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Palit GeForce 8600GT Super+1GB

Date: February 19, 2008
Author(s): Rob Williams

Palit is a relative newcomer to the GPU market in North America, but we are sure to see more of them as months pass. Our first look at a Palit card is courtesy of the 8600GT “Super+1GB”. Though equipped with loads of memory, we found that it added little benefit over our 256MB competitor.



Introduction

In the graphics card market, Palit is a well-known name, and the fact is, that’s because they are a world-leading manufacturer. You might be wondering how that’s possible since we’ve only begun seeing their cards on these shores. The simple answer? Up until now, they’ve only been available elsewhere in the world, primarily in China. There, the Palit name is synonymous with video cards, just like eVGA is on these shores.

In an attempt to conquer the world, Palit is finally branching into the US and now have cards available at a few e-tailers – most notably Tiger Direct. Unlike eVGA, XFX and others, Palit doesn’t have a preference with GPUs, so they produce both NVIDIA and ATI cards.

In talking to Palit earlier this year, we were briefed on Palit as a company and the plans they have for the future, and I admit, it all sounds great. The folks there have an obvious passion for producing high-quality products, and though it may seem that anyone can churn out a graphics card, Palit makes sure that the resulting card you receive is of high-quality… and one that’s also designed with overclocking in mind.

The card we are taking a look at today is the 8600GT Super+1GB, one that includes 1GB of GDDR2 as the name suggests. You might call that a waste of time, and for the most part, you’d be right on the money. As we will see in our benchmark results, the ASUS 8600GT with 256MB suffered nothing due to it’s lack of available memory. In general, though, having that much memory available should improve performance at higher resolutions. But, this is an 8600GT we are dealing with, so high-resolutions are not something we would be considering anyway.

Closer Look

True to NVIDIA reference design, Palit’s 8600GT sticks to the 540MHz clock speed and 700MHz for the memory. But as mentioned, their cards are designed with overclocking in mind, so we will try to bump both figures up as much as we can while retaining stability.

The 8600GT card falls right below the 8600GTS in the 8-series scheme of things, but both clocks on the former are significantly lower. With performance/price taken into consideration, it all scales well with each other. One important fact to note though, is that the 1GB version of this card retails for a full $30 more than Palit’s own 256MB version. That’s quite a premium.

Kept well-secured in a bright green box, the frog mascot assures us that we chose the right card. Considering that the ASUS 8600GT card came in a package about 2.5x the volume of the Palit box, I have to commend them for using packaging that’s more environmentally sensible.

Similar to reference design, Palit uses a large gold cooler to help keep the GPU cool. Given the power that the card offers, a massive cooler is not required by any stretch. Clean… simple… and gets the job done.

Two DVI ports and a TV-Out is available for the taking. Also interesting is the fact that this is a dual-slot card. Since the competition manage with single-slot coolers, it would have been nice to see that here also. But, to go along with Palit’s vision of efficient products, they promise the cooler is unparallelled in performance.

Besides the quiet operation, no PCI-E power connector is required either, making this a good solution for those looking to spice up their modest PC. With that, let’s get to the meat of the review and see what the card is made of.


Testing Methodology and Test System

Regardless of the OS we are running or product being reviewed, there are a few conditions that are met to assure accurate, repeatable results.

Below is our testing machine, which remains untouched throughout all testing except for the graphics card.

Testing Machine

In previous GPU reviews, we’ve used Windows XP Professional due to it’s stability (when compared to Vista), but as Vista becomes increasingly popular and the choice for many, it makes sense for us to make the switch as well. We choose to use the 64-Bit version of the OS due to it being the logical choice for gamers who want to use more than 2GB of RAM in their machine.

Game Benchmarks

Depending on the graphic card being reviewed, we split up models into two different categories: Low-End to Mid-Range and Mid-Range to High-End. The former will see the GPUs tested using 1280×1024 and 1680×1050 resolutions, since those are the most common resolutions for gamers looking to purchase a GPU in that price-range.

For our Mid-Range to High-End category, we test GPUs at 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and also 2560×1600 to better reflect the resolutions for those looking for a solid GPU offering.

We do not use time demos in our reviews except where necessary, and in the case of our current GPU reviews, the only game to be subject to a time demo is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This is due to that game disallowing greater than 60FPS without the use of a time demo. But since the game is a popular choice for multiplayer gamers, it should be included in some form or another.

Manual Benchmarks

In an attempt to deliver “real-world” results, all games except the above mentioned title are played through manually, with the average FPS recorded with the help of FRAPS 2.9.4. In our personal tests, we have found that manual benchmarks are the best way to deliver accurate results, since time demos rely heavily on the CPU.

In order to deliver the best results, each title we choose is explored to find the best possible level for our benchmarking. Once a level is chosen, we play through in order to find the best route, and then in future runs, we stick to that route as close as possible. We are not robots, so we cannot make sure that each run is identical, but they will never be far off from each other. As we see in our results, scaling is good, so we are confident that our methodology is a good one.

