1. Introduction - Package
MSI NX6600GT AGP - Page 01
With the introduction of PCI-Express as the new standard slot
type, most of the new graphics cards with the latest graphics chipsets, no
longer support the AGP bus. ATi cards such as the X700 and X850 only come
in PCI-E versions
getting harder to find day by day. However, Nvidia did not completely abandon
the project and implemented a version of the 6600GT for the AGP bus.
We had the opportunity to test an AGP card using the 6600GT chipset from
MSI, the NX6600GT.
- Packaging - Bundle
This time we knew what to expect when MSI provided us with
the NX6600GT: A gladiator-themed package which inside included a nice
MSI continues to enrich its products with lots of nice games
and applications. However, some might say the games are outdated as most
were released over 2 years ago. We believe it's time for MSI to look at changing
their bundles for their VGA cards (most MSI cards ship with exactly the same
- Prince of Persia : The sands of time(2CDs)
- URU : Ages beyond mist
- InterVideo WinDVD / Supreme foreign Language Learning Machine
- MSI 3D Desktop
- VirtualDrive / RestoreIT!
- Photoshop Album SE / 3D-Album
- MSI Media Center Deluxe II
- MSI Games Collection (14 game demos)
- MSI Multimedia (drivers & utilities)
A DVI-to-VGA adaptor and two molex power connectors conclude the set of accessories.
2. A closer look
02 - A closer look
||Nvidia 6600GT - NV43
||128MB 128-bit DDR3 2.0ns
|| VGA/ DVI-I / D-Sub
The MSI NX6600GT AGP runs at slower clock speeds than the PCI-Express
cards. A typical PCI-E 6600GT runs at 500/500 for both core and memory, whereas
the NX6600GT's memory speed is only 450MHz.
MSI has populated the card with a set of four Samsung
K4J55323QF-GC20 Graphics DDR3 SDRAMs. This means the memory has the potential
to work at least up to 500MHz and will probably overclock quite well.
Removing the two heatsinks, two chipsets and the 4 memory modules
are exposed. If you compare the PCB to the 6600GT reference PCB for the PCI-Express
version of the card, the first difference you will note is the slightly rotated
design of the GPU and memory. This was done so that an extra chip could
fit on the board, namely the High Speed Intraconnect (HSI), which is the
smaller green chipset seen in the picture below.
|The front side of the card (click to enlarge)
The HSI chipset is a bridge between the PCI-Express intended
GPU and the AGP interface. Nvidia didn't bother to create a different architecture
for the 6600GT chipset to work with AGP, but instead reused the much simpler
and cheaper HSI bridge (HSI has been used before to enable AGP cards to operate
with the PCI-E interface).
|A view at the back side of the card (click to enlarge)
This means that the 6600GT AGP version is somehow running
under compatibility mode which might cause a drop in performance compared
to the PCI-E version.
|A picture from a different angle.
Another difference making the 6600GT AGP stand out, is the
requirement for a power connector to operate correctly. The PCI-E version
does not need extra power as the architecture can provide up to 75V through
the PCI-E slot.
|The 6600GT chipset.
|The D-Sub, DVI and VGA connectors.
3. Test System
Test System - Page 03
Processor: AMD 3500+ Winchester
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Asus A8V
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
Power Supply: Levicom 500Watt
OS: Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
CounterStrike Source Beta
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Ground Control II
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
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.
Disappointingly, with the first game test, the NX6600GT is
outperformed by both the X700 pro and Asus 6600GT .
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.
The intense lighting effects of GT2 seem to take their toll
on the HIS X700, more so than with the other cards and so the NX6600GT
climbed up to
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"
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.
For yet another time in the third and final test of 3dmark05,
the MSI card performed better than the X700 Pro but the difference between
it and the Asus 6600GT is still noticeable.
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.
The 3DMarks points for the PCI-E version of the 6600GT make
it a clear winner and unfortunately, the 400 3dmarks points between it and
the NX6600GT AGP
are more than we can ignore.
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.
Apart from the first test, the MSI NX6600GT falls behind the
Asus 6600GT by an average of 5 frames per second. However the framerates are
held at a great level compared to previous generation cards that couldn't go
- 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.
The MSI sits between the HIS and Asus cards in terms of performance according
to the 3DMark point system. Once again, 7800 is an excellent score considering
the NX6600GT costs $200.
6. Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001
06 - Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001
Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been stepped up. This particular benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from the Aquanox game.
The Aquamark Triscore comprises 3 values: the overall system performance, the performance of the graphics system and the CPU performance. Keep in mind that this is not the total result of the tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.
