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Appeared on: Monday, January 31, 2005
Asus Extreme N6600GT


1. Introduction

Asus Extreme N6600GT - Page 01

Last week we examined ATi's X700 pro card, targeted towards the mainstream market. It's now time to take a look at what rival Nvidia has to offer in the way of the 6600GT chipset.

In the following table you will find a sum up of the major differences between the various versions of Nvidia Geforce 6 based cards:

  6600GT Extreme N6600GT 6800GT
core clock (MHz) 500 515 475
mem. clock (MHz) 500 515 525
on board memory(MB) 128 128 128/256
aprox. price(USD) $200 $230 $450

As you can see, the Extreme N6600GT differs from other 6600GT based cards, with slightly increased clock speeds and of course, slightly increased price.

- Packaging - Bundle

The Extreme N6600GT's packaging isn't anything surprising. The box is arrayed with the card's main features such as 128MB of DDR3, the 3-year warranty and the PCI-Express requirement.

Inside the box you'll find a standard D-sub cable, DVI adaptor and VGA connector, a portable CD case labeled Asus CD Suite. Inside the CD Suite you'll find the card's software bundle which is listed below:

Asus CD SuiteSoftware Bundle:
- Joint Operations : Typhoon rising
- AsusDVD
- Asus PowerDirector 3DE
- Medi@Show SE 2.0
- Asus CD manual
- Asus VGA driver CD


2. A closer look

02 - A closer look

Main Features
GPU Nvidia 6600GT - NV43
Memory Type 128MB 128-bit DDR3
Memory Speed 515MHz
Core Speed 515MHz
Memory Bandwidth

16.0 GB/sec

Pixel Pipelines 8x1
Vertex Pipelines 3
DX Support 9.0
OpenGL Support 1.5
Output VGA/ DVI-I / D-Sub
Bus PCI Express 16x (requires 2 expansion slots to fit)
Processing technology 0.11 micron

The 6600GT chipset is the first Nvidia chipset fabricated using the 0.11 micron process. ATi showed the way, starting with its X300 chipset and now it seems 0.11 micron will be the standard for all upcoming graphics cards.

Click to enlarge
The front side of the card (click to enlarge).

The Extreme N6600GT from Asus features 128MB of GDDR3 but with the drawback of a 128-bit memory bus. A wider memory bus would result in faster transactions between the NV43 and the memory modules but the really high default clock speeds make up for it.

Click to enlarge
A view at the back side of the card (click to enlarge).

Both memory and core clocks run by default at 515MHz. That creates an effective 1030MHz for the memory! And all that for only $200.

A picture from a different angle.
A picture from a different angle.

The card is cooled by a transparent plastic fan maintaining airflow across a copper heatsink. The memory chips are located on the front and are all covered by heatsinks as well.

On the upper edge of the PCB, as you might have spotted from the picture above, there is an SLI edge connector. As long as you have an SLI bridge connector and two identical NV43 cards, you can combine them for increased performance as shown below:

For more information on SLI, stay tuned for our next review.

The D-Sub, DVI and VGA connectors.
The D-Sub, DVI and VGA connectors.

One last thing to note about the N6600GT PCI-E from Asus, is that it doesn't require any power connector plugged on the PCB in order to work properly. The PCI-Express bus is able to provide the card with up to 75V, something the AGP bus could not do.


3. Test System

Test System - Page 03

Processor: Intel P4 3.0 GHz
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Asus P5GD2-E Premium
Memory: 2x512MB DDR2 Corsair Value Ram Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
Power Supply: Levicom 500Watt
OS: Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
DirectX: v9.0c

Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
AquaMark3 v3.0
Farcry v1.3
CounterStrike Source Beta
Doom 3
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Thief 3
Ground Control II


4. 3DMark05

3DMark05 - Page 04

With 3DMark05, Futuremark continues the tradition in its benchmarking software by providing a state-of-the-art Microsoft ® DirectX ® 9 3D performance benchmark.
3DMark05 is an all new 3DMark version, making the most out of Microsoft's DirectX 9. The previous version, 3DMark03, provided a nice testbench for this technology. However, 3DMark03 used DirectX 9 specific features in a limited manner, because fully supporting hardware was rare at the time of its launch. In contrast, 3DMark05 requires DirectX 9 hardware with full support for at least Shader Model 2, and takes shader usage to never before seen levels.
Just like its predecessors, 3DMark05's point system is set so that at the moment of release, the high-end VGA cards available on the market can only score around 5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the program's requirements, yields a score of 1000.

Game Test 1 - Return to Proxycon

Being the sequel to the "Battle of Proxycon" from 3DMark03, in "Return to Proxycon" we're once again set in space and the battle continues as space pirates invade a cargo ship in order to take control of its valuable cargo.

