The Contenders

When it comes to reviewing PCI Express graphics cards, our hands are a bit tied, since there are much fewer cards available in PCI Express versions as there are in AGP versions. So, our comparisons here are similarly constrained. That being said, we are able to develop some interesting comparisons, and here are the cards that we're featuring:

ATI's X300 and X300SE

These two cards are both 0.11-micron, 4 pipe versions of the RV360, making them perfect candidates for comparison to the GeForce 6200. The prices on these two cards are significantly lower than the MSRP of the upcoming 6200. Street prices on the 64-bit memory bus X300SE are around $75, while the 128-bit bus X300 (much like the 6200 that we're reviewing) is priced at around $100. Keep in mind that both of these cards are still old technology based on the same core as the Radeon 9600, and thus, will have a tough time competing against the 6200.

ATI' X600 Pro

Retailing for around $130, the X600 Pro was one of the first PCI Express cards to hit the market. It is basically a PCI Express version of the Radeon 9600 Pro, even down to using the same clock speeds.

ATI's X700

Recently, ATI released the X700 XT, a direct competitor to the GeForce 6600GT. Alongside the flagship announcement, ATI also introduced three other X700 parts, a 256MB X700 Pro, 128MB X700 Pro and a regular X700, the latter carrying an MSRP of $149. While the X700 isn't available yet, its clock speeds promise to make it a heavy hitter in the mid-range market. The X700 features an 8-pixel pipe design like the XT, but much lower clock speeds; with a 400MHz core clock and more importantly a 700MHz memory clock, the regular X700 allows board vendors to use much cheaper memory to drive the price down to $149.

NVIDIA's GeForce 6600

While the 6600GT received all the attention, the regular 6600 will find its way into more computers, thanks to lower prices. Specification-wise, the 6600 is identical to the 6600GT. It's still an 8-pipe 128-bit design, but as you can guess, it runs at much lower clock speeds. The 6600 runs at a 300MHz core clock, but what really kills it is the 500MHz memory clock. Not only does the regular X700 have a 100MHz core clock advantage, but an impressive 200MHz higher memory clock - the only advantage the 6600 has now is that it's actually available, albeit at clearly higher than its $149 MSRP. The card that we used in our tests was purchased from Newegg for $168.

NVIDIA's GeForce 6200

This is the card that's the focus of attention obviously. NVIDIA sent us a reference card that, unfortunately, used a fan. We were hoping that the 300MHz 0.11-micron GPU would feature a passively cooled design much like ATI's X300, but we were left disappointed with the initial reference design. There is hope, however. NVIDIA claims that a passive design is in the works and it should be possible; we tend to believe NVIDIA here, as the heatsink on their sample to us was about 3mm thick beneath the fan. There's clearly room for improvement there.

Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 900

The new integrated graphics core from Intel found in the 915G chipsets was a must-include for this review, simply because we are comparing it to the slowest PCI Express graphics options available today. As we've already seen in previous articles, the 915G is far from a contender when it comes to gaming performance, but we'll see if it's able to scrape by at all in our tests.

NV4x’s Video Processor – What Happened? Power Consumption
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  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    I'm assuming the 6200 you tested was a 128-bit version? You don't seem to mention it at all in the review, but I doubt nVidia would send you a 64-bit model unless they wanted to do badly in the benchmarks :)

    I don't think the X700 has appeared on an AT review before, only the X700 XT. Did you underclock your XT, or have you got hold of a standard X700? I trust those X700 results aren't from the X700 XT at full speed! :)

    As #11 and #12 mentioned, with the exception of Doom 3, the X600 Pro is faster than the 6200:

    Doom 3 - 39.3 60.1 (-35%)
    HL2 Stress Test - 91 76 (+20%)
    SW Battlefront - 45 33 (+36%)
    Sims 2 - 33.9 32.2 (+5%)
    UT2004 (1024x768) - 46.3 37 (+25%) [they were CPU limited at lower resolutions]
    BF Vietnam - 81 77 (+5%)
    Halo - 45.2 44 (+3%)
    Far Cry - 74.7 60.6 (+23%)

    So the X600 Pro is slower than the 6200 (128-bit) in Doom 3 by a significant amount, but its marginally faster than it in three games, and its significantly faster than the 6200 in the other three games and also the HL2 Stress Test. So that makes the X600 Pro the better card.

