GeForce 8600 series graphics cards compared

FOR A WHILE NOW, WE’VE decried the lack of variety among high-end graphics cards. Most of these cards are actually built by manufacturers under contract with AMD or Nvidia, and they’re shipped to add-in board partners who often do little more than change the sticker on the heatsink. That’s left plenty of room to poke fun at the art direction behind various heatsink stickers, but it’s also made high-end graphics card round-ups a bit of a bore.

Fortunately, there’s a lot more variety in the world of mid-range graphics cards like the GeForce 8600 series. These affordable alternatives to flagship products are the kinds of cards most of us end up buying anyway, and manufacturers have a lot more freedom to build their own boards, concoct custom cooling solutions, and mess with core and memory clock speeds. Each add-in board partner brings a unique flavor to the table, and we’ve rounded up a handful of GeForce 8600 series cards from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI to see how they compare. Read on to see which of these manufacturers puts the best spin on Nvidia’s latest mid-range GPUs.

Multiple mid-range flavors
Before diving into the cards, we should take a moment to briefly detail Nvidia’s latest mid-range GPUs. Introduced just over a month ago, the GeForce 8600 series anchors the middle of Nvidia’s GPU lineup and is based on the DirectX 10-class G84 GPU. In addition to its DirectX 10 credentials, this chip sports 32 stream processors, eight ROPs, a 128-bit memory interface, and a new video VP2 processing engine capable of decoding high-definition videos in H.264 format. Interestingly, the GeForce 8600’s video processing engine is actually more advanced than what’s found in the G80 GPU that powers Nvidia’s high-end GeForce 8800s.

GPU Stream processors ROPs Core clock SP clock Memory bus width Memory clock
GeForce 8500 GT G86 16 8 400MHz 900MHz 128-bit 400MHz
GeForce 8600 GT G84 32 8 540MHz 1190MHz 128-bit 700MHz
GeForce 8600 GTS G84 32 8 675MHz 1450MHz 128-bit 1000MHz

You can get the GeForce 8600 in GT and GTS flavors, with the GTS offering higher clock speeds for the graphics core, stream processors, and memory. The GTS’s clock speeds are more than just a little bit faster than those of the GT—core and stream processor clocks are up between 22% and 25%, and memory speeds have been boosted by close to 43%. Board vendors are also free to mess with clock speeds on their own, and we have a couple of “overclocked-in-the-box” variants in our roundup.

Slotted in just below the GeForce 8600 series, we find the budget-oriented GeForce 8500 line. The 8500 series isn’t a direct competitor for the GeForce 8600—with half the number of stream processors and much lower clock speeds, performance won’t be even close to comparable—but we’ve included one to give you an idea of what you stand to lose if you can’t quite gather the funds for an 8600. The GeForce 8500 series has the same VP2 processing engine as the 8600s, potentially making it a compelling option for a home theater PCs.

From three angles
We’re splitting our attention between five cards from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. For direct comparison, we have one GeForce 8600 GTS card from each manufacturer. We’ve also thrown in 8600 and 8500 GT cards from MSI to mix things up a little.

GeForce Core clock SP clock Memory clock Memory size Warranty length Street price
Asus EN8600GTS/2DHT/256M 8600 GTS 675MHz 1458MHz 1008MHz 256MB 3 years $215
MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E OC 8600 GTS 700MHz 1458MHz 1050MHz 256MB 3 years parts, 2 years labor $175
MSI NX8600GT-T2D256E OC 8600 GT 580MHz 1188MHz 800MHz 256MB 3 years parts, 2 years labor $137
MSI NX8500GT-T2D256E OC 8500 GT 459MHz 918MHz 400MHz 256MB 3 years parts, 2 years labor
Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H 8600 GTS 675MHz 1458MHz 1008MHz 256MB 3 years

As you can see, the MSI NX8600GTS is the only GeForce 8600 GTS to deviate from Nvidia’s stock core and memory clocks. The clock rate advantage isn’t huge, but it should nonetheless give it an edge over the other cards. MSI actually gets its hands dirty with a little factory “overclocking” with all three of the NX cards we’re looking at today. The NX6800GT enjoys a nice boost over the GeForce 8600 GT’s core and memory clocks, and even the budget NX8500GT gets a 15% jump in core clock speed.