 

 

This test, tries to simulate a futuristic first-person shooter game with all the high details that such a game entails. The dynamic shadows, highly detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques, ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.

On the first test, the performance difference between the x700 and 6600GT is just 1fps.

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

A forest is filled with magic fireflies at night. The moon is nearly full, illuminating the forest with a bluish faint light. The magic fireflies have flickering, bright green lights that playfully move around the forest.

This scene is a nice example of a smaller scale outdoor scene with rich vegetation. Immediate visibility is only short range, and there is a skybox surrounding the whole scene.

A large number of trees with their branches swinging separately, and dense vegetation being dynamically distributed according to the camera movements, make this test the most demanding of the three.

 

Once again the 6600GT shows more power, rendering this scene from 3DMark05 and outperforming the X700pro by an average of 1.4fps.

Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight

A Jules Verne type airship flies through a canyon guarded by a dangerous sea monster. The airmen defend their ship using heavy cannons, but these seem to have no effect on the huge sea monster. Finally, the crew manages a narrow escape using the airship's "last resort" afterburners.

This scene is fairly complex with large areas of water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water is actually one of the key points of interest in this scene. The water not only does realistic looking reflections and refractions, it has a depth fog, making the sea monster swimming under the airship appear deep down in the water. The air in this scene also uses a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs in the canyon appear far away.

 

The third and final test from 3dmark05 produced similar results to the previous two.

Final Score

 3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated with the following formula:

(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250

This is basically the geometric mean of the total frames in each game multiplied by 250, which means that all game tests are on an equal par.
Let's see the results for the X700 Pro IceQ:

The Asus Extreme 6600GT made a great first impression and yielded the most 3DMarks in our first benchmark.


5. 3DMark 2003

05 - 3DMark 2003

3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stresses the DirectX performance of a VGA card. A very strong point of 3DMark is that its VGA card measuring does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card, we used the 4 game benchmarks from 3DMark.

3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests as well as some other feature tests.



- Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury (DX7)

This test is a combat flight simulator written for older hardware (DirectX 7). Particles are used a lot in this test - smoke and vapor trails, flak and gunfire, and explosions are produced using point sprites and quads.

 

 

- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)

This test is a simulation of a first person shooter game. 1.1 and 1.4 Vertex shaders are widely used since all character models are skinned using vertex shaders.This makes this test a good vertex shader comparison for VGA cards.

 

 

- Game Test 3 - Trolls' Lair (DX8)

This test should be the favorite of all RPG lovers. It is a cut scene of a female warrior facing two malicious trolls. Again, the same vertex and pixel processing is used as in game test 2.

This test also uses post-processing effects, such as Depth of Field and Bloom effects which are widely used in today's game cut scene sequences.

 

- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)

Mother nature represents the level of effects and realism that are possible using 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders, plus some other features that DirectX 9 offers.

 

 

 

In 3DMark03's GT1,GT2 and GT3 we see the Asus 6600GT producing excellent framerates compared to the HIS X700 pro. The difference between them varies from 9 to 26 fps. However, that difference is lost in the final Game Test where once again, an ATi card holds the top position.

- 3DMark Official score

If you test your machine with 3DMark you can post the results at 3DMark's online results page. For more information visit futuremark.com.

Despite the great DirectX 9 performance of the X700 pro, it did not save the card's overall performance and so it falls 1000 points behind the 6600GT that provides an excellent framerate under all four game tests.


6. Codecreatures
06 - Codecreatures

CodeCreatures is a synthetic 3D benchmark that is a good reference for VGA performance comparison. This is a high-end 3D benchmark that also requires DirectX 8 hardware, making it a good tool for measuring the potential of DirectX 8 game performance.

The Codecreatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and PixelShaders, popular on next generation 3D accelerators.

The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 pixels resolutions.

 

 

Starting at 1024x768, the X700 and 6600GT produce approximately the same frames per second. However, increasing the resolution to 1280x1024 and then 1600x1200, the difference becomes much more obvious, up to 4 fps.

-Codecreatures number

The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process and is basically the geometric mean of the three framerates multiplied by 100.


7. Half life 2

07 - Half life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers keeping the excellence of Half Life 1 in their mind as well as the remarkable E3 demo preview, have been anxiously waiting for the much delayed release of HL2.

Regarding the storyline, the player again picks up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. And a lot of people he cares about are counting on him.

Characters - Advanced facial animation system delivers the most sophisticated in-game characters ever seen. With 40 distinct facial "muscles," human characters convey the full array of human emotion, and respond to the player with fluidity and intelligence.

Physics - From pebbles to water to 2-ton trucks respond as expected, as they obey the laws of mass, friction, gravity, and buoyancy.

Graphics - Source's shader-based renderer, like the one used at Pixar to create movies such as Toy Story® and Monster's, Inc.®, creates the most beautiful and realistic environments ever seen in a video game.

