- Review Price: £98.00
This may come as a surprise, but according to id Software you shouldn’t play Doom3 with the Leadtek WinFast PX6600TD. As you’ll see on the Doom3 system requirements here: a GeForce4 MX graphics card is fine, and so is a GeForce 6800, but the GeForce 6600 doesn’t get a look-in. This is nonsense of course, as the Leadtek plays Doom3 amazingly well, especially since we can’t help but think of the Leadtek as a budget graphics card.
Leadtek classifies the WinFast PX6600TD as a midrange graphics card, and while we quite agree that it has the features and performance of a midrange card, the fact that Leadtek sells it for just under the psychological price barrier of £100 is impressive. If you walk into one of the large High Street retailers such as PC World you’ll find that £99 will get you a BFG FX5200 or a PowerColor 9600 Pro and the GeForce 6600 will have those cards for breakfast. So the Leadtek is a budget graphics card, but it’s a superior budget graphics card as it has roughly half the performance of the Leadtek WinFast A400 TDH GeForce 6800 which we reviewed in our 6800 round-up recently, and that model sells for just over £200.
The fact that the PX6600TD uses a PCI express interface is an irrelevance, as it offers no advantage over AGP 8x at present, but it makes the Leadtek worthy of interest if you’re going down the PCI Express route with a new Intel 915P/925X motherboard, or you’re considering the next generation of Athlon 64 products.
The GeForce 6600 chip supports DirectX 9.0c, rather than the 9.0b that ATI currently favours, but we’re unconvinced that this is a real benefit. DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0 have a limit of 65,536 shader instructions which is effectively no limit at all, while the ATI approach with Shader Model 2 has a limit of 768 instructions. We understand that the most complex shader used in Far Cry is only 50 instructions long, so on the face of it Shader Model 2 has plenty of head room. We are very nearly swayed by this argument, and if there was nothing else to choose between two competing graphics cards, we’d pick Shader Model 3, just to be on the safe side. Thankfully, choosing a graphics card generally throws up a number of questions that are rather more fundamental than the number of light sources that a shading system can accurately handle.
Leadtek claims that the WinFast PX6600TD uses an Ultra Cooling System, but we beg to differ. The cooler on the GeForce 6600 GPU is a conventional aluminium heatsink with radial fins, although the fan is a relatively large 55mm diameter unit, compared to the standard size of 40mm that is used on many graphics cards.
The eight Hynix memory modules are completely bare, allowing us to see that they are regular GDDR SDRAM modules with a 3.6ns rating, so their nominal speed is 275MHz DDR. This is an effective speed of 550MHz, so it’s no coincidence that the Leadtek runs at a stock core speed of 300MHz and a memory speed of 550MHz.
Out of the box the Leadtek has the sort of performance that other £99 graphics cards can only dream about. Cast your eye over our test results and you’ll see that frame rates in AquaMark3, Tomb Raider AOD, Halo and Unreal are all quite playable, even with the resolution cranked up to 1,024 x 768 or 1,280 x 1,024. When we plugged the Leadtek into our Intel 925X test rig with a 3.4GHz Prescott with the Forceware 66.32 drivers that Leadtek supplies, we were quite happy with the results we saw in 3DMark05 and Doom3 on stock timings.
We’d be stretching it if we said that a frame rate of 45.7fps in Doom3 at 1,024 x 768 on High Quality settings was excellent, however it is very acceptable from a graphics card at this price point, and visual quality is good with this baby GeForce 6800.
Leadtek includes the WinFox II utility in the package, along with full copies of Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, a Leadtek branded copy of WinDVD 5.0 and Muvee, so it was quite simple to overclock the Leadtek. After a little trial and error we raised the core speed to 400MHz and the memory to 720MHz, which is just over 30 per cent in both cases.
The result – not surprisingly – was a 30 per cent rise in our test result scores, although the overclocked graphics card froze during the Doom3 demo with FSAA enabled at high resolution. On standard timings we only saw a 10.8fps frame rate on these settings, so presumably the overclocked result would have been 14fps which is unplayable, and we can safely ignore it.
While the results of our overclocking were significant, you shouldn’t get too carried away by that impressive-sounding 30 per cent figure. In Doom3 with settings of either 1,024 x 768 and FSAA 4x or 1,600 x 1,200 with no FSAA the overclocking means a frame rate of 32fps, rather than 24fps.
Overclocking raises the speed from a rate at which it is effectively unplayable to a speed that is just about acceptable, but as ever you have to test your settings and adjust them until you’re happy with the results.
Our single biggest issue with this graphics card is that Leadtek plays a movie during driver installation which advertises Leadtek products, and although this is a minor quibble, it annoyed us nonetheless.
For less than £100 this is an impressive DirectX 9 graphics card, and with a healthy dose of overclocking the Leadtek manages to play the latest games very capably. If you’re building a PCI Express system on a tight budget, it’s definitely worth considering.
Score in detail
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