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MSI NX6800GT-T2D256E MSI NX6800GT-T2D256E: While not NVIDIA's top offering, it's still plenty fast. Pair two of them together, it'll cut through games like a hot knife on butter.
Date: April 20, 2005
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:

The battle at $500 and up is still a toss up between ATI and NVIDIA as the Radeon X850XT-PE and GeForce 6800 Ultra are arguably the two fastest cards on the market. At the $400 to $450 price-point, up until recently it was the GeForce 6800GT that was the clear cut winner, but with the introduction of the Radeon X800XL, the race has become a lot closer.

Of course, unless you've been living under a rock the past year (a real heavy one), you'll know that one advantage with NVIDIA's PCI Express video cards (specifically, any series with the tag "GT" or "Ultra") is the ability to run in . This technology allows two identical series of cards to run as a pair, increasing gaming performance. While there are other factors to consider, one thing to keep in mind is you'll need to purchase a second card for SLI. Therefore, a $400 6800GT is pretty much an $800 6800GT if you go the SLI route. We'll get back to this subject later on in the review, but right now, let's take a look at MSI's NX6800GT-T2D256E.

Specifications

" Superscalar GPU architecture
" NVIDIA® CineFX" 3.0 engine
" On-chip Video processor delivers unmatched video performance and features.
" 256-bit memory interface with advanced memory control
" NVIDIA® UltraShadow" II technology enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects. Second-eneration technology delivers more than 4x the shadow processing power over the previous generation.
" NVIDIA® High-Precision Dynamic-Range (HPDR) technology
" 128-bit studio-precision computation prevents image defects due to low precision and ensures the best image quality for even the most demanding applications.
" NVIDIA® Intellisample" 3.0 technology

Keep in mind the part we are reviewing is model #MS-8974-050, which is a full featured 16-pipeline 6800GT. MSI sells the NX6800GTX-T2D256E (model #MS-8974-07S) which shares the same features but is limited to 12-pipelines.

The MSI NX6800GT-T2D256E

The MSI NX6800GT-T2D256E (referred to as the MSI NX6800GT for the rest of this review) arrived in a huge box with all the parts sectioned off in various areas in the packaging. Other than the card, you'll find the usual MSI extras like full versions of URU, XIII and Prince of Persia, as well as some productivity software which to be honest really serves little purpose as this is a gaming card. There is also a manual, driver CDs, cables and a couple DVI-to-VGA adapters. There is also the required power dongle which draws power from one Molex source and adapts it for the 6-pin PCI Express connection on the card. Missing is any PCB board or connection for SLI, but that is usually something found with nForce 4 SLI motherboards.

The MSI NX6800GT is a single slot design, and features a nice copper cooler for the GPU and front facing ram. This cooler is what MSI calls the CopperUltra, which they claim can cool the GPU about 20°C better than NVIDIA's stock reference cooler. One nice feature of the CopperUltra is the ability to manually adjust the fan speed with a slider on top of the cooling apparatus called the UltraGear. Fan speeds range from a relatively quiet 2800RPM (30dBA) to the much noisier 4000RPM (39dBA) setting.

Your I/O options on the card are S-Video, and dual DVI. As mentioned earlier, there are two adapters to convert the DVI connections for standard VGA use.

NVIDIA's Scalable Link Interface (SLI)

The MSI NX6800GT supports NVIDIA's SLI, but before running out and purchasing a couple of these cards, there are some things to keep in mind. As of this writing, SLI is essentially only supported officially on the nForce4 SLI chipset. Since the nForce 4 SLI is the only official chipset with the support, you'll need to also own an Athlon 64/FX or an Intel LGA775 based CPU. Dual PCI Express boards from Intel and VIA have been reported to work, but certainly the word did not come from NVIDIA.

Assuming the cards themselves follows NVIDIA's certification process, you can mix and match different brands of 6xxx series of cards, but the two cards must be of the same class (6800GT + 6800GT, and not 6800GT + 6600GT for example). While a single card works at PCI Express x16, SLI mode puts the card in dual PCI Express x8, which according to NVIDIA is the optimal way of load balancing the work.

Keep in mind that SLI may not necessarily improve the experience across all games. Currently, supported with the recent Forceware drivers, and likely more as future driver revisions are released. Though it's pretty obvious, SLI only benefits 3D games, and does zero for 2D games and 2D application performance.

Test Setup

Soltek SL-K8T890Pro-939: Athlon 64 3500+, 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS3200 ProSeries DDR2 (2-2-2-5), ATI Radeon X850XT-PE, 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA, Windows XP w/SP1, Catalyst 5.4.

Soltek SL-K8T890Pro-939: Athlon 64 3500+, 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS3200 ProSeries DDR2 (2-2-2-5), ASUS Radeon X800XT, 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA, Windows XP w/SP1, Catalyst 5.4.

ASUS A8N-SLI Premium: Athlon 64 3500+, 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS3200 ProSeries DDR2 (2-2-2-5), MSI NX6800GT (Single and SLI), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA, Windows XP w/SP1, ForceWare 71.84.

We'll be using FRAPS to record framerates in all our tests, playing the game as anybody would (trying to stay alive), firing weapons, dodging attacks and so on. Unlike our past video game tests, all benchmarks will be done with the audio "on", as we're trying to illustrate real gaming experiences, and I doubt any of our readers mute the audio during gameplay. We will also provide some numbers from "traditional" benchmarking using timedemos and scripts.

Test Software will be:

Doom 3 v1.1 - Making good use of the BFG, rocket launcher and plasma gun (the most graphically intense weapons), we'll be killing demons on the Enpro.

Far Cry v1.3 - Another graphically intense shooter, we'll be fighting baddies in the Rebellion level.

Unreal Tournament 2004 v3355- We'll be playing some bot deathmatch (31 bots in all) on the Compressed map.

Half-Life 2 - This game needs no introduction, as anyone who picked up a $500 video card in the last 6 months probably did so for this. We'll be playing the D3_C17_12 map (Follow Freeman).

The driver settings were manually configured for AntiAliasing and Anisotropic Filtering (on or off), and set to "Quality". All games were set to their highest allowable game settings unless otherwise noted. The comparison hardware will be the ASUS Extreme AX800XT and ATI's Radeon X850XT-PE.

Doom 3 - High Quality, 1600x1200 No AA/AF

Cards - Resolution - AA/AF
Min
Max
Ave.
MSI NX6800GT (SLI)
52
63
60.14
MSI NX6800GT (Single)
22
63
50.03
ATI X850XT-PE
32
63
57.33
ASUS AX800XT
27
63
56.93

While we hear how Doom 3 runs faster on NVIDIA hardware, the NX6800GT is a touch slower than the X800XT in actual gameplay. In SLI mode, the 6800GT finishes on top though. In terms of gameplay experience, none of the cards held a significant advantage over the other.

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