MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo Video Card Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: October 30, 2007
With the overwhelming number of video cards to choose from on the market today, how do you know what to get? Which will meet your needs while also keeping the pocket book happy? Do you need lots of performance or just something to make the pictures look pretty? It all comes down to what you really want to do with that box full of parts. What if you want both performance and pretty pictures? Well MSI (Micro Star International) may just have you covered with one of its latest releases. The MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo has a special feature built into it that allows for a quick change from mild to wild on the card's GPU core and shader clock speeds. It does this by utilizing two separate BIOSes that can be accessed with just the push of a button. One touch video card overclocking has come of age. Features on the MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo video card include 256MB of GDDR3 memory, 600MHz core clock, 1600 MHZ memory speeds, HDMI capabilities, solid capacitors and so much more. Follow along as I find out what kind of performance the Twin Turbo delivers.
The packaging of the MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo features the face of a medieval knight with that grim ready-for-battle stare. The main features of the card are highlighted on the front as well as the rear faces of the box. Dual core center is a proprietary piece of software for overclocking and monitoring the card and is featured on the front panel. The back panel illustrates the "Twin Turbo" dual BIOS function that increases the GPU core and shader clocks with the simple push of a button. Another exclusive that is mentioned is the Mazarine DVI output.
The NX8600GT is packed securely in a foam block and is wrapped in an anti-static bag to prevent any damage during shipment. Much better than the plastic clamshell with out anti-static protection that some manufacturers use. Under the foam block that secures the NX8600GT is the included bundle of accessories.
The bundle of accessories that comes with the NX8600GT includes the manual and quick user's guide, a DVI to D-Sub adapter, an S-Video to component dongle, an S-video cable and the application and driver disc.
Now that we have seen how the package gets to you and what is inside, it's time to dig a little deeper into the subject of this review, the MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo video card.
Removing the card from the confines of the shipping materials, the NX8600GT looks like a shortened 8800GTS. The look of the card is impressive. If looks were the sole indicator of performance, I'm sold on the NX8600GT. The heatsink is held on securely with a sturdy plastic bracket. The NX8600GT is SLI ready, all you need is another card. One thing you will not need with this video card is an external power supply connection because all of its power is supplied via the PCI-E slot on the motherboard.
The heatsink on this card appears larger than it is. The fan takes up a large portion of the room in the heatsink enclosure. The heatsink itself appears to be aluminum with a single copper heatpipe. The heatsink did keep the card cool under load and I saw idle temperatures in Twin Turbo mode of 37 degrees Celsius.
The video out connections are a single S-Video out and an exclusive feature of MSI's video cards, The Mazarine DVI output. This connection allows for using a DVI to HDMI adapter to output both high definition audio and video through a single connection. This port also allows the display of an image on a digital display up to a resolution of 1920x1200. The button with the TT on it is the Twin Turbo button. This is where the one touch overclocking of the shader and core clocks are set. The real magic happens with the activation of the second BIOS chip when this button is pushed.
The installation of a video card is one of the lesser daunting upgrades that the user can do. First, shut down the computer and remove all power from the system. Open the chassis, identify the graphics card and remove the retaining screw that hold it in place and remove the card. After unpacking the NX8600GT, carefully insert it into the 16x PCI-E slot designated for the video card and gently push down to set the card. Install the retaining screw to hold the card in place, close up the chassis and get ready for a more stimulating visual experience. Power up the system and install the drivers and applications that suit your needs.
The video card will not work properly without the correct drivers for the application. First, place the disc into the optical drive on your computer and the driver installation window should start up. There are four tabs that can be accessed on this driver installation window. The first is the driver menu, followed by the utilities section, and the last two are MSI's contact information and the product manual. If an automatic install is not to your liking, you can always browse the driver disc to find the specific items for your installation.
Choose the driver install on the first tab and complete the driver installation. There were no surprises such as non-WHQL certified drivers. Reboot the computer and the installation of the drivers is complete.
