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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  • Saist - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    xsliver : I think it's because ATi has generally cared more about optimizing for DirectX, and more recently just optimizing for API. 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. How long it will take to convert that priority into performance is unknown.

    Also, keep this in mind: Nvidia specifically built the Geforce mark-itecture from the ground up to power John Carmack's 3D dream. Nvidia has specifically stated they create their cards based on what Carmack says. Wether or not that is right or wrong I will leave up to you to decide, but that does very well explain the disparity between ID games and other games, even under OGL.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Just a conspiracy theory -- does the NV cards only perform well on the most popular / publicised games whereas the ATI cards excel due to a better written driver / better hardware?

    Or is the FRAPS testing biasing ATI for some reason?

    Reply
  • Cygni - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    What do you mean "who has the right games"? If you want to play Doom3, look at the Doom3 graphs. If you want to play FarCry, look a the FarCry graphs. If you want to play CoH, Madden, or Thunder 04, look at HardOCP's graphs. Every game is going to handle the cards differently. I really dont see anything wrong with AnandTech's current group of testing programs.

    And Newegg now has 5 6600 non-GTs in stock, ranging in price from $175-$148. But remember that it takes time to test and review these cards. When Anand went to get a 6600, its very likely that that was the only card he could find. I know I couldnt find one at all a week ago.
    Reply
  • T8000 - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Check this, a XFX 6600 in stock for just $143:
    http://www.gameve.com/gve/Store/ProductDetails.asp...

    Furthermore, the games you pick for a review make a large difference for the conclusion. Because of that, HardOCP has the 6200 outperforming the x600 by a small margin. So, I would like to know who has the right games.

    And #2:
    The X700/X800 is simular enough to the 9800 to compare them on pipelines and clock speeds. Based on that, the x700 should perform about the same.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the responses, here are some answers in no specific order:

    1) The X300 was omitted from the Video Stress Test benchmark because CS: Source was released before we could finish testing the X300, no longer giving us access to the beta. We will run the cards on the final version of CS: Source in future reviews.

    2) I apologize for the confusing conclusion, that statement was meant to follow the line before it about the X300. I've made the appropriate changes.

    3) No prob in regards to the Video Processor, I've literally been asking every week since May about this thing. I will get the full story one way or another.

    4) I am working on answering some of your questions about comparing other cards to what we've seen here. Don't worry, the comparisons are coming...

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • friedrice - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Here's my question, what is better? A Geforce 6800 or a Geforce 6600 GT? I wish there was like a Geforce round-up somewhere. And I saw some benchmarks that showed SLI does indeed work, but these were just used on 3dmark and anyone know if there is any actual tests out yet on SLI?

    Also to address another issue some of you have brought up, these new line of cards beat the 9800 Pro by a huge amount. But it's not worth the upgrade. Stick with what you have until it no longer works, and right now a 9800 Pro works just fine. Of course if you do need a new graphics card, the 6600 GT seems the way to go. If you can find someone that sells them.

    O, and to address the pricing. nVidia only offers suggested retail prices. Vendors can up the price on parts so that they can still sell the inventory they have on older cards. In the next couple of months we should see these new graphics cards drop to the MSRP
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    #10, because it's still an MP game at the core. The AI is as dumb as rocks, and is there for the console users. Most PC users will be playing this online, not alone in SP mode. Reply
  • rbV5 - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the tidbit on the 6800's PVP. I'd like to see Anandtech take on a video card round up aimed at video processing and what these cards are actually capable of. It would fit in nicely with the media software/hardware Andrew's been looking at, and let users know what to actually expect from their hardware. Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Buyxtremegear has the GeForce 6600 from Leadtek for $135. Gameve has 3 different cards (Sparkle, XFX, Leadtek) all under $150 for the 128MB version.

    #1,
    they're probably talking about the power consumption under full load.
    Reply
  • Sunbird - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    All I hope is that the 128bit and 64bit versions have some easy way of distinguishing between them. Reply

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