MSI NX8600 GT
- Good DirectX 9 gaming performance, Doesn't require supplemental power, Inexpensive
- Struggled in the DirectX 10 game demonstration of Lost Planet, doesn't come with a DVI-HDMI adapter
The MSI NX8600GT is a decent and affordable mid-range graphics card that's suitable for playing today's games, but it might struggle to run DirectX 10-based games when they're released.
Price$ 209.00 (AUD)
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At just over $200, this card represents good value for a Windows Vista-based system. It's based on NVIDIA's GeForce 8600 GT GPU (graphics processing unit), which isn't as fast as the GeForce 8600 GTS, but it can still be used for gaming and for processing high definition content.
The standard speeds of the GeForce 8600 GT are 540MHz for the GPU itself and 1.4GHz for its GDDR3 memory. On this model, MSI has included a 580MHz GPU and 256MB of 1.6GHz memory, which allow it to produce slightly better in-game performance than a standard 8600 GT GPU.
It won't provide super-fast frame rates, but it will allow you to play games with anti-aliasing enabled at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1280x1024. In the game F.E.A.R, the card averaged 54fps (frames per second) at 1024x768, which translates to smooth game play, while at 1280x960, it averaged 37fps. These results were recorded with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled. While an average of 37fps isn't a guarantee for silky-smooth game play, this score indicates that the card should be able to adequately run many of today's taxing DirectX 9-based games at the native resolution of 17in and 19in LCD monitors (1280x1024), without compromising on image quality (thanks to anti-aliasing).
In DirectX 10-based games, the card might not fair very well at all. We tested it with the Lost Planet game demonstration, which has a built-in benchmark, and the results weren't smooth at all. Even at a resolution of 1024x768, with 4x anti-aliasing and with image quality set to medium, the card averaged 21fps. There's still a long way to go before DirectX 10 games hit prime-time, but the indications so far are that this card, and others based on the 8600 GT, probably won't be able to run them without dramatically reduced image quality.
Physically, the card takes up only a single slot in a PC and it has a heat sink and fan to cool the GPU. Its operation wasn't loud during our tests and the card was stable throughout. Unlike cards based on the 8600 GTS GPU, this one doesn't require supplemental power to be plugged in. It simply runs off the PCI Express bus, which means you won't need to give up any valuable power connectors in order to run it.
For connectivity, the card has two DVI ports and ships with two DVI-VGA adapters, a Component break-out cable and an S-Video cable. It's a pity the card doesn't come with a DVI-HDMI adapter, as the GPU has the ability to decode Blu-ray and HD-DVD content using NVIDIA's PureVideo HD technology, and an HDMI connection is the easiest way to connect a PC up to a high definition panel, as you won't have to fiddle with resolutions or video modes.
We used our own DVI-HDMI adapter to watch video on a large flat-panel screen, but audio couldn't be transferred via the same cable. With this solution we still had to use the sound card jacks.
All up, the MSI NX8600GT is a decent and affordable mid-range graphics card that's suitable for playing today's games, but it might struggle to run DirectX 10-based games when they're released.
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