The only major thing that is really happening at this time in the world of computer graphics hardware is the conversion from AGP to PCI-Express. While there is only a very small number of consumers who are migrating to PCI-Express based systems, graphics hardware manufacturers are attempting to push PCI-Express into the forefront by releasing their newest lines almost exclusively for PCI-Express. Both of the main graphics manufacturers realize, however, that they must still have AGP versions of new hardware available because of the low demand for PCI-Express parts. ATI and nVidia have slightly different approaches at the current time for this problem, however. ATI is making dedicated AGP and PCI-Express parts, while nVidia has opted to use a bridge chip so they only need to produce PCI-Express GPU's which can be made AGP compatible via the use of the bridge chip.
The GeForce 6600 GT that we have here today from MSI was originally a PCI-Express only part that I believe nVidia had no intentions of making AGP versions available. However, consumers demanded AGP versions be made, and nVidia did just that. As can be seen in the pictures above, the GPU heatsink is placed on an angle, and a smaller heatsink is placed beside it. The PCI-Express to AGP bridge chip is placed under this smaller heatsink. As with nearly all other AGP graphics cards available today, the GeForce 6600 GT requires that a single 4-pin power connector be plugged in to provide extra power.
Since all GeForce 6600 GT series graphics cards have the same functionality, I will simply paste in those features here rather than discuss them:
" NVIDIA® CineFX" 3.0 engine
" 64-bit texture filtering support delivers full-speed, high dynamic-range (HDR) lighting effects
" Unmatched image quality delivered through new 16x anisotropic filtering and rotated grid antialiasing
" 4x shadow processing power with NVIDIA® UltraShadow" II for next generation games
" Infinite program length allows for a new class of special effects
" Hardware-accelerated MPEG and WMV9 decode delivers smooth, artifact-free video
" Dedicated video hardware reduces CPU utilization and improves overall system performance
" On-chip video encoder and motion estimation engine provides fast, high-quality encoding from TV tuner
" Programmable video engine ensures compatibility with future video codecs
" High-quality video scaling and filtering improves playback quality at any window size
" Integrated HDTV-output brings content from your desktop to your high-definition TV
" NVIDIA® ForceWare" software delivers unmatched features and rock-solid stability
" High dynamic-range (HDR) rendering
" NVIDIA® UltraShadow" technology
" NVIDIA® Intellisample" high-resolution compression technology (HCT)
" NVIDIA® ForceWare" Unified Driver Architecture(UDA)
" NVIDIA® nView" multi-display technology
" NVIDIA® Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0
" On-chip video processor
" 64-bit floating point texture filtering and blending
" Microsoft® DirectX" 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 support
" OpenGL® 1.5 support
" Superscalar GPU architecture
" 128-bit memory interface with advanced memory control
" Innovative 0.13 micron process technology
" Operating Systems Support Windows® XP / 2000
" Power supply of 350 (and up) watt is highly recommended for system stability
" Memory Interface: 128-bit
" Fill Rate (billion texels/sec.): 4.0
" Vertices/sec. (Million): 375
" Pixels per clock (peak): 8
" RAMDACs (MHz): 400
Aside from the functionality of the GeForce 6600 GT GPU, the MSI 6600 GT has 1 VGA output, 1 DVI output, and 1 S-Video output. VIVO is also supported on the MSI 6600 GT, which is a feature that I like quite a bit so long as you can still get sound into your computer from whatever you are trying to record. This allows you to output S-Video and High Definition video, and input S-Video and Composite video.
Accessories / Software Bundle
I think that MSI has one of the best software bundles that I have ever seen. Every nVidia card I have owned for the past 5 years has been an MSI card both because of their performance and the bundle that comes with the cards. The 6600 GT is no exception.
The accessories include the manual, quick start guide, VIVO cable, DVI converter, and S-Video cable. Three full games (URU, XIII, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) are included as well as a 14 in 1 games collection, which basically just includes demo's of 14 games. Also included is MSI's Multimedia Center software, Virtual Drive 7, Restore It 3, MSI 5.1 Channel DVD Player, MSI SuperPack CD with Adobe Photoshop Album software, MSI 3D Desktop, and a CD with some MSI related utilities.
Test Setup and Benchmarks
The MSI GeForce 6600 GT we have is going to be tested on the following hardware:
" Intel 3.2 GHz Prescott CPU
" Albatron PX865PE Pro Motherboard
" 1 gig Corsair PC4000 TwinX
" Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum
" MSI 6600 GT
" Seagate 80 Gig Hard Drive
Games used to test the 6600 GT are as follows:
" Doom 3
" Half-Life 2
" Medal of Honor Pacific Assault
" Need for Speed Underground 2
Non Game Related Results
Unless your computer is only used for playing games, the 2D performance of your video card can be just as important, if not more important than its 3D performance. This encompasses items such as text quality, video playback, etc. During testing I did not notice any problems with the text displayed by the MSI 6600 GT. Text was crisp, clear, and I had no problems reading the various fonts used on web pages, PDF documents, Word documents, and other displayed text.
Video playback was also excellent on the MSI 6600 GT. Playing various video formats such as DVD's, MPEG's, AVI's, and DivX all went out without any problems. The Lord of the Rings DVD looked excellent on my 17" Xerox LCD using the DVI connection, 19" Samsung CRT on the VGA connection, and 35" color television through the s-video output. Other video formats also looked just as they should as well. There was no ghosting, streaking, or any other distortion that I noticed during playback of the various formats. I do not have any high definition televisions so I was not able to test the output through high definition.
I also recorded some video from my digital satellite receiver using the S-Video and Composite inputs. This looked excellent at 640x480, 720X480, and 800x600 input resolutions.
Overall the non-gaming performance of the MSI 6600 GT is excellent. I didn't notice any problems at all and all video, either being input or output, looked excellent.