Currently, if you're in the market for a video card, there are two great options that will get you premium performance without blowing your budget: the Radeon X800XL from ATi and the GeForce 6800GT from nVidia. Sure, there are more powerful cards, namely the X850XT and GF 6800 Ultra, but the price of these cards alone can sometimes be greater than an entire entry-level system purchase. In our past reviews, we've seen that the X800XL and 6800GT create a gamer's dilemma - their similar performance leads to a virtual stalemate. What might be the 6800GT's major advantage (at least the PCI Express based version) then, is the ability to run in SLI (Scalable Link Interface) mode, by connecting two similar cards thereby increasing performance. This, of course, requires a motherboard that supports SLI configurations. And of course, in addition to the nForce 4 SLI for AMD platforms, the introduction of the nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition boards will finally bring this much-hyped about technology to the Intel crowd.
Today, we will have a look at just one of the many 6800GTs to hit the market, this one from MSI called the NX6800GT-T2D256E. Take note of the long model name, because word is there is another similarly named card from MSI, the NX6800GTX, which will come with only 12 pipelines instead of the GT's 16. The NX6800GT is one of the cards that MSI has labeled with their "Game with MSI" slogan, and based on the oversized packaging, colorful artwork, and in-your-face game adverts, it looks like we're in for a show.
|CINEFX 3.0 SHADING ARCHITECTURE
64-BITTEXTURE FILTERING AND BLENDING
INTELLISAMPLE 3.0 TECHNOLOGY
ULTRASHADOW II TECHNOLOGY
|ADVANCED VIDEO AND DISPLAY FUNCTIONALITY
NVIDIA DIGITAL VIBRANCE CONTROL (DVC) 3.0
* The operating system or APIs can impose limits, but the hardware does not limit shader program length.
MSI GeForce NX6800GT
GPU Clock Speed: 350MHz
Memory Clock Speed: 1GHz
Memory Interface: 256-bit
Fill Rate (billion texels/sec.): 5.6
Vertices/sec. (Million): 525
MSI is no slouch when it comes to providing superb add-ons to their products, and it was no different with the NX6800GT-T2D256E. Power consumption is a bit higher than other cards, more than can be supplied by the PCI-e slot, so the first piece we came across was a 6-pin PCI-Express power cable. There were two MOLEX power splitters that can be used with the power cable if needed. One DVI-to-VGA connector is provided in the package, although the card sports two DVI ports. Thus, a second one must be purchased for dual VGA setups, which are quite rare anyway. Two univeral guides are included in the package, and even though they cover the basics well, they are geared to cover MSI's entire line of GeForce 6 products in general rather than solely reflect on the NX6800GT-T2D256E. Included software consisted of a number of utilties, some of which one wouldn't normally expect to see with a video card. These included a Virtual Drive 7 package, Restore It 3, and a Foreign Language Learning Machine. More typical CDs such as DVD-player software, a drivers disc, and SE versions of Photoshop rounded out the collection.
As we pointed out earlier, MSI has gone all out in creating a gamer's package, self-titled the "Best Game Bundle of 2004" (well, 2005), and we can hardly argue with them. The first thing you'll see in this kit are pictures from four top-selling games, XIII, Prince of Persia - Sands of Time, Splinter Cell - Pandora Tomorrow, and URU - Ages Beyond Mist. Unfortunately, there's only three of these in the package. Depending on where the card is purchased, you will get Prince of Persia OR Splinter Cell, but not both. Still, that's three full games to choose from, worth at least $100-150. In addition, there's a demo CD that contains another 14 game demos. It's quite a collection of software to be had, and they'll show off the NX6800GT-T2D256E's graphics strength well.