Gigabyte GeForce 8600GT Video Card Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: October 2, 2007
Price: $118.99 USD
Trying to get the right video card for the system you are building? Can't figure out where to go or what to buy? Amazed at the many choices on the market? You are not alone in that search. There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes time to purchase a graphics card. There is the all-out-top-of-the-line-gotta-have-it-gamer that will take nothing less than the top of the line card, regardless of the price. Then there is the more cautious approach where some thought takes place; what is really needed and will do the job instead of just going for the cheapest card around. Many times this leads to disappointment for the end user when the graphics quality just is not there. The Gigabyte 8600GT is neither a high end card or by any means a low end card, but it falls somewhere closer to the top than the bottom end of the scale. This Gigabyte 8600GT is a PCI Express x16 video card that features Silent-Pipe II Technology for its cooling needs, has 256MB of GDDR3 memory, is DirextX 10 ready, supports HDCP technology, is SLI ready, and last but not least supports HDTV output.
"Gigabyte, one of the most well known IT brands in the industry, started as a motherboard technology laboratory with the passion of a few young engineers over two decades ago. With the vision and insights of the market, Gigabyte has become one of the world's largest motherboard manufacturers. On top of motherboards and graphics accelerators, Gigabyte has further expanded its portfolio to include notebook and desktop PC's, digital home entertainment appliances, networking servers, communications, mobile and handheld devices. Gigabyte has risen from an eight man office to a world class enterprise in the IT indusrty."
The packaging that arrived felt much heavier than any of the mid-ranged cards I have ever used. This was surprising and just by the weight I felt that the wrong card may have been shipped. But alas it was the right card. This is the Supreme Commander Version of Gigabyte's 8600GT series of video cards. The box illustrates the fact that the game is included as part of the bundle of sofware for this card. The rear of the package shows the features and highlights the Silent-Pipe II technology used to cool the gpu.
Once inside the box, I was greeted by yet another box; this one jet black without writing on any of the panels. Once inside, the bundle of software and the manual sit on top of the foam the video card is enclosed in. The hardware bundle includes two DVI-to-D-Sub adapters, as well as an S-Video-to-Composite dongle for connections to a television. The card ifself was sealed in an anti-static bag and placed securely in a foam enclosure, protecting the card on all four sides. This method is much more forgiving than just a plastic clamshell.
Once the card is freed from the confines of the box and anti-static bag, the idea behind this card becomes a little clearer. It features a large, passively-cooled heatsink on the front face. The heatsink is held on the card by a plastic bracket using just four attaching points. The attaching points for the monitors and SLI bridge are covered with protective caps to prevent any damage or intrusion of unwanted substances. One thing you will notice is that the card does not use any external plugs to connect power the card.
The Silent-Pipe II heatpipe cooling solution is clearly visible showing the distribution method used to carry the heat load away from the graphics core. The connections for the monitors are DVI with an S-Video connection thrown in to make the connection to the television via the included dongle.
Speaking of the dongle, here are some photos of the aforementioned bundled accessories.
Installing a new video card can be challenging to some individuals. For the majority of users it is not normally a traumatic experience. The first step is to remove the drivers for the old video card. The included uninstall program can be used but any number of driver cleaning programs can be used as well. After the removal of the software side of the old card, turn off the computer and remove the old graphics by removing the hold down screw and retention clip (if any). This card does not need an additional power connection to supply any additional current. After the complete removal of the old device, insert the new graphics card into the appropriate PCI-e slot and secure the new card with a screw and close up the case. Make all of the connections that need to be hooked up. Power up the computer and you should get that beautiful post screen.
After the computer is back into Windows, it is time to start the software installation and configuration. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the software installation and then configuration of the video card. Start off by inserting the driver disc into an optical drive and the Auto Run process will begin the installation.
After the disc has launched, the installation GUI comes up and allows the selection of the correct software options to choose from. A manual installation can be accomplished after browsing the included software disc.
Once the option has been chosen to do the driver installation, move forward and continue on through it. During the installation a pop up window came up stating that the drivers did not pass Windows logo testing. "Continue Anyway" and complete the install.
Included on the disc is a VGA configuration utility allowing for the set up of the video card settings. These are sometimes the same as the Nvidia utility. It is installed the same way as any other utility installation process.
