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NVidia GeForce 6600 GT Anomaly

Manufacturer: NVidia
Supplied by: Albatron and Inno3D
Estimated Price: n/a

by Dean Barker (1/12/2005)


Never did an upgrade create so many headaches.  Recently, we upgraded some of Brian's equipment to allow him more latitude in testing.  One of these upgrades was a better monitor so we could do more VGA benchmarking at 1600 x 1200 resolution.  Surprisingly this is where some serious head scratching began.

Recently, we posted our review of the Inno3D GeForce 6600GT.  We will add another 6600GT review with a product from Albatron this week.  Rounding out some testing on the Albatron card with the eye candy maxed out, Brian discovered that the benchmarks at 1600 x 1200 were higher than those at 1280 x 1024.  Swapping in the Inno3D card to see if these results were particular to the Albatron, he found that they were not.  Both PCI-Express versions of the 6600GTs we had, did the same thing.  Eye candy maxed made higher resolution equal higher frame rates??  This couldn't be right I thought; Brian must be drinking.  He packaged everything up and shipped it over to the main shop here and low and behold I ran into the same thing.  Have a look for yourself at the benchmarks for Far Cry and Half Life2.

We figured that the 6600GT GPU was somehow scaling back its settings when at this resolution.  Taking some screen shots of 1280 and the 1600 resolution with the eye candy maxed we didn't see any visual differences.  This surprised us even more.  What was going on here?

In our attempting to contact NVidia, we got zip for a response.  Not exactly what I was wanting or expecting from them as far as product support is concerned.  The manufacturers on the other hand, were all over this on our forwarding results to them - Albatron especially.  They were able to repeat our results and were as surprised as we were with the findings.  Albatron had much more success in chasing some answers down from NVidia than we did.  The final word we're getting is that this is a phenomenon specific to cards of 128mb or less.  1600 x 1200 (32bit color) requires more than 128mb of VGA memory to run at FSAA 8x.  A 1280 x 1024 setting can handle this on 128mb just fine at a FSAA 8x whereas 1600 x 1200 can not.  With the resolution kicked up to 1600, the FSAA was scaling back to 4x, hence the frame rate improvement.  Now I can't explain why we couldn't detect any quality differences in close up comparisons of 1280 and 1600 but I do wonder if the tighter resolution masked these differences so they weren't obvious.

While this is not exactly an earth shattering issue, we did find it interesting all the same.  This was especially the case in the context of every VGA card we've had pass through here before, never scaled its settings back.  Is this a good or bad thing depends on the perspective of Joe User.  Personally, I see this as an good thing.  At a certain point, instead of making your gameplay d--r--a--g along, the scaling back tries to keep things as playable as possible which is really what its all about anyway. 



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