After the driver installation, there are a number of proprietary utilities you can install to get the most from the NX8600GT. The utility I choose to use is the Dual Core Center. This utility allows for low level tweaks, as well as setting up individual profiles for use along with the several that are built in. Each one has a specific set of core clocks to use for individual applications. When changing the preset profiles, MSI does offer up a few words of caution on the effects of overclocking and asks whether the user will continue. Of course I will.
Along with the preset overclocking profiles, the Dual Core Center can monitor fan speeds, voltages, temperatures and clock speeds. If the card supports the measuring of these functions, the software can be a handy tool.
By right-clicking on the desktop, the standard display properties box is accessed. But now there is a little more there than the usual. MSI's software is incorporated into the display properties window. The additional tabs are there for fine tuning the video settings. Included are tabs for the VGA information, VGA Clock, Vivid and Star OSD.
VGA Information is just what is says it is. This tab gives a bit of information about the card. The VGA Clock tab allows for the setting of GPU core and memory clockspeeds, as well as enabling another set of overclocking options with MSI's Dynamic Overclocking Technology. This allows percentage based overclocking improvements. Of course, higher rank equates to higher performance.
The last two tabs allow you to configure the parameters of the display to your individual tastes.
THe NX8600GT is configured and ready to have a go in our benchmarking suite to test its mettle against a few of the newest competitors in the 8600GT market.
Graphics Bus Technology:
Core Clock (MHz)
Memory Clock (MHz):
Fill Rate (Billion pixels/sec)
Dual Link DVI
Support Dual DVI-I or S-Video + DVI-I
Single Link Display
(Analog) Support 1900x1200 60Hz
(Digital) 2048x1536 75HZ
- HDMI with Audio Integration Solution (Optional) The NVIDIA® GeForce® 8 Series graphics card supports HDMI with audio integration solution. With a DVI-to-HDMI adapter and an extra signal cord through the bracket, audio source from sound card(S/PDIF) can be integrated into HDMI interface by simply plugging the cord into the pinhead located on graphics card. Only 1 single HDMI cable is required while streaming audio/video data to flat-panel display devices, such as Plasma/LCD TVs, or projector.
- NVIDIA CineFX 5.0 Shading Architecture
• Microsoft Vista Features
- Support for Microsoft DirectX 10.0 Vertex Shader 4.0
- Encompass' Transform and Lighting
- Displacement mapping
- Geometry instancing
• Pixel shades
- Support for DirectX 10.0 Pixel Shader 4.0
- Support for full pixel branching
- Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
- Infinite-length pixel programs
• Next-generation texture engine
• Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline,with native hardware support for 32 bpp,64 bpp,and 128 bpp rendering modes.
- 64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending
• Full floating point is supported throughout entire pipeline
• Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
• Floating point texturing drivers new levels of clarity and image detail
• Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions
- NVIDIA Intellisample 4.0 Technology
• Advanced 16X anisotropic filtering (up to 128 taps)
• Rotated-grid antialiasing for removing jagged edges for incredible edge quality
• Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture,and z-data at higher resolutions and frame retes
• Fast z-clear
• Support for normal map compression
• New transparent supersampling and transparent multisampling antialiasing modes.
- NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
• Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games,like id Software's Doom 3
- NVIDIA SLI Technology
• Patented hardware and software technology allows two GPUs to run in parallel to scale performance
• Scales performance on over 60 top PC games and applications
• Support for NVIDIA nView multi-display for scalable performance across two displays.
- NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
• Patented hardware and software technology allows two GPUs to run in parallel to scale performance
• Three dedicated video engines
• MPEG-2 HD and WMV HD video playback up to 1920 X1080p resolution
• H 264 hardware decode acceleration
• Decryption supported for all standard HD Video formats-AES-128 CTR mode,AES-128 CBC mode,and AES-128 ECB mode.
• Industry's most advanced video algorithms
• Overlay color temperature correction
• Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) support for multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window
• Integrated HDTV output.
- NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0 Technology
• DVC color controls
• DVC image sharpening controls
- API Support
• Complete DirectX support,including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 10.0 Shader Model 3.0
• Full OpenGL support,including OpenGL 2.0
- MSI Bundled Sftware
- VGA Driver
• MSI Live Update Series ( Live Graphics Card BIOS & Live Graphics Card Driver)
- Automatically online download & update VGA BIOS & Drivers, reduce the risk of getting the wrong files, and never have the trouble on web site searching.
• StarOSD NEW!
StarOSD can monitor system information, adjust monitor figuration, and overclock system.
• Dual Core Center NEW!
Automatically release the system memory space, reduce the risk of system hang-up.
- Instantly enter the data lock mode when you must leave your system for a while.
- Automatically list the detail system configuration, it helpful for engineering service people.
• MSI VIVID NEW!
- Vivid brings the easiest way to optimize graphic quality. Colorize your vision when browsing photos!!! Sharpen characters edge! Enhance contrast when playing game!
• MSI Live
- Including all real time life information you need, such as Live MSI Product News, Live Daily Information, Live Personal Schedule Manager, Live Search and more.
• MSI Secure DOC
• ThinSoft Be Twin
• Adobe Acrobat Reader
• Norton Internet Security 2005
• Microsoft® DirectX 9.0c
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 how well the NX8600GtT Twin Turbo compares to some of the latest offerings. All driver settings and clock speeds will be left at factory default settings with the exception of the Twin Turbo Setting 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 the MSI offering outpaces the pack or just settles in for the ride.
- Processor: Intel E6750 Core2Duo 333x8
- Motherboard: Gigabyte P31 DS3L
- Memory: 2x 1GB Mushkin XP9200 400FSB 5-4-4-12
- Video Card(s): MSI NX8600GT Twin Turbo 256MB
- Power Supply: Ultra X3 Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 2x 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: Gigabyte 8600GT
- Comparison Card 2: 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 framerates in Far Cry were not world beaters, they are definitely in the playable range, especially at the lower resolutions. The NX8600GT keeps pace with the more heavily overclocked XFX Fatal1ty edition.
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 1280x1024 borders 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 framerates 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
The MSI card performs fairly well in comparison to the competition.
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 MSI offering fares well against the competition.
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 speedboat 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(256or More)
The MSI NX8600GT performs quite well in this benchmark.
When it comes time to spend your performance dollars, how are you going to spend them? On price or performance? How about a little bit of both? The MSI NX8600GT offers both. As a midrange enthusiast card, it offers great performance and can satisfy the needs of the casual gamer as well as the workstation pro. Resolutions up to 1280x1024 were playable at the settings we used. Additional performance can be obtained at the touch of a button. Touch the button and the GPU core clock increases by 20MHz to 620 MHz. The Shader clock speeds increase from 1440MHz to 1488MHz. If using the NX8600GT in an HTPC, the use of the HDMI capabilities will pay dividends when it comes time to watch movies or game on that nice Plasma or LCD television. The only downside to this package is that the HDMI adapter was an optional piece instead of an included item.
While running through our benchmark suite, I never once heard the fan on this video card running. Again, something for everyone. The software that MSI includes are mostly helpful utilities that help monitor and overclock the video card through a more user friendly interface. If you plan on moving to Vista, the one piece you will not need is a new video card. Vista and DX10 capability have you ready for the next generation operating system. If you need a new video card that offers good performance for an affordable price, the MSI NX8600GT fits the bill.
- Pre-overclocked Speeds
- Price for Performance
- Additional Core and Shader Clock Speeds When Needed
- HDMI Support
- Quiet Heatsink
- Included Software Bundle
- Vista Ready
- DirectX 10 Capable
- DVI to HDMI Adapter Not Included (Optional)