You're stuck with an AGP based motherboard, and all of the video card makers are moving on to the PCI Express platform. What's a gaming fanatic to do? There is hope, as DMOS discovers in his examination of the Chaintech SA6600G video card.
Over the past few months, all the big news has been dedicated towards the introduction of new chips from both ATi and nVidia on the PCI Express platform. With PCI Express being where new motherboard support is going, it would make sense that both companies would expend their efforts in that direction. Those of us trying to get as much possible mileage out of our AGP-enabled boards were starting to feel left out in the cold. ATi, instead of creating a new midrange card for the AGP bus based on their X800 product, chose to respin their previous top level card -- the Radeon 9800Pro -- as the mainstream product. This isn't a horrid idea; it saves on design dollars after all, which might be passed on to the end consumer. But the reason for it happening has to do with ATi not having a device to translate PCIe and AGP signals.
nVidia, on the other hand, received some rough treatment in some sectors of the media and retailers for not having "native" PCIe products upon launch. Instead, they created a bridge chip for their AGP designs. While this chip did not impact performance, and even managed to conform to the SIG PCIe specs better than some "native" products, it was still not seen as being nearly as elegant by using a bridge compared to something on die. As a side benefit to developing that piece of silicon though, nVidia now has a way to make their new PCIe products backwards compatible with AGP. Yes, they were smart enough to make it able to work in both directions. And because of that feature, we have the Chaintech SA6600G card in the DevH labs today.
Initially nVidia brought out the 6600GT as its first native card for PCI Express, and as a cheaper complement to the top end 6800GT and Ultra. With the lack of any true midrange product from their "6" series on AGP, nVidia's card manufacturers pull over the 6600 to challenge the re-spun 9800 and 9600 products from ATi using that AGP-PCIe bridge. This carries the same feature set; in fact the only difference between the AGP and PCIe 6600GT solutions from Chaintech is the memory speed, and the addition of a molex connector for the AGP card. We'll get into that later in the article.
The memory issue we'll discuss now, along with the other specs on the card. The GPU itself is clocked at 500MHz in 3D mode, and 300MHz in 2D, same as other 6600GT cards for both platforms. The difference comes in memory speed. That has been dropped down to 450MHz (900MHz effective), from the 500/1000MHz found on PCIe based ones. I'm not quite sure of the reasoning for it, but the chips are capable of it with no problems. The ones on my card are Samsung 2.0 nanosecond GDDR3 chips, which means they are rated to that 500MHz I mentioned earlier. A little overclocking with Coolbits is all that is required to bring them up to their rating, or beyond.
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