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Appeared on: Monday, October 01, 2007
Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB

1. Introduction

- Introduction

Gainward, like many other manufacturers, has released several products based on nVidia's 8x00 series. For entry level users wanting a powerful product at an affordable price, Gainward introduces the 8600GT series with passive cooling and an extra 256MB, instead of "pushing" memory and core frequencies. So how good is this proposal, considering that the 8600GT series does not perform much better than the previous 7900GS? We plan to find out, testing a number cards with synthetic and real life games, with both DirectX 9 and DirectX 10.

NVIDIA's Unified Architecture GeForce 8 Series GPUs - First to Support Microsoft DirectX 10 Games and Applications.

NVIDIA® GeForce® 8 series graphics processing units (GPUs) redefine the PC gaming experience. With a revolutionary unified architecture and full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10 games, GeForce 8 series GPUs deliver unprecedented performance, extraordinarily detailed environments, and film quality game effects.

Below is a table illustrating the main differences between the various GeForce 8 series GPUs:

8800 Ultra
8800 GTX
8800 GTS
8600 GTS
8600 GT
8500 GT
8400 GS
Core Clock (MHz) 612 575 500 675 540 450 450
Shader Clock (MHz) 1500 1350 1200 1450 1190 900 900
Memory Clock (MHz) 1080 900 800 1000 700 400 400
Memory Amount 768MB 768MB 640MB or
256MB 256MB 256MB 256MB
Memory Interface 384-bit 384-bit 320-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 64-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 103.7 86.4 64 32 22.4 12.8 6.4
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec) 39.2 36.8 24 10.8 8.64 3.6 3.6

The GeForce 8600 GT and 8600 GTS are essentially the same product, with the only difference being the core and memory clock frequencies.

Gainward currently offers many different variants of the 8600GT series, with specific features:

Other features
8491-Bliss 8600 GT 256MB Passive
540 MHz
1.40 GHz
8859-Bliss 8600 GT 256MB HDMI SilentFx
540 MHz
1.40 GHz
256MB + HDMI
8606-Bliss 8600 GT 512MB
540 MHz
1.40 GHz
8866-Bliss 8600 GT 512MB HDMI SilentFX
540 MHz
1.40 GHz
512MB + HDMI
8781-Bliss 8600 GT 256MB GS Goes Like Hell
625+ MHz
1.80 GHz
256MB 1,0ns DDR3
8798-Bliss 8600 GT 1024MB TV DD
600 MHz
1.00 GHz
1024MB 2,0ns DDR2

Starting from the 8491 model, the lowest entry 8600GT with 256MB, we proceed to the 8606 with 512MB, while both are offered with passive cooling and HDMI output. For extreme users, the 8781 is pre-overclocked, while the 8798 comes with 1GB of DDR2 ram! For our review, we used a mid-level model, the 8606-Bliss 8600 GT 512MB

- Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB

The Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB features 512MB of memory, a core clock frequency of 540MHz and a memory frequency of 1.40GHz, as is the case with generic 8600GT Nvidia based cards.

The retail package sports a variety of logos showing product features. Users can buy this card at the retail price of €143~158 (+ shipping). The contents are carefully packaged:

While, no retail game is included, there are two discs with drivers and utilities.

To sum it up, the retail package includes:

The card is small with a big copper heatsink covering the GPU and memory modules. There is no noise thanks to this passive design, however the heatsink gets quite hot. Don't make the mistake of touch the card while it's working under full load. We measured it at over 70° Celsius!

The card's output offers two DVI-D outputs and one TV-out. HDCP is supported and you can output HD content to your TV/monitor.

SLI is possible with the Gainward 8600GT card, while no external power is needed for the card to work:

- Full specification

Product Name:
Bliss 8600 GT 512MB
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
GPU Clock speed:
512MB DDR3
Memory Clock speed:
Pixels per clock (peak) :
2-Slot Fan
Extreme HD-Output

2. Tests and Setup

- Tests and setup

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2007 we can see further details for the card:

All tests were conducted with the same PC setup:

With the 8800 series, the 3D control panel has some minor changes. Users can now set the AA mode:

And select up to 16x, even with a single card:

We used several games and applications to evaluate the VGA card's performance:

For comparison, we also include results for the following VGA cards (only with DirectX 9):

3. 3D Mark 05 - 3D Mark 06

- 3D Mark 05 v1.2.0

3DMark®05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX®9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware. 3DMark05 is the answer to the continuously growing challenge in benchmarking!

For all tests, we used the default settings for 3DMark05 as follows:

3D Mark 05 is a well know benchmark utility that represents the combination of CPU and VGA strength. As was expected, the Gainward 8600GT's performance was below that of the Asus EN8600GTS Top.