Pinning down SP clock speeds for our overclocked-in-the-box cards proved a little more difficult, since neither Asus nor MSI publish SP clock speeds. Fortunately, RivaTuner 2.01 has no problems reading SP clock speeds, and it revealed a few surprises. All three 8600 GTS cards posted the same SP clock, despite the fact that the MSI NX8600GTS comes with a factory “overclocked” core. The core clock speed boost MSI applies to its NX8600GT and NX8500GT doesn’t appear to extend to the SP clocks, either.

Despite spanning mid-range and budget parts, each of the graphics cards in this round-up comes equipped with 256MB of memory. That’s probably the right amount of memory for cards in this price range, and it’s nice to see that none of these add-in board partners are trying to distract consumers with excessive amounts of onboard memory. Additional memory can be useful when running at high resolutions or with extremely high in-game detail levels, but these cards have limited pixel-pushing horsepower, which makes either scenario a stretch. That’s not to say we wont’ see GeForce 8500 series cards on display at Computex with 1GB of memory. Taiwanese board makers love their onboard memory.

Interestingly, they’re not so keen on the lifetime warranties that have become all the rage with North American brands like BFG, EVGA, and XFX. Asus and Gigabyte limit their warranty coverage to three years, and MSI only covers labor for two. That’s reasonable, I suppose, since these cards will probably struggle to play cutting-edge games released two to three years from now. We’ve grown accustomed to lifetime graphics card warranties, though, and we quite like the idea.

You’ll notice we don’t have real-time pricing for all of the graphics cards. The GeForce 8600 series is relatively new, and some of these specific models aren’t yet available in our price search engine. With a little help from Froogle and Newegg, we were able to determine the lowest street prices for the other cards.

Although it’s not listed in the chart, we should also note that all five of the cards here offer HDCP support to keep your content safe from, er, yourself. The GeForce 8600 and 8500 GPUs both support HDCP, but it’s up to board vendors to implement it on their products via additional onboard hardware.

Asus’ EN8600GTS/HTDP/256M

Manufacturer Asus
Model EN8600GTS
Price (Street) $215
Availability Soon

One of many As one of the most prolific manufacturers in the business, Asus has quite an array of GeForce 8600 series cards. In total, the company offers five different 8600 models, three of which are based on the GTS. The EN8600GTS (which is technically the much more awkward EN8600GTS/HTDP/256M) is the most basic GTS in Asus’ lineup. Other GTS variants come with either passive cooling solutions or a copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

So this is the base model: stock clock speeds, active cooling, and no new game in the box. The card does come on a flashy blue board, though.

Copping a color from Gigabyte’s palette, Asus has draped the EN8600GTS in deep blue with just a hint of turquoise. That isn’t a standard reference board color, but the layout of onboard components looks identical to that of Nvidia’s GeForce 8600 GTS reference design. Asus appears to have switched a few of the capacitors, though.

Asus does follow the reference design when it comes to auxiliary power. There’s a six-pin PCIe power connector along the back edge of the card, which is something you won’t find on one of the GTS cards we’ll be looking at today. More on that in a moment.

Noisy reference coolers have traditionally been a sore spot on mid-range GeForce graphics cards, but Nvidia cleaned up its act with the 8600 GTS. Perhaps too little too late for Asus, which has fitted the EN8600GTS with a custom cooler that looks one part Zalman and one part old-school Thermaltake. You won’t find massive, billboard-sized stickers here, just a radial array of cooling fins topped by an 11-blade fan.

In a moment we’ll see just how cool this custom heatsink keeps the EN8600GTS’s graphic chip. However, we should note that it is a double-wide design, so it will block the expansion card slot directly beside it.

Apart from a custom cooler, you don’t get much with the EN8600GTS. There’s only one DVI-to-VGA adapter, despite the fact that the card has two DVI outputs. We’d at least expect a second adapter on a $200 graphics card. Asus should really include a six-pin PCIe power adapter, too, since users shopping for budget graphics cards may not have a power supply new enough to have a six-pin connector. At least Asus throws in a component video output dongle.

On the software front, Asus includes driver and manual CDs. They haven’t tried to pass off a bunch of washed-up, bargain-bin games as added value for the package, and you get a CD wallet to store the games you actually want to play.

Years of enjoying lifetime graphics card warranties from the likes of BFG Tech and others may have spoiled us a little, so the EN8600GTS’ three-year warranty doesn’t look all that impressive. But three years is a long time in the graphics world, so it’s hard to gripe too much.

MSI’s NX8600GTS, NX8600GT, and NX8500GT

Manufacturer EVGA
Model NX8600GTS
Price (NX8600GTS)
Availability Now

Lots of options Like Asus, MSI is rolling out five different graphics cards based on the GeForce 8600. Instead of just sending us a base model, MSI provided its higher-clocked NX8600GTS and NX8600GT versions of the GeForce 8600 GTS and GT. To provide some additional perspective on how mid-range cards compare with more budget models, they also threw in a juiced up NX8500GT version of the GeForce 8500 GT.

MSI has traditionally been one of the more conservative add-in board makers, so it’s nice to see the company eager to offer higher-than-stock clock speeds, especially on budget cards like the NX8500GT. In fact, the NX8500GT enjoys the most aggressive core clock boost, from a stock 400MHz all the way up to 460MHz.

The NX8500GT is otherwise simple fare. This sub-$100 card may have a higher frequency graphics core, but its memory runs at the 8500 GT’s default 400MHz. You only get one DVI output, as well, although it’s still of the dual-link variety. Cooling is provided by a simple, single-slot fan similar to designs we’ve seen on slews of budget graphics cards.

Things get a little more interesting when we upgrade to the NX8600GT, which features 580MHz core and 800MHz memory clocks that outpace the 8600 GT’s stock 540MHz core and 700MHz memory speeds. The nearly 15% boost in memory clock speed should be particularly handy given the 8600 GT’s relatively narrow 128-bit memory bus.

Nvidia’s reference design for the 8600 GT doesn’t include an auxiliary power connector, and apparently, running the card at faster-than-stock speeds doesn’t significantly change its power requirements, because MSI didn’t add one. This card does sport an SLI bridge connector along with a pair of dual-link DVI outputs, though. Its cooler is also much beefier than what we saw on the 8500 GT—still a single-slot design, but with much more surface area and a shroud to direct airflow over the heatsink’s radiator fins.

Further up MSI’s NX8600 line, we find the GTS. This card has a 700MHz core clock and 1050MHz memory, only slightly faster than the GTS’s default 675MHz core and 1000MHz memory clocks. That won’t make it much faster than a stock-clocked 8600 GT, but the massive double-wide cooler could keep GPU temperatures lower and aid with additional overclocking.

The NX8600GTS’ dual-slot cooler features an array of cooling fins above the graphics chip and an elevated blower that’s a little louder than we expected. We’ll reveal the results of our noise level tests in a moment, but for now, note that the card’s expansion slot cover features extensive venting to allow warm air to be more easily expelled from the system. This arrangement won’t necessarily keep the graphics card cooler, but it should help to lower overall system temperatures.

As is customary for a GeForce 8600 GTS, the NX comes with auxiliary six-pin PCIe power connector tucked under the elevated blower. The board layout and components appear to directly follow Nvidia’s reference design, as well.

MSI doesn’t provide much in the way of software or flashy games with these cards, but they do pack in a generous collection of hardware. The NX8600GTS, for example, comes with a pair of DVI-to-VGA adapters, a six-pin PCIe power adapter, an output dongle that can handle S-Video and component output, and an S-Video cable. There are fewer extras included with the other cards, but only because they don’t need some of the accessories. The NX8600GT, for example, doesn’t come with a six-pin PCIe power connector because it doesn’t have an auxiliary power connector onboard. You lose one of the DVI-to-VGA adapters with the NX8500GT, as well, but that’s fine because the card only has a single DVI output.

All three cards are covered under a three years parts, two years labor warranty. That falls a little short of the three years of total coverage offered by Asus and Gigabyte, but it does guarantee the cards at their factory “overclocked” speeds.

Gigabyte’s GV-NX86S256H

Manufacturer Gigabyte
Model GV-NX86S256H
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Silent…ish There are only three GeForce 8600 series graphics cards in Gigabyte’s quiver, and the GV-NX86S256H sits in the middle of that range. On paper, the card doesn’t look particularly special. Gigabyte hasn’t tweaked the core or memory clocks to deliver better performance, and the card’s street price almost exactly matches the low end of Nvidia’s $199-$229 target price range for the 8600 GTS.

Yet there’s much more to the GV-NX86S256H than clock speeds and pricing, and it only takes a quick glimpse of the card to understand why.

Yes, this card comes equipped with passive cooling—not just any passive heatsink, but the largest chunk of industrial metal we’ve ever seen on a graphics card. The cooler’s flat grey finish is a little dull, perhaps, but it wouldn’t look out of place in Battlestar Galactica, and that’s all the cosmetic endorsement a PC enthusiast should need. Besides, when set against the blue board and polished copper heatpipes, I think the flat grey finish looks rather smart.

The cooler is a tricky affair, pairing a chunky heatsink that sits atop the graphics chip with a series of more intricate fins. Those fins jut out from the expansion slot cover, partially obscuring our view of the card’s dual dual-link DVI ports and its video output port. There’s also additional venting under the fins to encourage airflow.

Passively cooling a GPU running at close to 700MHz can’t be easy, so it’s no surprise the Silent Pipe 3 heatsink takes up two slots. What’s more surprising is the fact that the card doesn’t feature the six-pin auxiliary PCIe power connector present in Nvidia’s reference design. Gigabyte’s done a custom board for the GV-NX86S256H. In addition to dropping the power connector, they’ve juggled the layout, likely to accommodate the massive, passive cooler.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have.

You see, although the GV-NX86S256H is dead silent while idling on the Windows desktop—like any passively-cooled graphics card should be—firing up a 3D application makes it whine and squeal like a stuck pop star. With some apps, you just get a hum that’s only annoying because of its relatively high frequency. But in others, like Oblivion, the card practically wails in protest and occasionally sounds like an old modem caught in a particularly offensive high-pitched handshake. The sound appears to be coming from the board’s surface-mounted electrical components, since there’s really nothing else that could be making any noise.

We’ve been through two of these cards, and they both exhibited identical behavior on our nForce 680i SLI-based test system—a rig that hasn’t produced similar squealing with other cards. We even fired up the card on a new Intel P35 Express-based motherboard and were greeted by similar sounds, although this time it was more of an incessant buzz.

What’s even more bizarre, and perhaps related, is that the GV-NX86S256H comes bundled with a PCIe power adapter—as if there were somewhere to plug it in. Hmm.

Gigabyte does supply a pair of DVI-to-VGA adapters in the box, alongside a dongle that feeds component and S-Video outputs. Those you can use.

The real gem in the Gigabyte box is a full copy of Supreme Commander, perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated real-time strategy games of the year. We don’t normally get excited about game bundles, but that’s because most include older titles long past their prime. Supreme Commander is about as fresh as they come, and it’ll cost you around $40 at retail, so it adds unique value to the package.

Gigabyte hasn’t done anything imaginative with the GV-NX86S256H’s three-year warranty, though. Parts and labor are both covered for the duration, but it’s still a long way from a lifetime.

Our testing methods
Since we’ve narrowed today’s focus to the unique attributes offered by each of Nvidia’s add-in board partners, we won’t spend too much time testing 3D gaming performance. For a more in-depth look at how the performance of the GeForce 8600 series compares to that of a wide range of competitors, check out our initial review of the cards.

All tests were run at least twice, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard EVGA 122-CK-NF68
Bios revision P24
North bridge Nvidia nForce 680i SLI SPP
South bridge Nvidia nForce 680i SLI MCP
Chipset drivers ForceWare 9.53
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 12
Audio Integrated nForce 680i SLI MCP/ALC885 with Realtek HD 1.66 drivers
Graphics Asus EN8600GTS 256MB PCIe
Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H 256MB PCIe
Graphics driver ForceWare 158.22 drivers
Hard drive Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. 2GB of RAM seems to be the new standard for most folks, and Corsair hooked us up with some of its 1GB DIMMs for testing.

Also, all of our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Graphics performance

Performance is predictable at stock speeds. The MSI NX8600GTS’s revved-up clock speeds give it a bit of an edge over the stock-clocked GTS cards from Asus and Gigabyte, and the MSI NX8600GT’s faster-than-stock speeds allow it to keep up surprisingly well with the GTS field.

Unfortunately, even an overclocked core can’t help the NX8500GT overcome its fewer stream processors and pokey memory clock. The card may sell for half the price of an 8600 GTS, but it offers less than half the performance.

The handy automatic overclocking utility built into Nvidia’s graphics drivers and then relocated to its nTune system utility doesn’t seem to be working properly with the GeForce 8600 or 8500 series, so we had to kick it old-school with manual slider manipulation and loads of trial-and-error testing. In order to qualify as stable, each of our overclocked configurations had to loop successfully through three iterations of 3DMark’s Shader Model 3.0 tests at 1280×1024 with 4X antialiasing and 16X aniso, and then endure ten minutes of Oblivion at maximum detail levels.

We were able to hit the following core and memory clock speeds with each card (doubling the memory clock speed gives you the effective memory clock):

  • Asus EN8600GTS — 763MHz core, 1151MHz memory
  • MSI NX8600GTS — 765MHz core, 1169MHz memory
  • MSI NX8600GT — 686MHz core, 866MHz memory
  • MSI NX8500GT — 785MHz core, 505MHz memory
  • Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H — 763MHz core, 1048MHz memory

The real winner here is the MSI NX8500GT, whose 460MHz core ramped nearly 70% to hit 785MHz. It’s also interesting to note that all three 8600 GTS cards, including the passively cooled Gigabyte, hit around 760MHz for the GPU core. Overclocking success can vary from card to card, but the fact that all three eclipsed 760MHz suggests the 8600 GTS has plenty of headroom. Beyond that, you can see the numbers, but remember: it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions based on the overclocking performance of a single example of each product.

Overclocking doesn’t change the performance picture dramatically, but the NX8500GT gets a huge boost from its wildly overclocked core. Notice how the Asus and MSI cards offer nearly identical performance when they’re running at essentially the same speed.

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level meter placed along the edge of the motherboard 1″ from the graphics card and out of the direct path of airflow. We recorded noise levels after 10 minutes idling at the Windows desktop, and again after 10 minutes rendering this stunning scene from Oblivion at 1280×1024 with all the in-game eye candy cranked. Cards were tested at both their default and overclocked speeds.

You don’t see scores for the Gigabyte cards at idle because noise levels were too low to register on our digital sound level meter, which bottoms out at 40 decibels. The second-quietest card of the lot is Asus’ EN8600GTS, followed closely by MSI’s budget NX8500GT. Both of those cards are much quieter than the NX8600GTS, whose dual-slot blower registered nearly 60 decibels while idling on the Windows desktop.

Firing up Oblivion doesn’t change the picture much for four of our cards. Asus is still the quietest of the actively-cooled cards, and the NX8600GTS is still the loudest. Note that its noise levels don’t really change at all from idle to load, either.

The big surprise here is of course the GV-NX86S256H, whose whiny tendencies make it the second-loudest graphics card of the lot. That’s shocking for a graphics card sporting a “Silent Pipe 3” heatsink, but it’s a testament to just how loud the buzzing gets when this card is doing its thing.

Power consumption
System power consumption was tested, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up power meter. We used the same idle and load conditions as our noise level tests.

The budget NX8500GT predictably pulls less at the wall outlet than the other cards, followed by the 8600 GT and then the wave of 8600 GTS cards. Power consumption is a little higher when the cards are overclocked than when they’re running at stock speeds, which is understandable.

Things get really interesting under load, where the Gigabyte pulls 20W more than any other GTS card at stock speeds, and close to 40W more when overclocked. This behavior was consistent with both of the Gigabyte 8600 GTS cards we tested.

GPU temperature
We tracked GPU temperatures using Nvidia’s nTune system utility, which can log temperatures to a text file. Again, we used the same idle and load conditions as our noise level tests.

At idle, the MSI NX8600GTS’s noisy blower manages to keep the graphics chip cooler than any other 8600 GTS, but only by a degree over the much quieter Asus. The NX8500GT actually runs a little warmer than the 8600 cards, with the exception of the Gigabyte GTS.

Temperatures rise under load, and it’s here that the NX8600GTS’s blower really starts to pay off. The MSI card’s GPU is close to 10 degrees cooler than that of Asus’ EN8600GTS and even five degrees cooler than the NX8600GT. Of course, nothing compares to the GPU temperatures observed with the passively cooled Gigabyte, which hit 100 degrees after just 10 minutes under load on an open test bench. Toasty indeed.

