Review: A whole lotta memory
In case you didn't know, you can buy a graphics card with 1GB of memory for a reasonable amount of money. Just check out Gainward's offer and you'll notice one special GeForce 8600GT card. It doesn't look different from any other Gainward card, and that's because the new cooler covers the whole card. However, under the hood this card packs a magical number of 1024MB of memory.
Gainward's name for this card is BLISS 8600 GT 1024MB TV DD, and it is Gainward's addition to their performance range offer. Finally, game enthusiasts have a DirectX 10 card with an amount of memory once thought impossible.
Although you will most definitely profit from the quantity of memory, its speed is not quite something you’ll brag about. Gainward opted for slower GDDR2 memory running at 500Mhz (effective 1000MHz), and it’s slower than GDDR3 on Geforce 8600 that runs at 700MHz (effective 1400MHz).
In order to compensate for the slower memory, Gainward overclocked the GPU from 540MHz to 600MHz. This should give this card an additional boost in applications where memory speed is more important than quantity.
A dual slot cooler is something we see on all BLISS DirectX10 cards, and that is the case with this Geforce BLISS 8600 GT 1024MB TV DD card, too. We have no complaints about the cooler, except that it is dual slot – it runs well and does its job. Through the wire mesh, you can see the actual cooler with a fan in the middle. Everything that’s of any importance on the board is in the front, hidden by the hood.
A glance at the back of the card reveals passive memory heatspreaders. Memory is stacked horizontally and vertically, and so are the heatspreaders, whose goal is to stop the card from overheating. One of the details we couldn’t see clearly on the previous picture is the SLI connector. It will be interesting to see two of these cards perform in SLI mode.
You might have asked yourself what does the A in the upper left corner stand for? Well, we received two GB of video memory, meaning we received two of these cards. The card you see bears the A sign, the other one B. We should probably use the B card as a slave. This is a joke, of course, as Nvidia doesn’t require slave and master cards - as long as the cards are same, it doesn’t matter where you put them on your motherboard.
We don’t have SLI results as of yet, but you can expect them soon enough.
Now you can clearly see the memory modules grouped on the front of the card. The cooler fins can’t physically touch the modules, they're just routing the air onto them to help with cooling. The card doesn’t require additional power, which is typical for the Geforce 8600 GT family, so there is no power connector.
Gainward opted for Qimonda HYB18T512161BF–20 GDDR2 memory. Still, they've chosen to use the fastest memory running at 500MHz (1000MHz effectively). The card houses 8 memory modules total, each of them having 128MB of memory. 1GB of GDDR3 memory would have been too expensive for a card that's supposed to be modestly priced, especially knowing that ATI has low-priced HD 2600XT cards to offer.
The card is HDMI, HDTV and HDCP capable. HDMI is quite an important issue lately, so we've decided to pay more attention to it.
Video outs are handled by two dual-link DVI’s and one S-video with HDTV support. HDTV offers 1080i resolution functionality, but you don’t get audio, just video. For those who consider that a priority, Gainward recently launched the first Geforce 8600 GT BLISS HDMI card with HDMI connector, and managed to route the sound to the card itself.
That way, your out will carry both video and audio. Connecting your HDMI cable to a HDMI connector will make it possible to see a HDTV movie, with no additional cables to route the sound from the computer.
Maybe we’ve disappointed you by saying this card doesn’t have HDTV with sound, but probably most of you won't find it that important, anyway. There is no HDMI connector, but there are always options. Since there is no DVI to HDMI dongle in the box, we had to use the one we got with Zotac 8600 GT Zone Edition.
We can’t say everything went without a hitch. We expected plug and play, but our first try resulted in no signal on the monitor. Since the card was already installed on our system and we had just dragged our BenQ 22E monitor across the room and plugged it in, we first had to uninstall the drivers so that the monitor would be recognized. After that we plugged in the HDMI cable and chose the HDMI input option on the monitor.
The new driver installation did the trick. On the menu, we couldn’t find our monitor’s native resolution of 1680x1050, but we did see the HDTV resolution 1920x1080 that this monitor doesn’t support. In additional HD format and HDMI signal menus you can tweak a couple of interesting settings. Among those you are sure to find resolution settings that will fit your monitor. We were content with the fact that we can use HDMI dongle on this card, and we continued on with our testing reverting to our good old CRT Samsung SyncMaster 959NF.