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Appeared on: Tuesday, November 13, 2007
MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC


1. Introduction, specifications

MSI is a well known graphics card manufacturer that releases its own design of Nvidia's/ATI's cards, compared to other manufactures. Recently a friend of mine decided to build a new game rig with a reasonable cost and good performance. I suggested him Nvidia's 8600GTS series and after his search, he bought MSI's proposal. At first glance, we don't find many differences compared to other 8600GTS series, apart from the fact that this "baby" comes pre-over clocked in both GPU and memory. What can you expect from MSI's NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC?

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 that illustrates the main differences between the various GeForce 8 series GPUs:

  GeForce
8800 Ultra
GeForce
8800 GTX
GeForce
8800 GTS
GeForce
8600 GTS
GeForce
8600 GT
GeForce
8500 GT
GeForce
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
320MB
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.

- MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC

The MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC features 256MB of memory, a core clock of 700MHz and a memory frequency of 2.10GHz, which is slight higher than what generic 8600GTS cards offer. The retail package has all the needed logos and users can buy this product at the retail price of 145Euro (+ shipping). MSI offers several different versions of 8600GTS series, each with different features and retail or bulk options.

MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC comes bundled with the Company Of Heroes real-time strategy (RTS) computer game.

The OC logo on the front indicates that this version is faster than other generic 8600GTS cards:

Unpacking the box contents...

There are many cables inside including DVI to HDMI adaptor and of course an HDMI cable. This card can be used with the newest LCD televisions for sure.

Company Of Heroes retail game is included. Yep! The full version!

The card is rated as full sized and will take two slots of your system.

Looking at the side, we can see how big the cooling system is, the overall board design comes from MSI and is different than other 8600GTS cards. What's rather also not very pleasant, is that the card is longer than other 8600GTS cards and this might be an issue with some cases. We can also see the SLI connector.

The card at the back features two (x2) DVI-D outputs and one TV-out output. HDCP is supported and you can output HD content to your TV/monitor.

Despite to the usual 8600GTS, MSI's proposal uses the old molex power connector:

- Full specification

Graphics Engine
GeForce™ 8600GTS
Video Memory
256MB GDDR3
Engine Clock
700MHz
Memory Clock
2.00GHz (2x1050MHz DDR3)
Memory Interface
256-bit
Max Resolution
2048 X 1536
Bus Standard
PCI Express x16
HDTV Output
Yes, S-Video to HDTV Out
VGA Output
Yes, With DVI-VGA adaptor
TV Output
Yes, S-Video to Composite
Dual DVI Output
Yes
Adapter/Cable Bundled
2x DVI to VGA adapter
1x HDTV-OUT adaptor
Software Bundled

1x CD-ROM (Company Of Heroes)
1x CD-ROM (Utilities & Driver)


2. The test PC

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2007 we can see more specifications of the card:

All test conducted with the same PC setup:

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

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

We used many games and applications to evaluate each VGA card's performance, we will separate them in two categories:

DirectX 9

DirectX10


3. DirectX TestBed

- Testbed DirectX9

For all test results we used the default settings of 3DMark05 as follows:

Again we left all settings in default:

For all tests, we used the retail version with the v1.08 patch applied. We maxed out all details for processor and we disabled Soft Shadows. AA/AF were set accordingly to each test.

We used the retail version with the v1.2.0 patch applied. For all tests we used hocbench with Guru3D timedemo

COF offers a build-in benchmark that was used to measure the performance of each graphic card. All visual quality settings are maxed out:

In order to benchmark graphic cards, we used the Demo version that includes a "Performance Test" function. There are two test results from two different animated courses that being reported as "Snow" and "Cave":

We used the following visual settings for all tests:

We set maximum details under game preferences:

and used the Unreal Tournament III benchmark utility to measure the performance of each graphics card in several timedemo. Note that bSmoothFrameRate  was set from TRUE to FALSE to disable frame-rate smoothing/ limiting:

We used the build-in benchmark and all details were set to HIGH.

- Testbed DirectX10

We used the build-in benchmark and we maxed out the shadow details.

We used the build-in benchmark while all details are set to VERY HIGH.


4. 3D Mark05 Hall Of Fame

Before starting our test, lets find out where the MSI 8600GTS OC edition stands in terms of absolute power compared with other models and SLI setups. In 3D Mark 05, we got a score of 11685 that places the card in the middle, behind the Asus 8600GTS Top. We have to remind you that Asus 8600GTS Top is clocked higher in both GPU/core so it should perform better in all tests.

