XFX Technologies is among the many vendors to be part of NVIDIA push to release the AGP version of the GeForce 6600GT. In fact, XFX is leading the availability wars. I found the XFX card was in stock with ten percent fluctuations in market value at many popular e-tailers. This certainly bests many of the paper launches we have seen from all chipmakers, GPU or CPU.
With the 6600GT AGP, NVIDIA hopes to capture the consumer level enthusiast, at least that is what I like to call the market sector. These are users that upgrade later in product cycles, maintain a strict budget, or are just plain afraid of newer more expensive upgrades. There are many gamers in limbo right now, stuck between nForce2 and nForce4, between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, that want to upgrade but do not want to REALLY upgrade. I remember this kind of transition before when the industry moved from slotted to socketed CPUs. The Celeron2 with a slotket adapter became the perfect choice for the budget minded enthusiasts' systems.
NVIDIA released the native PCI-Express GPU receiving warm reviews, on par with the competition and adding features that left a few 6800 series owners jealous. But how could NVIDIA get the 6600GT the AGP market? Would they go to the AGP market? The on board slotket adapter, a PCI-E bridge chip added to the 6600GT AGP card, would be the missing piece of the puzzle of how to bring budget minded bliss to a PC near you.
XFX is a division of PINE Technologies. Pine is not a huge name here, but they are one of Hong Kong's leading tech companies. Accepting the need for flashier marketing and a recognizable market name, XFX is the graphics card and mainboard branding for the US and European markets. XFX had a run at the nForce2 chipset, but since have shifted focus to the graphics card market.
Having seen XFX's packaging in stores, the goal has been met. It is eye-catching to say the least. What could only be described as contortionist Origami cardboard, the box is folded in such a manner to leave you scratching your head as to how to get the card out. Environmentalists may see it as wasteful, but new growth trees produce more oxygen, so package away boys.
PACKAGING - THE BIG X
If the first examination leaves you scratching your head, the second might get you flustered. The card is actually in there and they gave you a preview window to prove it.
Carefully cut the tape seals and slide the heavier corrugated cardboard X-container out. Hiding on the sides of the X are two tabs that allow you to get to the inner chamber. Quick tip: be sure to double check which side is up. The preview window is the bottom of the inner tray. Otherwise, you will have CD wrappers, adapters and manuals scattered on your computer room floor. Once done with the dismantling, you will find your new gaming bliss, the Blue PCB'ed XFX 6600GT AGP.
You also find two DVI to VGA adapters, driver disk, X2: The Threat, Commandos 3: Destination Berlin, NASCAR Thunder 2004, quick installation guide, Owner's Manual, and S-Video cable.
More on the bundle later. Let's get a close-up view of the card.
6600GT - AGP STYLE
XFX 6600GT AGP
The less complicated 6600GT leaves the PCB looking much cleaner than the 6800GT. There are fewer resistors cluttering the areas behind the DDR3 memory modules. The memory is the recognizable Samsung modules found on the 6800GT. In fact, the 6600GT's memory interface is the 6800GT's cut in half, with half of the 6800GT's 256-bit memory bus, only 128 for the 6600GT, and half of the 6800GT's standard 256MB of DDR3, only 128MB for the 6600GT. Power is supplied through the AGP slot and the added four wire power supply lead. XFX recommends having at least a 300W power supply.
The cooler uses a copper insert transferring heat away from the GPU into the clutches of the clear fan's turbulence. Other than the cool paint, you notice the odd angle at which the cooler is sitting and the extra heatsink on board. The reason for the cooler to be canted thirty degrees is so the PCI-E to AGP bridge chip can be added to adapt the native 6600GT chip to the AGP platform. This High Speed Interface (HSI) chip is basically the same chip used by the 5900 series PCI-E cards to port the AGP GPU to PCI-E slot, but flipped around to work in the opposite direction. NVIDIA is getting some decent mileage out of their PCI-E to AGP R&D time.
Update: There has been a revision to the GPU cooler. It is listed on XFX's support website here. You can get more information in the .pdf file, viewable here. XFX claims improved cooling but there are mixed reviews around the web.
HSI Bridge Heatsink
Considering your entire throughput is manipulated by this chip, it does get quite warm, and therefore a heatsink is warranted. I could not unseat the pins holding the heatsink on, sorry, no pics of the interface chip.
The core is fabbed using a .11 micron process. It is seated into a green sub-PCB looking much like an AMD CPU, which is then seated into the board manufacturers portion of bringing the 6600GT to life. Inside, eight pixel pipelines, each with a texture unit, and three vertex processors run at the 500MHz core clock. We will see later how the increased core speed helps to lessen the "half of a 6800GT" effect.