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BFG 8600GTS OC & BFG 8600GT OC Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     June 19, 2007





BFG 8600GTS OC & 8600GT OC Review






Table of Contents:

1- Nvidia’s 8600-series
2- Of HDCP and Graphics Cards
3- BFG 8600GTS OC
4- The Packaging
5- A Closer look at the BFG 8600GTS OC
6- BFG 8600GT OC
7- Packaging
8- A Closer look at the BFG 8600GT OC
9- Size Comparison
10- Benchmarks
11- 3DMark 05
12- 3DMark 06
13- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DX9 Demo)
14- Medieval II: Total War
15- Prey
16- Supreme Commander
17- Rainbow Six: Vegas
18- Company of Heroes (DX9)
19- DX10 Benchmarking
20- Overclocking
21- Noise & Heat
22- Power Consumption
23- HardwareCanucks Cost per FPS Benchmark
24- Conclusion



1- Nvidia’s 8600-series

Without a doubt, the Nvidia 8-series GPUs have been one of the most eagerly-anticipated GPUs in recent memory. Not only are they compatible with upcoming DirectX 10 games but they also promise blistering performance in current generation games. Recently, ATI launched their own competitor to the higher-end Nvidia 8800-series (the HD2900XT) and will soon be launching their mainstream (HD2600) and budget (HD2400) cards in order to have a presence throughout the price categories. Into this press comes the Nvidia 8600-series which succeeds and hopes to build upon the success of the 7600GT and 7600GS cards. So, the Nvidia DX10 landscape looks something like this now:

Ultra High-End Performance:
8800Ultra
8800GTX 768MB

High-End Performance:
8800GTS 640MB
8800GTS 320MB

Mid-End Performance:
8600GTS 256MB
8600GT 256MB

Budget-End Performance:
8500GT 256MB

All in all, it looks like Nvidia has covered all of the bases pretty well. With the sheer numbers of Nvidia board partners, the consumer has plenty of choices when it comes to choosing an Nvidia 8-series card. In this review we will be looking at BFG’s entrance into the mid-level performance category with their 8600GT and 8600GTS cards. Let’s take a closer look at them.


2- Of HDCP and Graphics Cards

While a detailed description of what HDCP is and what its impacts will be on the consumer could take pages to explain, you will be spared. Instead, here is a quick rundown about HDCP and why you may want to look into it further when it comes to graphics cards.

High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection is basically a form of DRM (Digital Rights Management) which is being used for high-definition video signals. Basically, a DVI or HDMI cable can carry a HDCP-encoded signal to a monitor or television provided your monitor supports HD content. When playing back high-definition movies from a Blu-Ray, HD DVD or other content-protected disk, your graphics card will need a HDCP-compatible video encoder chip. If it does not have this encoder, the content will not play. On the flip side, this encoder chip adds cost to the graphics card so you will not normally find it on lower-end cards. The inclusion of this chip is quickly becoming a must in the ever-expanding community of home theatre PC users wanting to watch HD content.

It is important to note however the component video cables (as seen on the HDTV break-out box which comes with some graphics cards) do not support HDCP.

For more information about HDCP, please go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDCP


3- BFG 8600GTS OC

Part Number: BFGE86256GTSOCEC
Price: $245 at Directcanada
Packaging: Retail (no games included)
Warranty: Lifetime
Availability: Now

Information:




BFG has waded into the DX10 wars feet-first and has decided to overclock the core speed and memory speed of the 8600GTS OC. While a 35Mhz overclock on the core is paltry compared to some of the other cards on the market, it will nonetheless give a small increase in performance. The memory works at a speed almost unheard of less than a year ago; at 2016Mhz (another slight overclock), it is blazingly fast but it is only accessed through a 128-bit interface. This 128-bit bus is the source of a major disappointment with the 8600GTS since many “insiders” predicted that we would see a 256-bit bus on these mainstream cards. This could prove to be a major bottleneck but will probably be somewhat offset by the speed of the GDDR3 memory.

Unlike its more powerful siblings, the 8600GTS’ G84 core drastically cuts down on the number of Stream processors. The 8800GTS uses 96 Stream processors while the 8600GTS makes due with only a third of that number. Running only 32 Stream processors will severely handicap this card in present and future games.

BFG is definitely a leg up on a lot of their competition when it comes to warranty length as they offer a lifetime warranty with 24/ tech support. Unfortunately, of late both EVGA and XFX have one-upped BFG by offering “modder friendly” lifetime warranties where the consumer can overclock and change the heatsink on their cards without voiding the warranty. So, while BFG’s lifetime warranty may be one of the better ones out there, it is not the best available.


4- The Packaging


It may seem like a fairly generic shot but at least you now have some idea what you are looking for if you want to buy this card. While a bit on the plain-Jane side, the box nonetheless has everything you would want to know about the card written clearly on the front cover. Unlike the boxes of many other manufacturers, this one is windowed so you can see the card.

Inside the box we see what the usual fare for graphics cards is these days: A HDTV break-out box, a pair of DVI to VGA adaptors (which are massive compared to some of the others on the market) and a package containing the warranty card, driver CD and a short manual. In addition, you get a Molex to PCI-E 6-pin adaptor just in case your power supply does not have a PCI-E connector.


5- A Closer look at the BFG 8600GTS OC


BFG has chosen to strictly adhere to the reference design of both the 8800GTS PCB and the heatsink. The heatsink itself is a single-slot affair made out of aluminum which covers both the G84 core and the GDDR3 memory chips. BFG has applied their own decal on it in which breaks slightly from what the plain-old reference design looks like. The card itself is only 7 ” in length which makes it slightly longer than a standard 7600GT. The BFG 8600GTS is tiny when compared to other DX10 cards as you will see later.


While the 8600GTS may be small in stature, it requires more power than the PCI-E graphics slot can provide and therefore needs additional power from a PCI-E 6-pin power connector. This connector is positioned on the back of the graphics card so you don’t have to worry about doing any wild cable-routing to reach it.


The connectors on the card also stick to the reference design and thus include a pair of DVI connectors and a HDTV connector which must be connected to the break-out box for full HDTV (720p / 1080p) compatibility. We also see here a little more detail of the aluminum heatsink’s fins which help disperse the heat from the core and memory. Since the heatsink is of the single-slot variety, all of the hot air from is will be dumped directly into your case.


6- BFG 8600GT OC

Product Number: BFGE86256GTOCE
Price: $176 at Directcanada
Packaging: Retail (no games included)
Warranty: Lifetime
Availability: Now

Information:



When looking at the specifications it is very apparent that the 8600GT uses the exact same core as the 8600GTS but its performance is brought down a few notches by slower memory speed, core speed and a reduced shader clock. BFG has once again slightly overclocked their 8600GT OC but this time by only 25Mhz on the core while the memory stays at the reference speed.

Like the 8600GTS before it, the BFG 8600GT OC comes with BFG’s lifetime warranty and 24/7 tech support. It is good to see HDCP compatibility on this 8600GT since the reference card does not have it.


7- Packaging


Much like the 8600GTS we saw before, the packaging of the BFG 8600GTS OC is very straightforward with all of the necessary information written clearly on the front of the box. This box differs somewhat from what we saw with the 8600GTS; there is now a large sticker in the upper left-hand corner detailing everything from clock speeds to system requirements.

The contents of the box are basically the same as the BFG 8600GTS OC but since the 8600GT does not need the extra power provided by a PCI-E power connector, there is no Molex to PCI-E connector included. Instead, you get the DVI to VGA adaptors, a HDTV break-out box and the small box with the driver CD, manual and warranty card.


8- A Closer look at the BFG 8600GT OC


Once again BFG stayed to the tried and true reference design except this time they decided to use a blue-colored PCB. Due to the small size of this card, they could not use the same as the heatsink 8600GTS so the 8600GT carries a smaller version. While it may be a bit smaller, it nonetheless carries the same fan as the larger card and still completely covers both the core and the memory chips.

The length of the 8600GT is 6 ” which is exactly the same as the 7600GT from the previous generation.


