February 15th, 2011

MSI 8600GT SLI

Introduction

Nvidia’s latest G84 and G86 cards are doing the rounds on review sites at the moment, and because of this they are rather hard to come by. Fortunately, we have managed to get hold of a second 8600GT. Let’s see what these bad boys can do in SLI.

The 8600GT

For a full run down of the 8600GT please refer to our previous review here.

MSI 8600GT  SLI Boxes

Interestingly, the canted cooler proved problemamatic again when setting up SLI. We had the same memory clearance issues but the SLI bridge was also not quite able to fitted correctly due to one of the pins running through the fins sitting slightly too high on both cards. It all still worked correctly, but surprising that this was not noticed in testing.

MSI 8600GT  SLI

Memory clearance issue
The same memory clearance issues persist; on an MSI board no-less.

Testing

For graphics card testing we run through a series of synthetic and real world benchmarks and compare the results to previous cards that we have tested. The tests we run are as follows:

3Dmark06, 3Dmark05, 3Dmark03, FEAR benchmark, X3 Reunion benchmark, HL2: Lost Coast benchmark and two different resolutions of our own BF2142 demo (1600*1200 & 1280*1024).

To achieve as accurate a score as possible all tests were run 3 times and the average of the results was taken.

The other hardware I used to test this card was as follows:

Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 2.48ghz
Crucial Ballistix PC8500 @ 897mhz
MSI 650i P6N SLI Platinum
Antec Earthwatts 500w

The driver’s used for this review were Nvidia’s 158.19.

Tests were run with a single 8600GT, overclocked 8600GT and 2 overclocked 8600GT in SLI.

Overclocking

Since I had overclocked a single card in my review of the 8600GT I knew roughly what one of the cards was capable of and since you can’t set each card at seperate frequencies I set both cards to 640/835. Luckily for me, the new card handled this fine so I began the testing.

NB. Both cards were capable of holding this overclock without the aide of any active cooling. However, I placed a single 120mm fan above them to guarantee stability.

Results

3Dmark Results

The performance jump from SLI can be clearly seen in these 3Dmark benches. There are huge gains in 03 05 and 06 with a near 100% score increase in 03! The 06 score is equally impressive with the final score coming close to what an 8800GTS 320mb would yield.

Game Results

FEAR Results

Again we see huge gains from having two cards in SLI over the single overclocked card. In every benchmark bar X3 reunion there is near 100% gain. It’s nice to see the synthetic and gaming benchmarks agreeing for a change.

Cost

For two of these cards you are looking at spending around £180 which is about £20-£30 less than an 8800GTS which is their nearest rival at this price point.

Conclusion

The performance gained from adding a second of these cards is clearly pretty impressive. These cards scale extremely well when moving to SLI from a single overclocked card. The 8800 series still retains the performance crown, but the 8600s together nip on the heels of the GTS 320s and completely dominate the x1950 series of cards from ATI/AMD.

The fact that SLI performance on these cards is so good means that those with small cases can have near 8800 performance without space problems, those who want DX10 support can get it relatively cheaply with a worthwhile upgrade solution of another card down the line and those who want near 8800 performance with a passive card can now do so.

Pros Cons
Performance scales well Same problems as single 8600GT
Overclocks well
Passive cooling

10Star

I’d like to thank MSI and QuietPC for providing us with these graphics cards.

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