Review: A whole lotta memory
In case you didn't know, you can buy a graphics card with 1GB of memory for a reasonable amount of money. Just check out Gainward's offer and you'll notice one special GeForce 8600GT card. It doesn't look different from any other Gainward card, and that's because the new cooler covers the whole card. However, under the hood this card packs a magical number of 1024MB of memory.
Gainward's name for this card is BLISS 8600 GT 1024MB TV DD, and it is Gainward's addition to their performance range offer. Finally, game enthusiasts have a DirectX 10 card with an amount of memory once thought impossible.
Although you will most definitely profit from the quantity of memory, its speed is not quite something you’ll brag about. Gainward opted for slower GDDR2 memory running at 500Mhz (effective 1000MHz), and it’s slower than GDDR3 on Geforce 8600 that runs at 700MHz (effective 1400MHz).
In order to compensate for the slower memory, Gainward overclocked the GPU from 540MHz to 600MHz. This should give this card an additional boost in applications where memory speed is more important than quantity.
A dual slot cooler is something we see on all BLISS DirectX10 cards, and that is the case with this Geforce BLISS 8600 GT 1024MB TV DD card, too. We have no complaints about the cooler, except that it is dual slot – it runs well and does its job. Through the wire mesh, you can see the actual cooler with a fan in the middle. Everything that’s of any importance on the board is in the front, hidden by the hood.
A glance at the back of the card reveals passive memory heatspreaders. Memory is stacked horizontally and vertically, and so are the heatspreaders, whose goal is to stop the card from overheating. One of the details we couldn’t see clearly on the previous picture is the SLI connector. It will be interesting to see two of these cards perform in SLI mode.
You might have asked yourself what does the A in the upper left corner stand for? Well, we received two GB of video memory, meaning we received two of these cards. The card you see bears the A sign, the other one B. We should probably use the B card as a slave. This is a joke, of course, as Nvidia doesn’t require slave and master cards - as long as the cards are same, it doesn’t matter where you put them on your motherboard.
We don’t have SLI results as of yet, but you can expect them soon enough.
Now you can clearly see the memory modules grouped on the front of the card. The cooler fins can’t physically touch the modules, they're just routing the air onto them to help with cooling. The card doesn’t require additional power, which is typical for the Geforce 8600 GT family, so there is no power connector.
Gainward opted for Qimonda HYB18T512161BF–20 GDDR2 memory. Still, they've chosen to use the fastest memory running at 500MHz (1000MHz effectively). The card houses 8 memory modules total, each of them having 128MB of memory. 1GB of GDDR3 memory would have been too expensive for a card that's supposed to be modestly priced, especially knowing that ATI has low-priced HD 2600XT cards to offer.
The card is HDMI, HDTV and HDCP capable. HDMI is quite an important issue lately, so we've decided to pay more attention to it.
Video outs are handled by two dual-link DVI’s and one S-video with HDTV support. HDTV offers 1080i resolution functionality, but you don’t get audio, just video. For those who consider that a priority, Gainward recently launched the first Geforce 8600 GT BLISS HDMI card with HDMI connector, and managed to route the sound to the card itself.
That way, your out will carry both video and audio. Connecting your HDMI cable to a HDMI connector will make it possible to see a HDTV movie, with no additional cables to route the sound from the computer.
Maybe we’ve disappointed you by saying this card doesn’t have HDTV with sound, but probably most of you won't find it that important, anyway. There is no HDMI connector, but there are always options. Since there is no DVI to HDMI dongle in the box, we had to use the one we got with Zotac 8600 GT Zone Edition.
We can’t say everything went without a hitch. We expected plug and play, but our first try resulted in no signal on the monitor. Since the card was already installed on our system and we had just dragged our BenQ 22E monitor across the room and plugged it in, we first had to uninstall the drivers so that the monitor would be recognized. After that we plugged in the HDMI cable and chose the HDMI input option on the monitor.
The new driver installation did the trick. On the menu, we couldn’t find our monitor’s native resolution of 1680x1050, but we did see the HDTV resolution 1920x1080 that this monitor doesn’t support. In additional HD format and HDMI signal menus you can tweak a couple of interesting settings. Among those you are sure to find resolution settings that will fit your monitor. We were content with the fact that we can use HDMI dongle on this card, and we continued on with our testing reverting to our good old CRT Samsung SyncMaster 959NF.
We tested Gainward's BLISS 1024MB TV DD card with more memory than you could, or should, ask for. Today you mostly see cards with 256MB of memory, 512MB cards are maybe a bit less common, whereas the ones with 1024MB are extremely rare. Gainward chose another path, and presented a card that might attract enthusiasts and those who just like to brag about having 1GB of memory on their €140 card.
We’ll soon see what you can expect from this card. There are very few applications and games that might profit from this much memory. As our test configuration we used the following components:
EVGA 680i SLI (Supplied by EVGA)
Intel Core 2 Duo 6800 Extreme edition (Supplied by Intel)
OCZ FlexXLC PC2 9200 5-5-5-18 (Supplied by OCZ)
while testing: CL5-5-5-15-CR2T 1066MHz at 2.2V
Jetway HD 2600 XT, Jetway HD 2600 Pro
HIS HD 2600XT IceQ Turbo
Zotac Geforce 8500GT AMP, 8600GT Zone Edition
Freezer 7 Pro (Supplied by Artic Cooling)
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM
Except for Gainward’s, all the cards have GDDR3 memory. HIS IceQ Turbo is turbo overclocked, so we expected results which would separate it from the pack. In the last test, 3DMark06, we see the results of one ATI HD 2600Pro card running at reference speed.
Considering it is using GDDR2 memory, Gainward is still doing a good job.
We used the latest official drivers and opted for maximum detail settings, so don’t be surprised at the results that the cards scored. By lowering certain settings you can reach a playable frame rate.
Certain games, such as Company of Heroes, benefit from graphics card memory, and Gainward BLISS 1024MB TV DD has proven that memory can be utilized well.
You’ll agree with us that it’s hard to tell whether the additional RAM paid off. If you’re playing without antialiasing and you want more frames, then it did; if you enjoy details, this memory is too slow compared to GDDR3 memory, like the one on Zotac 8600 GT card.
In Bio Shock, nothing will do the trick, at least until Nvidia fixes the drivers. Still, maybe it’s not the drivers’ fault; maybe ATI is just better in Bio Shock. We used the official 163.71 drivers, although we took a shot with 163.75 beta drivers, but they yielded the same results.
This morning, we downloaded a demo of the long awaited Unreal Tournament 3, and we tried to give it a spin with our Gainward card. In deathmatch mode, we chose Heat Ray map, sat in our mech and started spewing fire on everything that moved. We noticed that FPS is higher when we’re not using the mechanical robot.
Texture and environment details were set to high, and as you can see, we had enough frames for smooth gaming. 1280x1024 with antialiasing on was impossible. We’ll soon refresh the results with more cards.
Today, Gainward offered something different and this is our first Geforce 8600 GT with 1GB of memory.
The card performed well in most of the tests, even won in a couple, so those who are prone to changing cards will probably do well with one of these. The card supports HDMI, although you can’t say the support is smooth, and it has 1024MB of memory that is selling itself. Unreal Tournament 3 will run at 1024x768, and that’s enough for most of us.
We were surprised at how fast this card is, and it was quiet, too. Its slow memory is somewhat compensated for by the card’s faster core. The only flaw is that a cheaper Radeon HD 2600XT is often faster, and cheaper by far – but it doesn’t have 1024MB of memory.
If you want a lot of memory, and quite nice performance in gaming, this is the card for you.