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ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB
MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB

8800 GT by ECS/Elitegroup

December 12, 2007



Two Overclocked Solutions

Today we're going to examine the most interesting 8800 GT card in the market that is made by ECS/Elitegroup. Cooled passively, it allows for an optional fan. Besides, it's factory-overclocked.

The second product is a new card from MSI. It's based on the older GeForce 8600 GT, which is still quite popular, since NVIDIA hasn't launched anything new for this price range yet. This card features a custom cooler, and it has two BIOS versions with different frequencies.

Graphics Cards

ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 8800 GT (G32)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 680/1730 MHz (nominal - 600/1500 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 1000 (2000) MHz (nominal - 900 (1800) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 112
  • Texture processors: 56 (28)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 220x100x33 mm (the last number is maximum thickness of the card, it's 43 mm with fans).
  • PCB color: blue
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).




MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 8600 GT (G84)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 580/1512 MHz (nominal - 540/1188 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 800 (1600) MHz (nominal - 700 (1400) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 128bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 32
  • Texture processors: 16
  • ROPs: 8
  • Dimensions: 190x100x33 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a graphics card).
  • PCB color: red
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).





MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
The graphics card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.1 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 900 (1800) MHz.




ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E
The graphics card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1000 (2000) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT


Comparison with the reference design, back view
MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT


The ECS product is of the reference design, but the card is manufactured by the company. Just like the MSI card, which has a unique design, so that a card can accommodate additional memory chips at the back of the PCB (for a 512 MB modification).

The cards have TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV-set via S-Video or RCA. You can read about the TV-Out in more detail here.

Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

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

What concerns MPEG2 playback features (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on modern graphics cards does not exceed 25%.

What concerns HDTV and other trendy video features, you can read one of our reviews here.

You should keep in mind that 8800GT cards require additional power supply, that's why they are equipped with a black power connector at the end of their PCBs. In case your PSU does not have cables with such connectors, the bundles include adapters to plug any cable with a Molex.

Now about the cooling systems.

ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E

The name of this card indicates that it's equipped with a cooler from Arctic Cooling (Accelero S1).

It's a huge finned heat sink that successfully combines technologies of heat dissipation through the heat exchange surface and heat pipes that transfer the heat to the fins.

This device cools the core only. It's firmly fixed on the PCB with screws and PCB grips. Memory chips have individual small heat sinks.

However, hot power elements in the tail of the PCB are not cooled at all, that's strange. The reference cooler covers not only the core and memory, but these elements as well, so they are always cooled in reference cards.

Nevertheless, we had no problems with our tests, the card worked like a clock.

We should mention that it's a bulky cooling system, it blocks the next slot after PCi-E x16. Moreover, the bundle includes fans, which can be installed on the heat sink. In this case the card will become a three-storeyed device.







MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E

This cooler consists of a heat sink with a housing and a fan that drives the air through. There is nothing special about this design. But it's strange to see a cheap graphics card with a bulky cooler. Moreover, this cooler is excessive, because even overclocked cards can easily work with usual small coolers.

There are two problems here: holes in the rear panel bracket do not fit the housing of a cooler, so not all hot air will be ejected from a system unit; the cooler is a tad noisy.

The company decided to give users a choice - either use the card with increased frequencies or in the standard mode (I don't understand why - almost all users will use the Turbo mode). That is the card has a button to switch between two BIOS versions.

You cannot use this button, when the card is working: the card must boot up with a given BIOS to change its operating frequencies.












We monitored temperatures using RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder). Here are the results:

MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E




ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E




The core temperature of the ECS card is just striking! A reference card with lower frequencies grows 85°-90° hot at the core, and its noise is quite noticeable, while this card does not grow hotter than 65°! Even without additional fans! (Tests were run with the closed system enclosure, standard airflow.) That's excellent!

The graphics card from MSI also demonstrates very good temperature readings, but it should have been expected, because the cooling system is apparently excessive.

Bundle

MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
User's Manual, CD with drivers and utilities, two DVI-to-VGA adapters, component output adapter, TV extension cords.


ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E
The same bundle. Plus a power splitter and two fans with a common power cable. They can be easily latched to the heat sink. As is always the case with Arctic Cooling, these fans are noiseless.







Box

MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E
A traditional box (bag). All components are arranged into compartments inside. The card itself is secured in a foamed polyurethane section. Traditional black design (the company uses either black or blue).


ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E

A big bright box, vertical layout. The entire bundle is arranged in a cardboard compartment, the card is packed separately in a mini-box inside the package. Bright package design.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Intel Core2 Duo (775 Socket) based computer
    • CPU: Intel Core2 Duo Extreme X6800 (2930 MHz) (L2=4096K)
    • Motherboard: EVGA nForce 680i SLI on NVIDIA nForce 680i
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1142MHz (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
    • PSU: Tagan 1100-U95 (1100W).

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2; DirectX 9.0c
  • Operating system: Windows Vista 32-bit; DirectX 10.0
  • Monitor: Dell 3007WFP (30").
  • Drivers: ATI CATALYST 7.10; NVIDIA Drivers 169.04.

VSync is disabled.

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 settings. The batch file is included.

  • 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).

  • 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 to run this game.

  • CRYSIS (demo) (Crytek/EA), DirectX 9.0c/10.0, shaders 3.0/4.0, (batch file to start the test), test settings in MS Windows Vista - Very High (DX10), Windows XP - High (DX9)).

  • 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.

Performance

If you are familiar with 3D graphics, you will understand our diagrams and draw your own conclusions. However, if you are interested in our comments on test results, you may read them after each test. Anything that is important to beginners and those who are new to the world of video cards will be explained in detail in the comments.

First of all, you should look through our reference materials on modern graphics cards and their GPUs. Be sure to note the operating frequencies, support for modern technologies (shaders), as well as the 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 just two companies that manufacture graphics processors: ATI (the graphics department of AMD) and NVIDIA. So most of the information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly i3D-Speed that sums 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 of our today's cards. We are not going to analyze each test in this article, primarily because for us it makes sense to draw a bottom line in the end of the article. We will, however, make sure that we make our readers aware of any special circumstances or extraordinary results.

Attention! The diagrams below do not contain test results of graphics cards oeprating at these very frequencies, but you can easily extrapolate the potential. Have a look at results of the GeForce 8600 GT and the GeForce 8600 GTS. These graphics cards differ only in frequencies. The former works at 560 MHz, the latter - at 720 MHz. The graphics card from MSI will be close to the 8600 GT. They differ by 6-8% at best (as a rule, owing to a higher-clocked shader unit).

Now compare test results of the GeForce 8800 GT cards operating at 600 MHz and 700 MHz (core). The ECS card with its 680 MHz will surely rank in between, near the 700 MHz modification of the 8800 GT, the difference will not exceed 7%.

Conclusions

ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E is an excellent product. It's currently the best graphics card of all GeForce 8800 GT! The increased frequencies make this card a direct competitor to the 8800 GTX. Besides, the card has a noiseless cooling system (even if you decide to install fans, you won't hear any noise).

There is a problem of the bulky cooler. So you shouldn't install this card into a small PC case (no sane user will do it). When you install the fans, the card will take up three slots. However, I repeat that those fans won't be necessary in a lion's share of cases.

Anyway, the product reaches the heights of the 8800 GTX, being noiseless and shorter. So this card can be used in more cases. And don't forget about power consumption - it's lower than in the 8800 GTX by dozens of percents.

The package looks nice, but the bundle is poor. That's a reproach to the manufacturer.

So this card scores an excellent mark!

MSI GeForce 8600 GT Twin Turbo 256MB PCI-E is a regular 8600 GT card - there are many products of this type on the market, many of them offer increased frequencies. So it was very strange of MSI to design its own PCB with two BIOSes and to raise frequencies only by 40 MHz with such a bulky cooler. I would have understood it, had the card been overclocked by 100 MHz. There would have been some reason in it. And in this case engineers brought a cloth and harness for a great horse, and then put them on a pony.

The idea is great, but its implementation is bewildering. The cooler must have been made quieter, and the frequencies must have been raised higher for such engineering efforts. It's hard to rate this card. Probably four points out of five, because it copes with its tasks very well for its level, but its noisy cooler takes up two slots - minus one point. It has a button to switch between frequencies - but it does not play a special role. Performance difference between 540 MHz and 580 MHz will not exceed 2%.

As always, the final choice is up to the reader. We can only inform you about products and their performance, but can't make a buying decision. In our opinion, that should solely be in the hands of the reader, and possibly their budget. ;)

And here is one more thing, we'll repeat it in each review. Having decided to choose a graphics card on your own, you should be aware that you change one of the key components of your system unit, which may require additional configuration for better performance or you may have to enable some functions to achieve higher quality. This is not an end product, it's just a component. So you should understand that you'll have to learn 3D graphics basics in order to get maximum performance from a new graphics card. And some graphics in general. If you don't want to deal with it, you shouldn't upgrade your computer on your own: you'd better buy ready PCs with preconfigured software and technical support from your system integrator, or game boxes, where no configuration is required, everything necessary is already configured in a game.

To find more information regarding the current graphics card market and the performance of various cards, feel free to read our monthly special i3DSpeed.


The ECS GeForce 8800 GT Accelero S1 512MB PCI-E gets the Original Design award (December):



We'd like to thank
ECS/Elitegroup Russia and Yury Lee,
MSI Russia
for the provided graphics cards


PSU kindly provided by TAGAN

The Dell 3007WFP monitor kindly provided by NVIDIA



Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
December 12, 2007

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