Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad overclocked to 2.87gHz
Asus P5K Deluxe Wifi
OCZ Reaper DDR2-6400 2 gig kit
Kingwin Mach 1 800w PSU
The first testing I am going to do is a comparison between the Zotac 8600GTS, and a 7600GT, to see if the 8600 is a plausible upgrade from the 7600. When the DX10 games like Crysis finally hit the market, many gamers that have not yet bought DX10 capable cards like the nVidia 8 series will be looking for upgrades, and you'd definitely want more than just the capability of running DX10, you want better performance for your hard-earned bucks.
The card is an XFX 7600GT, 256 MB of DDR3 memory, Core Clock 590mHz, Memory Clock 1600mHz (factory overclocked from the standard 560mHz/1400mHz). The only modification is a Zalman VF-700Cu GPU cooler. So, we aren't quite talking “apples for apples” here, as the Zotac 8600GTS is a little milder in its generation than the XFX 7600GT is compared to “plain Jane” 7600GTs.
Though benchmarks don't tell the whole story, in my experience, the newer generation of GPU always outperforms the last generation in most respects, when you are comparing equivalent products. FPS doesn't tell the entire story, but does tell a lot when you crank up resolution, AA, and anisotropy, so I'm going to run a couple of FPS benchmarks and 3Dmark06, which measures other factors along with FPS.
Most decent games today come with benchmark tools. I decided to use Doom3 and Far Cry. Both games are over three years old, but still are viable benchmarks for a GPU. I haven't looked at either in some time, probably since before I got the 7600GT well over a year ago, so it will be interesting to see how they both look in the highest settings with these two cards. I will be using the “testdemo demo1” on Doom3, and HardwareOC's latest version of their Far Cry Benchmark. Both will be run four times on each card. I will throw out the first run of each, and take the average FPS of the other three runs.
Screen Size 1024x768
Face it, Doom3 is still a cool game with incredible graphics. I know a gamer that admitted to me once that he had it but never played it because it kind of spooked him. I won't mention his name here.
As I expected, though the 8600GTS performed better than the 7600GT, it really wasn't that much better. I think that my first overclocking test for the 8600GTS will be a 5.4% GPU overclock, to match the factory overclock on the 7600GT.
Something else that I noticed, on the three tests, the 8600GTS performance dropped slightly with each succeeding test, and the 7600GT performed exactly the same each time. I have to assume that the increase in temperature caused by the stock cooler caused that, as the Zalman cooler on the 7600GT works very well. I doubt that the GPU temperature rose more than a few degrees during the test, compared to the 20C-30C that the 8600GTS likely increased.
I also ran another test, just to see how much difference using the higher settings made with the 8600GTS. Using “High Settings”, it got 203-215 FPS.