Exactly how much speed must you sacrifice for a $200 part?
We admit it: Mid-range videocards—those in the $200 to $300 price range—just don’t fry our bacon these days. Here’s why: in order to protect their high-end business, videocard manufacturers create mid-range cards by reducing the number of pipelines and the memory bandwidth. While we understand their desire to support more than one market segment, these manufacturers have been so enthusiastic about gimping their mid-range product that they’ve introduced a class of videocards that are painfully slow when compared to their top-of-the-line cousins.
The 6600 GT is definitely not as fast as a 6800-class card, but it outperforms last-gen cards in many benchmarks and it’s an SLI-capable PCI-Express board. The MSI NX 6600 GT comes with a mere 128MB of GDDR3 memory, which is unfortunately connected to the NV43 GPU via a 128-bit memory controller. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s half the memory and half memory bandwidth of a top-end card. Furthermore, the 6600 GT core only sports eight pipelines, placing it more in line with last-generation’s high-end cards than the $500, 16-pipeline monsters shipping today. Despite these handicaps, however, the 6600 GT board still performed reasonably well in our benchmarks. We credit this to high clock speeds: 500MHz core and 500MHz memory.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test this board in SLI mode due to a hardware problem with our nForce4 SLI-based test system. We did run the NX 6600 GT through the ringer in our gaming tests, however, and the results surprised us. The card performed very well, despite the narrower memory bandwidth; in fact, it was only a few percentage points behind such last-generation leaders as ATI’s Radeon 9800 XT. You’ll never be able to run Doom 3 at 1600x1200 with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering cranked up, but the game should be quite playable at 1280x1024.
Gamers on a budget will find the 6600 GT’s performance adequate, but we’re concerned by the lack of onboard RAM and the crippled memory pipeline. The real test will be when we fire two 6600 GT-based boards up in SLI mode to determine if two 6600 GT boards will be as fast as a single GeForce 6800 Ultra. --Will Smith
+ PCI Express: Great price, decent performance, and SLI-capable for future upgrading.
- PCI-X: Not enough memory, and the fragile heatsink concern us.