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ECS GeForce 8600 GT 256MB

October 24, 2007



Factory Overclocking and Passive Cooling


This article is quite brief. It is, so to speak, a mini-review of a rather peculiar graphics card. It draws attention, because despite being marked '8600 GT' it operates at increased frequencies. Mind you, its shader unit works at a whopping 1566 MHz! And as you know, an overclocked 8600 GTS card has shader unit working at up to 1440 MHz. This fact alone makes this graphics card very attractive. In addition, it has a noiseless passive cooling system, which is another peculiar feature.

I assume that there is no need to remind you here again what GeForce 8600 GT or GTS is, since the information can be found in one of our previous reviews. We have already devoted a couple of articles to examining similar graphics cards.

Almost every regular visitor of our site is familiar with products by ECS/Elitegroup. This year the company celebrates its 20th anniversary. I am not going to focus on quality or other characteristics of their graphics cards, because basically it's quite ordinary. I might only add that the company had used its own facilities to manufacture the card reviewed in this article. This is contrary to a popular method of outsourcing production to third-party plants, which makes it hard to tell whether a company actually had anything to do with the manufacture.

Graphics card

ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB
  • GPU: GeForce 8600 GT (G84)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU operational frequency (ROPs/Shaders): 620/1566 MHz (nominal - 540/1188 MHz)
  • Memory operational frequency (physical (effective)): 866 (1732) MHz (nominal - 700 (1400) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 128bit
  • Number of vertex processors: -
  • Number of pixel processors: -
  • Number of multipurpose processors: 32
  • Number of texture processors: 16
  • Number of ROPs: 8
  • Dimensions: 170x100x32 mm (the latter value - maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • Board color: blue
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into the GPU.
  • Output sockets: 2xDVI (Dual-Link), TV-out.
  • VIVO: none
  • TV-out: integrated into the GPU.
  • Multiprocessor support: SLI (Hardware).


ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB
The card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM memory, which is comprised of 4 microchips on the front side of PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory microchips. Memory microchips have access time of 1.1 ns, which corresponds to a clock rate of 900 (1800) MHz.



Comparison with reference design, front view
ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT


Comparison with reference design, rear view
ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT

As we have expected, the product being considered has almost the same design as the reference card. Let me stress it again, the card operates at increased frequencies for such cards.

The card has a TV-out interface, which requires a unique connector. In order to output to a TV with via S-Video or RCA, one has to use special adapters that are supplied with the card. You can find more information about the TV-out socket here.

In order to connect to analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) one has to use special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and refresh rates:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max - via analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - via digital interface (all DVI-sockets with Dual-Link support)

In regards to the graphics cards' abilities to play MPEG2 (DVD-Video), we have explored the issue back in 2002. Not much has changed since then. Depending on the movie the load on the CPU doesn't exceed 25% during playback using modern graphics cards.

Speaking of HDTV and other hot video gizmos, we have already conducted one examination, and its results can be found here.

Let us remind you that graphics cards based on 8600 GT don't require an additional power supply.

Let's take a look at the cooling system.

ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB

The cooler has no fan and consists of two parts: a small closed heatsink of the front side of the card, and a big plate heat sink on the board's reverse side. Both parts are linked with heat pipes. They are used to transfer heat from the front heatsink to the rear one. Basically, there is nothing new here. We have examined such systems many times before.


We have conducted thermal behavior tests using RivaTuner (by A. Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder) and have obtained the following results:



Tests have shown that the temperature of even such an overclocked card doesn't exceed the critical value and stays below 75 degrees C.

This fact once again demonstrates the effectiveness of such a cooling system.

Bundle

ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB
The package is rather scarce. There are no bonuses, except stickers. The box contains a user's manual, disk with drivers, composite output adapter, and a DVI-to-VGA adapter.


Box

ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB

The box has rather bright colors and huge inscriptions. It has a glossy cover over a white box made of thick cardboard. Inside the card is safely secured in a corresponding internal compartment.

Notably, the box has no indications that it contains a special overclocked 8600 GT model with a passive cooler. The only difference from the standard 8600 GT box is the much bigger size (width of about 8 cm).

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Computer based on Intel Core2 Duo (775 Socket)
    • Intel Core2 Duo Extreme X6800 (2930 MHz) processor (L2=4096K);
    • EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce 680i chipset;
    • 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1142MHz primary storage (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15);
    • WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA hard drive.
    • Tagan 1100-U95 (1100W) power supply unit.
  • Windows XP SP2 operating system; DirectX 9.0c;
  • Windows Vista 32bit operating system; DirectX 10.0;
  • Dell 3007WFP monitor (30").
  • ATI drivers CATALYST 7.9 version; NVIDIA versions 163.67/163.69.

VSync is disabled.

Test Results: Performance Comparison

We have used the following benchmarks:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with HDR), maximum settings.

  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (HDR), demo (demo Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

  • World In Conflict (beta) (Sierra/Massive Ent.), DirectX 10.0, Shaders 4.0, (the benchmark is started inside the game), all settings were set to maximum (MS Windows Vista).