Now that the card has been shown to you, let's see how well it does in our benchmarking suite.
NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT
Y (By Adapter)
- RoHS Compliant - As a citizen of the global village, GIGABYTE exert ourselves to be a pioneer in environment care. Give the whole of Earth a promise that our products do not contain any of the restricted substances in concentrations and applications banned by the RoHS Directive, and are capable of being worked on at the higher temperatures required for lead free solder. One Earth and GIGABYTE Cares!
- nView® Multi-Display Technology- Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors. NVIDIA GPUs are enabled to support multi-displays, but graphics cards vary.
- SLI™ Technology-Delivers up to 2X the performance of a single GPU configuration for unparalleled gaming experiences by allowing two graphics cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI dramatically scales performance on 60 top PC games.
- PureVideo™-PureVideo™ technology ensures support for new video formats, while its motion estimation engine (MEE) allows the card to record and play video files simultaneously without interrupting system performance. An added value PureVideo™ provides is its high-definition MPEG-2 and WMV HD hardware accelerator that take on much of the heavy lifting during playback of Hi-Def video. Other video playback enhancements include a unique color correction mechanism that will help to create a home theater from a PC.
- OpenGL 2.0® Optimizations and Support-Ensure top-notch compatibility and performance for all OpenGL 2.0 application
- PCI Express -Designed to run perfectly with the next-generation PCI Express bus architecture. This new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.
- 80nm Process Technology-Delivers higher performance through blazing clock rates.
Microsoft® DirectX® 10- World's first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realims and film-quality effects.
- Silent-Pipe II Technology-Silent-Pipe II technology that generates natural airflow to provide more efficient cooling without the use of a heat sink or fan. This is achieved through a unique design that draws cool air in through a new proprietary front-flow thermal module to remove heat from the heat sink on the VGA card. GIGABYTE Silent-Pipe II Features and Benefits:
*Feature 1. Proprietary front-flow thermal module: the first Dual-slot heat pipe solution to utilize a convection slot at the back of the chassis to increase thermal dissipation.
*Feature 2. Natural convection design: Silent-Pipe II technology artfully uses the temperature difference between the inside and outside of chassis, creating natural system convection.
*Feature 3. High-precision die-casting process: uses the latest high-precision die forming technology to increase the thermal conductivity of the material that makes up the heat sink.
*Feature 4. SLI ready: designed for compatibility with dual card configurations.
*Feature 5. High performance heat pipe with sintered powder wicks: with the industry's best powder-style pure copper heat pipe for ultra efficient thermal conductivity.
*Feature 6. 3D performance ready: designed stability during demanding 3D applications.
*Feature 7. Integrated architecture design: heat pipe and GPU actually make contact to provide unequalled heat conductivity.
At OverclockersClub.com, we use a series of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer, as well as a few more seasoned, gaming benchmarks to show the performance that this passively cooled graphics card has to offer. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory default settings to minimize or eliminate any variables from impacting the results. The setup we will use is listed below. We will be comparing performance across a series of 8600 series video cards to see if it brings home the bacon or just leaves it on the shelf.
- Processor: Intel E6700 Core 2 Duo 266x10
- Motherboard: ECS P35T-A
- Memory: 2 x 1GB Mushkin XP9200 400FSB 5-4-4-12
- Video Card(s): Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GT( Silent pipe II Technology Cooled)
- Power Supply: Ultra X3 Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 2 x WD 250GB 16MB cache SATA
- Opticals: BenQ DW-1655 Lightscribe DVD-R, Sony DVD-ROM
- O/S: Windows XP Service Pack 2
- Comparison Card 1: XFX 8600GTS XXX
- Comparison Card 2: Sapphire X1950 PRO Ultimate
- Comparison Card 3: XFX 8600GT Fatal1ty
- Far Cry
- Quake 4
- Need For Speed Most Wanted
- Call of Duty II
First up we have Crytek's first-person shooter, Far Cry. This game makes extensive use of pixel shaders and features polybump normal mapping technology to increase character details.
We will be using the Hardware OC Benchmarking Utility version 1.8 with the following settings:
- Maximum quality option, Direct3D renderer
- Level: Volcano, demo: Volcano.tmd
- Pixel shader: model 2.0b
- Anti-aliasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 8×
- HDR: disabled
- Geometry Instancing: disabled
- Normal-maps compression: disabled
While the frame rates in Far Cry were not world beaters they are definetly in the playable range, especially in the lower resolutions.
