We here at nV News love to talk about the latest and greatest in computer graphics hardware. Seeing cards like the GeForce 7800 GTX run recent games at high frame rates with lots of anti-aliasing thrown in is really a sight to behold. Not everyone, though, has the means to spend $300-500 on a video card alone. For many, this pricetag constitutes 50% or more of what they paid for their entire computer. While the premium products are worth showing off, the low and middle ends of the spectrum are the proverbial bread and butter for NVIDIA and the companies who produce the cards.
With competition coming from ATI, Intel and NVIDIA in this part of the market, it's critical for these companies to come up with graphics solutions that can walk a fine line between features and cost. That brings us to the subject of today's review. With ATI's recent launch of the X1300 cards for the $100 price range, NVIDIA is firing right back by offering a new addition to its GeForce 6-series lineup, the PCI-Express 256 MB 6600 with DDR2 memory. In typical fashion, XFX is one of the first manufacturers to bring this updated card to retail.
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The packaging is standard XFX fare, with the unusually-shaped box and card visible through the back panel. This particular model carries a $99.95 suggested retail price. The bundle is somewhat basic, but there are a couple surprises, including a pair of DVI to VGA adapters and full version DVD of the popular shooter Far Cry. The game alone has a $20 pricetag, making the package even more appealing from an overall value standpoint. This 6600 clocks in at 400 MHz on the core and 800 MHz on the memory.
Again, this card is not about getting the most blistering performance with all graphical eye candy turned on. Rather this is a product for people who may own an OEM machine with integrated graphics who want to be able to play at least reasonably recent games and not spend a fortune doing it. That's the philsosphy I took when conducting this review. I wanted to look at this card, not as an enthusiast, but rather as a consumer who may pick it up off the shelf at a local computer retailer. That being said, the system on which testing was done is probably very similar to many setups that this card's customers will have.
When I was back in the market for a new PC, I weighed the pros and cons of building a system myself. Factoring in the costs of time, money and potential aggravation (if a part was defective) I decided to pick up a machine off the shelf. The Hewlett-Packard a1130n used to test this card was set up as follows:
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ - 2.2 GHz Venice core
MSI RS480M2-IL motherboard - ATI Xpress 200 chipset
Reviewer's Note: As you can see from the photo, the card uses one DVI and one VGA connector. XFX informed us that cards being shipped to retailers will sport a pair of DVI ports. Although shipments were slightly delayed due to the change, we should begin to see the XFX GeForce 6600 DDR2 showing up in online stores next week.
For testing purposes, I benchmarked several recent games, including: F.E.A.R., Half-Life 2, Quake 4 and Trackmania: Sunrise. Again, I tried to put myself into the mindset of the consumer who may purchase this card. I went into testing these games after simply installing the drivers, leaving all settings at their display control panel defaults and making changes in-game as needed. Read on to see how this budget card fared.