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NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT Shootout (AGP)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Vijay Anand on Monday, 9th May, 2005

The author of this article would like to acknowledge Vijay Anand's contribution to this article.

Capturing The Middle Ground

If women are attracted to bright shiny objects, then men must be attracted to bright shiny toys that growl in the dark. How else to explain their fascination with, among other things, fast cars, computer hardware and high-fidelity sound systems? In fact, we can find some remarkable parallels among the magazines and fan sites that cater to these groups of enthusiasts. For example, while car reviewers rave about the latest Ferrari or Porsche and how fast they accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, we discuss the merits of NVIDIA versus ATI using numerous benchmark comparisons. As we all know, not many people can afford a Ferrari; most of us can only choose between Toyota and Ford. Computer hardware is much more affordable but as always, there is a price to pay for the boasting rights that is accorded to the latest and greatest. We may all yearn for two NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultras to run SLI with, but in reality, most people are only willing to pay for a mid-range card, like the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT. It is only appropriate that we do not focus solely on the expensive, drool-worthy hardware and neglect the more practical folks. Specifically, we looked at the mid-range price bracket and decided to focus on products featuring NVIDIA's GeForce 6600 GT graphics processing units (GPUs) for this article.

NVIDIA launched its GeForce 6600 GT cards in the US$199 price bracket late last September. Initially, the GeForce 6600 GT cards were native PCI Express products but by November, the AGP versions were introduced. All the GeForce 6600 GT cards in our shootout are AGP versions though they should perform similarly to its PCI Express cousins. This price segment is probably the most competitive and probably makes up the bulk of the graphics cards sold on the retail front. Vendors know a solid product here can generate high sales figures and hence, they have presented a wide selection of products varying in their features and bundled extras.

To make things more confusing for the first time buyer, not all GeForce 6600 GT cards are equal. The default clock speeds for the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT GPU and memory are 500MHz and 900MHz DDR respectively. However, some vendors have chosen to clock their products faster while others empower end-users to overclock their cards by including user-friendly software tools. Finally, there are those who add extra features at a slight cost to entice buyers into choosing them. Therefore, we have gathered nine such cards using the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT GPUs (AGP) from Albatron, ASUS, Chaintech, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Inno3D, Leadtek, MSI and have put them through their paces in this shootout to help you find that right card to meet all your different needs. More importantly, these cards deliver respectable performance without breaking your bank.

Which of these 9 cards will survive the ordeal?

First, let us have a brief overview of a standard GeForce 6600 GT card before we highlight the features of the different cards in this shootout. The table below outlines the basic features that one should expect from your vanilla GeForce 6600 GT. Those who would like to learn more about the GeForce 6600 series can refer to this detailed article: Q4 2004 Performance Midrange GPU/VPU Shootout (PCIe)

Typical NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT Technical Specifications
Graphics Engine
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT GPU
    • Stock 2D GPU clock = 300MHz
    • Stock 3D GPU clock = 500MHz (varies on some cards)
    • 8 pixel rendering pipelines
    • 3 vertex pipelines (geometry engines)
    • 128-bit DDR3 memory controller
  • CineFX 3.0 Shading Engine
    • Vertex Shaders
      • Support for DX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
      • Displacement Mapping
      • Vertex Frequency Stream Divider (Geometry Instancing)
      • Infinite length vertex programs (supported in hardware)
    • Pixel Shaders
      • Support for DX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
      • Full pixel branching support
      • Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
      • Infinite length pixel programs (supported in hardware)
    • Texturing Engine Features
      • Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
      • Support  for 16-bit and 32-bit floating point formats
      • Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
      • DirectX and S3TC texture compression
    • Full 128-bit FP Precision Graphics Pipeline
      • Native support for 32 / 64 / 128 bits per pixel rendering modes
  • UltraShadow II Technology (accelerates shadow computations)
  • Intellisample 3.0 Technology
    • 16x Anisotropic Filtering
    • Adaptive Texture Filtering
    • Rotated Grid Antialiasing
    • Fast antialiasing and compression performance
    • Loss-less Color, Texture and Z-Data Compression algorithms (in real time)
    • Fast Z-clear
    • High-resolution Compression Technology (HCT) increases performance at high resolutions.
  • Advanced Video and Display Functionality
    • Dedicated on-chip video processor
      • MPEG video encode and decode
      • WMV9 decode acceleration
      • Advanced adaptive de-interlacing
      • High quality video scaling and filtering
    • Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768 with built-in Macrovision copy protection
    • DVD and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i resolutions
    • Dual 400MHz RAMDACs that support resolutions of 2048x1536@85Hz
    • Dual DVO ports for interfacing external TMDS transmitters and external TV/HDTV encoder
    • Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR)
    • nView Multi-display Technology
  • Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0
  • NVIDIA High-Precision Dynamic-Range (HPDR) Technology
  • Advanced Interface Support
    • Full support of AGP 8X using High Speed Interconnect (HSI) chip
  • Advanced thermal monitoring and thermal management
Graphics Memory
  • 128MB Graphic DDR3 SDRAM
  • Default memory clock = 900MHz DDR (varies on some cards)
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400 MHz DACs that support resolutions of 2048x1536@85Hz
  • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 compliant and HDCP ready)
  • 1 x DB15 analog VGA connector (for CRT monitors and Flat Panel displays)
  • 1 x DVI-I connector (for Digital Flat Panel displays, compatible with analog displays with converter)
  • 1 x mini-DIN connector for TV-Output / VIVO (supports TV-output resolution up to 1024x768)
Driver Support
  • Driver support for Windows NT4 SP6/ 95/ 98 / Me / 2000 / XP / XP MCE / XP 64-bit / Server 2003 SP1 64-bit
  • Driver support for Linux IA32 / AMD64 / IA64 and FreeBSD
  • Fully compliant professional OpenGL 1.5 API with NVIDIA extensions
  • Complete DirectX support including 9.0c and lower
Other Information
  • AGP 2.0 / 3.0 slot required (1.5V)
  • 1 PCI-assigned IRQ Required
  • One four-pin Molex power connector required (preferably not shared or split with Y-cable)

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