When looking at a budget card like this one, you have to have some reasonable expectations of what exactly its capabilities are. This 6600 simply doesn't have the horsepower to handle modern titles with maximum eye candy. However, this doesn't mean the card should be entirely dismissed. Besides, the target market probably doesn't care about things like anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering. While I did test anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering in the games below, I found that even at 1024x768 resolution, they were pretty much unplayable (except for Trackmania: Sunrise). As such, the results listed below are those taken with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filetering. I set up each game test as follows. Each game was tested at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 resolution, except where noted.
F.E.A.R. - The game has a built-in time demo that takes you on a flyby of some scenes, including combat and a very nice explosion at the end. I used the auto computer and graphics card detect options and made no changes to any of the detail options. The game was patched to version 1.01, and 1280x960 was used for high-resolution testing (as 1280x1024 isn't supported without manually alterting a configuration file).
Half-Life 2 - I ran Half-Life 2 benchmarks using a custom demo from the BenchEmAll test suite. The demo consists of a scene in the "Highway 17" level. It makes good use of the game's open environment and pixel shaders. Again, the game test was run at all video default options, which meant high details but no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering.
Quake 4 - Based on the Doom 3 engine, this new release has some solid visuals and great gameplay. For this test, I used a section of the game's first level, where you have to retrieve a medic for a fellow marine. I used Fraps to run this test, doing three runs and taking the average score. The game defaulted to high details, and no other changes were made to the configuration.
Trackmania: Sunrise - This unique racing game makes good use of DirectX 9 shaders, offering well-detailed environments and excellent water effects. Trackmania has a built-in benchmark, which I used at the game's default settings. Fraps was used to take minimum frame rate scores.
GAME TESTS - QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS
After looking at the raw numbers, I wanted to give a brief overview of my perceptions of this card...its "feel" if you will. While there's not doubt that games like F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 put a strain on it, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 6600 held up in these demanding titles. The minimum frame rates you see in the chart weren't consistent, only occuring when entering expansive areas or during large firefights. With some more in-game fine tuning, I don't doubt that frame rates would improve. For what it's worth, I'm impressed with what this card could do considering its price point and place in the market.
A $100 graphics card certainly can't be all things to all people. Naturally, the enthusiasts will be passing this right up for something far more powerful. But for the mainstream market, primarily those running on integrated graphics cards, this 6600 DDR2 is an excellent value-based solution. Even if you don't game, the fact that this card sports dual DVI makes it a good choice for people who want to drive a pair of digital displays but don't want to spend the money on a GeForce 6800 GT or better.
Having this card in my machine reminded me of the days when my trusty Creative Voodoo Banshee powered my old Pentium II machine. It certainly wasn't the fastest thing out there, but for $100, it was a great choice for those of us on limited budgets. The Banshee made 3D acceleration possible in "new" games such as Quake 3 and Half-Life. I wouldn't hesitate to call this 6600 DDR2 a spiritual successor to the Banshee in form, function and price. It won't knock your socks off, but for what it's capable of, it represents a compelling value.