Passing to 3D Mark 06, MSI 8600GTS OC performed better than the Asus 8600GTS Top, with a difference of only 48 points, which can be explained from the different Forceware driver revision.


5. Scalability AA/AF

Looking at all the tested 8600GTS clocks, we could expect similar performance, especially under the various anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering modes. How well this card can perform with up to 16xQ AA? First lets see how F.E.A.R. performance is affected from the various AA/AF modes.

The performance of all tested 8600GTS cards seem to be the same. Despite the fact that the Asus 8600GTS Top is clocked higher than other tested cards, after 2x AA, we had the same performance from all graphic cards. The same results are noticed in Prey. We see an almost linear drop at performance level as anti-aliasing is increasing. At 4xAA we have 48FPS which is very good.

More demanding games with more details will have a decreased performance if you decide to enable anti-aliasing. Company Of Heroes after 2x AA stretches the system and while the game is an RTS, users might want to avoid enabling AA. The performance of all tested graphics cards is almost the same.


6. Benchmarks - DX9

Now its time to see how the graphics card performs under various games.

The Crysis demo showed that 8600GTS series need to lower the visual details or the resolution in order to get a decent frame rate. Despite the low frame rates, the game was playable at 1280x1024 with all details set to HIGH. The MSI 8600GTS OC card scores an average of 13.66FPS rendering speed, while the Asus EN8600GTS Top was faster with 14.34FPS.

Passing to Half Life 2 Episode 2, the difference between the Asus EN8600GTS Top and  the MSI 8600GTS OC was very small, down to a single FPS.

All tested 8600GTS graphics cards, had exactly the same performance in Lost Planet...

Lastly, in Unreal Tournament 3 the MSI 8600GTS OC performed very good with an average of 60FPS, with all details maxed out.

Below we can find in details, the average performance for each graphic card under the various sub-benchmark.


7. Benchmarks - DX10

Passing to DX10 and VISTA (32bit), things were somewhat difficult for most of 8600GTS based cards. We tried to max out every detail that each game/benchmark offered and get an idea of the worst case scenario.

Company Of Heroes offers D3D10 shader support and the game is really stunning. At this benchmark, MSI 8600GTS OC performed higher than both Gigabyte 8600GTS Passive and Asus EN8600GTS Top.

Call Of Juarez is one of the first titles with full DX10 support. The Benchmark gives rather low frame rates for all tested cards.

Under VISTA and DX10, users can enable Very High details for Crysis. That implies a massive performance hit, since most cards performed 50% less compared to what we got under the DX9 benchmarks with all details set to HIGH.

Lastly, Lost Planet is also affected when all details are maxed out. We don't suggest enabling both HDR & High details since the result is rather unplayable with an 8600GTS card series.


8. Overclocking, final thoughts

- Overclocking/Noise/Heat

We used RivaTuner v2.0.6 to overclock the MSI 8600GTS OC card up to 734/1572/1124 (core/shader/memory) frequencies. This were the best results we got and at the same time, the card was 100% stable in Crysis benchmark. We noticed a very small performance gain, especially in 3D Mark 05 and 3D Mark 06...

The most noticeable negative of MSI 8600GTS OC is the fact that its fan works at full speed all the time. We didn't liked this since the fan was noisy and this is also confirmed after looking at MSI's website: "...This VGA card cannot support smart FAN function so that is why it will always run at full speed...".

- Conclusion

MSI has a long tradition and good reputation among enthusiast users for a very good performance/price ratio in their products. The Nvidia 8600GTS series offers good gaming performance in most current games and at the same time proper price for the entry level user. MSI introduces its own solution with the codename "NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC" that has higher core/memory clocks. Moreover it offers a DVI to HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable, that usually other manufacturers don't give. Lastly, Company Of Heroes RTS game title is included to give you a first idea of the graphics card's performance and abilities.

Passing to the benchmarks, in most tests, it performed more or less as the other tested Nvidia based 8600GTS cards. Due to its slight lower clocks than the Asus EN8600GTS Top got the second place, at least under DirectX9 games. We didn't saw any difference when we passed to DirectX10 games (with maximum level od details). The best news is that the price is much lower than other graphics cards, with a retail price of 145€! Both Gigabyte 8600GTS Passive and Asus EN8600GTS Top cost more so that means it has the best performance/price ratio. Concluding this review, we don't have any negative for MSI's 8600GTS solution, unless you have a serious problem with the noise that this cards produces...



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