Crysis

1280×1024
1680×1050


Call of Duty 4

1280×1024
1680×1050

Half Life 2: Episode Two

1280×1024
1680×1050

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

1280×1024
1680×1050

Need for Speed: Pro Street

1280×1024
1680×1050


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

1280×1024
1680×1050


When benchmarking our “budget” cards, we also include results from the bottom-rung of our mid-range cards as well, to show differences between the low-end and mid-range. We omit high-end results since they are not important in gauging the worth of a budget card.

In addition to our regular slew of gaming benchmarks, we will also tackle 3DMark 2006 scores and power consumption before we wrap up.


Crysis, Call of Duty 4

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where we have screenshots for each game.

Crysis

It’s not often that a game comes along that truly pushes our hardware to the utmost limit. Crysis is one of those few games, and that will be the case for at least the next year. Don’t believe me? Boot up your top-end machine, max out your resolution and set the graphics to “Very High”. I guarantee tears will be shed within a few seconds of loading a level.

The level we chose here is Onslaught, also known as level five. We begin out in a tunnel, but what’s important is that we are in control of a tank. What could be more fun? Our run through consists of leaving the tunnel and hitting the other side of the battlefield, killing six or seven enemy tanks along the way.

It goes without saying that any level in Crysis would make for a great benchmark, but this one in particular is gorgeous. Using the “Medium” settings, the game looks spectacular and is playable on all of our graphic cards, so we stick with it. Throughout the level, there is much foliage and trees and also large view-distances. Explosions from the tanks is also a visual treat, making this one level I don’t mind playing over and over, and over.

Settings: Due to the intensiveness of the game, no AA is used at any resolution, and the secondary settings are all left to Medium.

Given the pre-overclocked nature of the ASUS EN8600GT card, it outperforming the Palit card will be a common theme throughout the entire review. At 1680×1050, the game was for the most part unplayable, but became more playable at 1280×1024. In personal tests, I have found that if the game runs with an average of at least 15FPS, it will be playable overall. You might disagree, however, and want to downgrade the quality to Low.

Call of Duty 4

While Crysis has the ability to bring any system to its knees with reasonable graphic settings, Call of Duty 4 is a title that looks great no matter what setting you choose, even if you have it running well! It’s also one of the few games on the market that will benefit from having more than one core in your machine, as well.

The level chosen here is The Bog, for the simple fact that it’s incredibly intensive on the system. Though it takes place at night, there is more gunfire, explosions and specular lighting than you can shake an assault rifle at.

Our run consists of proceeding through the level to a point where we are about to leave a building we entered a minute before, after killing off a slew of enemies. The entire run-through takes about four minutes on average.

Settings: High details are used overall throughout all tests, with no AA used at any time. Luckily, the game looks fantastic even without it.

Even at 1680×1050, the game was completely playable and looked great. This is one title that also tends to run better than you’d think at a given FPS, so as long as you have 30FPS, you are golden.


Half-Life 2: Episode Two, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where we have screenshots for each game.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

If there is one game in our line-up that most everyone has played at some point, it would be Half-Life 2. The most recent release is Episode Two, a game that took far too long to see the light of day. But despite that, it proved to be worth the wait as it delivered more of what fans loved.

We are using the Silo level for our testing, which is a level most people who haven’t even played the game know about, thanks to Valves inclusion of it in their Episode Two trailers during the year before its release. During our gameplay, we shoot down a total of three Striders (their locations are identical with each run, since we are running a saved game file) and a barn is blown to smithereens.

Overall it’s a great level, but the Strider’s minions can prove a pain in the rear at times – most notably when they headbutt you. Nothing a little flying log won’t solve, however! This levels graphics consist mostly of open fields and trees, although there is a few explosions in the process as well, such as when you blow the Striders apart with the help of the Magnusson Device.

Settings: High graphic settings are used throughout all three resolutions, with 4x AA and 8xAF being used with the 1680×1050 resolution only.

Like CoD4, HL2: Episode Two is another title that doesn’t require a great avg FPS in order to be playable, however 45+ is definitely preferred. We didn’t hit that with our top setting, but came close at 1280×1024.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Post-apocalyptic FPS games have been done over and over, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl was unique in many ways. First was the fact that the story was loosely based off of a real-life tragedy, the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, with the player starting out post-disaster working to survive in the now very brutal world.

One of the areas where the game excelled was with the depth. It was an open world with non-linear gameplay. AI was not top-rate, but reacted in a mostly realistic way, so it’s pretty much impossible to just stroll through the game and not expect to die. Coupled with the ability to keep an inventory and sell artifacts you find along your journey makes this game an immersive experience.

The level we use for our testing is a “Thumb Drive” mission that occurs earlier in the game. The premise is simple… walk into a small camp that’s being inhabited by enemy Stalkers, wipe them out and go deliver a thumb drive to a lone Stalker huddled around a campfire. The entire quest takes between four and five minutes from our starting point.

