NVIDIA's GeForce 6600 Product LaunchBack when NVIDIA launched their first NV40 products, back in April, they assured us that NV4x designs would be prevalent from the budget end of the market, to the highest of high-end boards, by Christmas. Today sees the first part of that being fulfilled. The current NV4x product lineup is all NV40, with three designs - 6800, 6800 GT and 6800 Ultra - sitting in the £200-£400 range, qualifying themselves as enthusiast products based on current pricing, just above the mid-range.
That changes today with the release of a the 6600 product series, initially only on PCI Express, based on NV43.
NV43Whereas NV40 starts life as a full 16 pixel pipeline (4 quad pipes) part with a 256-bit memory interface, before being used in 6800 Ultra or 6800 GT product, or as a three-quad part (12 pixel pipelines) in the plain 6800, NV43 is a two quad part from the start (8 pixel pipes) with a fixed 128-bit memory interface and no possible 256-bit interface, as rumoured.
It brings with it all the NV40 rendering features, such as Shader Model 3.0 compatibility, high precision rendering, support for deferred shading rendering techniques, multiple render targets and NVIDIA's UltraShadow II.
It has a native PCI Express PEG16X interface and as such doesn't require NVIDIA's HSI bridge chip for operation, unless it's on AGP. We can confirm that AGP versions of 6600 will ship from AIBs this year.
Two boards are initially released using NV43; 6600 GT and a plain 6600.
6600 GT comes clocked at 500/1000 using GDDR3 memory, giving it 4000Mpixels/sec of pixel fillrate, 4000Mtexels/sec of texturing fillrate and a shade under 16GB/sec of memory bandwidth. It's a PCI Express part, capable of NVIDIA SLI dual-card operation and it sits at £200 MSRP on release.
Performance is apparently around 20% higher than that of Radeon 9800 XT and significantly higher than ATI's highest performing, current mid-range PCI Express board, the X600 XT. However with X600 XT at £120 or thereabouts and ATI planning a mid-range 8-pipe R4xx part on PCI Express, the comparison is a little ill advised.
Board wise, the PCB is small and reminiscent of the GeForce2 in terms of dimensions. The cooler is single slot (and quiet according to NVIDIA) and the GDDR3 modules don't require any active or passive cooling at all. No extra power connector is needed on the PCI Express version, the board able to get all the power it needs from the PCI Express slot.
Any AGP version may be different in that respect.
The 6600's core comes clocked at 300MHz and it uses regular TSOP-II DDR memory, probably clocked around 700MHz (but that's up to the partner that creates it). Those figures give it 2400Mpixels/sec of pixel fillrate, 2400Mtexels/sec of texturing fillrate and a shade over 11GB/sec of memory bandwidth. Again, it's a PCI Express part. The plain 6600 isn't SLI-capable and comes priced at £150, making it the first mainstream 8-pipe card on PCI Express.
Performance relative to other well known parts is unkown at the time of writing, but I'd expect it to sit around old Radeon 9500 Pro levels or thereabouts.
Board wise, the PCB is the same size as the 6600 GT's, just it carries a different component layout and no SLI connector. The cooler is single slot (and again quiet according to NVIDIA) and the DDR modules don't require any active or passive cooling at all. No extra power connector is needed, the board able to get all the power it needs from the PCI Express slot.
Any AGP version shouldn't require an auxiliary power connector either.
SLIAs mentioned, the 6600 GT is SLI-capable, allowing you to run a pair of boards in a mainboard with dual PEG16X slots. Here's a gratuitous press shot.
SummaryUntil we get our hands on boards nearer the end of the month, it's hard to comment on them past regurgitating what's in the press kit for today's launch at Quakecon. On the face of it, they look like the boards to ease any transition to PCI Express, offering high performance for not too much money. The 6600 GT appeals the most, for just £50 more than the slower, less-capable 6600.
NVIDIA say that PCI Express demand is highest, so all NV43 GPUs produced at the momemnt are being allocated to the creation of PCI Express boards, the majority of which are being sold to OEM customers, so it might be a little while before retail 6600, even on PCI Express, can be found, and it's also the reason a bridged AGP version isn't being released concurrently.
More on the 6600 series, including the bridged AGP versions, as and when we get the boards.