You may recall the previous Fatal1ty branded graphics card I looked at, the XFX Fatal1ty 7600 GT. The performance, cooler, looks and price were all best in class but it was let down by one fundamental flaw; the 7600 GT chip doesn't support DirectX 10.
At the time there was much debate in the office as to whether this was a deal breaker. Either way, if you wanted to be able to play next generation gaming titles, like Crysis and Alan Wake, the Fatal1ty 7600 GT wasn't the card for you. That's why today I'm very pleased to be looking at the successor to that card, the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT.
We haven't looked at the standard version of the 8600 GT yet so before I get onto the nitty-gritty of the Fatal1ty card I'll just cover the basics of nVidia's latest mid range part.
The 8600 GT is based on the same core that powers the 8600 GTS that I looked at in detail a few weeks ago. It contains 32 stream processors, two texture processors, and eight ROPs and also features nVidia's latest video processing engine dubbed Video Processor 2. Where it differs from the the GTS version is in clock speeds and compulsory support for HDCP.
As standard the core of the 8600 GTS runs at 675MHz while the 8600 GT is clocked at 540MHz. The stream processors on the 8600 GTS run at a lighting fast 1.45GHz (faster even than those of the 8800 GTS – there's just fewer of them) and at 1.19GHz on the 8600 GT. Finally, the 256MB of RAM on the 8600 GTS runs at 1GHz whereas it runs at 700MHz on the 8600 GT.
Whereas nVidia had stipulated that HDCP compliance for the 8600 GTS was compulsory, for the 8600 GT it is up to the board partners whether to add this feature. So far it seems the majority of board partners are choosing not to do this but from what I've heard this will change as second generation versions of these cards are released. Unfortunately the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT is not one of these boards so you won't be able to playback protected HD content using this card.
The logic behind this seems sound enough as you're buying a cheaper product so you expect to have fewer features but in terms of what this card is going to be used for it makes no sense whatsoever. It's precisely this type of silent low(ish) power graphics card that is perfect for a home theatre PC, which would be used for watching HD content, so not having this ability is a severe oversight. What makes this all the more troublesome for nVidia and its board partners is the arrival of ATIs mid range graphics cards, the 2600 and 2400 (watch out for full reviews of these next week), which feature compulsory HDCP compliant connections across the entire range.
So that's the technology behind the card now let's see what makes this particular version so special.