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By Ed Tittel
In a world where a new crop of slimmed-down, beefed-up 8800 cards is available, and where ATI now offers a new line of 38xx GPUs and cards, is there still room for a $130 8600 GT graphics adapter? Sure there is! As one of a sizable gaggle of overclocked 8600 GT cards available at very reasonable prices, this card is a great choice for anyone seeking to upgrade a Windows XP system to Vista, or who wants to acquire DX10 technology without spending $200 and up. The 8600 GT can handle all but the most demanding games with aplomb, upping the Vista Experience gaming graphics index to respectable values in the 5.2 to 5.5 range (by comparison, a top-of-the line 8800 earns 5.9 on this metric).
With 256 MB of DDR2 DRAM and a 128-bit memory interface, this XFX 8600GT moves data from PC to screen with reasonable facility. The card clocks at 620 MHz, 80 MHz above the standard 8600 rate. The shader clock runs at 1355 MHz, and the memory clock at 1.6 GHz, all in keeping with its higher-than-standard timing and performance. This card also support anti-aliasing levels up to 16x, and a dual DVI output lets this card to drive large LCD displays at resolutions up to 2560x1600.
The card runs in SLI mode where doubling up may be warranted (though new generations of graphics cards almost invariably outperform SLI pairs from previous generations). The real advantage to the 8600 cards, of course, is that their GPU offloads 100% of the effort involved in processing H.264 decodes. This is a great boon for HD content handling and performance, especially on XP PCs in need of a graphics boost to ready them for a Vista upgrade. Improved decoding boost handling for video formats such as MPEG-2 and VC-1 as well. In short, an 8600 can give just about any PC a shot in its video arm.
Those shopping for system builders working on mid-range Vista systems, or for upgrade parts to prepare older XP systems for Vista, will find this XFX 8600GT card makes a worthwhile and well-received Christmas gift. At prices under $130, it won't make Santa sigh as he or she reaches for the credit card, either. For more information on the XFX 8600GT PVT84JUDD3.