Zotac seems bent on attracting as much Nvidia consumers as possible. The best way to do this is to offer the potential customer a wide choice of quality products. No matter if you're looking for a low end solution, or a high performance card, Zotac has something to offer. The good news is that now all Zotac's Nvidia Geforce 8 series G84 and G86 support HDMI.
The first Nvidia 8 series cards to be offered by the company had reference clocks, but Zotac soon expanded its lineup. For all those seeking high performance, Zotac offered the AMP series of overclocked cards, and recently it launched passively cooled Zone edition cards, aimed at true connoisseurs.
The Zone family consists of 8600 GT and 8500 GT cards. The cheapest passive colled card is the 8400 GS ATX card which is available with 128 or 256 MB of GDDR2 memory.
Zotac Geforce 8500 GT Zone Edition GDDR2 (128-bit)
Unlike the affordable passive G86 (8400 GS) and G86 (8500 GT Zone) cards, the slightly pricier Geforce 8600 GT Zone (G84 core) ships with GDDR3 memory. Since we had one Zotac 8500 GT AMP with reference fan cooling lying around, we decided to include it in this review of Zotac's affordable Geforce 8 series cards.
Zotac Geforce 8600 GT Zone Edition GDDR3 (128-bit)
Due to the limitations brought upon by the use of passive heatsinks, Zotac took no chance with the clocks, so the 8400GS and both Zone edition cards are reference clocked. The cards are primarily intended for multimedia and office use, so the reference clocks are in no way a bad thing. If you put performance in front of silence, you can always go for the 8500GT AMP.
Zotac Geforce 8500 GT AMP GDDR2 (128-bit)
The size of the heatsink is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about passive cards, and on Zotac cards the heatsinks aren't that big, so all cards are single slot solutions. The heatsinks work well, but don't forget that with all passive cards you need good airflow in your case, just to be on the safe side.
Zotac Geforce 8400 GS GDDR2 (64-bit)
The Geforce GT Zone edition uses Hynix HY5PS561621A GDDR2 memory, while the 8600GT Zone edition goes one step further with Hynix HY5RS123235 GDDR3 chips. Although both cards use the 128 bit memory bus, the GDDR3 clocks are significantly higher and provide a much better bandwidth.
The GDDR2 memory on the 8500GT Zone card is clocked at 400/800MHz, which gets you 12.8GB/s bandwidth, while the 700/1400MHz GDDR3 memory on the 8600GT Zone delivers 22.4GB/s. Both cards have 256MB memory.
If you opt for the cheapest 8400 GS, beware, as you will get a 64 bit card with GDDR2 memory which will show its limitations in gaming performance. It will suffice for multimedia or office use. It comes with 256MB GDDR2 memory onboard, the core clock is 450MHz and the memory is clocked at 400/800MHz.
The GPU clock on the 8500 GT is 450MHz and the shaders are clocked at 900MHz. These are reference clocks, unlike the ones on the 8500 GT AMP. The AMP series cards are overclocked, and our 8500 GT AMP worked at 702MHz core, while its shader stream processor was clocked at 1485 MHz. The memory on both cards is clocked at the reference 400/800MHz.
Apart from the G86 based Geforce 8500 GT cards, Zotac is also offering slightly more expensive Geforce 8500 GT cards with GDDR3 memory, which we didn't review.
The performance gap between the Zone and AMP cards is significant, but the prices are pretty close. This one is up to you, you can go for the silent version, or a faster fan cooled card which is also pretty quiet. You can easily reach 8500 GT AMP clocks by overclocking your passive 8500 GT, but keep in mind that this is a passive card and that it needs more cooling at higher clocks.
The Geforce 8400 and 8500 aren't SLI ready, so you can't increase performance by adding another card. All four cards have the DirectX 10 unified shader architecture.
What you see here is an 8500 GT Zone card with the standard yellow colored DVI to HDMI dongle. We already said that Zotac will soon launch GTS cards with HDMI support via a DVI to HDMI dongle.
You can't enjoy multimedia content without adequate sound support. The DVI dongle also enables you to get HD sound to your TV. You just need to get the sound from your sound card or motherboard to the graphics card and that's it. You'll find the necessary cable in the box, along with the card, DVI to HDMI dongle, driver CD and a short manual. The box is small, filled with card specs and it looks pretty nice.
The Geforce 8400GS, Geforce 8500 GT Zone and Geforce
8500 GT AMP each have a VGA out. As you can see on the picture, the arrow points to the VGA connector, but it says it's a Dual-link DVI with audio. This is also true, but only when you use the DVI output.
All cards were tested on an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard and we used the 162.18 WHQL driver.
OCZ FlexXLC PC2 9200 5-5-5-18 (Supplied by OCZ)
for test at CL5-5-5-15-CR2T 1066MHz at 2.2V
Zotaz Geforce 8400GS ATX, 8500GT Zone Edition, 8500GT AMP, 8600GT Zone Edition
Freezer 7 Pro (Supplied by Artic Cooling)
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM