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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66 Comments

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  • Pete - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    Great article, Anand. Are you sure about your 9700P numbers for Far Cry, though? They seem awfully low, especially in relation to a 5900XT. Reply
  • SlinkyDink - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    /*The AGP version of the 6600GT obviously lacks SLI support given that you can only have a single AGP slot on a motherboard.*/

    Actually I believe that AGP 3.0 specs allow up two AGP slots (and both could be used used at once), but nobody ever decided to implement it :P

    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    I am not treating NVIDIA's Video Processor as a feature of any NV4x GPU until NVIDIA provides a working driver and commits to a public release date. The 6600GT AGP supposedly has the same video processor that the PCI Express version has (since they are the same GPU), but to this date NVIDIA has failed to deliver a working driver set to take advantage of it.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • slurmsmackenzie - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    #28....

    remember, the point is that ati didn't have a bridge in the works at the release of the x700, so now that it has become apparent that agp is still the front running solution, they're behind it it's agp equivelant releases. so, as far as agp interface is concerned, the closest ati comparison is the 9800.
    Reply
  • vailr - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    Any comments on: comparing the hardware video decoding, of the 6600 vs. the (reportedly faulty)6800; and overall video quality, in comparison with ATI's offerings?
    For those people interested in the best cost-to-performance video solution, for Home Theater PC use.
    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Cybercat - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    They couldn't have been using the NF4 reference motherboard, these are all AGP cards. Also, why is it that the 9800 Pro does 63% better than the 9700 Pro in FarCry? At most that card is around 30% better. Did you guys really rerun the tests with the 9700 Pro using the latest drivers, or did you merely recycle some of the numbers? Reply
  • marcnakm - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    The card I was waiting for.
    Good review, just missing the comparison with the regular 6800 which is very important.
    Reply
  • Regs - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    This review shows a lot of things. One of them was how the FX series was a horrible failure. Reply
  • draazeejs - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    Did nVidia pay for this article? Is it really fair to put up this card against a 2-years old card, like R9800Pro? As far as I understood, the X700 should be the real competitor for 6600GT, because the X700 is supposed to be in the same price cathegory, no? There have been numerous reviews of the X700 on the net, why not include it here??? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - link

    The impact of the bridge, as I mentioned in the review, is negligible. The bridge + slower memory results in a 0 - 5% performance difference between the PCI Express and AGP versions of the 6600GT (the 5% figure being because of the additional memory bandwidth courtesy of the 500/1000 clock vs. 500/900).

    Just so you guys know, I went out and picked up a vanilla 6800 for inclusion in my upcoming Half Life 2 GPU comparison. Know that your voice has been heard :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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