6 Graphics Cards with Luxury Trimmings

MSI Geforce 8600 GTS Diamond Plus

The powerful 70 mm fan is very loud, reaching up to 49.4 dB(A).

The Geforce 8600 GTS Diamond Plus, with a cumulative frame rate of 1190.9 fps, effortlessly outpaces the Radeon HD 2600 Pro Crossfire (1033.2 fps) and even the HD 2600 XT at default (918.6 fps) and Turbo speeds (977.8 fps). MSI equips its card with 512 MB of DDR3 RAM, for which it advertises an access time of only 1.0 ns on its website. The card is clocked at standard frequencies for an 8600 GTS: 675 MHz (GPU), 1000 MHz (memory) and 1450 MHz (shader)

The MSI card's equipment is on the luxurious side, including an integrated HDMI output and a separate HDMI cable, as well as a component output cable for HDTV, TV-out, and S-Video. It also ships with the game Company of Heroes, which gains DirectX 10 support in Windows Vista as of patch 1.70.

The SPDIF connector found on the board is also a particularly interesting feature. The card comes with two cables, one for an internal connection to your sound card, and the other for an external one on the backplane. Sadly, this feature receives no further explanation, either in the mini-manual, nor on the company website. Since graphics cards usually don't contain any sound functionality to begin with, we can only speculate that this connector is used to transmit the audio signal of a Blu-ray or HD-DVD. ATI's Radeon HD 2x00 cards transmit this signal through their DVI ports using the DVI-HDMI adapter, while MSI's Diamond Plus does not need such an adapter, since it sports an integrated HDMI port. We plan to investigate whether the SPDIF interface really transmits the audio signal, and if so, how this is done, in an upcoming test using HD DVD material.

MSI's modified Forceware driver features an overclocking section with Dynamic Overclocking Technology (DOT), which enables a dynamic increase in clock speed of 2% to 10%. Aided by the heatpipes, the small and powerful fan has no problems cooling the GPU, which idles at 40°C in 2D mode and reaches 48°C under 3D load. Upon installing Nvidia's official Forceware version 163.17 driver, we realized that it does not regulate the small fan's speed, resulting in a very high noise level of 49.4 dB(A).

In the case of MSI, the HDMI logo on the box means both a cable and an on-board connector.

A luxurious bundle, with cables for HDMI, HDTV (component) and even SPDIF.

The backplane features one DVI and one HDMI connector, as well as a video port.

The heatsink and cooler make this card a two-slot solution.

The card ships with both internal and external cables for SPDIF.

The SPDIF connector hides under the heatsink.

The card uses a conventional Molex power connector, instead of the PCIe version.

The cooler and heatpipes are small, but are supported by a small and powerful fan.