AI - Neither friends nor enemies charge blindly into the fray. They can assess threats, navigate tricky terrain, and fashion weapons from whatever is at hand.

To measure performance we used the Video Stress Test (VST) that is available in the CounterStrike:Source beta available through Steam. We set all the details to the highest level and changed the resolutions from 800x600 to 1600x1200.

 

 

Half life 2 was at first believed to be an ATi optimized game and that Nvidia cards would face difficulties running it under DX9. The 6600GT is here to prove this wrong.

The Asus Extreme N6600GT is capable of successfully handling the Source engine even with all quality options enabled, at up to 1280x1024.


8. Doom 3

08 - Doom 3

A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporations? (UAC) Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of the few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.

Activision made it's miracle again with Doom 3 which is said to be the best-looking game ever, thanks to the brand-new OpenGL graphics engine used to generate its convincingly lifelike, densely atmospheric, and surprisingly expansive environments. If you are a fan of the previous Doom games then you will get many flashbacks with this revision, since you will find reimagined versions of almost every monster from both Doom and Doom II.

To measure performance on the game we used the timedemo demo1 command from the console (Alt+Ctrl+~).
Enabling the high quality setting and executing the timedemo demo1 command twice for each resolution, we witnessed the following:

First without the Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings enabled, we had the following results:

Most ATi cards have difficulties rendering Doom 3. Nvidia was always aware of this and advertised the 6600GT as the perfect card for that particular game. We're really happy to find out that it wasn't just another management trick. The 6600GT is indeed an excellent card for Doom3. Nothing could hold it back and we were encouraged to increase the quality settings.

With AA set to 4x and AF to 8x, the 6600GT offers approximately twice the performance of the X700 pro. Even at 1280x1024 it yields an average fps above 25.


9. Far Cry

09 - Far Cry

You are Jack Carver running your own boat charter business in beautiful Micronesia. With a past best left behind you, you'll be focusing on your present assignment: escorting an ambitious journalist named Valerie Cortez to the Island of Cabatu. It seems like a piece of cake, but you'll soon learn: paradise can be hell.

Farcry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named as CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that the CryEngine offers.

A great advantage and strong point of the CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in believable ways.

With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the view distance to 2km, these features make Farcry a perfect action game and also a referable benchmark to speak of.

- Benchmark Settings

For this game we recorded a new demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid being CPU bound under any circumstances. This will produce slightly higher results since it is also less GPU intensive but we can't afford being stuck at 40-50 fps because of our CPU.

The latest patch (1.2) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the 3.0 Shader model. Unfortunately, this is only supported by the 6800 series.

The resolutions we ran the demo at are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was executed with the Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we leveled up AA to 4x and AF to 8x.

When running the benchmark with no anti-aliasing and trilinear anisotropic filtering, the Asus N6600GT outperforms the X700 pro from HIS by a significant number of frames per second.

However, turning on AA and setting AF to 8x, the situation changes and the 6600GT loses its lead.


10. Medal of Honour Pacific Assault

10 - Medal of Honour Pacific Assault

Medal of Honor Pacific Assault puts you in the boots of a WWII soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operations. As Marine Private Tommy Conlin, you Click to enlargemust survive the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and then join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody conquest of the Pacific. From the attack at Pearl Harbor to the pivotal battle against Japanese Forces at Tarawa Island, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault gives PC gamers a sense of the courage it took to endure and overcome the Japanese threat in WWII and fight for VICTORY in the Pacific.

To record performance of this game we used fraps and played around for a minute in the first stage of the demo.

 

Medal of Honour brings the worst out of the 6600GT. It starts out with approximately the same number of frames per second as the HIS X700 but suddenly the performance of the 6600GT drops below X700.

Click to enlarge


11. Thief 3

11 - Thief 3

Instead of Deus Ex, from now on we'll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It is based on the same engine but it's much less GPU intensive and playable on more VGA cards than Deus.

The game makes severe use of Pixel Shader 1.1 instructions, the bloom effect and stencil shadows to achieve a wonderful result on your screen.

In the game, you play the part of Master Thief Garrett who is back to rule out any evil forces using his unique stealth abilities. Deadly Shadows shows what stealth gameplay is all about. This game really gives you the feel of sneaking around and holding your breath when stuck in a sticky situation.

Since there is no official benchmark for the game, we'll do our tests using a GPU intensive scene from the tutorial-level which we believe represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, none of the mid-range VGA cards are able to produce satisfactory frames per second at the higher resolutions. Both seem to have the same lack of power and 800x600 is the maximum enjoyable setting.

Of course, the 4x Multisampling and 8x Anisotropic Filtering we applied on the game produces horrific results. This time, the framerates are given for reference use only.