    The X700 absolutely thrashed even the 6600, let alone the 6200, in every game except of course Doom 3 where the 6600 was faster, and Halo where the X700 was a bit faster than the 6600 but not by such a large amount.

    Given the prices of the ATI cards, X300SE ($75), X300 ($100), X600 Pro ($130), X700 (MSRP $149); the 6600 is going to have to be priced at under its MSRP of $149 because of the far superior X700 at the same price point. Lets say a maximum of $130 for the 6600.

    If thats the case, I can't see how the 6200 could have a street-price of $149 (128-bit) and $129 (64-bit). How can the 6200 (128-bit) even have the same price as the faster 6600 anyway? Its also outperformed by the $130 X600 Pro which makes a $149 price ridiculous. I think the 6200 will have to be priced more like the X300 and X300SE-- $100 and $75 for the 128-bit and 64-bit versions respectively, if they are to be successful.

    Maybe most 6200's will end up being cheap 64-bit cards that are sold to people who aren't really bothered about gaming, or who mistakenly believe the amount of memory is the most important factor. You just have to look at how many 64-bit FX5200's are sold.
    Reply
  • Shinei - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    The PT Barnum theory, wilburpan. There's a sucker born every minute, and if they're willing to drop $60 for a 64-bit version of a card when they could have had a 128-bit version, so much the better for profits. The FX5200 continues to be one of the best selling AGP cards on the market, despite the fact that it's worse than a Ti4200 at playing games, let alone DX9 games. Reply
  • wilburpan - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    "The first thing to notice here is that the 6200 supports either a 64-bit or 128-bit memory bus, and as far as NVIDIA is concerned, they are not going to be distinguishing cards equipped with either a 64-bit or 128-bit memory configuration."

    This really bothers me a lot. If I knew there were two versions of this card, I definitely would want to know which version I was buying.

    What would be the rationale for such a policy?
    Reply
  • wilburpan - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    Why do you all keep talking about the Geforce 6600 cards (buying them) when the X700 was the clear winner?
    You all want to buy the worst card (less performing)? I dont understand.

    Why dont anantech use 3Dmark05?

    No doubt that mine 9700 was a magnificent buy almost 2 years ago. What a piece of cheat are the Geforce FX line of cards....
    Why didnt they use one (a 5600/5700) just to see...

    Even 4pipe line Ati cards can keep up with 8 pipe nvidia, gee what a mess... old tech yeah right.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    I am very happy you included Sims 2 into your benchmark suite:)

    I think this game like the amount of vertex processor on X700 plus it's advanatge in fillrate and memory bandwidth, could you please test the Sims 2 when you can on the high end cards from both vendors? :P
    Reply
  • jediknight - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    What I'm wondering is.. how do previous generation top-of-the-line cards stack up to current gen mainstream cards? Reply
  • AnonymouseUser - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    Saist, you are an idiot.

    "OpenGl was never really big on ATi's list of supported API's... However, adding in Doom3, and the requirement of OGL on non-Windows-based systems, and OGL is at least as important to ATi now as DirectX."

    Quake 3, RtCW, HL, CS, CoD, SW:KotOR, Serious Sam (1&2), Painkiller, etc, etc, etc, etc, are OpenGL games. Why would they ONLY NOW want to optimize for OpenGL?
    Reply
  • Avalon - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Nice review on the budget sector. It's good to see a review from you again, Anand :) Reply
  • Bonesdad - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Affordable gaming??? Not until the 6600GT AGP's come out...affordable is not replacing your mobo, cpu and video card... Reply

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