MSI NX8600GTS OC Edition
- Competitive price tag, Supports DirectX 10, Can provide playable frame rates at the native resolution of 17in and 19in LCD monitors
- Requires a supplemental power connection, Takes up two expansion slots in the PC
All up, we think this card is great value for money considering the performance it provides. It runs quietly and comes with the cables you need to use all its video ports. It's a good choice if you're after a new-generation card for a mainstream gaming machine.
Price$ 295.00 (AUD)
This DirectX 10-capable card produces solid frame rates in current gaming titles and has the capability to display next-generation games in all their glory when they're released later this year. It's based on NVIDIA's GeForce 8600GTS mainstream graphics processing unit (GPU), has 256MB of GDDR3 memory and it comes with the cables you need to make use of all its digital and analogue outputs.
The OC designation in the product name means that this card has been overclocked at the factory to provide slightly better in-game frame rates than a standard 8600GTS-based card. MSI has overclocked the GPU clock to 700MHz, which is 25MHz faster than the standard speed of the 8600GTS GPU (675MHz), and its memory runs at 2.1GHz, which 100MHz faster than the 8600GTS' standard memory speed (2GHz).
We installed the card on a Windows Vista Ultimate-based machine with an Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM and an ASUS P5B Premium motherboard, using the latest drivers off NVIDIA's Web site at the time of writing (Forceware 158.18).
The card is happiest when running games at a resolution of 1024 x 768, but it can also supply playable frame rates at the native resolution of 17in and 19in LCD monitors (1280 x 1024). In F.E.A.R, the card returned a rate of 64fps (frames per second) at 1024 x 768, 51fps at 1152 x 864 and 43fps at 1280 x 960. These results were produced with 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x anti-aliasing enabled, which means that faster frame rates will be achievable at higher resolutions if the image quality is turned down.
These results are around 20 percent better than what a card based on the GeForce 8600GT can achieve, but the price of this card is more than 40 percent greater than an 8600GT-based card. Nevertheless, at $299 (at the time of writing) the 8600GTS OC is among the best-priced, overclocked mainstream cards on the market and provides excellent gaming performance for your dollars.
Physically, the card takes up two expansion slots in a PC due to its thick cooler, which is comprised of an aluminium heat sink and a 4cm fan. The double-mounting bracket has vent holes that allow heat that's generated by the card to escape through the rear of the system. The cooler didn't make too much noise during our tests and it's an improvement on the coolers that were used on cards based on NVIDIA's previous-generation mainstream GPU, the GeForce 7600GT, some of which we found to be noisy.
This card supports SLI, has two DVI ports and it can be connected to a TV using Component or S-Video connections. It comes with breakout cables that allows you to access these TV-Out ports. Dual-link DVI is also supported, which means the card can supply a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600 to very large monitors (think 30in).
Unlike most mainstream cards, the faster clock speeds mean this card draws a little more electricity, which requires the use of a supplied supplemental power connector. You'll need to have at least two free Molex (hard drive-type) power cables or a PCI Express power cable on your power supply in order to run it.
All up, we think this card is great value for money considering the performance it provides. It runs quietly and comes with the cables you need to use all its video ports. It's a good choice if you're after a new-generation card for a mainstream gaming machine
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