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nVidia GeForce 6600 GT

So, we know what the GeForce 6600 GT has to offer, and we know how much it costs, but the big question is, how does it perform? Well one thing is for sure, the performance you get out of the GeForce 6600 GT is very dependant on how important anti-aliasing is to you, because turning on FSAA causes a major frame rate hit, no matter what game you’re running. We put the GeForce 6600 GT in our standard graphics test rig, consisting of an Intel 925x motherboard, an Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz and 1GB of Corsair XMS-5400 DDR2 memory.

Let’s start at the top end of the scale and look at the Doom3 results. We run Doom3 at the High Quality setting which enables 8x anisotropic filtering as standard. At a resolution of 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA the 6600 managed 79fps, while pushing up to 1,280 x 1,024 still produced close to 60fps. Even at 1,600 x 1,200 a frame rate of 44fps was achieved, but whether that’s playable is down to you. However, applying 4x FSAA cut the 1,024 x 768 score by almost half, while at 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 things dropped to a sub-30fps unplayable level. Amazingly, at 1,024 x 768 the 6600 is only about 8fps behind the 6800 Ultra cards we reviewed a couple of days ago, but to be fair, the 6800 Ultra boards were probably CPU limited.

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Far Cry proved to be a bit more demanding, with the 6600 scoring 58fps at 1,024 x 768, dropping down to 49fps at 1,280 x 1,024 and 37fps at 1,600 x 1,200. This is some way behind a GeForce 6800 GT and a Radeon X800 Pro, but then this card should be around half the price.

If you’re an Unreal Tournament fan you’ll be more than happy with a GeForce 6600 GT, since it flew through the UT2004 benchmark. Even with 4x FSAA and 4x AF switched on, the 6600 still managed 87fps at 1,024 x 768 and almost 64fps at 1,280 x 1,024. If you’re happy to sacrifice the image quality options, you can even run it at 1,600 x 1,200 at almost 80fps.

All the other benchmarks produced similar results and it’s clear that the GeForce 6600 is a cracking little graphics card for the money. It even sports full Shader Model 3.0 support, so you’ve got some future proofing built-in as well. Now you may be saying that by the time we see games that take true advantage of Shader Model 3.0, the 6600 will be too slow to keep up, but don’t forget that you can just buy a second card and run them in SLi to give you the necessary performance boost.

As soon as we get our hands on a compatible motherboard and another GeForce 6600, we’ll give SLi a go and let you know just how much of a performance boost you can expect.

Of course I should also mention the standard GeForce 6600, although I’ve yet to get my hands on a sample. This card will be a bit cheaper than the 6600 GT, but will run a little slower and will only have standard DDR memory. But most importantly, the standard 6600 won’t support SLi, making it a far less desirable part in my humble opinion.

So, yet again it looks like nVidia is onto a winner, and the GeForce 6600 GT could be the shot in the arm that PCI Express has been waiting for. Anyone that’s looking to replace their motherboard, CPU and graphics card would have to look long and hard at the 6600 GT, especially with the ever enticing option of SLi. In fact, the only thing holding back mass SLi nirvana is the lack of support for AMD based PCI Express motherboards, and that’s a problem that nVidia has to solve.

Verdict

The nVidia GeForce 6600 GT is a great mid-range graphics solution that should fly off the shelves if the £150 price point turns out to be accurate. With solid 3D performance, low power requirement, ViVo functionality and that ever important SLi support, the 6600 GT has all the bases covered.

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