F.E.A.R. is a newer first-person shooter that includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark the game. This game introduces a new AI model that emulates real squad behavior. It has the ability to counteract the moves you make rather than having a predictable routine.
The settings we will use are below:
- FSAA: x4
- Anisotropic: x16
- Effects: Max
- Computer: High
- Soft Shadow: Off
F.E.A.R. seems to put a bit more load on the card. Playing at resolutions higher than 1280x 1024 border on unplayable.
BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to them, to provide a unique experience each time it is played.
- All settings to Maximum
BioShock thoroughly punished the 8600GT. During heavy action, the frame rates drop to an unplayable level. Higher resolutions are not where this card shines.
Call of Duty 2 is a WWII first-person shooter that may be a bit dated, but still maintains a tremendous online following. This test will consist of a timed run on the Stalingrad multi-player map, measured by Average FPS (frames per second).
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Texture Filter: Trilinear
COD II is a demanding game at higher resolutions and the results hold true to what has happened in all the gaming benchmarks so far.
Quake 4 is next up for testing. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 Benchmark Utility version 1.5 to complete the testing with this game. You will need to update to the most current version for the latest time demo and bug fixes. Average FPS (frames per second) will be the measure used.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- IDsoft Demo
- Quality: High
- Aspect Ratio: [4:3]
- Anti-aliasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 4x
- Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) enabled
Quake 4 actually hammered the 8600GT harder than BioShock did. While 30fps is playable at 1024x768, the rest are a no go. The card can do better if the video quality settings are lowered though.
Need For Speed Most Wanted is next. For this test, we will time each race and record the average FPS (Frames Per Second) achieved.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- All settings at 3/4 of highest performance
- Tests in 3 different resolutions
The Gigabyte 8600GT did better on this game benchmark than any of the others at the higher resolutions tested.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up during a bragging contest. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The results were about what was expected with this card.
RyderMark is a new benchmark developed by Candella Software. The benchmark illustrates a speed boat race through the famed canals of Venice, Italy. There are many options that can be changed in the benchmark, but the settings we have settled on to complete this benchmark are listed below. Please check back for a full review on this new benchmark.
- Shader model 3.0
- Resolutions 1024x768,1280x1024,1680x1050
- AA 4x Quality 8
- AF 16x
- 64 Bit Shader
- Memory set to video card level( 512 or More)
Surprise Surprise! The Gigabyte card compared favorably against the competition in the higher resolutions, even besting the 8600GTS model at 1280x1024.
What kind of performance did the graphics card deliver? It did well enough that gaming with medium to to high settings were playable at resolutions up to 1280x1024. After that point, if the settings were kept the same, performance dropped off quickly into the unplayable zone. As long as the eye candy is kept down at the lower end of the scale, higher resolutions can be played. What kind of noise was there? NONE! After all, there's no fan. This is a great change from the hair dryer that normally resides in the graphics slot on my computer. The "Silent-Pipe II Technology" actually kept GPU temperatures well out of the danger zone. I was expecting temperatures in the 80 Celsius range, but after some gaming and benchmarking (3DMark06 looped 4 times) the on-board temperature sensor gave a reading of 58 Celsius via Riva Tuner; something I was not expecting. It may have something to do with the spacious case and airflow through it that helps the results, but regardless, it did the job admirably. While watching movies this card performs quite well. It didn't heat up and the picture quality was excellent. Overall performance was quite good when you throw the price point in. Coming in at a hair under 120 dollars, the performance for price is a great value. Especially when you consider that a thirty dollar game is included with the purchase.
With the HDCP support this card would be an excellent choice for use in an HTPC (Home Theater Personnel Computer). For an HTPC, silent operation is one of the biggest factors that can influence a video card purchase, and this video card delivers silence and performance in a compact package. If these qualities are essential to your next build, this card delivers the goods. The next time you are looking for a video card, keep this one in mind.
- Silent performance
- Silent and efficient cooling
- DX 10 compatability
- HDCP support
- Heatpipe cools effectively
- 2560x1600 max resolution
- Great for an HTPC
- Performance value
- Not for High resolution gaming with settings increased