12. Colin McRae 05

12 - Colin McRae 05

For all you racing fans out there, this test is for you and will represent the Racing game category in our benchmarks.

 

From the graphics point of view the first thing you'll notice in the game, is the excellent amount of detail on your racing car. High resolution textures on the car and lighting make it quite impressive. All the eye candy, such as the sun reflection in the virtual camera are still the same as the older CM versions but motion blur has been added when your car hits something hard which will happen most often if you're new to the racing simulation world.

To measure performance on the game, we used fraps to get the average fps of the whole 8th stage of UK which is actually the only stage you get to play on the demo.

In this game, the Asus Extreme N6600GT seems to be less affected by higher resolution settings. Even though the X700 can produce more fps under 800x600 and 1024x768, it falls behind the Nvidia card's performance.

Running the game with quality settings, the results change once again and the 6600GT's edge of running better under high resolutions is lost. The HIS X700 pro offers more acceptable framerates and generally greater overall performance in this game.


13. Ground Control II

13 - Ground Control II

Ground Control 2 is an action-oriented game of tactics and warfare. As Captain Jacob Angelus of the Northern Star Alliance, you will command squads of infantry, artillery, and airpower against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building and resource-collecting are replaced with unit control and combat tactics where your knowledge of the battlefield maneuvers will make the difference in your fight against a ruthless enemy. Position your troops on hilltops for better aim or inside buildings and forests for protection as you'll need to use every inch of terrain to your advantage. Call in air strikes or assault pods to bring the battle behind enemy lines. Send out scouts to locate the enemy and use spotters for your artillery with the 360° free-roaming camera. Experience the total immersion of futuristic warfare as you lead your forces to victory!

 

For our benchmark testing, we used the highest possible settings on the first mission of the single player game and moved the camera around to get an average framerate using fraps.

Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power. Click on the picture above to view a screenshot from the game. Check out the excellent water effects!

The Extreme N6600GT once again leads the rest of the cards with the difference narrowing at higher resolutions.

A huge difference between the X700 and 6600GT can be seen here. The X700 was greatly affected by the application of 4x AA and 8x AF where the 6600GT held its position consolidating the difference between itself and the other cards.


14. Overclocking

14 - Overclocking

No matter your graphics card, there comes a time in your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technological demands the ever so popular games impose. This is one of the main reasons for overclocking your graphics card. Gamers are always looking forward to a little extra boost in terms of framerate. Even though most of the times the boost is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford to buy a brand new VGA card.

The default speeds for the Asus Extreme N6600GT are 515MHz for both the core and the memory clock. In order to overclock the card, we used Rivatuner V2.0 RC 15.3 New Year Edition.

Our target was finding the maximum values for the two clocks where the card would still be able to handle the graphics and overheating in the most stable manner. Through trial and error for each clock, the final stable settings we derived are 550MHz for the GPU and 600MHz for the memory clock.

Let's see how much of a difference in performance 35MHz for the core and 85Mhz on the memory would yield:

Certainly the 0.11 micron process technology used in building the processor helps a lot and the core delivers much greater performance with its new clock speeds. In Half Life 2, we got a boost of 9 fps for each resolution and in Far Cry, we got an amazing 18fps difference at 1024x768. Of course, with the much more demanding Doom 3 engine, the difference is more modest hovering around 3fps.


15. Conclusion

15 - Conclusion

If we had to pick between the X700 Pro and the Extreme N6600GT and judging from our benchmark results, we would have to admit the latter offered better overall performance and is more appropriate for the CPU of the average gamer. Of course, performance was not excellent as there's still a long way before it can reach the X800 XT or 6800 Ultra. This is why CDRinfo gave 3stars rank to Asus Extreme N6600GT, however comparing with other 6600GT based VGA cards the performance was better.

As we mentioned earlier in the beginning of the review, the Asus Extreme N6600GT costs around $230. That's $30 more than the average 6600GT with the bonus of an extra 15 Mhz for both the core and memory, and of course you also have the quality of Asus VGA products and 3 years warranty. The card seems to be a great solution, with an attractive price, for anyone who wants to enjoy most of the currently available games which is why we believe it deserves our Best Buy award.

 

 

 

Being the top product of the 6600 family line and already running at higher clock speeds, we'd expect the Extreme N6600GT to be a really bad overclocker. Contrary to our expectations, the card had a really nice boost in performance as both the core and memory clocks were truly overclockable.

The bundle doesn't differ much from any of the other Asus bundles we've come across. The applications included are pretty much the same and the only software making a difference, is the full version of Joint Operations.

Pros:
-Great value for money
-Respectful performance
-Great overclocking potential

Cons:
-A little more expensive than other 6600GTs

Performance:
Value for money:
Overclocking:
Bundle:


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