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Appeared on: Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H


1. Introduction

Gigabyte as many other manufacturers have released their proposals based on Nvidia's 8600GTS graphics chipset series. While the current sold solutions are more or less the same, Gigabyte introduced a passive cooled graphics card with the codename "GV-NX86S256H". Since many users want to build an absolute noiseless system, passive cooled graphics cards are always interesting to test and compare. With DX10 support and the arrival of several new and "hot" games for 2007/2008, we present you Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H and what to expect from it.

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.

- Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H

The Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H features 256MB of memory, a core clock of 675MHz and a memory frequency of 2.00GHz, which can be rated as a "generic" 8600GTS card. The retail package has all the needed logos and users can buy this product at the retail price of 165Euro (+ shipping). According to Gigabyte, the 8600GTS series include the Silent-Pipe 3 cooling system that introduces an all-new concept of VGA card cooling ─ Inner Turbulence Fluid Mechanics Design. Utilizing a series of layered long and short fins with trapezoid punches, Silent-Pipe 3™ transforms laminar (smooth) air flow into turbulent (rough) air flow inside the heat sink, increasing the heat exchange ratio and enhancing overall thermal performance.

Silent-Pipe 3: Features & Benefits

  1. Inner turbulence fluid mechanics design
  2. Front-flow thermal module with layered long-short fins
  3. High-performance heat pipe with sintered powder wicks and 90% of the heat sink is covered by heat pipe.
  4. Advanced Screen-Cooling thermal design
  5. Cooper thermal conductive base

The GIGABYTE GV-NX86S256H comes bundled with the Supreme Commander real-time strategy (RTS) computer game:

The card is rated as medium sized, however it will take two slots at your system, due to its massive passive heatsinks:

Looking at the side, we can see how the heatsink design looks like and that it covers the entire surface of the card.

The design is rather unique and we will find out later if it keeps its promises in keeping the GPU core cool enough...

At the back we find two(x2) DVI-D outputs and one TV-out output. HDCP is supported and you can output HD content to your TV/monitor.

SLI is possible with another 8600GTS card:

Its very interesting that there is no 6pin PCI-E power connector, the card draws its power from the system. That means you need a proper power supply

- Full specification

Graphics Engine
GeForce™ 8600GTS
Video Memory
256MB GDDR3
Engine Clock
6455MHz
Memory Clock
2.00GHz (2x1000MHz 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 (Supreme Commander)
1x CD-ROM (Utilities & Driver)


2. Tests & setup

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

All test conducted with the same PC setup:

In 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. TestBed DX9, DX10

- Testbed DirectX9

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

Again we left all settings in default:

For all tests, we used the retail version with the v1.08 patch applied. We maxed 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 graphic card in several timedemo. Note that bSmoothFrameRate  was set to FALSE to disable frame-rate smoothing/ limiting.:

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

- Testbed DirectX10

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


4. 3D Mark 05 Hall Of Fame

Before starting our test, lets find out where the Gigabyte 8600GTS stand in terms of absolute power compared with other models and SLI setups. At 3D Mark 05, we got a score of 11473 that places the card in the middle, behind the Asus 8600GTS Top. This was expected since Asus 8600GTS Top comes with both GPU and memory pre-overclocked by default.

Passing to 3D Mark 06, both Gigabyte 8600GTS Passive and Asus 8600GTS Top are very close, with a difference of 128 marks.


5. Scalability AA/AF

Despite the fact that Gigabyte 8600GTS Passive is a middle solution, users will want to enhance visual quality by enabling anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. How well this card can perform with up to 16xQ AA? First lets see how F.E.A.R. performance is affected from such a thought.

The performance even to up to 4x is acceptable, we got around 45 FPS. After that point, it's possible that users might need an extra 8600GTS card to achieve higher frame rates. Another example is Prey. We see a linear drop in performance as anti-aliasing was increasing. At 4xAA we have 46FPS which is very good.

More demanding games with more details might prove to be rather difficult to play if you decide to enable anti-aliasing. Company Of Heroes after 2x AA stretches the system enough even though the game is a RTS, so users might want to avoid enabling AA.


6. Benchmarks DX9

After seeing how the card performs under the various AA/AF modes, its time to compare it with other 8600GTS based card, this time with the Asus EN8600GTS Top. We will find that in most tests Asus EN8600GTS Top is faster due to its higher memory/core clocks. In most tests the performance difference depends in the used quality settings.

The Crysis demo showed that 8600GTS series needs 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.

Passing to Half Life 2 Episode 2, we had very good performance and with no AA enabled, we got an average of 39FPS.

>

Lost Planet is also enjoyable since we got 35FPS on the Snow mode.

Lastly, Unreal Tournament 3 was playable with an average of 57FPS in all the benchmarks.


7. Benchmarks DX10

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

Company Of Heroes offers D3D10 shaders and the game is really stunning. With the Gigabyte 8600GTS Passive we had exactly the same performance as with the Asus EN8600GTS Top.

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

- Overclocking/Noise/Heat

Due to the passive cooling system of the graphic card, we decided not to perform an overclock and leave both the core and the memory clocks at their default values. Something that should be noted is that the card produces zero noise cause of the passive cooling. However in order to keep the card cool, there should a decent airflow inside the case. In most tests we left the card in "open air" and the temperatures at the external shell reached 76 degrees Celsius, as measured with our digital thermometer.

- Conclusion

Gigabyte introduces an interesting proposal for middle range users with a clear tendency in SFF PCs, since this card features a passive cooling system. In other words, this is an absolute noiseless graphics card! The Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H is clocked at the default 8600GTS speeds and doesn't include any kind of pre-overclock setting, which we don't think is a negative. In most benchmarks, it performed as we thought. When compared with the Asus EN8600GTS Top, the comparison is rather unfair, since Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H has lower clocks and therefore performed worse. However it has a much lower retail price than the Asus EN8600GTS Top.

With a retail price of 165€ users can buy a passive cooled 8600GTS card that performs according to nVidia's specifications. The retail package is complete with Supreme Commander retail game included and a DVI to HDTV converter cable. Concluding this review, we feel that GV-NX86S256H is a very good choice for middle range users. It costs less than competitive products and offers more or less the same performance. Good work Gigabyte!



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