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To test the card's performance I ran our usual set of benchmarks on our standard gaming test bed that consists of an Intel 975XBX “Bad Axe” motherboard, with an Intel X6800 Core 2 Duo, coupled with 2GB of Corsair CMX1024-6400C4 running at 800MHz with latency settings of 4-4-4-12.
If you recall my discussion of our graphics card testing methods, I'm planning to create different settings profiles for testing low, mid and high end cards, giving you a better overall picture of the card's performance. However, this is still a work in progress so for the time being our testing will stick to running all games at their maximum possible in game settings.
Also mentioned in that article, was the incorporation of transparency antialiasing into our testing. This is something I have done so we now have results for both with and without this technique enabled. Both ATI and nVidia cards have a high and low quality setting for this technique, we have used the high quality version (called quality adaptive antialiasing in ATIs drivers and transparency super sampling in nVidia's drivers).
For our testing, I've added in nVidia's GeForce 7600 GT and ATI's Radeon X1650 XT cards to see how similarly priced previous generation hardware compares. I've also compared the slightly more expensive 8600 GTS from nVidia's current generation of hardware. Until I've looked at ATI's HD 2600 in detail we don't have a mid range DirectX 10 ATI card for comparison.
For my 8600 GTS article I also included results for the 8800 GTS 320MB as it was only about £50 more but gave you significantly more performance. However, the 8600 GT is around half the price of the 8800GTS 320MB so the comparison doesn't really hold up anymore. Therefore I've not used this card for comparison.
Performance was pretty much as expected with the Fatal1ty card continually being just behind the 8600 GTS card. However, as noted in my review of the 8600 GTS, the performance of these new mid range cards in DirectX 9 games is not as high as one would have hoped. It strikes me the point of a mid-range card is to be able to play current generation games at lower resolutions (1,280 x 1,024) with all in game settings at their maximum but sometimes this just isn't the case. Anyway, that's an argument for another time.
When I look at the new mid range cards from ATI next week I'll do some DirectX 10 game testing as well so finally we can see if there is some hidden performance in these new cards.
There's no denying the performance of the 8600 range is slightly below what we would have hoped for but overall the card will give you playable frame rates at up to 1,600 x 1,200 (or 1,680 x 1,050 if you have a widescreen monitor) with some tweaking of in-game settings.
As for the particulars of the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT, XFX has almost got the complete package. A superb cooler, great looks, the fastest clock speeds and DirectX 10 compatibility. If XFX can throw HDCP into the mix, this card would tick all the right boxes.