The Cards Up Close and Peformance
The first of the two value-based cards is the GeForce 6600. The GPU is clocked at 300MHz and comes with 128MB of Hynix GDDR memory which is rated for 275MHz (550 DDR). NVIDIA plans to leave the decision up to OEMs as to the final clock speed of the memory. This is the cheaper of the two new cards that is expected to have an MSRP of $149. When comparing clock speeds, ATI's X600, which typically runs at 500/740, has the advantage, but the GeForce 6600 wins the Pixel Pipeline battle with 8 versus the X600's 4 pipeline architecture. Additionally, the X600 comes in 128MB and 256MB DDR flavors. There is no word of 256MB models for the GeForce 6600. However, the GeForce 6600 competes in the low to mid-range market well below the price point of the X600, making it one of the more affordable PCI Express solutions on the market.
The second model is the GeForce 6600 GT which sports all of the features of the 6600 with more options. The GPU is clocked more aggressively at 500MHz and is supported by 128MB of GDDR3 running at 500MHz as well (1000MHz effective). This model has an expected MSRP of $199, making it an attractive entry level PCI Express card. For an additional $50, the GeForce 6600 GT is the real attention grabber with faster memory all around and double the Pixel Pipelines of the X600. The GT also has the added ability to support SLI, which allows multiple cards to be added to a single system for combined processing. This model aims to steal the spotlight from the X600 altogether with its improved memory with higher clock speeds and a competitive price point. Again, there is no mention of a 256MB offering, but the option for GDDR3 is something the X600 doesn't offer as of yet.
Each of the GeForce 6600 models have a standard VGA output as well as Digital Video Output for LCD displays. The 6800 GT also comes with a slightly more aggressive cooling design, although neither card requires additional power from the power supply, unlike the 6800s and X800 models.
NVIDIA provided us with some basic performance examples showing what to expect when comparing the 6600 GT to the X600 series from ATI. While we've established that the 6600 GT has double the Pixel Pipelines and comes with GDDR3 compared to the X600's DDR1, we should expect it to be a relatively unfair fight. However, the results are somewhat valid when you compare the two cards from a pricing perspective. The GeForce 6600 GT has an MSRP of $199 and most of the X600s we've seen hover in the $190 range and higher.
Naturally, with Id and NVIDIA tied to each other's hip these days almost, it should be no surprise that NVIDIA is pushing the GeForce 6600 GT as being perfect for Doom 3. Each model supports the latest technology to take advantage of Doom 3's advanced graphics. Unfortunately, this chart doesn't give us a true FPS scale, but NVIDIA did send word of what you can expect. Using an Intel Alderwood motherboard with a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz and 1GB of RAM, the GeForce 6600 GT hit 42.5 FPS. This was acheived with the Forceware 65.71 drivers while running the Doom 3 time demo demo1 with the drivers set for 1600x1200 with no Antialiasing or Anisotropic Filtering enabled. When we reference the charted results, however, we should take them with a grain of salt, since we do not know what version of Catalyst drivers were used in these tests. Incidentally, ATI is expected to release the Catalyst 4.9s soon with promises of big performance gains with Doom 3.
In the end, these metrics should only be used for reference, but when you look at the specs of the X600 and 6600 GT, we expect the scores will be tipped well in favor of the GeForce 6600 GT. However, until we get the two cards on the bench to fight it out, we can't draw many conclusions just yet.
The next chart is a compilation of the performance comparison with a number of different gaming titles, many of which we use at HotHardware for benchmarking. Again, NVIDIA is claiming some serious performance gains over the X600 series, although the biggest gains lie with older titles like UT2003 and Serious Sam. Nonetheless, we see claims of over double the performance of ATI's X600 for the same price, which is compelling. Again, we need to get these cards on the test bench and see what we find before declaring the GeForce 6600 GT an all out winner, but on paper, the GeForce 6600 GT looks to have a lot to offer.