Retail Geforce 6600GT Explorationby Derek Wilson on December 9, 2004 9:06 PM EST
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IntroductionToday, we'll be covering the performance of 11 different vendor's versions of the Geforce 6600GT. When that many of the same part get into the same room at the same time, you know that we're going to have a good cross-section of what the market should look like. If you're interested in buying a 6600GT, then this is the article for you.
Not only will we see what all these different vendors have to offer to you as a customer, but we will really see how hard the NV43 can be pushed, pulled, and stretched when it hits your system. We don't usually like to test overclocking on a large scale with the engineering sample parts that NVIDIA and ATI send us just after a product launch. These test samples are often just strung together by the skin of their IHV's proverbial teeth. It's not uncommon to see wires, resistors, and capacitors soldered onto an early PCB. We're actually lucky that these things work at all in some cases. We received an overclocked 6800 Ultra Extreme from NVIDIA that never booted, as well as an NV41 that was DOA. These preproduction boards are not the kind of boards that we would actually buy and use in our home systems.
And so, when an incredible number of vendors responded to our call for parts, we were very happy. Shipping parts means that we have what the end user will have. Heat tests, noise tests, overclocking tests - they all become very relevant and interesting. We will be looking at which vendors offer the best products to the consumer. Cards will be judged based on their idle and load thermal diode temperatures, the sound pressure level in dB of the system at a one meter distance, overclockability, features, bundle, and price.
We do spend a lot of time looking at the benchmarks of these cards at overclocked speeds, but these benchmarks aren't the "be all, end all" judge of what vendor makes a better card. First of all, the potential of any given ASIC to achieve a certain overclock is not something over which a vendor can have any power, unless they bin their chips and sell a special line of overclocker friendly cards (or, more likely, pre-overclocked cards). None of these 6600GTs fall into that category. This means that our BrandX card running at a certain speed doesn't guarantee anything about yours.
Overclocking tests are still important, as they assure that the cards which do achieve a high stable clock are able to support a GPU that is capable of running at a high speed. Some boards are not. It's just more of an art than a science sometimes and these numbers shouldn't be used as an absolute metric.
Heat management is especially important when overclocking. With a new breed of game on store shelves, such as Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and the onslaught of titles that will surely be based on their engines, GPU temperatures have no where to go but up. Increasing the core clock speed will help performance, but in our tests, it also raised maximum load temperature by a degree or two. The more a graphics card maker can do to keep heat down, the better. And that will be especially tricky with these cards once they've been in end users' hands for a while. Allow me to explain.
The way that the cooling solution attaches to NVIDIA's reference design is with 2 holes. Basically, the popular rectangular heatsink design is positioned precariously on top of the GPU and can pivot easily around the ASIC. This means: don't touch the heatsink. This really causes problems in situations where the thermal tape or glue is used. The kind of fulcrum that the NVIDIA reference design created is beyond powerful enough to tear through tape and snap the strongest glue without a second thought. Once those seals have been broken, cooling is severely compromised. Looking back at our numbers, this may be the reason why we see some of the extreme temperature numbers that we do. Of course, we were extraordinarily careful to avoid touching any HSFs after we realized what was going on.
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ChineseDemocracyGNR - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - link#41, please remember this is a 20 page article, and things were written in a way people can easily read all 20 pages.
overclockingoodness - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - link#41: What do you mean barely readable? You are not some scholor who needs perfect writing in order to understand something. If you don't like it, don't read it.
The reason why the review style was like a "quickly-patched email" is because it is a round-up of 11 cards.
The point of a round-up is to cover the positives and negatives of a plethora of similar products at the same time. Since AnandTech has already done extensive 6600 benchmarks, they decided to do quick comparison and be done with it.
Now you which 6600 to go for.
If you don't know how things work, it's better to be quiet.
skunkbuster - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - link#41 lets see if you can do better then
mrscintilla - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - linkSorry to say this, but the article Derek wrote was barely readable. It reads more like a quickly-patched email than an edited article. The writing quality has to improve in the future.
SleepNoMore - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - linkThank God XFX offers an AGP version of this card. I am not FORCED to buy a PCI-Express slot motherboard and trash my current system.
QuestMGD - Friday, December 10, 2004 - linkMSI heatsink really sucks. I had supicions about the heatsink after I got my MSI card from NewEgg. This article verified it. Since the card isn't in a computer yet, I pulled of the heatsink and sanded it down.
I'm not done yet, but after a while it does look like I can get it to fit tightly, it was just a PIA. The mounting springs seem to have been originally designed correctly, the heatsink casting was just crap.
BTW heatsink is just copper colored coating over Aluminum or whatever, that's probably why the casting ended up so poor.
Could anyone e-mail me whether I can use CPU thermal compound on my Graphics Card memory chips, or should I go out and get something else? I've heard mixed opinions regarding this. Thanks.
threeply - Friday, December 10, 2004 - linkI noticed No Evga card was included in the review. Any reason why this card was not included?
Momental - Friday, December 10, 2004 - linkCobbling with your bogus dink is not recommended. See your doctor if condition persists. ;)
A really great article. Extremely informative and gives "down and dirty", which I like. I'm in the market for a PCI-e 6600GT (sounds like a new motorcycle from Suzuki) and this article really gives one some serious food for thought rather then just the standard angle of "which one is the fastest and/or cheapest?"
The last thing I want is to have to handle one of these things like it was some sort of rare antiquity from the Ming Dynasty. While I don't do my best imitation of a ferrit on crack inside a case, it's good to know that there is the possibility of damaging the HSF quite easily. Who'd a thought!
ShadowVlican - Friday, December 10, 2004 - linkthanks for the excellent write up Derek, i hope the vendors follow your advice to improve the contact issues with the HSF and GPU, since i won't be purchasing a gfx card with poor design that can be fixed so easily
the leadtek will be on top of my list and likely in my next comp as soon as a64 pci-e motherboards come out
JClimbs - Friday, December 10, 2004 - linkExcellent article, focusing on a few key issues that performance buffs tend to overlook in their quest for higher framerates.
My overall take after reading this was that the 6600GT's market is really limited to people/companies willing to pull things apart and fix them up right. The cooling solutions all seem either bogus or cobbled, with cobbled being the best of the bunch. If you don't want to dink with your purchase, get a cobbled one; if you WILL dink with it, you can get a bogus model and fix it.
One thing I would like to have seen compared is power usage. I'm curious to see what the spread is there. And also, harking back to an earlier article, if improving the power supply improves overclocking performance.
Once again, excellent article, Derek!