nVidia’s 8th series of next generation graphics cards have been going for about a year and a half now. When released, they dominated the market heavily being the card which offered the most ‘bang for the buck’. Today we’re going to take a step back from the future and have a look at one of nVidia’s most successful cards, introducing the 8800GT…
The flavour of card we’ll be looking at is the MSI model, which features a Zalman GPU cooler cooling the popular G92 chipset…
Founded in August 1986, MSI has continued to uphold a business philosophy that stresses “Award-winning product quality and outstanding customer service.” MSI specializes in the design and manufacture of motherboards, add-on cards, servers/workstations, barebones, optical storage devices, communication devices and IA accessories. Overcoming a challenging industry environment, MSI have raced to the head of the pack and are now ranked among Taiwan’s Top 3 and the World’s Top 5 motherboard manufacturer. Besides, our VGA production has been on the No. 1 position in the world for four consecutive years.
- Graphics Bus Technology: PCI Express
- Memory Amount: 512MB
- Memory Interface: 256-bit
- Core Clock (MHz): 660
- Shader Clock (MHz): 1650
- Memory Clock (MHz): 1900
- Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec): 57.6
- Fill Rate (Billion pixels/sec): 33.6
- RAMDACs (MHz): 400
The MSI NX8800GT Zilent arrives in MSI’s usual graphical packaging featuring a computer generated image of a Chinese girl on the front. Listed on the front are plenty of features which the 8800GT entails.
The rear of the box has multilingual specifications and features, a system requirements list and information about the technologies which the card uses. The MSI exclusive technology which this graphics features is a ‘Mazarine’ – a DVI to HDMI adapter which can also send audio.
Inside the box is a whole bunch of accessories, all of which are in polythene bags – help save the environment MSI.
- DVI – VGA Adapter
- DVI- HDMI Adapter
- S-Video Cable
- S-Video Splitter
- Twin Molex to PCI-E Power Adapter
- Sound cable for HDMI
- Sound cable for S-Video
- Quick User Guide
- User Guide
- Driver CD
Unfortunately there were no freebie games in the package. A bit unfortunate as including a game or two is a good way to perk up a product.
MSI NX8800GT Zilent
Aesthetically the card is very striking. The Zalman cooler and copper heat-pipes stand out against the card’s red PCB. The capacitors on the PCB seem to be the higher quality aluminium shielded ones which don’t get damaged as easily.
Oddly, as well as the usual connectors on the front of the card, there is also a two-pin adapter. This connects to two of the pins on your soundcard / motherboard (via the cable supplied) which allows for sound to be sent along with the video signal through a HDMI cable using the DVI to HDMI converter supplied.
Common in most cards, the PCI-E power connectors are located at the rear of the card – this is the same for the NX8800GT Zilent. The Zilent only needs one 6-pin PCI-connector to power it, unlike some of the newer cards which require two.
The rear of the card features low profile spring loaded screws securing the cooler in place.
The GPU cooler is a Zalman branded cooler with an MSI sticker at the centre of the fan. The fins on the cooler are thin aluminium whilst the four heat-pipes are copper. Zalman are well known for their quiet GPU cooling solutions so it’ll be interesting to see if it’s the same case for this cooler.
The RAM chips do not feature heat sinks unlike most graphics cards – however the Zalman should cool the RAM well enough.
The Zalman fan is powered by a 4-pin adapter allowing it to be temperature controlled.
At the back of the graphics card there are two DVI connectors and an S-Video port. Like most high-end cards, the MSI takes up 2x PCI slots. One of the PCI-Plates serves as a vent for the 8800GT to extract hot air out of.
Compared to the G80, the G92 is a little larger in size (although the die is slightly smaller) and features an aluminium surround to allow the cooler to sit flush.
Installing the 8800GT was fairly simple. If you’ve never installed or upgraded a graphics card before, here is the process: uninstall old graphic’s card drivers, install new graphics card’s drivers, remove old graphics card from system, install new card. The same process was carried out with this card and fortunately went very well.
Vista automatically recognised the new MSI NX 8800GT and installed the drivers from the disk straight away – without me having to do anything. This meant that installation was incredibly simple.
However, as the card uses up two PCI slots, some users may need to relocate PCI cards to install the card.
Unlike the 8800GTX cards, the card isn’t too long and should fit in most cases with ease. The card was only slightly longer than my old XFX 7900GS card….and that’s old, heh.
To test GPU’s we use 3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage to calculate a synthetic benchmark score which is then compared to other graphics cards. This test is carried out with the card at stock speeds and at over clocked speeds. 3DMark Vantage uses DirectX 10 and 3DMark 06 used DirectX 9.
When overclocking the graphics card we increase the values by 10 each time. The over clocked speed we achieve is based on the card being at its highest possible stable speed in game.
Unfortunately we don’t have the equipment to measure sound levels (dBA). Therefore, all noise tests are based on the results from my very own human ear.
All performance tests are carried out three times. An average value is then calculated from the three results.
All results are calculated from the setup below:
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 @ Stock|
|Motherboard||Asus P5K Premium|
|RAM||2x 1GB Corsair XMS2 6400|
|HDD||Western Digital SE16 500GB|
|Power Supply||Kingwin Mach 1 1000W|
|Operating System||Windows Vista 32bit|
|Graphics Driver||GeForce Release 175.16|
|Case||Lian Li V1000 Plus|
|Fan Configuration||1x Rear 120mm Noctua|
|Comparative Card||XFX 7900GS @ Stock|
Using nTune I maxed out the fan speed and then managed to overclock the memory from 660 to 740MHz and the GPU core from 950 to 1050MHz.
3DMark is a computer benchmark by Futuremark Corporation which is used to determine the DirectX performance of a graphics card. The score is calculated from testing the graphics card and processor – so when comparing results, the same CPU needs to be used.
3DMark 06 is a synthetic measure of real-world performance which features the following:
- HDR rendering.
- Complex HDR Video post-processing.
- Dynamic soft shadows for all objects.
- Water shader with HDR refraction, HDR reflection, depth fog and Gerstner wave functions.
- Heterogeneous fog.
- Atmospheric light scattering.
- Realistic sky model with cloud blending.
- Strauss lighting model for most materials.
- Subsurface scattering shader for some objects (not visible in the shot).
- Texture & normal map sizes: 1024 x 1024 to 2048 x 2048.
- Approximately 5.4 million triangles and 8.8 million vertices.
Results- Futuremark 3DMark 06
3DMark Vantage is Futuremark’s latest benchmark. It requires DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista. The graphics tests in Vantage use DX10 exclusive features, such as, parallax mapping. The CPU tests sport AI and physics modelling. Just like 3DMark 06 the score is a combined total with the processor, so the same CPU needs to be used when comparing results.
Results – Futuremark Vantage
As Futuremark Vantage is DX10 only, we cannot compare the results with that of our 7900GS as it’s unfortunately DX9 only. However, when we start receiving more graphics cards we will update the results.
The MSI 8800GT Zilent really is silent. Any fan speeds below medium cannot be heard, however, if you intend to over clock the card; you may have to suffer with high fan speeds – which are slightly loud.
At £150 the MSI is quite pricey considering faster models such as the ones from EVGA are around £120. However, the MSI’s GPU can be over clocked very easily and the memory has got plenty of overclocking headroom. Furthermore, the Zilent comes with a Zalman cooler – that alone will set you back £30 or so.
If you’re after a quiet graphics card which performs well, the MSI 8800GT Zilent is a good choice. In our DX9 tests (3DMark 06) it performed very well and doubled the performance of our 7900GS. In DX10 the card was lacking, it averaged at around 16fps throughout the benchmark and 18fps when over clocked. Therefore when in highly detailed DX10 games like Crysis, the graphics settings may need to be lowered to play at a decent frame rate.
That said the 8800GT is a still a great card, which offers plenty of ‘silent bang’ for DX9 gaming. It would be a wise investment for anyone not wanting to make the jump to DX10 just yet.