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XFX GeForce 6600 DDR-2


Redefining the Budget Market


By Josh Walrath


            XFX is a company that I havenít had much of a chance to cover so far.  Currently the North American market has three native graphic card manufacturers that support NVIDIA based products.  EVGA and BFG are the big two, but XFX has continually nipped at their heels and has worked hard to offer a strong alternative to those other companies.

            XFX is also one of the first in the NA market to offer a 6600 DDR-2 based product.  NVIDIA looked at the competitive landscape and decided a new SKU was in order, but this one needed some changes above what was currently offered.  ATI has recently released their X1300 and X1600 products, and they are redefining ATIís new midrange and budget offerings.  To keep things competitive and fresh, NVIDIA is offering the 6600 DDR-2. 

Not Another 6600!

            The midrange market currently supports three versions of the 6600: 6600, 6600 LE, and 6600 GT.  Each of these hits a certain price point, and their performance stands up very well against anything ATI has at those points.  So what is the need for another 6600?

Two boxes!

            The 6600 DDR-2 adds some much needed speed at the low end of the 6600 spectrum in both core speed and memory speed.  The current 6600 has a core clocked at 300 MHz with memory hitting 275 MHz (550 MHz DDR).  This is by far not a terrible solution, but it isnít exactly a budget powerhouse.  While the fillrate of the 6600 clocked at 300 MHz isnít bad, the memory bandwidth is really horrible.  550 MHz DDR with a 128 bit bus causes some nasty choking.  NVIDIA has aimed to remedy this solution with the use of inexpensive DDR-2 clocked at 400 MHz (800 MHz effective).  Not only did NVIDIA increase the memory bandwidth, but they also increased the base core clock to 350 MHz.

            The 6600 was released a year ago, and it is a product that has shown some impressive legs in a very competitive marketplace.  Yields and speed bins for the 6600 series of chips can be easily described as mature, and as NVIDIA wants to make as much money as possible they would like to have the majority of these chips reach the highest speed bin (6600 GT level).  This means that most of the chips coming off of the line could easily hit 500 MHz without issue.  A by product of this is that the chips clocked at 400 and below will put out lower amounts of heat and will draw less power than what is required to hit 500 MHz and above.

Four boxes!  They're multiplying!

            DDR-2 was first introduced with the disastrous GeForce FX 5800 series, and when those didnít sell well ATI picked up DDR-2 chips for cheap and integrated them in the initial 9800 Pro 256 version.  High speed DDR took over from DDR-2 due to manufacturing and heat issues, and stayed the king until GDDR-3 came out.  This did not mean that DDR-2 died out altogether.  With DDR-2 about to become the dominant memory technology for the desktop market in early 2006, more memory manufacturers are switching over their die production to DDR-2.  The issue with this is that regular DDR for graphics is starting to dwindle in supply.  Memory manufacturers are now starting to offer DDR-2 for graphics to replace DDR, and this is in fact a boon to the graphics industry as current generation DDR-2 has very little in common with the initial DDR-2 modules made for the FX 5800.  The new stuff runs cooler and draws less power than the old, all the while giving better overall performance than even the fastest DDR that previously hit the market.  DDR-2 will not be replacing GDDR-3, but it will certainly displace DDR very quickly in the budget and midrange market.

            The 6600 DDR-2 base product will ship with 256 MB of memory clocked at 400 MHz.  It will also ship at a MSRP of $119.  NVIDIA assures us that once this product hits the market in force, we will expect to see price points hitting $99.  This is quite a bit lower than the ATI Radeon X1300 Pro, and from what I can see from benchmarks around the web, the 6600 DDR-2 will outperform the X1300 Pro in the majority of applications currently out.

            At this point in time, the 6600 DDR-2 card looks to be a very solid performer for its price range.  The performance benefits that it brings to the table certainly make it a much more attractive product than the 6600 or or the low end 6600 LE.

            Except for the 6600 LE, all 6600 products feature 8 pixel pipelines, 3 vertex shaders, 4 ROPS, 128 bit memory bus, SM 3.0 functionality, full PureVideo functionality, and can handle 64 bit floating point texture filtering for HDR.  These products can also be used in conjunction with each other in SLI configurations.  The 6600 DDR-2 does not need an over-the-top connector as the 6600 GT and above products do to enable SLI.  It does not appear as though there will be an AGP version of this card, and it will remain PCI-E native.


Next: The XFX 6600 DDR-2


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