The manuals included with the card give help with installation as well as card specifications. The Quick Installation Guide is for the n00b's out there taking their first plunge into a case with a screwdriver and self-doubt. As for the rest of us know-it-alls, I was quite surprised and pleased with the fairly thorough User's Manual, which includes specs for the GeForce 6-Series, explanations of the drive control panels, troubleshooting tips and tips for overclocking the 6800 Ultra.
The game bundle is a forgotten art. Getting several recent-release games with your video card purchase used to be the norm, but in times where margins have steadily decreased, few card manufacturers feel the need to bundle any software aside form a driver disk and DVD decoder. Recently, the ATI-Valve partnership has seen Half-Life 2 vouchers with Radeons and now NVIDIA card makers are getting wise and bundling Doom3 with their 6600 and 6800 series GPUs. And while I am fine with keeping costs down and not bundling games I would never play, I must say that the bundle included with the XFX 6600GT is quite impressive. I installed all three games, X2, Nascar Thunder, and Commandos 3, and while none of them are my cup of tea, each game offers a different gameplay style and genre to entice you to spend countless hours perfecting, your skills, strategy and trigger finger. We'll take a look at these games and how they performed in just a bit.
So with great regret, my trusty 6800GT was being removed to take the step back in performance. Of course, this triggered the idea that the review would take the tone of "What am I missing by not shelling out the extra $150-200?" This premise is a VERY good one considering there are many of you out there right now that want to breathe a little life into your older system, yet do not want to make the leap to PCI-E just yet. I don't blame you really, I still miss the Stoundstorm audio on my retired nForce2 Asus Mobo. Don't get me wrong, nForce3 with the A64 is impressive speed wise, but thoughts of radical overclocks with an Athlon XP Mobile 2600 did pop into my brain after having to demote my Doom3 gaming to Dolby Pro Logic on the ALC850 to my Midiland speaker system and not 5.1 encoded Dolby Digital of the Soundstorm. I just can't stand to upgrade with things like nForce4 SLI with, potentially, a Stoundstorm2 audio option right around the corner. Granted I already have a 6800GT, but if it weren’t for this gig, I would probably still have a 9700 Pro.
Side by Side
Prepped for install, I noticed how clean the area around the Dual-DVI connectors looked in comparison to the 6800GT. Here are some close-ups of the XFX 6600GT AGP outputs. You clear-windowed case owners will appreciate the blue PCB and the smooth look of this card, no doubt.
Dual-DVI & S-Video
Out with new and in with the newer.
This card will boot with out the additional power cable installed.
I received a friendly reminder that the GPU was not receiving enough juice once I logged into my WinXP account. A shut sown, open case, insert connector, close case, restart cured the electron deficiency. No buzzers, no monitor clipping, just a subtle pop up window. I guess the engineers think you would not feel as silly for forgetting the connector this way.
The fan on the XFX 6600GT is louder than the fan on the 6800GT, though just barely. Is it a function of its orientation or differing fan-blade type? Probably not, the 6800GT has more baffling to buffer the exiting air. Your measurements may vary, but the noise level is lower than that of the 9700 Pro I used to have.
Cardinal sin – I did not reinstall the OS for this review. This is my only PC at the moment. How many of you actually go through the trouble of reinstalling XP every time you make a hardware change? I hardly felt it necessary given the commonality of driver sets and GPU functionality. During the "dirty" install, the 67.02 drivers did need to be reinstalled to get the full functionality of the NVIDIA control panel back. No big deal. However, I did instantly notice that the desktop looked a little washed out compared to the 6800GT it replaced. While it is at times a point of ridicule, I realized that I had returned to the default settings for digital vibrance and sharpness. My six year old 21" monitor certainly benefits from the color tweak and the 6600GT quickly tied the 6800GT as the second best 2D card I have used behind the GeForce4 MX440.
I went ahead and added coolbits2 for the overclocking features and noticed upon checking the clock frequency settings that the XFX was running at the PCI-E 6600GT's standard clocks of 500MHz/500MHz core and memory clocks. This is an effective added 100MHz on memory, 1000MHz vs. the standard NVIDIA spec of 900MHz for the 6600GT AGP.
Here are the rest of the system specs...
AMD Athlon 64 3000+
MSI K8N Neo FSR Nforce3 250
Corsair PC3200 - (2) 512MB DIMMs - 1GB Total
Western Digital (2) 40GB, 7200RPM, ATA-100, 8MB Buffer, Hard Disk Drives (2)