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XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty
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Date: Sep 26, 2007
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Shane Unrein
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Introduction, Features and Specs

If silence is golden, then silence plus overclocking is platinum. Hardware enthusiasts have loved squeezing every last drop of performance out of their hardware for quite some time. Noise levels are not a concern for many of these enthusiasts, but over the last several years, more and more of them have become not only performance enthusiasts but also silence enthusiasts. So, finding a silent, overclocked product is like winning a mini lottery.

For this article, we have such a product: the XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty. Not only is the XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty silently cooled, but it is also overclocked. While a reference NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT has a 540 MHz core clock and a 700 MHz (1.4 GHz effective) memory clock, the XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty sports a 620 MHz core clock and an 850 MHz (1.7 GHz effective) memory clock.

In addition to being silent and overclocked, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty features 256MB of DDR3 and a 128-bit memory interface. Looking at its specifications, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty looks great, but we'll have to run it through some tests to see if it is both silent and deadly.

XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty
Specifications and Features

Memory: 256 MB DDR3

Video Output Function:
    - TV-out + HDTV Support
    - Two Dual-link DVI Connectors
    - SLI Bridge

128-Bit Memory Interface
Clocks:
    - GPU: 620 MHz
    - Memory: 1.7 GHz (effective)

Performance:
    - Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec): 22.4
    - Fill Rate (Billion pixels/sec): 8.6
 

NVIDIA unified architecture:
Fully unified shader core dynamically allocates processing power to geometry, vertex, physics, or pixel shading operations, delivering up to 2x the gaming performance of prior generation GPUs.

GigaThread Technology:
Massively multi-threaded architecture supports thousands of independent, simultaneous threads, providing extreme processing efficiency in advanced, next generation shader programs.

Full Microsoft DirectX 10 Support:
World's first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.

NVIDIA SLI Technology:
Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single graphics card configuration for unequaled gaming experiences by allowing two cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI dramatically scales performance on today's hottest games.

NVIDIA Lumenex Engine:
Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
16x Anti-aliasing: Lightning fast, high-quality anti-aliasing at up to 16x sample rates obliterates jagged edges.

128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR):
Twice the precision of prior generations for incredibly realistic lighting effects - now with support for anti-aliasing.

NVIDIA Quantum Effects Technology:
Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation enable a new level of physics effects to be simulated and rendered on the GPU - all while freeing the CPU to run the game engine and AI.

NVIDIA ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture (UDA):
Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability, and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare provides the best out-of-box experience and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce GPUs.

OpenGL 2.0 Optimizations and Support:
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for OpenGL applications.

NVIDIA nView Multi-Display Technology:
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.

PCI Express Support:
Designed to run perfectly with the PCI Express bus architecture, which doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X to deliver over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.

Dual 400MHz RAMDACs:
Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates - up to 2048x1536@85Hz. 

Dual Dual-link DVI Support:
Able to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution flat-panel displays up to 2560x1600.

Built for Microsoft Windows Vista:
NVIDIA's fourth-generation GPU architecture built for Windows Vista gives users the best possible experience with the Windows Aero 3D graphical user interface.

NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology:
The combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video.

Discrete, Programmable Video Processor:
NVIDIA PureVideo HD is a discrete programmable processing core in NVIDIA GPUs that provides superb picture quality and ultra-smooth movies with low CPU utilization and power.

Hardware Decode Acceleration:
Provides ultra-smooth playback of H.264, VC-1, WMV and MPEG-2 HD and SD movies.

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.

Spatial-Temporal De-Interlacing:
Sharpens HD and standard definition interlaced content on progressive displays, delivering a crisp, clear picture that rivals high-end home-theater systems.

High-Quality Scaling:
Enlarges lower resolution movies and videos to HDTV resolutions, up to 1080i, while maintaining a clear, clean image. Also provides downscaling of videos, including high-definition, while preserving image detail.

Inverse Telecine (3:2 & 2:2 Pulldown Correction):
Recovers original film images from films-converted-to-video (DVDs, 1080i HD content), providing more accurate movie playback and superior picture quality.

Bad Edit Correction:
When videos are edited after they have been converted from 24 to 25 or 30 frames, the edits can disrupt the normal 3:2 or 2:2 pulldown cadences. PureVideo HD uses advanced processing techniques to detect poor edits, recover the original content, and display perfect picture detail frame after frame for smooth, natural looking video.

Video Color Correction:
NVIDIA's Color Correction Controls, such as Brightness, Contrast and Gamma Correction let you compensate for the different color characteristics of various RGB monitors and TVs ensuring movies are not too dark, overly bright, or washed out regardless of the video format.

