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8600GT SLI based system Q's

Last response: in Systems
October 31, 2007 4:55:18 PM

Hello, I haven't upgraded in a while and wanted to get a good bang-for-the-buck system so I did a little research (too little) and bought an AMD XP X2 6000+ CPU / Gigabyte 570-SLI Mobo / 2GB DDR2-800 CAS4 RAM / 2x EVGA GeForce 8600GT / 512MB GDDR2. I intended to run the video in SLI and hoped it would be a good value system, but my performance sucks pretty badly, like less than 4k on 3DMark06 on a system with a Seagate STA2 3GB/s HDD and Vista Ultimate x65 installed. I have seen similar systems on the Futuremark site which are posting around 9k (with 4GB RAM on Vista). I was hoping someone had feel for a few things and could help a brudda out:
• I am using my old PSU which was a top notch (in 2003) Vantec Stealth 420w, could this be too little juice? I have read too little power may cause the GPUs to ramp down? If so, how much wattage / brand PSU would you recommend for a system like this with two GPU cards and two optical as well as SATA 2 HDD?
• I am using onboard audio, I know 3DMark doesn't use sound so that's not a problem with regard to my low scores, but would a dedicated card still be a good idea? SB X-Fi a good low budget choice?
• The 8600GTs I have don't even have a SLI connecter on board for the bridge, so I am wondering if these are ramped up 8500s. I intend to bitch to the place I bought them from and see if they will take em back for possibly a single 8800GT / 512MB GDDR3 and the difference in cash, is this new card the sweet spot for SLI performance right now? Is the 40 bucks price difference from the base 600mhz to the 700mhz SSC worth it?
• Is Vista Ultimate x64 the way to go or should I blow this away and reinstall XP Pro?
• I don't intend to OC, are the stock CPU fans for AMD sufficient since the things pretty robust?
• I was having problems with the SLI enable button disappearing when I installed the newest GeForce drivers, but I also had the EasyTune utility installed. I ramped back and unistalled ET and they came back, anyone else have this problem? Is it safe to install for SLI?
I haven't gamed in a while and Company of Heroes literally melted my RAdeon 9700 Pro down when I tried to play it at 1600 x 1200 with med detail, lol!

Antec SOHO Tower with Vantec Stealth 420w PSU
AMD Athlon XP2 6000+ Windsor CPU
Gigabyte 570-SLI (GA-M57SLI-S4) Mobo
2x 1GB G.Skill PC6400 CAS4 RAM
2x EVGA 8600GT 512MB GDDR2 in SLI (I think)
On Board Sound
Seagate ST3250410AS SATA2 3 Gb/s HDD
Vista Ultimate x64
ALL Stock Speeds, no OC

GeForce Driver
3DMark Score 3930

TIA, Jeff
October 31, 2007 5:45:36 PM

1) You will need a new PSU if you want to do SLI w/o a doubt.
Look at the Corsair/PC Power and Cooling/Seasonic PSUs in the 600+ Range. They are good quality and expensive not not too much so.

If you are not going to do SLI, a New PSU would be recommended anyway since your PSU is not the greatest. Corsair/PC Power and Cooling sell 450w/470w PSU that are nice and affordable.

No need for the OC'd 8800GT. You can do that yourself.

SLI may or may not work with your board.
I've read that SLI with the 8800GT is hit or miss at the moment with the 680i boards. Yours is a bit older I am guessing so it may be more hit or miss. I would start with 1 GPU and see how it goes. Then try a second card later if necessary after asking about for success of others with your board. Right now so few people have gotten the cards its not likely there will be much feedback with specific boards that are not current.
October 31, 2007 5:47:00 PM

Oh, and forget SLI for the 8600GT. Simply not worth the effort.
8800GT all the way if you can afford it.
Related resources
October 31, 2007 6:04:24 PM

Your Vantec Stealth 420w = 18Amps of +12Volts
8600GT in SLI = minimum PSU is 400Watts and 24Amps of +12Volts (source = EVGA products page)
8800GT single / SLI = minimum 400W+22A / 450W+24A
For what you're looking at something in the 500-600 range should be adequate.
Corsair 520HX $99 and free shipping plus $20 rebate would be a good choice.

SLI connecter bridge always comes with the motherboards - not the video cards. Or did you mean the video cards are missing the notch where the SLI bridge connects the cards? Mid to low end Video cards can do SLI without the physical bridge with nVidia drivers 80.XX or later.

A single 8800GT is much more powerful than SLI 8600GT. Easily worth paying the difference in price.

Stock HSF are always sufficent in non-OC's systems if installed correctly and the case is ventilated well.

October 31, 2007 7:45:21 PM

Good Advice Zenmaster, I think I will wait and just get one 8800GT for now. I tried to save some $$ on the mobo which was silly, does anyone have any recommendations for a better socket AM2 mobo? Are the 8800GT cards all physically the same no matter how they come clocked from the factory? Will the stock cooling on the SSC be sufficient?

Thanks WR2, I will likely pay the extra $15 for the 520HX. My mobo did come with a bridge, but these cards do not have a connector. Makes me wonder if they are really dressed up 8500s. I am confused about the 'nVidia drivers 80.XX or later' part, I am currently running driver because when I upgrade to the recent ones ( I loose the SLI enabled support in the nVidia control panel.