Whether you’re an average gamer or a pro, you’ll know that your games won’t tick unless you have a decent amount of polygon handling power under the hood. The NVIDIA GeFroce 8600 GT is a glorified 8600 which in theory should provide decent performance at the same time as being one of the best boards to buy for those on a budget if not the best.
“Founded in August 1986, MSI has continued to uphold a business philosophy that stresses “Award-winning product quality and outstanding customer service.” MSI specializes in the design and manufacture of motherboards, add-on cards, servers/workstations, barebones, optical storage devices, communication devices and IA accessories. Overcoming a challenging industry environment, MSI have raced to the head of the pack and are now ranked among Taiwan ‘s Top 3 and the World’s Top 5 motherboard manufacturer. Besides, our VGA production has been on the No. 1 position in the world for four consecutive years.”
The familiar MSI characters continue to make their debut on each new package. As usual, plenty of useful cables to get you going however, you do not get a DVI cable. Minus the above mentioned, you do get a S-Video cable, HD-Component out cable, 2 x DVI to VGA adapters, instructional material, software & driver CD and last but certainly not least, the graphics board.
Red PCBs are nothing new anymore especially since after ATI started the trend years ago. An interesting thing to notice is the cooler is very much similar to the reference design with very little modification.
The ports found on the rear of the board are pretty standard, no fancy VIVO features are found on this video card. You’ll notice the small fan header connection in the picture above, this can be useful to monitor the cooling fan’s RPM.
Since this is the OC version of MSI’s 8600GT it means the card is already clocked at higher than default speeds at what MSI claims is its stability guarantee with D.O.T (Dynamic Overclocking Technology).
- Video memory: 256MB DDR3
- Video output: Dual-link DVI support, HDTV/HDCP support, TV-out + Dual DVI Connectors
- Overclocked Edition @ 580MHz GPU Core and 1600MHz Memory
GeForce 8600GT Chipset Features:
- NVIDIA CineFX 5.0 Shading Architecture • Microsoft Vista Features
- – Support for Microsoft DirectX 10.0 Vertex Shader 4.0
- – Encompass’ Transform and Lighting
- – Displacement mapping
- – Geometry instancing
- Pixel shades
- – Support for DirectX 10.0 Pixel Shader 4.0
- – Support for full pixel branching
- – Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
- – Infinite-length pixel programs
- Next-generation texture engine
- Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire
rendering pipeline,with native hardware support for 32 bpp,64 bpp,and 128
bpp rendering modes
With the capability to handle DirectX 10, Windows Vista is a must and so it is for this reason our test system is running Vista Ultimate for future DX10 titles.
Operating system: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Motherboard: MSI P6N SLI Platinum (Click here to read our review of this board)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Core (Q6600) @ 3.2GHz
RAM: 4GB (2 x 1GB Corsair XMS2 CL4 800MHz, 2 x 1GB OCZ SLI Ready 800MHz)
Hard drive: 150GB Western Digital Raptor SATA 10,000RPM
Power supply: OCZ EvoExtreme 700W
Testing & Performance
The all important figures in the following tests will indicate the FPS or frames per second. Generally speaking, the number of frames which can be rendered in a particular scene gauge how well a card can perform or cope with graphically intense environments. With 3D gaming this is important. It is hard to state what is and what is not a “playable” frame rate as that may vary from user to user however, a large number of people will agree with the following assumption of 30 frames being classed as “playable”. If for any reason, less than 30 frames per second is the average then you will notice stutter and poor gameplay plus immense slowdown during detailed moments in the game. 30 fps average is a playable level and anymore is of course better. Generally 60 fps indicates smooth gameplay and it is very rare you will find yourself hitting 120 with today’s games unless you have a monster of a video card or it could just be you’re playing a fairly old title.
We tried to conduct the following benchmarks over a 30 minute gaming period with each game in order to gather a fair amount of data with the maximum detail and resolution the game would allow at “playable” settings. This means we don’t necessarily increase the resolution to maximum unless we can get away without it seriously affecting performance.
Half Life 2: Episode One
There are lots of sequel games out there but none of which have received the praise that this title has. With its source engine, Valve have once again managed to churn out a wonderful gaming experience that is Episode One. Visually, the game is a delight and those familiar with the source engine will know the physics engine in the game is also pretty decent. Alyx plays an even stronger role as your companion and all the puzzle solving goodness is still retained. It’s just a shame that like the previous title, the game is very short.