3DMark 2001 is the predecessor to 3DMark03. It's mainly a directx 8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However, for reference use only, we decided it would be best to just leave it in our benchmark list so you can compare the next generation cards with the possibly outdated one you have at home.
07 - 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, where NX6600GT falls a little bit behind.
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.
The Asus 6600GT prevails once more as the AGP NX6600GT seems to perform similar to the X700.
8. Half life 2
08 - 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.
800x600 seems to be too small a resolution for these cards and all seem to be limited by the CPU power. This effect is lost at 1024x768 and above where we begin to see some actual differences. The MSI NX6600GT offers great performance even under the resolution of 1600x1200 with 55fps on average.
With quality settings enabled the difference between the PCI-E and AGP versions of 6600GT seems huge, especially under 1024x768 were we got a gap of 21fps.
9. Doom 3
09 - 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:
This chart could be just as well be used for an AMD 3500+ CPU review. The results of MSI NX6600GT are produced using the 3500+ where the ones of Asus 6600GT using a P4 3.0GHz. However the X700 is not bound by the CPU. It just lacks the sufficient power to render Doom 3.
With AA set to 4x and AF to 8x, the GPUs take over and the results are much clearer. Again the AGP version of 6600GT by MSI comes second in performance but 40fps with all the quality settings on at 1024x768 is just a great result anyway.
10. Far Cry
10 - 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.
- 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 resolutions we run the demo at are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was executed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we leveled up AA to 4x and AF to 8x.
At 800x600 the Asus 6600GT is the one with the highest framerate. Moving on to other resolutions the MSI NX6600GT AGP takes over and leads the race up to 1600x1200.
The situation remains the same with 4xAA and 8xAF. The NX6600GT is showing its class by delivering 57fps on average at the 1024x768 setting.
11. Thief 3
12 - Thief 3
of Deus Ex, from now on we'll be testing our cards using Thief 3.
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 enough frames per second under any satisfactory resolution. 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 brings horrific results. This time the framerates are given for reference use only.
12. Colin McRae 05
13 - 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.
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 NX6600GT cannot challenge any of the other cards in terms of performance. Still, the framerates are more than enough to enjoy the game even at the highest resolution.
Unfortunately framerate smoothness in game for the NX6600GT is lost at 1280x1024, albeit the average fps was more than 25.
13. Ground Control II
14 - Ground Control II
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
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
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
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!
As you can see on the chart, all cards perform equally good and without much variance between the cards' framerates.
As we enabled AA and AF the ATI card decreased its performance much more than the Nvidia 6600GTs. The AGP version from MSI once again can't do better than the PCI-E version of Asus but the fps are pretty close between under all resolutions.
15 - 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
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 card's stock clock speeds are 500MHz for the core and 450MHz for the memory parts. As we said before the memory used by MSI was a set of 2.0ns GDDR3 from Samsung. That would immediately mean that the card can put up with a little more memory overclocking than usual.
The new clock speeds we set using Rivatuner are 540MHz and 575MHz for the GPU and memory respectively. Let's see how much difference that makes in practice:
As you can see overclocking unleashes the card's true potential. Even in Doom3 where most other cards showed little to no increase, the NX6600GT got a boost of at least 6fps even under 1600x1200!
16 - Conclusion
Putting the NX6600GT side to side with the PCI-Express 6600GT from Asus we get the impression that it lacks a bit in performance in almost all of the games. However given the higher clock speeds of the latter, the difference is not that much. If we were to overclock the MSI card too, no doubt it would outperform the Asus card.
Also remember the 9800XT and FX5950U? These cards still cost more than $200 and really they stand no chance compared against the 6600GT which only costs around $200. The 6600GT is currently the absolute best-buy AGP card and that is the reason it's so hard to find one. The demands for the card, especially the AGP version are more than NVidia had predicted for the mid-range market and most of them are currently out of stock.
Overclocking was more than great with the NX6600GT. The high quality memory parts used by MSI were used at a lower frequency than they were initially made to handle. Be it that way, increasing the memory clock speed was no problem and with the extra 40MHz on the core, the card unleashed a lot more power.
The card's bundle is exactly the same with the MSI NX6800Ultra. All are generally good games and each has its own fans in the target audience. However, since most where released around November 2002, there's small chance you haven't yet played one of them.
To sum up if you're looking for a small semi-expensive upgrade in order to be able to play the majority of the latest games this card is for you. Make sure your CPU can handle the games and this card won't fail you.
Excellent value for money
Excellent overclocking potential
Very silent operation
Value for money: