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NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT Preview - Page 1 of 6

INTRODUCTION

Back in August, NVIDIA announced the GeForce 6600 series of graphics processing units. The GeForce 6600 series is targeted at the mainstream market segment and is comprised of the GeForce 6600 GT and GeForce 6600, which will carry a suggested retail price of $199 and $149 respectively. For additional information on the GeForce 6600, please check out Clay Angelly's excellent preview and the accompanying feedback thread.

GeForce 6600 GT - PCI Express

NVIDIA provided us with a PCI Express version of the GeForce 6600 GT to test, which was outfitted with 128MB of GDDR3 memory. The core clock speed was set at 500MHz and the memory was clocked at 500MHz (1GHz effective) according to the driver control panel. The GeForce 6600 GT is manufactured using a 0.11-micron process, processes 8 pixels per clock (peak), uses a 128-bit memory interface, and is SLI (multi-GPU) ready.

Driver Control Panel

WHQL candidate driver version 65.76 was used in testing, which provides even more user control over anisotropic texture filtering optimizations. Another new feature allows multiple profiles to be created per application.

COOLING THE PRESCOTT

The transition to PCI Express is underway and is currently available on the Intel platform. The last Intel processor that I used was the 1GHz Pentium 3 back in 2001. I made the transition to AMD's Athlon after having previewed NVIDIA's nForce1 and nForce2 motherboard chipsets and continued to ride the AMD bandwagon when I purchased an Athlon 64 3400+ earlier this year. Although the Athlon 64 will continue to be used as my primary system, I am back with Intel after having assembled a new PCI Express system based on the Pentium 4 3.4GHz Prescott.

Unfortunately, the time I spent testing the GeForce 6600 GT was brief due to the instability that was caused by the excessive heat being generated by the CPU. With only a few days before the preview was scheduled to be published, I began looking into cooling solutions and soon discovered that Intel recommends a thermally advantaged chassis for 90nm based Pentium 4 processors. I purchased Antec's SLK2650-BQE case, which complies with version 1.1 of the Chassis Design Guide, at our local CompUSA. I also picked up an 80mm cooling fan and a tube of Artic Silver 5 thermal compound.

Thermally Advantaged Chassis

Based on Antec's recommendation, I installed the 80mm fan between the air guide and the case side panel. The fan, along with the fan on the CPU heatsink, draws in cooler air from outside the case, which flows directly over the CPU courtesy of the air duct. The air duct is adjustable and I positioned the lower duct about an inch from the CPU heatsink/fan. I also removed the thermal compound from the heatsink and CPU and used Artic Silver 5.

Artic Silver 5 Thermal Compound

The measures were successful and resulted in a temperature reduction of 10-12 degrees celsius during idle (from 50C to 40C) and peak loads (from 72C to 60C).

So when does one make the move to PCI Express? Right now, there is no compelling reason to do so. In most cases, consumers will upgrade to PCI Express when they are left with no other choice.

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION

The 3.4GHz Prescott is replacing our Athlon XP 1800+ system. I passed on using DDR2 memory for the new system since it was twice as expensive as DDR. Was that a good decision? Check out this article at Overclocker Cafe.

  • Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz Prescott
  • Soltek SL-915GPro-FGR Motherboard
  • Corsair PC3200 Value Select - (2) 512MB DIMMs - 1GB Total
  • Samsung 120GB, 7200RPM, ATA-133, 2MB Buffer, HDD
  • Western Digital 120GB, 7200RPM, ATA-100, 8MB Buffer, HDD
  • Iomega 52x24x52 External USB 2.0 CD-RW Drive / 16x DVD-Rom Drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT PCI Express - 128MB - 500MHz/1.0GHz
  • NVIDIA WHQL Candidate ForceWare Graphics Driver Version 65.76
  • 32-Bit Color / Vsync Disabled / 75Hz Refresh Rate
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 / DirectX 9.0c

A USB CD-RW drive? Doesn't everybody have one? Well, someone wasn't paying attention and ordered a motherboard that only has 1 IDE connection. While the motherboard has plenty of serial ATA connections, I was determined to get the two existing IDE hard drives I had installed in this sytem.

I used the following system for texture filtering benchmark comparisons in Unreal Tournament 2004:

  • AMD Athlon 64 3400+ @ 2.2GHz
  • AOpen AK89 Max nForce3 Motherboard
  • Corsair PC3200 XMS Extreme Memory - (2) 512MB DIMMs - 1GB Total
  • Western Digital 80GB, 7200RPM, ATA-100, 8MB Buffer, HDD (2)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra - 256MB - 400MHz/1.10GHz
  • NVIDIA WHQL Candidate ForceWare Graphics Driver Version 65.76
  • 32-Bit Color / Vsync Disabled / 75Hz Refresh Rate
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 / DirectX 9.0c

Games Tested

  • Doom 3 - v1.0.1262
  • Halo: Combat Evolved - v1.04
  • Unreal Tournament 2004 - v3270
  • Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory - v1.02

Notes

  • All applications tested were patched to their latest version.
  • The variable com_maxfps was set to 999 prior to benchmarking Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.
  • FRAPS was used to capture minimum frame rates in some benchmarks.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved does not support antialiasing.

DRIVER ENHANCEMENTS

A new optimization to force bilinear filtering on textures other than the base texture was added to the 65.76 drivers. The GeForce 6800 Ultra was used in putting together the image quality comparisons in this article.

Image And Optimization Matrix

What we have here is the potential for a benchmarking nightmare. Fortunately, NVIDIA recommends that the quality image setting along with trilinear and anisotropic sample filter optimizations be used for comparisons against competing graphics cards.

Next Page: OpenGL Texture Filtering

Last Updated on September 7, 2004


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