As mentioned earlier, the 8600GT makes due with the 75W provided by the PCI-E slot and therefore does not need an additional 6-pin power connector. You may notice however that there are solder points for the possible addition of a 6-pin connector. This leaves us to wonder if this same PCB will be used sometime in the near future for a more powerful version of the 8600-series. Hmmmmm……


The rear of the card holds the same dual DVI connectors and single HDTV-out connector as the 8600GTS. BFG has broken from the pack by using a dark silver anodized finish for the back plate. While this does not add much to the overall look of the card, it is a notable change from the reference design.


9- Size Comparison


From left to right we have an all BFG lineup with the BFG 8600GT OC, BFG 7600GT OC, BFG 8600GTS OC and finally the BFG 7900GS OC. You will notice that the 8600GT and the 7600GT are exactly the same size while the 8600GTS is slightly larger. Moving on, we see that the 8600GTS is also slightly shorter than the 7900GS.


When adding an 8800GTS to the mix, it is more than apparent that the new 8600-series does not even come close to touching the size of the G80 leviathan. It is good to see that Nvidia has kept the overall size of these cards down to a minimum.


10- Benchmarks

All benchmarks were run twice to ensure accuracy

System used:


Processor: AMD X2 3800+ (at 2.6Ghz)
Processor Cooling: Arctic Cooling Freezer 64
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert
RAM: 2GB Corsair XMS PC4000 DDR (at 520Mhz)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint 250GB, 7200Rpm SATAII
Case: Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570
Case Cooling: 4x Noctua NF-S12-1200 fans
PSU: Silverstone Decathlon 650W
DX9 OS: Windows XP SP-2 32-bit
DX10 OS: Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit

Video Cards:
BFG 8600GTS OC
BFG 8600GT OC
BFG 7600GT OC (underclocked to reference speeds)
BFG 7900GS OC (underclocked to reference speeds)
EVGA 8800GTS 320MB (stock)

Drivers:
Ndivia 158.22 (8-series)
Nvidia 94.24 (7-series)

A note about games: All games used in the benchmarks were patched to their latest version before beginning the benchmarks.

A note about image quality settings: All image settings were controlled from directly within the game being benchmarked. The Nvidia control panel was left at default settings.


11- 3DMark 05

While the 2005 version of 3DMark may be showing its age, it is still a great tool to use when benchmarking graphics cards. While the scores may not reflect real-world gaming experience with modern games, it is still a good litmus test of a graphic card’s performance.


Straight off the line the BFG 8600GTS and 8600GT show their muscle by thoroughly trouncing the two price / performance leaders from the last generation. While the 8800GTS 320MB card leads by a large margin, this is no surprise considering the 8600-series’ 32 Stream processors versus the 96 which the 8800GTS has.


12- 3DMark 06

The newest version of 3DMark is more than able to stress even the most powerful graphics cards on the market and is a great test to see how well a given card may perform. Budget cards tend to really struggle in this test so it will be interesting to see how these two cards perform.






Things have changed a bit in this test with the 8600GTS beating out the 7900GS quite handily in the overall score while the 8600GT is barely edged out by the 7900GS. Just remember, these are overclocked cards so their performance is slightly above that of their reference-clocked brothers.

It is really interesting to see the 8800GTS 320MB stretch its legs in this benchmark; at nearly 3000 points ahead of the 8600GTS, it is clearly in a completely different league. It will be very interesting to see how these scores carry over into the actual game tests….where we are headed now.


13- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DX9 Demo)

The Lost Planet demo is one of the most stressful tests for a graphics card these days. With life-like snow conditions, multiple highly detailed enemies and numerous other effects this first-person shooter is not only fun to play but it looks absolutely stunning. The demo does not support 1280X1024 resolution, so the closest resolution to that was used. Two averages are given: one for the snow portion of the test while the other is for the cave portion of the test.

In this case, the in-game performance test was used.




This proved to be a very interesting test for the 8600GTS and 8600GT. Unfortunately, what we see here is the result of the 128-bit memory interface rearing its ugly head and dragging down the performance of the two BFG 8-series cards. These frame rates also show just how hard this game is on a graphics card with even the 8800GTS failing to break the 30fps barrier in the snow test. If you were expecting more of the 8600 cards (don’t worry, we all were), you are probably sorely disappointed by these results.


14- Medieval II: Total War

This is a game that we see all too rarely in benchmark results even though it places a massive strain on both the graphics card with thousands of units on-screen at once and the processor which as to calculate the AI for all those units. This game is perfectly playable at 20fps but anything below that and gameplay gets thrown out the window and you are left without much control over your army.

In this test, the Battle of Hastings opening scene was run while Fraps was used to take measurements. This scene runs a few minutes and uses zooms and camera pans that must be used throughout gameplay so it gives a good overall look at what performance you will experience. All numbers are average frames per second.


In this game the BGF 8600GTS OC wins out by a single frame per second over the 7900GS which can be attributed to (once again) the 128-bit memory interface. Luckily, it delivers more than acceptable frame rates, which is a must when playing this game.

Unfortunately, the BFG 8600GT does not hold up too well in this game with all the eye-candy turned on. The game stutters enough to give make it worth turning the AA down a bit to get a playable framerate.


15- Prey

While this is one of the “older” games in these tests, it is still able to pull down the frame rates of some of the best graphics cards out there. In this case we are looking for a minimum of 30 frames per second in order to play the game though 60fps is preferable. For this benchmark, a custom timedemo was run.


I am sure a lot of you are staring at your screens in horror right about now. To answer your questions: No that is not a typo and yes this test was run twice to check for errors. There really isn’t any better way to put it other than by saying the 7-series cards completely embarrass both the 8600GTS and 8600GT in Prey.

The BFG 8600GT OC gave the 7600GT a good run for its money but the battle between the BFG 8600GTS OC and the 7900GS wasn’t even close. Hopefully, whatever went wrong here will be fixed by a driver revision in the future.


16- Supreme Commander

Tons of units, fast-paced and extremely hard on your whole system…what more is there to say about Supreme Commander? In for this test, the built-in benchmarking tool was used to determine the average frames per second. Once again, 20fps is the absolute minimum you want to see here.


Many people say that this game is highly dependant on the processor speed but what we see here is that it seems to be just as dependant on the graphics card. Both the 8600GTS and 8600GT proved to be more than capable of handling this game without too much of a problem.


17- Rainbow Six: Vegas

Using the newest version of the Unreal engine, R6:V is a visually stunning piece of work and extremely fun to play even though the move from the Xbox360 to PC has not been without issues. In this test the opening in-game opening cutscene of the Mexico City mission was used (in conjunction with Fraps) since this game has neither record mode nor performance test mode. In addition, a hack was used in order to get the game to run at the specified resolution.


While the BFG 8600GTS proves itself the best of the mainstream cards, it is not even half as fast as the 8800GTS 320MB. That is not taking anything away from the 8600GTS as it does perform quite well considering the test. On the other hand, it should be very interesting to see how well the 8600GT overclocks as it is only within a few FPS of the 8600GTS in this benchmark.


18- Company of Heroes (DX9)

Company of Heroes from Canadian developer Relic has been widely held as one of the greatest RTS games of all time while also being one of the most stressful games on the graphics card. There are very few instances in this game that will not make your graphics card beg for mercy and as such it makes a great benchmarking tool. The in-game benchmarking tool was used to attain these results.


Like in Prey, the 8600GTS falls to the 7900GS in a very convincing manner by a gap of about 10fps. It would be very interesting to see what the 8600GTS would be able to do with a full 256-bit bus as this is surely holding it back in this test.

The 8600GT performed extremely close to the 7600GT but ended up falling to it by a mere 1fps.


19- DX10 Benchmarking

Here I will be riding a bit of controversy right into the sunset by editorializing a bit. Let me put it frankly: “DX10” games are not ready for primetime in their current form. As it is, the current crop of “DX10” games are nothing more than the illegitimate children between the marriage between game developers pushing to prove they can do something and Microsoft wanting to prove that there is a “raison d’etre” for their Windows Vista operating system.

