Am I the only one that thinks this looks like a step backwards by nVidia? Surely not, but although it may seem like madness, you have to consider that there are far more PCs with an AGP slot around than those with a PCI Express slot. With this in mind, slapping a GeForce 6600 GT chip on an AGP card seems like a very clever way for nVidia to cash in on its latest mid-range GPU. The AGP model of the 6600 GT does however feature an extra chip on the board, one that was used with early PCI Express cards, but the other way around.
Iâ€™m sorry if I sound like a blabbering fool, but let me explain what nVidia has done. When nVidia created its HSI (High Speed Interconnect) chip for its first generation of PCI Express cards, some clever person figured that it would be easy to make it work both ways, so when PCI Express became the standard, nVidia could turn the HSI around and make use of PCI Express chips on AGP graphics cards. This means that nVidia will be able to supply AGP cards for as long as there is a demand for them, without incurring too much extra cost, and ultimately keeping more of its customer base happy.
The 6600 GT reference board that we tested looks slightly odd in terms of design with the GPU cooler twisted at 45 degrees, while a small heatsink is also fitted to the HSI chip. This is a very different design to the early PCI Express cards, but this has been done to reduce the PCB size. The test card was clocked at 500MHz for the core and 450MHz for the memory, resulting in an effective speed of 900MHz. The memory might not be as fast as that on the PCI Express version of the 6600 GT, but this seems to have only a minor impact on the overall performance of the card.
The 6600 GT AGP has the same feature set as the PCI Express 6600 GT which we reviewed here, although with the current version of the drivers the on-chip video processor has finally been enabled so you can take advantage of the accelerated video playback features on offer.
The reference card nVidia sent over differs on two points when compared to the PCI Express card we reviewed - it has dual DVI ports and a power connector. The extra power connector is there because the AGP slot canâ€™t supply as much power as a PCI Express slot, so youâ€™re going to have to plug it directly into a power rail. Of course this is nothing new for users of high-end AGP cards, and won't come as a surprise. The dual DVI connectors are simply a manufacturing option, but one we will hopefully see on more graphics cards in the future, as it is the ideal solution for anyone using two flat panel displays â€“ with the continuing price drop of TFT screens, the idea of having a dual monitor setup is becoming more and more appealing to PC users, so dual DVI is definitely an attractive feature. And then there is of course the Doom 3 sticker on the GPU cooler, but Iâ€™m afraid it didnâ€™t make the card run any faster in the Doom 3 benchmarks.