In-game graphics settings: 1680 x 1050, maximum detail, HDR lighting, no anti-aliasing
As you can see from the result above the game is very playable even at the high resolution we tested with. We didn’t notice any serious performance drop throughout the game.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
As if the FPS genre wasn’t flooded with titles as it is, GRAW takes you on several missions as you command the rest of your squad on the battlefield to successfully eliminate enemies, rescue V.I.Ps and whatnot. GRAW is more than just a port to the PC though it actually uses a slightly modified engine and it too is visually appealing. There is a lot of geometry in each environment throughout the game and this increased as enemies crawl out and explosions go off. Lots of effects and animations in this title along with intense action/suspense make this game a worthy consideration be it XBOX 360 or PC.
In-game graphics settings: 1280 x 960, maximum detail, no anti-aliasing
This title as expected puts a little more stress on the video board but looking at the results above, the game is still quite playable with only some areas in the game which will make the frame count plummet for a few seconds.
What started out to be a technical demonstration of Crytek’s engine eventually turned out to become a game which many people blamed its purpose for having a very weak, tried and tested plot. Typical would be an understatement. Nevertheless nobody was able to argue the potential of the graphics engine employed by Far Cry and even to this day it is a game that looks and plays gorgeously. Many of the early levels take place on a tropical island with incredibly dense vegetation, fantastic lighting, physics, collision effects, water effects and lots more. It is for this reason the game is considered a very good test bed for video card benchmarking but it will certainly put your other components through their paces too as it still requires a fairly powerful computer system to run without hiccups.
In-game graphics settings: 1680 x 1050, maximum detail + ultra high settings for textures and water, no anti-aliasing
We found Far Cry to be very playable. The 8 series cards will definitely play Far Cry very smoothly going by these results even the most basic 8 series card should do quite nicely at lower resolutions if not the same.
Colin McRae: DiRT
This game is a very recent title that’s been released not long ago. As far as graphics go, this game is nothing short than stunning. The amount of detail Codemasters have managed to put into this game is absolutely incredible with photorealistic graphics. Previous games in the McRae series have always been popular due to their realistic vehicle handling and vehicle damage. This new title doesn’t fall short at all and offers a lot more. Apart from the damn amazing visuals the game boasts a new physics engine (Neon) which makes handling vehicles even more realistic but it also means crashes are that much more amazing to witness during replays in slowmo. In fact the damage done to vehicles in this game is so realistic and random you don’t really remember seeing your car doors or hood come flying off, dented in or grazed in the same way each time. Dirt is also available on the XBOX 360 where it looks equally as good but if you plan to play it on the pc with all the eye candy switched on then you must be prepared to rig your system with one of the very latest video cards as the graphics in this game are truly next generation.
The above screenshot is not intended to fool you, yes, what you are seeing “is” an in-game screenshot we took and that’s not even with max details and for good reason too. The game recommends you use nothing less than an 8800 series video card so as we’ll be testing this baby with an 8600 GT it is definitely interesting to see how this card copes with such a game.
In-game graphics settings: You’ll be interested to learn that we couldn’t select “ultra” settings for the graphics so we resorted to “high” instead for each option but we also dropped the resolution down to 1024 x 768 as our previous attempts at higher resolutions produced incredibly ugly results.
An average frame rate of just 20 fps is poor performance but that’s not surprising considering this game already tells us to use a more powerful card. Still, it is interesting to see the result nonetheless. We must say however, because this game incorporates some clever motion blurring, the average fps of 20 doesn’t seem as bad as it does in other games so it is in effect making 20 fps seem better than it actually is. The game is surprisingly playable but only just and the frame rate very rarely nose dives.
And now comes getting more for your money. Although this card comes pre-overclocked we still had to try and see if it would go any further. Baring in mind the memory is already factory overclocked by a whole 200MHz, we didn’t expect much more. The maximum most stable overclock we were able to achieve was 610MHz for the core and 845MHz for the memory. This overclock was so insignificant that it didn’t really affect our gameplay at all. Benchmarks indicated a 0.6 fps of a difference.
Pleasant, that’s one word to sum up our experience. It’s a neat package at a neat price with neat performance. You can throw pretty much most current games and definitely games of yesteryear at the NX8600GT and it will handle them all exceptionally well. While the 8600GTS is definitely a slightly faster card we personally feel that for the average gamer this card will certainly please the user. It certainly did well in our benchmarks. Even though there isn’t much headroom for overclocking, one shouldn’t be surprised to find pretty much no advantage to OCing this card. It could also be down to the fact that the NX8600GT doesn’t actually make use of an auxiliary power connector and so there is only so much juice that can be sucked from the PCI-Express bus when using the card. Had it a 6-pin connector then we’re sure results would of been more interesting. If you are looking for a low cost solution and don’t want to severely harm your cash cow then you needn’t look any further than the NX8600GT, it is definitely excellent value for money with modest performance. Our only problem with the card (and probably only in our experience) was the random system crash it would cause from time to time.