NVIDIA's GeForce 6200 & 6600 non-GT: Affordable Gamingby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 11, 2004 9:00 AM EST
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Doom 3 PerformanceWhile the Doom 3 frenzy isn't nearly as bad as it was a month ago, the performance seen under id's latest engine is quite important as there are a number of games in development right now using the Doom 3 engine. We have two sets of benchmarks here to look at - playable resolution benchmarks, as well as a chart of performance vs. resolution to see how the cards compare at sometimes not-so-playable resolutions.
Since we're dealing with relatively entry-level cards, we found that the perfect balance between frame rate and image quality lands at 800x600, and thus, that's where our first graph comes from.
Here, we see that the GeForce 6600, despite its lower fill rate and lower memory bandwidth, is still able to outperform the regular X700 by about 8%. It's not a huge margin, but impressive considering that the card is underpowered compared to the X700. The explanation as to "why" is more of an architectural discussion, as we've seen that NVIDIA's GeForce 6 series of GPUs are much better suited for the Doom 3 engine than ATI's.
The GeForce 6200 comes in a valiant third, clearly outperforming the 4-pipe competitors from ATI and nipping away at the heels of the slightly more expensive X700. Here's the tricky part though. Depending on what price the 6200 and X700 are actually available for when they hit the streets, the recommendation could go either way. At the same price, the X700 is the clear winner here, but at a higher price, the decision becomes more of a question of budget rather than which one to pick.
Next, we have the resolution scaling chart to see how all of these cards fair in the grander scheme of things. Here, we see that none of the cards are particularly CPU limited under Doom 3 and all of them experience a serious drop in performance as you increase the resolution. Doom 3 is clearly taxing enough for even the fastest of contenders here.
What about playability? We took some notes during our testing of the cards and will share them here as to what our gaming experiences were with all of the cards in a section we like to call "Notes from the Lab".
ATI X300: The card is clearly slower than the 6200. The added memory bandwidth gives it a performance advantage over the 64-bit SE, but it's nowhere near in the same league as the 6200. ATI desperately needs to have an X800 derived part for their low-end, much like they have in the mid-range with the X700.
ATI X300SE: The game plays "OK" at 640x480, definitely sluggish in certain areas. The aliasing is particularly bad at 640, so the resolution only really works if you have a small monitor or if the person playing isn't much of a gamer at all and has never been introduced to the fact that you can get rid of aliasing. At 800x600, things just get too slow for comfort and beyond that is basically unplayable.
ATI X600 Pro: You can't notice any visual quality differences between ATI and NVIDIA when it comes to Doom3, not to mention that the game is frankly too dark to notice any differences in texture filtering to begin with. 640x480 and 800x600 play quite well on the X600, despite the fact that the frame rate is clearly lower than the two NVIDIA cards. Unfortunately, anything above 800x600 is a bit too slow on the X600 Pro. It's "playable", but honestly, just frustratingly slow compared to the other cards.
ATI X700: The X700 performs clearly better than the X600 Pro and close to the 6600, but the 6600 is clearly faster in actual gameplay.
NVIDIA GeForce 6200: 800x600 seems to be a sweet spot of image quality to performance ratio for the 6200. The game played very smooth with no noticeable image quality issues. 1024x768 looked better, but started to get a little slow for our tastes. 1280x1024 was far too slow, although it looked great. If you want to go up to 1280, you're going to want to go for a 6600 at least.
NVIDIA GeForce 6600: At 800x600, the 6600 completely blows away the 6200; it makes the 6200 feel like a slow card. 1024x768 is still sluggish in places, but overall, much better than the 6200. 1280x1024 is fine when just walking around, but once you get enemies on the screen and they start attacking you, things slow down. It may be that it takes the 6600GT to truly be smooth at this resolution. That being said, it continues to amaze us about how good lower resolutions look in Doom 3.
Intel Integrated Graphics: Surprisingly enough, Intel's integrated graphics will actually run Doom3, but it is basically unplayable at medium quality at 640x480 - not to mention that we couldn't get it to complete a single benchmark run (the driver kept on crashing).