Gigabyte 8600GTS

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Gigabyte 8600GTS
  • Gigabyte 8600GTS
  • Gigabyte 8600GTS
  • Gigabyte 8600GTS

Pros

  • Supports DirectX 10, Silent operation

Cons

  • Large, Heat sink needed modifying in order to fit into our case

Bottom Line

The Gigabyte 8600GTS is an affordable mid-range card which will be able to display DirectX 10-based games in all their splendour when they're finally released. That being said, the fact that it's quiet and comes with a decent bundle makes it good for its price.

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The Gigabyte GeForce 8600GTS is a mid-range graphics card which uses NVIDIA's new 8600GTS GPU (graphics processing unit). The 8600GTS is one of NVIDIA's first mid-range GPUs to have built-in support for DirectX 10 and can be used for playing all the latest games, and future games but it won't be able to play them at very high resolutions. It's also a silent graphics card which should make it appealing to those of you who want to build a silent PC that's suitable for gaming.

Technologically, the 8600GTS isn't as powerful as the 8800GTX or the 8800GTS GPU, for that matter, but it's capable of decoding high definition video (this is called the PureVideo HD feature), something the 8800GTS can't do, which means that your system's CPU can be left free to do other things while you watch HD video. For processing 3-D graphics, the 8600GTS has only 32 stream processors (see our review of the 8800 GTX review for a description of stream processors) compared to 96 for the 8800GTS, and it only has a 128-bit memory interface compared to a 320-bit memory interface for the 8800GTS.

The 8600GTS GPU runs at 675MHz, so it's no slouch, and the 256MB of GDDR3 memory runs at 2GHz, which is faster than the 8800GTS memory speed (1.6GHz). However, the 8600GTS can't process as much information per clock cycle as the 8800GTS, as it has significantly less stream processors, nor can it move as much information to and from its memory chips, due to its narrower memory interface. As such, its performance doesn't come close to that of an 8800GTS-based graphics card and this was shown in our benchmarks.

We tested the card on a Windows Vista Ultimate PC with an ASUS P5B Premium motherboard, an Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drive. Using the game F.E.A.R, the card recorded 61 frames per second at a resolution of 1024x768, with 4x AA (anti aliasing) and 16x AF (anisotropic filtering) enabled. A card based on the 8800GTS can get up to 115 frames per second at these settings. As the resolution was increased the card's performance scaled down appropriately, so at a resolution of 1152x864, the card scored 49 frames per second, and at 1400x1050 it scored 33 frames per second. F.E.A.R is a fairly demanding game and its result at 1152x864 is still playable.

As for its build quality, Gigabyte has gone to great lengths to keep the card cool, yet silent, using its Silent-Pipe 3 cooling technology. It's actually a double-thickness card, so it takes up two expansion slots in a case and it needs the second slot due to its large heat sink and heat pipe assembly. The heat sink is copper-based with a range of thick and thin aluminium fins and is designed to cool the GPU whereas the memory chips aren't cooled at all. The large heat sink has an outlet that takes up space in the adjacent slot in a PC case and it can make installation difficult. In our test case, a Lian-Li PC-A12, we had a lot of trouble inserting the card because of its size. We actually had to break off one of the heat sink fins and bend another one so that we could get it installed.

Once it was installed, the heat sink did a good job of keeping the GPU cool and we didn't experience any reliability problems during hours of testing with 3DMark06. The card scored a 5703 during this benchmark, which isn't anything to write home about. It's important to note that this card probably won't give you much faster frame rates in current games than a previous-generation graphics card, such as a Radeon X1950Pro. However, the fact that it's a DirectX 10-capable graphics card, means that it will be able to display all the visual delights of DirectX 10-based games when they are released.

For connectivity, the card comes with two DVI connectors as well as a TV-Out port. A break-out cable ships with the card to facilitate Component high definition and S-Video output. Gigabyte also supplies a full-version game called Supreme Commander, so you can get gaming as soon as you take the card home.

While the card's performance wasn't earth-shattering, it isn't meant to be. It's meant to be an affordable mid-range card which will be able to display DirectX 10-based games in all their splendour when they're finally released. That being said, the fact that it's quiet and comes with a decent bundle makes it good for its price.

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