- 3D Mark 06 v1.0.2

3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking and the latest version in the popular 3DMark series! 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, advanced SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. Futuremark's exclusive Online ResultBrowser web service tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores. Again we left all settings at default:

In 3D Mark 06, the performance of the Gainward 8600GT was slightly better that Foxconn's 7900GS, with the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320 by far and away the best performer.

4. F.E.A.R.

- F.E.A.R

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

For all tests, we used the latest available patch which updates the game engine to v1.08. The game offers 1280x1024 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except for Soft Shadows and AA/AF. We used the card's 3D Control panel to enable AA/AF as indicated in each graph.

Below are the results for the built-in benchmark test:

The Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB did not perform very well here, and in fact produced a lower framerate than the Foxconn 7900GS.

Enabling AA/AF impacts on the performance of all the tested cards. Looking at the performance of the cards, the Foxconn 7900GS fares well until 8xAA when it fall below the 8600GT. The Asus EN8600GTS is fastest in all cases, however at 16QAA the performance difference is very slight.

5. Prey

- Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

We used the latest available patch which updates the game engine to v1.2.0. For all tests, we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the Gainward 8600GT reached 54 FPS, which is a rather poor performance.

Enabling the various AA/AF rendering modes, we again see that Foxconn 7900GS faring better than both the 8600GT/GTS cards, until 8x AA.

6. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged.

Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea. As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 1 and 3, HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below, using SM1.1

Both the Foxconn 7900GS and Gainward 8600GT produced exactly the same framerate in this test (SM 1.1). Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory also supports Shader Model 3.0 that can be enabled easily from hocbench:

SM3.0 offers much better visual details but at a performance hit. At this mode, the Gainward 8600GT had the lowest framerate at 42 FPS.

7. Half Life 2 Episode 1

- Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the built-in console to run the timedemo for each card. All tests we carried out at 1280x1024 with HDR shadows fully enabled. Antialiasing and Filtering modes were enabled through Nvidia's 3D control panel:

The Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB's performance with AA/AF disabled was not all that good in comparison to the other cards, even though 75FPS can be considered a good framerate.

HDR Effects and AA/AF do have an effect on performance and again the Foxconn 7900GS performs better than the 8600GT until AF/6xAA.

8. Company Of Heroes (DirectX9 & 10)

- Company Of Heroes (DirectX9 & 10)

In Company of Heroes, gamers will experience the journey of the brave men of Able Company in a deep single-player campaign that begins with the invasion of Normandy through their fight across Europe, all set against the most dynamic battlefield ever seen in a game.

Company of Heroes' completely destructible environment means no two battles ever play out in the same way. Advanced squad AI delivers startling new realism and responsiveness, bringing soldiers to life as they interact with the environment and execute advanced squad tactics to eliminate the opposition forces.

The game offers impressive graphics, especially when maxing all visual quality settings for DirectX9:

We used the built-in benchmark for all tests at 1280x1024 resolution. The latest patch offers both DirectX10 and AA/AF support. Let's see how each card performs in the Company Of Heroes benchmark with the Highest Quality settings.

The Gainward 8600GT 512MB once again produced inferior performance to the Foxconn 7900GS at COH with all details maxed. With the latest patch, we enabled AA/AF and the results are very discouraging for both 8x00 cards, since at 4x AA, performance drops down to 16FPS.

Under Windows VISTA and DirectX10, we have more visual details enabled where we fully maxed everything, except for AA:

The performance is poor, with 12 FPS average rendering speed. You probably need to reduce several quality settings to be able to play the game with some satisfaction.

9. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2)

- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2)

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 builds off of the events in the first game and places gamers in control of the U.S. military's elite fighting unit, the Ghosts.

In the year 2014, the rising conflict between Mexican loyalists and insurgent rebel forces has thrown Mexico into full-scale civil war. Under the command of Captain Scott Mitchell, the Ghosts are called upon to face an imminent threat to the United States.

The fate of two countries now lies in the hands of the Ghosts as they fend off an attack on U.S. soil. Equipped with the most cutting-edge weaponry and technology, the Ghosts must battle on both sides of the border to neutralize the escalating rebel threat.

In order to benchmark the graphics cards, we used FRAPS and ran the same battle routine with the same running/fighting course. We used the following visual/audio quality settings. Anti-aliasing isn't really offered from within the game. Texture quality is at medium, since the game only allows high detail with an Ageia Physics PhysX card installed:

The sound options are left at default.

At 1280x1024 with maximum details enabled, the Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB gives average performance with 37FPS.

10. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX9 & 10)

- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX9 & 10)

The game's plot focuses on the amnesiac character Wayne Holden, his father, Gale Holden, and the past and future of the planet E.D.N. III. After a particularly vicious battle against a large Akrid known only as "Green Eye", Gale is supposedly killed, and Wayne lost on the icy planes of E.D.N. III . The planet of E.D.N III is perpetually cold and snowy, originally inhabited by a species of aliens known as Akrid, who forced humanity to abandon E.D.N. III by strength of numbers and surprise, which can be found in many and varied forms.

They all share one trait; Thermal Energy, or T.Eng., as it's called in the game. This powerful energy source, found only in Akrid bodies, made humankind determined to fight them after having to retreat from this new menace. They created the Vital Suit, or VS, technology, essentially heated mechs with mounted weapons and powered by T.Eng.

Capcom brought the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition PC version with complete with DX10 support. The graphics are stunning and especially if you run VISTA with a high powered GPU processor. In order to benchmark the graphics cards, we used the Demo version that includes a "Performance Test" function. There are two test results from two different animated courses, "Snow" and "Cave":

We used the following visual settings for all tests:

Let's now see the performance produced by the cards:

The Gainward 8600GT performed well in the demo benchmark with 26FPS and 39FPS for the Snow and Cave scenes respectively. Comparing it with the Asus EN8600GTS Top, we see that the major difference in performance occurs in the Snow test.

Of course, real life gaming could be a little different, and in truth, the performance dropped off dramatically with exactly the same visual settings and same stage:

We played around 60secs and the lowest performance we measured was 10FPS, while the average was 16FPS. Again, you have to lower the details or screen resolution to make the game playable.

Under Windows VISTA, using the same default demo settings as with WinXP, we got slightly lower framerates for the demo version:

While for real life gaming experience, the rendering performance of the Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB was still low at only 20FPS. As we can see, the higher memory/core frequencies of the Asus EN8600GTS Top offer much better performance, but it also costs more.

11. Call Of Juarez (DirectX 10)

- Call Of Juarez (DirectX 10)

Call of Juarez is a Western-themed first-person shooter from the Polish developer Techland. First released for Windows in 2006, it was ported to the Xbox 360 on June 5th 2007.The U.S. release of the PC version is one of the first games to utilize Microsoft's DirectX 10. It was released on June 12th, 2007.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God Himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath. Billy's character provides stealth and sniper elements to the game. With his whip he can latch onto objects to get into hard to reach locations. Later in the game, Billy acquires a bow, which can be used for ranged stealth kills.

In order to benchmark the graphics cards, we used the DirectX 10 demo version that is actually a benchmark utility. While you can set various quality settings, we chose two modes, one with AA enabled:

COJ utilises all DirectX10 features and the results should be considered as an indication of what you can expect from the retail game.

Both the Gainward 8600GT and Asus EN8600GTS Top performed very poorly, so it's a good idea to at least disable anti-aliasing:

While the lowest FPS remained the same, the average rendering performance of the Gainward 8600GT didn't improved at all, while the Asus EN8600GTS produced almost double the framerate, making the game, somewhat playable...

12. Conclusion

- Conclusion

Gainward offers many different cards based on the Nvidia 8600GT series, either with higher memory configuration or with HDMI output or passive cooling. In any case, users can choose exactly what they need and therefore buy the proper product. So far so good.

The Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB is an "enhanced" 8600GT card with an additional 256MB and passive cooling. The core/memory frequencies remain the same (540/700MHz), while it fully supports DirectX10 geometry shaders, offering superb visual quality, when of course the game supports it.

In this review, we included many DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 games. The performance of the Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB was not exactly what we had hoped for, since for most games, without enabling AA/AF, it was even slower than a generic 7900GS card. With DirectX10 games, the performance was poor, so it's also not the best possible solution for hardcore gamers. The card supports HDCP output so we can say its a futureproof buy. The passive cooling does work, even though the card runs very hot at full load, 70° Celsius! For this reason, we didn't even consider trying to overclocking the card.

The card costs around €150, whereas, a passive cooling 7900GS costs around €100. That's 50 difference just for having DirectX 10 and HDCP support. We cannot be sure if this card is the best solution for your needs, but from its performance, its a basic 8600GT series card with passive cooling.

An plus is that High Definition hardware acceleration is possible with the latest Nvidia drivers and of course PowerDVD 7.30. So if you need a card for basic gaming needs, that's quiet and is able to play High Definition content (Mpeg4 AVC) without burdening the CPU, the Gainward 8600GT PCX 512MB could be your choice.

Value for money
Futureproof buy

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