Integrated SD and HD TV Output:
Provides world-class TV-out functionality via Composite, S-Video, Component, or DVI connections. Supports resolutions up to 1080p.

Noise Reduction:
Improves movie image quality by removing unwanted artifacts.

Edge Enhancement:
Sharpens movie images by providing higher contrast around lines and objects.


  

Not surprisingly, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty box features the typical black and red Fatal1ty theme, and it also features the visage of Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, who we are sure you all know is the most well known professional gamer in the world. The back of the box features a window that lets you take a peek at what the box holds inside.

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When we opened the box, we were happy to see that the card was protected by Styrofoam and an anti-static bag. Underneath the card, we found the bundle, including a quick install guide, a connector guide, a VGA-to-DVI adapter, an S-video cable, a driver CD, and the full version of the highly-rated game Company of Heroes. Although the game is around a year old, we stil consider it a great inclusion in this bundle.

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Closer Look at the XFX 8600 GT Fatal1ty

 

Closer Look: 8600 GT Fatal1ty
Silent and deadly?!

If you are familiar with other Fatal1ty-branded products on the market, then the styling of this card won't surprise you. XFX achieved the typical Fatal1ty color scheme by using an all black PCB and a black heatsink adorned with a red Fatal1ty logo on top.

  

When you look at the two images above, you can see how XFX is achieving the silent cooling on its 8600 GT Fatal1ty. The company employs a basic heatsink on the GPU itself and draws the heat away with a set of heatpipes that have another heatsink with over 30 fins attached to them. As you can see, all of this metal is basically stored above and behind the card. The extra height added to the card due to this design may be an issue with some horizontal cases (like HTPC cases). So, make sure you have clearance in your system before purchasing this card.

    

As we turn the card around to get a better look at the cooler and the rest of the PCB, you can see that there is no power connector. Unlike the GeForce 8800s and 8600 GTS, the 8600 GT does not require supplimental power, which we see as a good thing. Overall, the cooler makes the card's footprint a bit more awkward than a standard 8600 GT, but we don't foresee most users having any issues with the size and shape of the card.

The 8600 GT Fatal1ty's outputs include two dual-link DVI connectors and an S-video connector. Additionally, the card features an SLI connector.

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Test System and 3DMark06 Performance

For testing the 8600 GT Fatal1ty, we used an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz) on an Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI motherboard. We also used 1GB of Corsair DDR2 (TWIN2X1024A-5400UL) and a 120GB Maxtor SATA hard drive. The 8600 GT Fatal1ty was compared to an NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT, NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT and an ATI Radeon X1950 Pro.

HotHardware Test System
Intel C2D Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -




Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz)

Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI
nForce 650i SLI chipset

XFX GeForce 8600 GT Fatal1ty
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT
ATI Radeon X1950 Pro

1GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2-675
CAS 4

Integrated on board

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9

120GB - 7200RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-



Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v8.43
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v162.18

ATI Catalyst v7.9


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.1.0
F.E.A.R. v1.08
Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Company of Heroes v1.71
Quake 4 v1.4.2
Prey v1.3



Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand new version of its popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests but also Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail, and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted, and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

In 3DMark06, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty impressed us by almost keeping up with the best performer in this test, the 7950 GT. The 8600 GT Fatal1ty easily outperforms the standard 8600 GT and even beats the X1950 Pro in two of the scores. These results made us eager to see how the 8600 GT Fatal1ty would perform in real-world tests.

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Company of Heroes Performance

 

Performance Comparisons with Company of Heroes
Details: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com/

Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a World War II real-time strategy game. One look at some of the screenshots from this game, and you can tell that truly enjoying this game's visual splendor requires a powerful system and graphics card. Using the full retail release of the game patched to version 1.71, we put each video card in this review to the test to see how they could handle this intense WWII RTS. Within the game performance menus, we set the graphical options to "High" and left the model detail to its default middle position. Benchmark runs were completed at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200, with and without 4x anti-aliasing enabled.

Once again, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty outperformed the reference 8600 GT by over 25% at 1280x1024, but it only barely pulled ahead at 1600x1200. On the other hand, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty couldn't quite keep up with the 7950 GT or X1950 Pro.

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F.E.A.R. Performance

 

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Details: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R.
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the 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 that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.05, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were completed at resolutions of 1280x960 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

In the F.E.A.R. benchmark, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty performs quite well when anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled, but it takes a considerable hit when 4x AA and 8x AF are turned on. When playing F.E.A.R. with this card, you probably should play at 1024x768 if you want high levels of eye candy turned on.