Before I started testing the cards for this round-up, the Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H looked like a shoo-in for our Editor’s Choice award. Combining a GeForce 8600 GTS graphics chip with passive cooling and a copy of Supreme Commander for less than $200 is a recipe for success, especially compared with the competitors assembled today. Unfortunately, Gigabyte faltered in the execution, producing a card with a tendency to whine, buzz, and make otherwise undignified noises under load. Initially, we thought we had a bad card, but a second sample produced identical results, even on a completely different test system. Combine that with the card’s inexplicably high power draw, and the GV-NX86S256H simply isn’t a product we can recommend.

We’d also shy away from MSI’s NX8500GT, but for different reasons. This budget card may cost half what you’ll pay for an 8600 GTS, but you have to live with gaming performance that’s significantly lower than an 8600 GT. On a $100 graphics card, the GeForce 8500 GT just isn’t worth the compromise, even with juiced up clock speeds. This card’s saving grace may be its VP2 engine for HD video decoding, which could make it a solid choice for a video-intensive system that doesn’t need especially fast 3D graphics.

That brings us to another factory “overclocked” card, MSI’s NX8600GTS. This card is selling for $175 at Newegg, making it quite a bargain for a faster-than-stock 8600 GTS. Unfortunately, the NX’s dual-slot cooler makes a heck of a racket, registering nearly 15 decibels louder than Asus’ EN8600GTS at idle and 12 decibels louder under load. The cooler does keep the GPU nice and cool, but that didn’t translate into an advantage in our overclocking tests. We’d rather not put up with the noise.

May 2007

So we’re down to two: MSI’s NX8600GT and Asus’ EN8600GTS. It’s actually easy to pick a winner between these two cards because the going rate for the Asus card appears to be around $215. That’s close to 60% more than the $137 NX8600GT, but Asus certainly doesn’t give you 60% more card for your money. In fact, if you look at the bundled extras, you actually get less.

Now, the Asus EN8600GTS does offer slightly better performance and a quieter cooler, but those factors alone aren’t worth the hefty price premium. Don’t get me wrong; the EN8600GTS is a good card. It just doesn’t pack the same value proposition as the NX8600GT, and when you’re shopping for a mid-range graphics card, value is what you want. That makes MSI’s NX8600GT our Editor’s Choice.

Comments closed
    • jackaroon
    • 12 years ago

    The pricegrabber link on the editor’s choice card isn’t working for me. I could look it up of course, but I presume you’re getting some kind of referral money and you’d want to know.

    • Chrispy_
    • 12 years ago

    The gigabyte draws more power because it’s hotter:

    Electrical resistance in semiconductors increases with temperature. Higher resistance means that more current is needed to maintain the operating voltage.

    Approximately 10% more power for the 10% more heat it runs at (relative to /[

      • mako
      • 12 years ago

      I would expect leakage to be a big factor as well. Mobility goes down with temperature, but so does threshold voltage, and it’s an exponential dependence that gets worse at each smaller process node.

    • cAPS lOCK
    • 12 years ago

    /[<...occasionally sounds like an old modem caught in a particularly offensive high-pitched handshake. The sound appears to be coming from the board's surface-mounted electrical components, since there's really nothing else that could be making any noise.<]/ Actually it might be the cooling, or to be specific, the heatpipes may start vibrating when everything heats up. I've had a passively cooled Abit motherboard (K8N SLI). Dead silent when powered up, but after 5-10 minutes of use a high-pitched and *very* annoying whining would set in. At first I suspected the coils, and tried adding a bit of glue ...that didn't help. It only meant that Abit wouldn't swap the board (can't really blame them though). Applying a bit of pressure onto the heatpipe however killed the noise ...and replacing the board with an Asus fixed it for good.

      • Chrispy_
      • 12 years ago

      Agreed. I suspected electronic components before but I had a (rare) X700XT which had a heatpipe cooler. When I changed the cooler, the whine miraculously went.

      Before you conclude that heatpipes can squeal though, it might have just been that the different cooler mounting flexed the board and indirectly stopped the squealing component. In your case, flexing the heatpipe might have indirectly flexed the board too.

