None of the included games matched my normal buying description of first-person shooter. I guess it is time to branch out a little, broaden my horizons, if you will. The bundled games varied greatly in terms of performance requirements. X2 can put the hurt on my system when all features were enabled. Commandos 3 is the least demanding game I have installed since I last reformatted my hard drive. NASCAR Thunder is somewhere in between. Let's take a closer look.
Commandos 3: Destination Berlin
Commandos 3 barely scratched the surface of the 6600GT. The game's performance is more about system memory than graphics card memory. I do not like these adventure games, but my brother-in-law is a huge fan and he gave the game a "thumbs up". Here is a screenshot from the training run. Again, there are very few display options so use the NVIDIA control panel to get you 8Xs FSAA and 8X AF on the DirectX apps for best results. FRAPS showed a constant 25fps during gameplay. Not sure why…
Commandos 3 - 8Xs FSAA, 8X AF
That's right, 8Xs FSAA was used for the screen shot. Notice the the high contrast area to the left of the cursor. That is a clean edge.
Nascar Thunder 2004
NASCAR Thunder is a bit more demanding. I remember reading somewhere that with racing sims, you never want let framerates drop below 30fps for the best possible gaming experience. The game gives you far more options than I expected, but everything was set to high, full where possible. At 1600x1200 with 4X FSAA, the framerate indicator in FRAPS varied between 55 and 70fps during practice sessions depending on where I was on the track. It was definitely adequate for qualifying in the Brickyard400. Here is a time to fps capture using FRAPS during actual racing.
NASCAR THUNDER 2K4 - 1600x1200 4X/8X
I did not think the game would be as fun as it was, given that I am a Formula One fan, but the challenge of the perfect lap was appealing even when only turning left.
This screenshot was taken at 1280x1024 with 4X FSAA enabled in game and 8X AF enabled in the driver control panel. I ended playing at this resolution, not very well mind you. My lap times were consistently 10% off the rest of the field. I must have a virtual restrictor plate on my Athlon 64.
NASCAR Thunder - 12800x1024 4X/8X
X2: The Threat
X2: The Threat is the pretty one of the bunch. In fact, it has a built in benchmarking tool used in many reviews around the web which features 24 Scene Tests. Here is how the 6600 GT fared in different resolutions.
X2: The Threat - Scene Tests
With all features enabled, the game has some great eye candy. I don't have a working joystick at the moment so I did not get to actually play the game. I may follow up with an update if I purchase a gamepad or joystick.
X2: The Threat - 1600x1200
DVD AND TV
DVD playback quality was exceptional through NVDVD. CPU usage varied between seven and twenty percent even with the display resolution of 1600x1200.
Return of the King
Using the ATI TV Wonder, the quality of the picture, both windowed at 640x480 and stretched to 1600x1200 looked slightly better than through the 6800GT. This could be a Freudian effect, but the improvements in overlay quality on the 6600GT may be coming into play as the current driver sets are supposed to be able to take advantage of the advanced video decoding features of the 6600GT. I may do some additional investigation into this at a later date.
The Fifth Element - TBS
So there it is, the XFX GeForce 6600GT. Best described by the phrase "more than enough for most of PC users", the 6600GT had sufficient performance to keep me from wanting to put the 6800GT back in my system every time I fired up Half-Life 2 or Doom3. That is an off-handed complement, but the best complement I can give. I doubt I would have purchased a 6800GT had this card been available just after Doom3's release. The 6600GT AGP is extremely capable, extremely well-rounded and extremely affordable. You could not ask more of your $200 PC upgrade budget and you get the bonus of a subtle boost in memory speed and a solid bundle courtesy XFX.
The card could have even more overclocking headroom than what was seen here, but I did not want to push my luck as 580 core and 1150 memory clocks were significantly higher than what MikeC was able to do in his 6600 GT AGP Preview, perhaps due to better case ventilation with the absebce of a Prescott and with a side-mounted fan. Regardless, credit the quality of the XFX's PCB and component selection.
It takes the best features of the GeForce 6 series, scales back the complexity and bundles in at a nice price. XFX just earned themselves the dubious honor of making my recommended list when friends ask me, "Hey, what should I get to upgrade my PC?"
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This following is a list of changes that have been made to this article since it was originally published:
1/13/05 - Added Feedback link.
1/23/05 - Added link on first page to information about the GPU cooler revision.