Throughout the benchmarking I struggled to see the differences between a DX9 title and that same game in “DX10”. Unfortunately, other than the severe performance hit it gave I saw next to no difference in the DX10 games. One of the worst experiences I had was with the 8600GTS and the Company of Heroes “DX10” benchmark. Sure the "DX10" looked pretty…until I had to turn off AA and push back the model detail from Ultra to Medium in order for the game not to look like a wannabe WW2 slide-show. Trust me; CoH looks MUCH better in DX9 flavor with all the bangs and whistles enabled than it does in DX10 with no AA and Medium detail settings. Make no mistake about it; CoH is not the only “DX10” game this happened with.

Let me make one thing clear: this is not the fault of Nvidia’s hardware. Rather, it is what happens with chop-shop style games where the developers try to shoe-horn DirectX 10 compatibility into a game that was built for DX9. In addition, it is the result of immature drivers from manufacturers (Nvidia and ATI) who have clearly been caught with their pants down when it comes to writing drivers for Vista.

Thus, for the time being Hardwarecanucks WILL NOT be running any DX10 benchmarks in video card reviews. Rather, in a few short weeks we will be running a “State of DX10” article that will hold DX10 benchmarks based on driver revisions of the most popular DX10 cards. This article will be updated regularly until DX10 games and drivers reach a certain level of maturity where they can be included in our reviews.


20- Overclocking

Overclocking with both of these cards was quite an interesting experience but please note that your mileage may vary. Here are the results:

BFG 8600GTS OC: 765/2360 (BFG Stock: 710/2000)
BFG 8600GT OC: 625/1620 (BFG Stock: 565/1400)

I was hoping or a better overclock on the memory of the GTS and the core of the GT but the results are very respectable nonetheless. Let’s see how those results turn into real-world numbers.






Overclocking BFG’s cards yield some pretty impressive results all around with the cards really strutting their stuff in the 3DMark test. Overclocking the 8600GT saves its bacon from being completely dominated by the 7600GT in some tests. It is very interesting to see the 8600GT begin to approach the performance of the much more expensive 8600GTS.

While the 8600GTS stretches its legs a bit more when overclocked, it is more than obvious that the 128-bit bus is severely handicapping it in the vast majority of the benchmarks.


21- Noise & Heat

Modern graphics cards product a lot of heat and heat is the bane of electronic components. Some of these new cards can act as a space-heater in the winter while providing enough heat to turn your room into a sauna in the summer. In this instance, we used Company of Heroes running over the course of 1 hour to determine what the load temperature of each graphics card was.


This test shows one good quality of the BFG 8600GTS OC and BFG 8600GT OC cards; they keep the heat to a minimum unlike their G80 brethren. While the 8800GTS 320MB was expelling waves of heat from the back of its massive heatsink, the two smaller BFG DX10 cards went happily along with their single-slot coolers while not reaching a critical temperature. Both of these cards would be prime candidates for HTPC use as they to not expel much heat into the inside of the case. This is a very good showing, especially by the 8600GTS.

It should be noted however that the BFG 8600GT was consistently operating at a higher temperature than the faster 8600GTS. Whether it is because of a different heatsink layout or a oddball core, the difference between the two was minor but noteworthy nonetheless.

The noise of both of these graphics cards produced was no louder than any of the fans in the case and should therefore be considered acceptably quiet when under load.


22- Power Consumption

In this test AC power consumption for the system was tested with a UPM power meter while running Company of Heroes. The graph below shows peak AC power consumption.


It is great to see that the power consumption of these cards has been brought under control when compared to the 8800GTS. While the move to 65nm is still a bit of a ways off for Nvidia, the 8600GTS and 8600GT are by no means power hogs and will do quite well in the interim until lower-consuming parts arrive.

On the other hand, the power consumption of these two cards do not quite fit well with the performance they provide in DX9 applications.