    • FireGryphon
    • 12 years ago

    What a shame about the Gigabyte card. Kudos to Gigabyte for going with a passive heatsink, but how could such a noise problem not be caught in testing? What could be causing it; some kind of vibration, perhaps, but from what?

      • albundy
      • 12 years ago

      its those damm gerbils! they always squeal when under a flame!

    • JoshMST
    • 12 years ago

    After reading the review, I was quite surprised that TR’s two samples had the squealing noise coming out of it. I have a sample directly from Gigabyte as well, but it doesn’t make that sound at all. It really was quite quiet. I may have to plug it in again and see if I can make it sing for me. I used it quite a bit in normal settings (as in I actually sat down and played some games) and I am pretty sensitive to such noises.

    Bad luck X2? Or is there an issue with the revision they sent?

    • Kent_dieGo
    • 12 years ago

    No lifetime warranty? Given the high failure rate of these expensive video cards I would only get eVGA, BFG, or XFX. These non-guaranteed cards would have to be at least $50 cheaper to make equal.

    • flip-mode
    • 12 years ago

    I might go with an 8500 some day. I just don’t game anymore. 😥

    • Bensam123
    • 12 years ago

    “What’s even more bizarre, and perhaps related, is that the GV-NX86S256H comes bundled with a PCIe power adapter—as if there were somewhere to plug it in. Hmm.”

    lol… I ROFLed at that.

    • wmgriffith
    • 12 years ago

    This is a great review, so I hate to needle you guys with a request. I see the 7600gt/gs as the primary competition for the 8×00 series cards, and I am curious as to how they compare. Unfortunately, the 8×00 cards are tested with FEAR at 1280×1024, and the 7600 cards were tested at 1024×768 ( and 1280×960 (

    This question is also somewhat motivated by the supposition of the folks at Legion Hardware ( They have benchmarks, but I haven’t seen independent confirmation.

    • provoko
    • 12 years ago

    Great review thanks. =)

    • lex-ington
    • 12 years ago

    All I need now is for eVga to make an 8600 that’s passively cooled like the 7600GS and I am there, unless AMD gets a Radeon out that’s cooled like the 7600GS first.

    That Giga-byte solution is just too big.

    • JdL
    • 12 years ago

    Any change we could see how hot the GV-NX86S256H gets when it has a low-speed 80mm or 120mm fan on it? That is the most likely scenario for using that card–at least in my case (no pun intended).

      • JoshMST
      • 12 years ago

      I have that card and am getting together my review for it tonight. I tested the temp using an external “laser thermometer” on both the heatsink portion, and right behind the GPU on the back of the card. I tested temps with both no fan hitting (sitting in an open case with no airflow) and with a 80 mm fan from the side panel blowing directly upon it (I would estimate about 24 cfm). There is approximately a 10C difference between the two when measuring the back of the card directly behind the GPU.

      Edited for spelling.

      • Nullvoid
      • 12 years ago

      If that was your plan would you not be better buying a normal 8600gts + an aftermarket cooler? It would probably end up roughly the same price but be far more effective.

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    Gigabyte’s SilentPipe II is a lot more elegant. 😉

      • Ni kun
      • 12 years ago

      And louder.
      I still cannot understand how a fanless design cooler could reach such high noise levels. It’s just wrong that they released a product that hasn’t been tested at its ‘strong point’.

      Just a big d’oh for Gigabyte this time

        • Kent_dieGo
        • 12 years ago

        My guess dropping the PCIe power connector required adding a switching power regulator to convert the PCIe bus voltage to a lower level. Switching transformers are known to be noisey unless potted correctly.

          • ew
          • 12 years ago

          You’d need a switching regulator regardless. It probably is the regulator though. Probably can be fixed with a strategically placed drop of glue.

          • just brew it!
          • 12 years ago

          PCIe power connectors supply +12V only. They’d need a switching regulator regardless.

        • eitje
        • 12 years ago

        note, this is the SilentPipe 3. The Silent Pipe 2 is much nicer, in my opinion.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 12 years ago

    >>”Nvidia has disabled the VP2 video processing engine in GeForce 8500 series graphics chips, so it’s not even a particularly compelling option for a home theater PCs.”<<

    Any confirmation on this? The 8600 article posted a couple weeks ago said the 8300GS was going to be the only one of the G86 cards that didn’t have it.

