the smallest advantage the 6600GT enjoyed was just under 3% at 1600x1200, this benchmark goes to in its favor. With OpenGL being NVIDIA's strong suit, and the 6600GT doing so well in al the other benchmarks, it is interesting that this would be the game in which the 9800 Pro would give some of its best competition. Of course, the fact that this game is based on a very fixed function type of engine could have something to do with that.

 

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

101.4

107.6

6.1%

800 x 600

100.8

107.5

6.6%

1024 x 768

99.6

104.2

4.6%

1280 x 1024

85.1

88

3.4%

1600 x 1200

66.2

68

2.7%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

ATI's 9800 Pro scales down better than the 6600GT here, but the NVIDIA card just outperforms the 9800 hands down.

 

Battlefield - Vietnam Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

640 x 480

134

217

61.9%

800 x 600

115

180

56.5%

1024 x 768

93

134

44.1%

1280 x 1024

73

97

32.9%

1600 x 1200

53

68

28.3%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

Once again, we see the 6600GT out performing and out scaling the 98000 Pro. This game isn't built for sheer frame rate, but, at the same time, the graphics can be intensive.

 

The Sims 2 Performance

 

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro

NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT

Performance Advantage

800 x 600

48.7

50.3

3.3%

1024 x 768

38.7

42.1

8.8%

1280 x 1024

30.5

32.6

6.9%

1600 x 1200

22.8

27.8

21.9%

Winner

-

-

6600GT

 

Across the board, the 6600GT is a better buy than the 9800 Pro. There is no question that the performance is better across the board, and only gets better at higher resolutions. Add to that the fact that the feature set is a year newer, and there really isn't a debate.

The Cards Head to Head: NVIDIA GeForce 5900XT vs. NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT
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  • ShadowVlican - Thursday, November 18, 2004 - link

    seems like #28 got pwned... think AGP ^_-

    very nice review Anand, it's quite astonishing how fast technology can grow isn't it? with the "top" cards of the last generation being eaten by this generation's top mid card... i'm looking forward to your next review when you have your vanilla 6800!
    Reply
  • Speedo - Thursday, November 18, 2004 - link

    Hmm... I also agree with you people, which wonder if an upgrade to a faster graphics card would help and if you perhaps already are CPU limited.

    One way of checking the "status" of your current system is to play around with resolutions for a given game. For example, lets say you normally play UT2004 at 1024x768. Try setting the resolution to 512x384 and see where your framerates go. You will not probably go much above that, no matter how fast video card you upgrade to.

    You can also try upping the resolution one step from what you are usually using. If the framerate drops a lot, you would probably benefit from an upgrade.

    I know this doesn't tell *which* new card you should get. But if your low-res test shows that your CPU can deliver double the framerate, then a good balance could be to upgrade to a card that is at least double as fast as your current one.

    In my own system I seem to have a pretty good balance right now, with a 9800pro(xt mod) & barton@2.3Ghz.
    Reply
  • bigpow - Thursday, November 18, 2004 - link

    I agree with the previous commentators.

    Most of us are stuck with our older generation platform, say P4 2.4c or AthlonXP 1700+ or 2500+

    Where's the result for these platforms, AT?

    Most of us (see above) will decide whether it is worth it to upgrade to 6600GT if we see these numbers.

    AT, step up and beat the competition.
    Don't be lazy and just compare with the expensive and uncommon FX CPU.
    Reply
  • Ender17 - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Those charts with the precentages are awesome!! and the head to stuff was great as well. Keep up the good work and try to get us that head to head with the 6800nu. Reply
  • Niatross - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Even when he's cpu limited he's limited by an FX-55 not an XP Barton. Yea I wonder how many 1000 dollar cpu systems have a 200 dollar card?

    Yea he's showing the cards abilities off well by using an FX-55 but it TELLS me nothing about what my experiance might be. I would just like to see what it would run like on the average machine. I said before that I've seen this hashed out many times on various sites and I see the value of the way it's usually done, just wishing I had my way (STOMP,STOMP BOO HOO,(LOL) I guess ;-) J
    Reply
  • ciwell - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Maybe an article/chart that lists the CPUs from the past couple of years and the theoretical GPU to go along with it that would MAX out, given a CPU bottleneck or what-not. Reply
  • navsimpson - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    While I get why the fastest CPU must be used to prevent CPU bottlenecking, what I don't understand is why someone who can afford a $1000 processor would buy a $200 video card and not shell out the extra 100 or so bucks to move up a notch. These reviews end up being technically sound - we do our best to see what the cards are actually capable of - but of much less consequence to those of us looking to figure out what cards to buy. Will it be worth it to get a 6600gt or would a 9600xt max out the performance of my Athlon 2600? That's what I - and a heck of a lot of other people - want to know. Reply
  • Pete - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Derek emerged from his underground bunker! Now that you've recovered enough to type ;), can you verify and maybe explain those 9700P Far Cry numbers? Reply
  • nserra - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    #57 ciwell

    What is really funny is that nvidia almost didn’t beat a 2 year old card!
    And that a similar hardware 5900 (to some people) at that time some even say it was better is in the ground.
    Where are the 5900 PS2.0+ and VS2.0+?

    This is the anandtech 5900 test conclusion:

    “From the ATI camp the $499 Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, just like the NV35, is a difficult purchase to justify; even more difficult in this case because the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra does outperform it in a number of tests.”

    Where is the 5900 in all the benches? Who have bought an nvidia 5900 based on those comments?
    Reply
  • ciwell - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    I find it funny how nVidia has beaten ATI to the punch and the fanbois are coming out of the woodwork. :D Reply

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