23- HardwareCanucks Cost per FPS Benchmark

In this little “benchmark” we will be looking at how much each of these cards costs for the performance they provide. These numbers are the result of dividing the Directcanada price (no IRs or MIRs are taken into account) by the average frames per second across all of the tests we performed. So, in the end we get the average price (in Canadian dollars) per frame per second. In this benchmark, the less you pay per FPS the better.

This benchmark does not take into account features like HDCP, silent running, DX10 “compatibility”, extras in the package etc. Rather, it is a pure price / performance index that changes as the cards drop in price.

In a perfect world, this chart would have equal-length bars. This would mean that every card would have the same price / performance ratio but sadly, this is not a perfect world.


So, what does this simple graph tell us? Well, as you can see the BFG 8600GTS OC looks like a very expensive purchase for the raw performance you will get and the BFG 8600GT OC is not too far behind. A sweet spot can be accorded to the 8800GTS 320MB which seems to have both the right price and quite a bit of performance to boot.

It really looks like Nvidia and through them BFG will have to cut the price of the 8600GTS in the near future in order to make it a bit more appealing to consumers.


24- Conclusion

While there were plenty of ups and downs with these cards one thing becomes abundantly clear and it is like a game of poker that has been fixed by the dealer: Nvidia’s AIB partners can only play whatever hand Nvidia deals them. If it is a buggered hand, they can’t fold and count their losses but rather, they have to make the best of it and that is what BFG is trying to do here with these two cards. By slightly overclocking them and offering a full lifetime warranty, BFG makes both of these cards look more appealing.

On one hand we have the BFG 8600GTS OC which is priced at a sky-high $245 based on the performance it gives in today’s most demanding games. When we consider the fact that the 8800GTS 320MB is a mere $75 more than this card yet performs twice as fast in some cases, it is very hard to recommend the BFG 8600GTS OC. Luckily, overclocking comes very easily to this 8600GTS so it does make up some (but not much) of the performance gap if it is pushed. All in all, the BFG 8600GTS OC sits on a very precarious position where it does not perform anywhere near the level of the “big boys” but is HDCP compatible, less power hungry and does not expel anywhere near as much heat.

On the other hand we have the BFG 8600GT OC. This card is priced at a much more conservative $176 and offers good all-round performance even though it is soundly beaten by the cheaper 7600GT in some tests. Something that makes this card stand out is the sheer overclocking potential of both the core and the memory which brings it within spitting distance of the performance offered by the 8600GTS. The 8600GT has relatively low power consumption, is very quiet and does not expel much hot air into your case. These things coupled with HDCP compatibility, small size and good weekend-gamer performance make this card a very good choice for a HTPC setup but most definately not a gaming computer.

All in all, the best thing for people considering the 8600GTS to do is to use a wait-and-see approach as at this point it is far too expensive for the performance it offers. On the other hand, the BFG 8600GT OC does provide a good upgrade route for those of you with an older 6600GT card (but if you have a 7600GT card, look somewhere else). It offers good performance along with a relatively attractive price-point and HDCP compatibility. In closing, it should be said that we were all spoiled with the performance the 7600GT gave us over the 6600GT and expected that kind of performance leap to come again in the form of the 8600GTS and 8600GT. Unfortunately, that did not happen in the least as Nvidia has crippled these cards (especially the GTS) with an insufficient amount of Stream processors and a laughable 128-bit memory interface. Nonetheless, BFG has made an effort to play with the cards they have been dealt by Nvidia and have released two good graphics cards which may have a hard time appealing to the vast majority of consumers due to their price / performance ratio.


BFG 8600GTS OC

Pros:
- Lifetime warranty
- Acceptable performance
- HDCP compliant
- Quiet
- Good overclocking potential

Cons:
- Price
- Lower performance in DX9 games than 7900GS


BFG 8600GT OC

Pros:
- Acceptable price
- Good performance when overclocked
- HDCP compliant
- Frugal on power consumption
- Good overclocking potential

Cons:
- Poor performance at stock speeds



A Special thanks goes out to BFG for providing these samples.

Please feel free to comment about this review here:
http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/video...html#post12521



By: SKYMTL