Finding a GeForce 8600 GTS is just the easy part. By now there are so many models and brands on retail shelves that the twelve cards covered here are by no means comprehensive (though we were close). There are some notable brands missing though eVGA, Elsa and BFG weren't available in time for our shootout and they should be worth considering if you manage to get your hands on them. Prices quoted here are the local retail prices in Singapore where possible so there could be discrepancies depending on your location. Overclocked variants seem to be quite popular but you are more likely to find the reference design with the standard clock speeds. The most unique card so far has to be Gigabyte's version with the new Silent Pipe III cooler. However, that could change in the future as vendors start customizing them to differentiate themselves in such a crowded field. The usual suspects like Leadtek and XpertVision are probably in the process of releasing overclocked versions as we speak.
Personally, we would hold out just a bit longer to compare against ATI's offerings before deciding on a GeForce 8600 GTS, but if history repeats itself, you could be waiting for a while before they show up. If you're set on a DirectX 10 mainstream graphics card now, there's only NVIDIA at the moment. Here are our summarized thoughts about the twelve GeForce 8600 GTS cards that have passed through our labs:
- Albatron's sparse GeForce 8600 GTS package offers the bare essentials and nothing much. If you're satisfied with just the graphics card and the standard accessories, Albatron is as good (or rather as average) as any. As of writing, we're unable to get the official retail price but you shouldn't pay more than NVIDIA's recommended retail price of around US$199 for this.
- With the highest default clock speeds, the ASUS EN8600GTS TOP certainly tops our benchmarks all through. This card also impressed us in our temperature test segment and in overclocking. Together with the new S.T.A.L.K.E.R game, the ASUS EN8600GTS TOP looks to be a solid choice for those who desire all the bells and whistles. Therefore on the merit of overall product quality and capability, this card gets our 4.5 Stars seal of approval among the GeForce 8600 GTS class. The only real downside to this lavish package is that it's understandably selling at a premium price of S$409. Hence, in terms of value, it suffers from being priced a little too close to that of a GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, which offers far superior performance. However, its early days yet and as competition from AMD (ATI) springs into action, market dynamics will cause price cuts to take place in due time where the ASUS EN8600GTS TOP has a chance to be better positioned.
- Another interesting offering is the GeForce 8600 GTS from Chaintech, which is an overclocked version that emerged as one of the faster cards in our benchmarks. The extras and other accessories however are pretty plain and ordinary. At least you can expect top class performance out of this card. We couldn't get the recommended retail price but going by its strong showing, it should be a good (and lean) choice.
- With such a deluge of GeForce 8600 GTS cards flooding the retail channels, it's very easy to be lost among the many brands out there. ECS's GeForce 8600 GTS is one of these anonymous cards that seems destined to be overshadowed by fancier models. This is another card that we are unable to get the retail price so we'll have to recommend that you don't pay more than the standard recommended price of US$199 for such a generic offering.
- Foxconn has been aggressively expanding its graphics card lineup and the GeForce 8600 GTS offers the company a chance to claim a place in the mainstream segment. While there is nothing particularly special about the hardware, Foxconn did produce a decent package with two applications. And with a competitive price tag of US$189, it's definitely worth considering.
- Gainward's Golden Sample version of the GeForce 8600 GTS is predictably overclocked and the performance boost put its among the top ranks of our benchmarks. Featuring a custom and quiet two-slot cooler, this card also performed very well in our temperature test segment despite its overclocked state. It also has a decent bundle to go along and while we have again no hint of the retail price, it should priced reasonably for its capabilities from our previous encounters of Gainward's Golden Sample cards.
- The most interesting GeForce 8600 GTS has to be Gigabyte's GV-NX86S256H, the card that does away with the auxiliary power connector and replaces the reference cooler with a new passive cooler, the Silent Pipe III. Despite the passive cooling, this card is overclocked out of the box though that means the Gigabyte recorded the highest temperatures in our tests. On the bright side, it does come with a hot new title, Supreme Commander and best of all, an extremely attractive price of S$349 puts it ahead of other rivals. For daring to be different and providing excellent value, we have decided that the Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H is the Winner of our shootout.
- The Leadtek WinFast PX8600 GTS TDH we received is not the company's Extreme and overclocked edition but rather, a standard version that's targeted at the budget consciousness crowd. However, it did quite well in our overclocking segment so consumers should have no trouble pushing this card to Extreme levels. The price too is rather attractive at S$339 and though the bundled applications and games show distinct signs of ageing, they are decent nevertheless and reasonably useful still.
- The MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC is another overclocked contender that comes with its own custom two-slot cooler. It may be a tad noisy compared to the standard cooler but it redeems itself in our temperature tests. In the end, it's a compromise and you'll have to decide which is more important. Although the usual MSI proprietary applications are present (including the new StarOSD), the lack of any applications or games is a drawback, especially when you consider that it carries a retail price of S$375.
- Sparkle's overclocked GeForce 8600 GTS looks like it may slip under the radar due to its nondescript appearance. However, beneath its reference exterior, we found a fairly high overclock that should guarantee better performance than the majority of GeForce 8600 GTS. There wasn't anything in the bundle besides the standard accessories but we aren't complaining, not with its price tag of S$340.
- XFX's GeForce 8600 GTS XXX Edition is typical of the vendor - aggressively overclocked but at a price. This XFX graphics card is among the more expensive ones in our roundup at $399, though it has a relatively new game like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter to soften the blow. If you're paying that kind of price however, there are other alternatives as well.
- The XpertVision GeForce 8600 GTS we tested is the normal edition and not the popular Sonic, overclocked version from the vendor. The cooler takes up two-slot and the bundle included is decent if not the latest. The competitive pricing of S$339 (and even lower in street price) makes it quite the deal, especially if you're just looking for the cheapest possible GeForce 8600 GTS.