  • PREY 1.3 (3D Realms Entertainment / Human Head Studios / 2K Games) - OpenGL, shaders 2.x, demo003 (40MB!). Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) - DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, trilinear filtering.

  • Serious Sam II 1.068 (Croteam/2K Games) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with HDR), batch file to start the test. It's the standard demo0002 that comes with the game. Tests settings - maximum.

    We express our thanks to our reader, Vozniuk Valery AKA Px, for his batch file.

  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 1.003 (GSC Game World/THQ) - DirectX 9.0, demo. You should unpack the files into the game folder with savegames (Documents and settings). When the game starts up, load ixbt3, open the console and start the demo: demo_play ixbt3. Test settings - maximum (DYNAMIC LIGHTS are ENABLED).

  • Company Of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ) - DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, startup batch file. When you start the game, you should go to options, choose the graphics section, and press the test button. Tests were run with maximum quality.

  • 3DMark06 1.10 (FutureMark) - DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, trilinear test settings.

Graphics Cards Performance

Those of our readers, who are knowledgeable in the area of three-dimensional graphics, will be able to understand the results shown in the following diagrams and make a conclusion for themselves. For the novices and all those, who are in the beginning of choosing a graphics card, we shall provide some comments.

First of all, it would be reasonable to browse through our brief references on families of modern graphics cards and processors that they are based on. You should pay attention to operational clock rates, support of modern technologies (shaders) and pipeline architecture. ATI RADEON X1300-1600-1800-1900 Reference NVIDIA GeForce 7300-7600-7800-7900 Reference

If you have just begun realizing how large the selection to choose a video card is, don't worry, our 3D Graphics section offers articles about 3D basics (you will still have to understand them - when you run a game and open its options, you'll see such notions as textures, lighting, etc) as well as reviews of new products. There are presently two major GPU manufacturers: AMD (graphics cards made by ATI) and NVIDIA. There are also mention Matrox and S3, but they occupy less than 1% of the discrete graphics card market. So, most of the information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly 3Digests that sum up all comparisons of graphics cards for various price segments. The February 2007 issue analyzed dependence of modern graphics cards on processors without antialiasing and anisotropic filtering. The March 2007 issue did the same with AA and AF.

Thirdly, have a look at the test results. We are not going to analyze each test in this article, with the exception of a few comments, primarily because there's more sense in drawing a general bottom line in the end of the article.

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

Test results: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.



World In Conflict (beta), DX10, Vista

Test results: World In Conflict (beta), DX10, Vista



Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (HDR)

Test results: SCCT (HDR)



Call Of Juarez

Test results: ŅoJ



Company Of Heroes

Test results: CoH



Serious Sam II (HDR)

Test results: SS2 (HDR)



Prey

Test results: Prey



3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS



3DMark06: SHADER 2.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 SM2.0 MARKS



3DMark06: SHADER 3.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 SM3.0 MARKS



Conclusions

Test results have shown that, as predicted, higher clock rates have the most effect on calculation-centered applications (with many shaders). As you may have noticed, the reason is that the shader unit operates at a SIGNIFICANTLY increased clock rate compared to the nominal. Its clock rate is much higher than that of the other units (rasterization, texturing, etc.). This is the source of quite significant performance advantages in games like SCCT, CoJ, WiC. In some cases the card being examined has demonstrated better performance than its high-end version - 8600 GTS, even despite its own high clock rates. Nevertheless, the clock rate of the ECS product's shader unit had no rivals!

In cases where the emphasis is on using a lot of textures and other traditional 3D technologies gains in performance are proportional to the increased operational clock rates of the corresponding GPU units (rasterization and texturing).

ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB - is a very good product. I may be so brave as to claim that it is the best card in the 8600 GT class (assuming its price will be adequate). Let us not forget that the card is not only fast, but is also quiet and has reasonable heat emission. The board has performed without any glitches or other reasons for criticism.

The choice, as usual, is up to our readers. We simply provide the information about a certain product without any specific directions on picking one device over the other.

And another thing that we are not tired to repeat from article to article. Having decided to choose a graphics card by yourself, you have to realize you're to change one of the fundamental PC parts, which might require additional tuning to improve performance or enable some qualitative features. This is not a finished product, but a component part. So, you must understand that in order to get the most from a new graphics card, you will have to acquire some basic knowledge of 3D graphics and graphics in general. If you are not ready for this, you should not perform upgrades by yourself. In this case it would be better to purchase a ready chassis with preset software (along with vendor's technical support,) or a gaming console that doesn't require any adjustments.

To find more information regarding the current graphics card market and the performance of various cards, feel free to read our monthly special 3Digest.



The ECS GeForce 8600 GT Overclocked Passive cooling 256MB receives the October 2007 "Original design" award:


PSU kindly provided by TAGAN
Dell 3007WFP monitor kindly provided by NVIDIA
We thank
ECS/Elitegroup Russia and Yuriy Li personally
for providing the graphics card for the tests


Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
October 24, 2007

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