    I think the 8500GT’s VP2 capabilities would have been a big selling point, but without it I think that makes the lower end fairly pointless and leave AMD open to pull a fast one with Radeon 2300 and video decoding…

      • Damage
      • 12 years ago

      Yeah, this article is completely wrong. The VP2 isn’t disabled in the 8500 GT. I should have caught that in editing. Fixing…

    • LiamC
    • 12 years ago

    Meh, could have bought an 8600GTS 256MB for AUS$255, or a GT for AUS$170. Bought a 512MB X1950 Pro for $200. Better $$$ for the performance

    • hermanshermit
    • 12 years ago

    Not interested in gaming at all but I am waiting for a passively cooled 8500GT with HDMI.

    The video decoding (which is a huge deal but not touched on here) and DX10 support make a good desktop card and the HTPC card we’ve all been waiting for (finally).

      • jroyv
      • 12 years ago

      You may have to go for an 8600GT…

      “Nvidia has disabled the VP2 video processing engine in GeForce 8500 series graphics chips, so it’s not even a particularly compelling option for a home theater PCs.”

        • hermanshermit
        • 12 years ago

        I’m confused…

        §[<<]§ "Even more interesting isn't the GeForce 8600, but the $100 GeForce 8500 that we'll be looking at in the coming weeks. According to NVIDIA, the GeForce 8500 will have the same H.264 decoding power as the 8600, so if you don't need the added 3D gaming performance then the 8500 will be an even better solution for HTPCs."

        • hermanshermit
        • 12 years ago

        In fact I think the review is wrong. Virtually everywhere else says this is included – including the packaging on my non-HDMI equipped 8500GT in my desktop PC.

        I believe the upcoming 8300 has this disabled.

        • Damage
        • 12 years ago

        Yes, the 8500 GT has the VP2 decoding engine. I’ve updated the review to correct the error. Sorry about the confusion.

    • Jigar
    • 12 years ago

    Not interested … I will go ahead with 8800GTS 640MB for sure.

    • format_C
    • 12 years ago

    Small mistake on the last page:
    “We’d also shy away from MSI’s NX8600GT…”
    You actually meant the NX8*[<5<]*00GT, didn't you?

      • Contingency
      • 12 years ago

      There’s another typo:
      Intro>Table under “From three angles”> There are two entries for “MSI NX8600GT-T2D256E OC”; I believe the 2nd instance should be “NX8500GT-TD256E”.

        • nerdrage
        • 12 years ago

        Also on page 4:
        “firing up a 3D application makes *[

    • pedro
    • 12 years ago

    It never ceases to baffle me how ‘hi-tech’ companies can mangle the most simple things. Case in point: Gigabyte bundling a PCIe power adapter with its GV-NX86S256H card when the card doesn’t even take power in this way.

    If they get this stuff wrong, imagine what they’re getting wrong with the real technical stuff! Lucky they just cut & paste the stuff they’re given by nVidia…

      • Corrado
      • 12 years ago

      They probably just have a common ‘accessory pack’ that they throw in that has the DVI converter, the driver disk, the S-Video box, etc and it has a PCI-e power thing since every other card they have uses it. Its eaiser to have 1 SKU for an ‘accessory pack’ with an extra 6 cent piece in it than have a separate package without it.

    • Norphy
    • 12 years ago

    According to the table on the front page, the 8500GT and 8600GT have 400GHz and 700GHz memory speeds. Impressive if true 😛

      • gratuitous
      • 12 years ago
        • Usacomp2k3
        • 12 years ago


    • willyolio
    • 12 years ago

    i want to see how the 2600’s will perform against these. as far as i’m concerned, 8800 GTX and 2900 XTX benchmarks are worthless, since most people won’t be buying them anyway.

      • SPOOFE
      • 12 years ago

      On the other hand, when it comes to midrange options, most people will probably get more bang-for-buck performance from last-generation parts, reviews which we’ve already seen anyway (and which people like you probably said were worthless, because most people wouldn’t be buying one).

        • Dagwood
        • 12 years ago

        I Purchased a 7900GS and I am very happy with it. 🙂

        On another note: 8500 has its VP disabled ? What ever for. I thought that was going to be the selling point of the card.

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