Settings: Static lighting and medium quality are used for both sets of resolutions here.

Despite the fact that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has some great graphics, it doesn’t require a powerhouse of a machine to run well. The fact that the game averaged 110FPS at 1680×1050 proves this card won’t let you down in that regard.


Need for Speed: Pro Street, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Each graph for our benchmarking results are labeled with the resolution that the game was played at, while omitting secondary settings such as Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, texture quality, et cetera. To view all specific settings that we used, please refer to our testing methodology page, where we have screenshots for each game.

Need for Speed: Pro Street

Electronic Arts is one of the largest game publishers in the world, and because of that, they have plenty of fans and plenty of enemies. Even if you don’t like them, it’s hard to dispute the fact that many of their games are solid, one being anything from the Need for Speed series.

“Pro Street” received rather poor reviews upon launch, and for mostly good reason. It removes the freedom of being able to explore a city at your leisure, which to many, is a huge step backwards. But despite that fact, it’s still a great game if you enjoy the series and want an offering that’s a little more realistic than previous versions (in terms of money and damage).

Our run through consists of racing through two laps at the Chicago Airfield, something that takes about three and a half minutes to accomplish from the moment we begin recording frames. The beginning of each race shows an automated camera fly-by over the cars in the race – we begin recording our FPS as soon as this clip begins.

Settings: Both resolutions stick to using default settings, with trilinear filtering and no anti-aliasing.

I admit, I am a NFS fanboi, and the fact that the game ran well on the 8600GT pleased me. I could have played it all night with that card and not made much of a complaint… since 1680×1050 is coming close to the top-end allowed resolution for that game anyway.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

The last game we will be using in our benchmarks is ET: Quake Wars. This is also the only game in our testing that’s executed as a time demo, as opposed to the manual play through like the rest of our games. The reason for this is twofold.

The first reason is that we like to include at least one time demo, despite it’s CPU-boundedness, in order to see how our cards scale when run in such a situation. The second is the fact that this game caps its FPS at 60, except during time demos.

Our time demo takes place in the Area 22 level, with the main goal to destroy the jamming generator. The actual play through took around five minutes, but the time demo goes far quicker, as is the case with most time demos.

Settings: Maxed settings are used here for the most part, with 2x AA.

Once again, our 8600GT didn’t limit the fun-factor for ET: QW. It certainly wasn’t the fastest running card of the bunch, but luckily, the game manages to look great even with lower resolutions. The fact we could use 2xAA and still keep a solid FPS was nice to see.


3DMark 06, Power Consumption, Final Thoughts

Welcome to the most loved and hated benchmark on the planet, Futuremark’s 3DMark 06. This benchmark was launched back in January of 2006, so it’s tests are not exactly up to par with today’s graphic cards, but it’s still a decent way to gauge how today’s cards scale with each other. The next version of 3DMark, Vantage, will be a complete revamp of the benchmark we know today and will no doubt make our computers feel useless once it’s released.

Leave it to 3DMark 06 to show us just how our budget cards pale in comparison to our mid-range offerings. Indeed, the other cards perform more than twice as well, but they also cost more than twice as much, so it’s evened out in the end.

Power Consumption

In testing power consumption for our graphic cards, the system components are kept consistent to help keep accurate results. To capture wattage, a Kill-a-Watt is used. It is plugged straight into the wall and the PSU is plugged in directly to it. After the computer is booted into Windows and is left idle for five minutes, the idle wattage is captured.

To capture the average, a run of 3DMark 2006 is run while keeping an eye on the voltage for the first two minutes. I record the value that the Kill-a-Watt reported the majority of the time. Sometimes the wattage might go higher, but scale right back down, and vice versa.

While the ASUS 8600GT proved faster in every test, not surprisingly, it also sucks an additional 26W over the Palit card. Power consumption at idle is fantastic, at 150W. It sure beats the 211W idle for Palit’s own 8800GT Super+1GB!

Overclocking, Final Thoughts

Does Palit’s offering live up to the hype of having some great overclocking-ability? It does, with a huge increase on the core from the stock of 540MHz to a stable 690MHz. That 150MHz boost equated to a 15% increase in our overall 3DMark 2006 score.

As we found out through our tests, Palit’s card is an ample performer, but I find it impossible to recommend this particular model if on the lookout for an affordable offering. The 1GB version of this card, for whatever reason, retails for $150, a full $30 beyond the standard 256MB version. While the 1GB label is nice to see, it accomplished nothing in our tests.

Those findings did not come as a surprise, however. On larger GPUs, extra memory helps add support for bigger resolutions and more anti-aliasing, but when dealing with a budget card, huge resolutions are usually the furthest thing from mind, making the extra memory a moot point.

At the e-tailer I checked, Pait’s own 8600GTS is available for the same price. Considering the fact that the extra memory on this card doesn’t make much of a difference anywhere, the GTS version makes all the sense in the world. If you are still eyeballing an 8600GT card, however, there are many solutions available that are much more affordable and offer the same performance.

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