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BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 Review
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Date: Oct 15, 2007
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Paul Jastrzebski
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Introduction

Just about four and a half years ago, a company started by ex-Visiontek executives entered the already crowded graphics card market with the hope of capturing the enthusiast and hardcore gaming audience. The plan was to factory overclock many of their products, offer a life time warranty, and have a dedicated 24/7 technical support staff ready to answer any questions or troubleshoot any problems end users may encounter throughout the life of their cards. Fast forward to present day, and BFG is well respected in the enthusiast and gamer communities, and in addition to their top to bottom graphics line, they now have a growing motherboard, power supply, and even physics card lineup.

With that said, the main focus of BFG is still set on the graphics space, and today we’ll be taking a look at one of BFG’s latest offerings in the $199-$249 graphics card “sweet spot”, the place gamers and enthusiasts on a budget try to find the greatest value in their graphics card. The card in question is the BFG GeForce 8600GT OC2, a factory overclocked version of the GeForce 8600GTS. Priced at $229 - $249 and running at a  720MHz core clock and 1110MHz memory clock (stock speeds are 675MHz core clock and 1000MHz memory clock), will the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC give enough performance to justify a new graphics card purchase? Let’s take a closer look.

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BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 256MB

Specifications & Features


 

Performance

GPU

NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS

Core Clock

720MHz (vs. 675MHz standard)

Shader Clock

1566MHz (vs. 1450MHz standard)

Fill Rate

11.7 Billion/sec.

Stream Processors

32

Memory

Video Memory

256MB

Memory Type

GDDR3

Memory Data Rate

2220MHz (vs. 2000MHz standard)

Memory Bandwidth

36.2GB/sec.

Connections

Bus Type

PCI Express x16

Connector(s)

2 Dual-Link DVI-I, HDTV + TV Out

Multiple Monitor Support

Yes

HDCP

Yes (Requires other compatible components which are HDCP capable. Designed to meet the output protection management (HDCP) and security specifications of the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, allowing the playback of encrypted movie content on PCs when connected to HDCP-compliant displays)

RAMDACs

Dual 400MHz


Package Contents:

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When we opened the box of the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2, we found that the card ships with a quick install guide, two DVI to VGA adapters, a PCI Express power adapter, a HDTV output dongle, and a driver disk with an included manual. As you can tell, there aren’t any bundled extras packaged in with the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2, with BFG just providing the basic accessories you need to get your card running and fully functional.

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The BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 Card

The Card:

The first thing you notice when looking at the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 is that the card does not use NVIDIA’s reference GeForce 8600GTS cooling unit. With the GeForce 8600 series, BFG is introducing a new cooling brand called Thermo Intelligence. The Thermo Intelligence series will be exclusive to BFG with the goal of bringing powerful and quiet single slot cooling to select cards in the BFG product line. BFG plans to bring water cooled units to market in the near future, but currently the custom designed coolers are only available with the GeForce 8600GTS OC2 and GeForce 8600GT OC2.


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In addition to the new cooling design, BFG is also using their traditional teal colored PCB with the GeForce 8600GTS OC2. The card itself measures 7.25 inches in length, has dual DVI inputs, HDTV output (full 720p/1080p compatibility), and of course features an SLI connector.


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When we look at the back of the card, we can see the six pin PCI Express power connector needed to power it, and a bare back of the card with no memory chips. As we saw with our review of this HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro IceQ Turbo, adding extra memory to a mainstream graphics card always doesn’t translate into any measurable performance improvements unless you are gaming at ultra-high resolutions (which you won’t be with a mainstream card), so BFG’s decision to stick with 256MB of memory on the 8600GTS OC2 is easily justifiable.

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Testing Setup & Overclocking

To test the BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2, we set up a new test rig equipped with Intel's new 1333MHz FSB Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU. We built our system on EVGA’s 680i SLI motherboardand used Corsair’s XMS PC2-8500 DDR2 memory. Since the BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 comes factory overclocked and is equipped with a custom heatsink fan, we will try to see how high the card can stably overclock and we will compare the card’s performance to that of the recently reviewed HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro IceQ Turbo ($140) and the reference 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT ($105-$115). We’re using the latest updates and patches for our games. To do our testing, we turned all of our games to high quality and ran 60 second FRAPS sequences three times, averaging the score you see in the tests.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750


Processor -

Motherboard -

 

Video Cards -

 


 

Memory -



Audio -


Hard Drive -

Hardware Used:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750

EVGA nForce 680i SLI
nForce 680i SLI chipset

BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 (256MB)
HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro IceQ Turbo (512MB)
 
NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT (256MB)

2048MB Corsair XMS PC2-8500 RAM
CAS 3


Integrated on board


Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9
120GB - 7200RPM - SATA


OS -


Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-



Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2


nForce Drivers v9.53
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v162.18

ATI Catalyst v7.8


Benchmarks Used:
Battlefield 2 v1.4
F.E.A.R. v1.08
Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Rainbow Six: Vegas v1.02

 

Overclocking the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC
Turbo engaged...

With our brand new BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 installed and ready to go, we wanted to see just how far we could push the card and its new Thermo Intelligence cooler. Already overclocked 45MHz on its core and 110MHz on its memory right out of the box, we used NVIDIA’s nTune overclocking software to pump up both the core and memory clocks on the card. To test our highest stable operating frequencies, we started by increasing the core frequency by 10MHz and then tested for artifacts and instability. We repeated the same process with memory, and once we found our maximum frequencies, we ran the card at them overnight to ensure stability.

