The new PCI Express bus has only just reached the market and the mainstream cards in the form of the ATi Radeon X600 and NVIDIA's GeForce PCX5750 are already outdated and replaced by newer models, despite having only recently been introduced.
Performance-wise, the GeForce GT 6600 leaves its predecessor as well as the Radeon X600 XT in the dust. In some cases it even returned higher scores than a GeForce FX 5950 Ultra running in an Intel i875 board coupled with a P4 3.2 GHz - and the FX 5950 Ultra is a graphics card that marked the absolute high end in the NVIDIA product line not too long ago. Nearly identical results in comparisons between the AGP and PCI Express versions of the 6800 GT prove that the GeForce 6600 GT's victory does not come from a theoretical faster PCI Express motherboard using DDR II memory. Instead, the card greatly benefits from the markedly faster shader units and other internal improvements of the NV4x architecture.
We won't comment on the performance of the vanilla GeForce 6600 we emulated here, since we have no way of judging what effect such a major underclocking may have on performance. Although the results are usually correct, some cards react to underclocking with image corruption or incorrect performance results.
Measured by its price, the performance of the GeForce 6600 GT is very impressive and, for the time being, without competition. However, NVIDIA will not be able to enjoy this situation for long, as ATi is about to counter with its own new mainstream card, the Radeon X700. As a result, the harsh competition between the two companies for shares in the add-on card market is set to continue. The fact that there will only be PCI Express versions of the GeForce 6600 at the beginning is a clear sign that NVIDIA is trying to become popular in the OEM market. After all, PCI Express models are set to become the basic requirements here over the next months. On the other hand, the AGP versions are more important for the retail market, but for now only NVIDIA knows when these will be available.
In conclusion, we would like to comment on the driver problems we witnessed in some of the games we tested. NVIDIA's drivers seem to have problems in the games Battlefield Vietnam, Race Driver 2 and Joint Operations. Although there aren't any rendering issues, the performance is much lower than it should be, as the comparison with the ATi cards shows. ATI, on the other hand, is still battling with performance problems in OpenGL, as we saw in Call of Duty and Doom 3. Also, enabling 4xFSAA in Joint Operations results in rendering errors. We will try to get in touch with both of the companies to find some answers and keep you posted on what we discover.