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Half-Life 2: Episode 1 Performance

 

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half-Life 2: Ep 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. So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Fortunately, HL2 proved popular enough that we are getting more play in the form of episodes. We benchmarked Episode 1 at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments.

The Half-Life 2: Episode 1 results didn't really surprise us after what we had seen so far. At 1280x1024, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty kept up with all the other cards until HDR was turned on, at which point it slipped a bit behind both the 7950 GT and X1950 Pro. Once the resolution is bumped up to 1600x1200, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty surpassed the regular 8600 GT at all settings, but it could no longer keep up with the 7950 GT and X1950 Pro once AA, AF and HDR were enabled.

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Quake 4 Performance

 

Performance Comparisons w ith Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA enabled.

The story follows a similar trend with the Quake 4 tests. We were most impressed by how much the 8600 GT Fatal1ty outperformed the reference 8600 GT.

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Prey Performance

 

Performance Comparisons with Prey
Details: http://www.prey.com/

Prey
After many years of development, Take-Two Interactive recently released the highly anticipated game Prey. Prey is based on an updated and modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such, performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar. Like Doom 3, Prey is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a plethora of dynamic lighting and shadows. But unlike Doom 3, Prey features a fair share of outdoor environments as well. We ran these Prey benchmarks using a custom recorded timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" graphics mode, at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.

In Prey, the 8600 GT Fatal1ty outperforms the standard 8600 GT by a considerable margin at both resolutions. Unfortunately, it can't keep up at all with the 7950 GT or the X1950 Pro, due in no small part to these two cards having twice the memory bus width of the 8600 GT (256-bit versus the 8600 GT's 128-bit).

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Overclocking the 8600 GT Fatal1ty

 

Overclocking the 8600 GT Fatal1ty
Going beyond the factory overclock...

Although the 8600 GT Fatal1ty comes factory overclocked, we still had to check for extra headroom. Recall that the clocks come set at 620MHz for the core and 850MHz (1.7GHz effective) for the memory. We loaded NVIDIA's nTune software and started bumping up the GPU and memory clocks. We tested for stability along the way and finally settled on 740MHz and 950MHz (1.9GHz effective), respectively. We were quite pleased with these results, especially considering that the card has a passive cooler. As always, don't expect every 8600 GT to overclock the same. Your mileage will vary, and overclocking can void your warranty.

With the cranked up clocks, we put the XFX 8600 GT Fatal1ty back through the ringer for some more testing. It remained stable and put up some solid numbers. Check out some of the results below.

As you can see, we saw significant gains across the board with the card overclocked.  It's definitely worth the extra effort to squeeze this kind of extra performance out of a graphics card.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Thanks to its factory overclock, the XFX 8600 GT Fatal1ty outperforms the standard 8600 GT by a considerable margin. The only benchmark that the 8600 GT Fatal1ty didn't really dominate the standard 8600 GT was the Company of Heroes test at 1600x1200. We were actually hoping (but not necessarily expecting) the 8600 GT Fatal1ty to hang with the 7950 GT and X1950 Pro a little more closely, but the smaller memory bandwidth held the 8600 GT Fatal1ty back. Regardless, you can definitely color us impressed in regards to the 8600 GT Fatal1t's performance.

It seems that every time new NVIDIA GPU-based graphics cards are introduced, XFX does something special with them. XFX is definitely known as a company to check on if you want a warrantied, factory overclocked video card. Many of the companies that offer overclocked cards only offer one option, but XFX often has several overclocked options for each type of card. In the case of the company's 8600 GT Fatal1y, we think XFX did a great job. Not only is it silent, thanks to its passive cooling, but it also has a great factory overclock (a rare and welcome combination). What's more, the cooler was good enough to provide excellent overclocking headroom with our sample.

While the design of the card is quite effective at delivering excellent performance, it also potentially poses a problem for some lower profile cases, such as an HTPC case. As we mentioned before, you should make sure the extra height added to the card by the cooler isn't a problem for your case before you buy it. Although the design may be a concern for a small group of potential users, the bundle should make everyone happy. Overall, it's a simple bundle, but XFX made the great decision to include the highly-rated Company of Heroes game.

The biggest downside to this card is probably its price (around $160). It is one of the most expensive 8600 GTs currently available, but if you want top mid-range performance, DirectX 10 support, and silence, it will most likely be worth the money to you. If you don't care at all about DirectX 10 support at this time and don't think you will any time soon, then it may be worth your time to research last generation's high-end cards before you buy.

•  Excellent mid-range performance
•  SLI support
•  Solid factory overclock
•  Silent, passive cooling
•  DirectX 10 support
•  Good game included
•  Cooler adds extra height to card
•  One of the most expensive 8600 GTs on the market

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