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Our overclocking tests resulted in a 100% stable overclock with a core clock speed of 803MHz and memory clock speed of 1187MHz. Our overclock was an 83MHz increase in the shipping core clock frequency of the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2, and a 77MHz overclock in the shipping memory frequency of the card. We left the automatic fan control on during the overclocking session, and were surprised by how quiet BFG’s Thermo Intelligence cooler really was. Even when overclocked, the fan was hardly audible over the two 80mm exhaust fans in my test rig.

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Performance Comparisons with Battlefield 2
Performance Comparisons with Battlefield 2
Details: www.battlefield2.com
 

Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2 remains one of the most frequently played games on the internet. A personal favorite of ours, we put quality settings on High and ran through a locally hosted server running the very popular Road to Jalalabad Map. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled and again with 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.
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In our first batch of Battlefield 2 tests, we see the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 with a significant performance lead over the reference GeForce 8600GT and HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro.
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We see the performance lead of the 8600GTS OC2 continue when we increase our quality settings to 4X AA and 8X AF.

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Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of recent years was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the game's minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card in the Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-classes or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.08, we put the graphics cards in this article through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to their maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1,280x1,024 and 1,600x1,200, with two testing having anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled and two tests with the settings disabled.
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We see the 8600GTS OC2 come out notably faster than the GeForce 8600GT once again, and at the same time performing just about twice as fast as the HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro.
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The most notable benchmark with our F.E.A.R. tests with AA and AF turned on is at the 1280x1024x32 resolution, where we see the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 actually putting out a very playable frame rate, 43FPS at its standard speeds, and 46FPS when we overclocked the card. F.E.A.R. is typically a game we don't see playable on most mainstream cards when the quality settings are cranked up and the game is running on a resolution higher than 1024x768x32.
 
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Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode One
Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Details: www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2:
Episode 1
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapong and level design, Half Life 2 became almost as popular.  Armed with the latest episodic update to HL2, Episode 1, we benchmarked the game with a long, custom-recorded timedemo that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with and without 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently, and with color correction and HDR rendering enabled in the game engine as well.
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Our Half-Life 2: Episode 1 tests without AA or AF turned on actually show the 8600GTS OC2 and the 8600GT actually very close to one another in performance, with only about 5 FPS seperating the 8600GTS OC2 with the standard 8600GT.
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However, when we crank up the quality settings to 4X AA and 8X AF, the difference between the cards becomes very easy to spot, with the 8600GTS hovering around 60FPS at 1600x1200x32 while the 8600GT is at 44FPS.
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Performance Comparisons with Rainbow Six: Vegas
Performance Comparisons with Rainbow Six: Vegas
Details: www.rainbowsixgame.com/us


Rainbow 6: Vegas

Released this past December, Rainbow Six: Vegas is a classic squad based first person shooter based on the Unreal 3 Engine. Combining great graphics with stellar gameplay, Rainbow Six: Vegas has been one of the best reviewed games in the past year. We put quality settings on High and with FRAPS, ran through a locally hosted server running the very popular Calypso Casino Map. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with no anti-aliasing and no anisotropic filtering enabled and with both 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.
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We see the 8600GTS OC2 once again come out on top in our Rainbow Six: Vegas tests with no AA or AF turned on.
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With AA and AF turned on, the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 is able to handle Rainbow Six: Vegas very well at 1280x1024x32, but when we crank up the resolution to 1600x1200x32, we averaged a relatively choppy 28.5FPS at normal frequencies and 31.4FPS when we overclocked the card's core past 800MHz.
 
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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: Overall, we saw the performance of the BFG GeForce 8600GTS OC2 easily eclipse that of the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT and HIS Radeon HD 2600 Pro IceQ Turbo. More specifically, the GeForce 8600GTS OC2 made some demanding games like Rainbow Six: Vegas and F.E.A.R. playable at 1280x1024x32 with high quality settings at 4X AA and 8X AF, a significant accomplishment for a card targeted at mainstream gamers.

 

Strictly speaking in terms of performance, cooling, and overclockability, the BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 is arguably the most attractive GeForce 8600 GTS card currently on the market.  The BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 features the company's custom, near-silent Thermo Intelligence cooling solution, it ships from the factory with GPU and memory clock speeds significantly higher than NVIDIA's reference specifications for increased performance, and it is backed by a lifetime warranty.  The card also overclocked well, hitting and 803MHz GPU frequency and memory clock speed of 1187MHz.  Unfortunately the BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2's accessory bundle is somewhat bland and the card is priced much higer than it competition.  With a price somewhere between $229 and $249 on-line, this is the most expensive GeForce 8600 GTS by a large margin. For that kind of money, gamers would be better served by saving a few more bucks and purchasing a 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS.  Video buffs on the other hand can save themselves roughly $50 - $60 by going with a reference 8600 GTS and overclocking the card themselves.  It may not be as quiet or hit clock speeds quite as high as BFG's offering, but it's difficult to justify the BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2's price tag in the current 3D graphics card landscape.

  • Good Performance
  • Overclocking Potential
  • Quiet, Single Slot Cooler
  • High Price
  • Accessory Bundle


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