I decided to focus on the most demanding new games and make some assumptions about the card's potential market. Flat panels are beginning to become *cough* affordable. 16ms 19" models at well below $400 are available online and the native resolution of 1280x1024 means you may not need all the horsepower of the 6800 Ultra. But is the 6600GT enough? Let's take a look at the built-in benchmark numbers for Half-Life 2: Counter Strike Source and Doom3's Timedemo Demo1.
Quick Comment: Use this information only as a reference to show playability of these two game engines as they are synthetic and do not have any bearing on other sites' results or actual gameplay as there are no physics, AI or sound calculations taking place. All benchmarks are not created (or run) equally. These are not shutdown/restart clean system results - real world performance of the rendering engine is reflected in these scores. Comments are included to give you a feel of how the card performed during actual gameplay.
Valve Stress Test
Counter Strike VST
Here we see about a 30% advantage for the 6800GT until the 6600GT hits the fillrate wall when 4X FSAA is selected. These are respectable framerates for the 6600GT.
Actual Half-Life 2 and Counter Strike gameplay was exceptionally smooth at 1280x1024 with 2X FSAA, 8X AF and the drivers set to Quality to take to advantage of the texture filtering optimizations. In motion, the optimizations are seamless and give a phenomenal gaming experience. The visuals were outstanding. I was very pleased given that ATI is supposed to be the Half-Life 2 GPU (at least that is what ATI would leave you to believe). *jab*
Half-Life 2 Screenshot
Using the FRAPS counter in the upper left, expedition/storyline phases of the game ran up against 80fps, normal combat was around 40fps and minimums bounced around 25fps. The majority of the time spent gaming, framerates were more than acceptable and I managed to get in about four hours worth in during the course of the review. I guess I was trying to find excuses not to like this card. None could be found...
The 6600GT AGP from XFX continues to impress with its "budget" Doom3 scores. Oddly enough, there was an issue with running the benchmark at 12x10 with out FSAA. I tried changing V-Sync and AA settings in the drivers, as well as reinstalling the driver set with the same results. FYI, 16x12 no FSAA ran at 44.4.
id Software's Doom3
I have to make a confession here and admit that I like Doom3 more than Half-Life 2. There I said it. Lighting is king and I am thoroughly impressed with how good Doom3 looks on the 6600GT. With this performance, it looks like NVIDIA deserves the self-appointed marketing title of THE Doom3 GPU. I could not be happier with the XFX 6600GT AGP in this regard. Thanks NVIDIA for bringing this level of enjoyment while playing Doom3 down to the $200 price arena.
Prior to the 6800GT, I had an ATI 9700 PRO installed. It was a 128MB version, very solid performer. The 6600GT AGP absolutely destroys the settings and features I could run using the Radeon. At roughly $25 more than the 9700/9800Pro's current street prices, you can run the resolution a notch higher, with FSAA.
If you are a flat panel owner, you should be very happy with the 6600GT. The benchmark results should carry over to HTPC owners with 16x9 HDTV progressive input format pixel counts being similar to or less than those of 1280x1024. My one regret is that this card did not come with the component output, as I would have loved to have seen Doom3 on my new Plasma with a native 720p HDTV signal input.
Next in the scorecard cavalcade comes 3DMark05 by Futuremark. 3DMark05 should display where the cost cutting measures hinder performance. Again, we see a 30% difference in the overall performance with the composite scores of 3011 and 4343 for the 6600GT and 6800GT, respectively. Looking more closely at a few of the individual scores, we might be able to see why the 6600GT can offer so much performance with half the hardware specs and asking price of its bigger brother.
From the following charts, you will see that the 6600GT floats around the 70% mark in terms of comparative performance with the 6800GT in most tests, but do not skip over the Shader and Polygon scores and their interesting results likely stemming from the 6600GT's increased core clock.
3DMark05 - Detailed Results
I used this as a point in the review to introduce some overclocking results for those of you willing to tweak things to stretch your dollar. Using the Coolbits2Auto-Overclock, I acheived a core and meory clock of 580MHz and 1150MHz, respectively. Solid through these tests, the card should have more headroom to gain a little more on its big brother.
The information above is a lot to digest. If you take anything away from it, know that the 6600GT, despite is less complex architecture, does carry some serious firepower. We see the benefits of the the increase in core clock speed. If you allow the fewer pipelines more oppurtunities to do work, they will. This means scene complexities will not hinder the 6600GT, only fillrate.
In thinking about the experience I have had playing Half-Life 2 and Doom3, the 6600GT AGP owns the mid-range. You do not have the ability to run super high resolutions, but the latest game engines do not hurt your playability. If you buy a budget card, i.e. not the $400 6800GT or X800, you most likely won't buy a 22" monitor capable of freakishly high resolutions to go with it. In fact, you would likely have an older 17" or 19" CRT or a 17" LCD, most comfortable at 1024x768 or 1280x1024. At those resolutions, 2X or 4X FSAA is more than you would dream of asking of a $200 video card to deliver in the latest and greatest games, and the 6600GT, in deed, does deliver.