If you are looking for an ultra high-end video solution, there are only a couple of real choices; invest in an ATI X850-based card, a Geforce 7800GTX or an SLI-capable motherboard and a pair of 6800-class Geforce video cards.
SLI has mostly lost its novelty at this point in the game, with the focus shifting to ATI's upcoming CrossFire SLI-like solution, but, SLI technology still offers great gaming performance. It's certainly well worth your while to check out.
Over the next few pages PCSTATS will be reviewing a pair of PCI Express MSI NX6800 TD-128E SLI-capable videocards in both single and SLI mode. We're going to see just what kind of performance a user can expect from these high-end cards operating in tandem. By now, most consumers should be familiar with SLI benchmarks from 6600GT mid-range nVidia cards, so let's take things up a notch!
Each of the MSI NX6800 TD-128E videocards we'll be testing are based on the nVidia Geforce 6800 GPU and sport 128MB of GDDR3 memory, SLI compatibility, full HDTV/S-Video/composite TV-out capabilities and dual-monitor support. The blue analog connection is for CRT monitors and the white DVI connector is for digital LCD displays.
MSI includes the full retail CD version of Far Cry. You also get a nice S-Video and RCA breakout box, S-Video cable, driver CD, DVI-VGA adapter, and a case badge sticker.
The card comes with the necessary hardware add ons, including a DVI-to-analog converter, a breakout box with component, composite and S-video outputs and a standard S-video cable. All the above accessories are coloured a brilliant day-glo green, which may or may not appeal to you, but is certainly noticeable.
The card itself is fairly typical, reflecting the design choices that MSI has made on all of its recent video hardware. A large copper plated cast-aluminium heatsink covers both the core and the memory, while the single small fan proved to be audible, but not loud enough to stand out in a sealed computer case.
Single DVI and VGA connectors are available, as well as the port for the breakout box. For a high-end card, the NX6800 TD-128E is quite quiet, which we appreciated.
Thanks to its PCI-Express interface, the NX6800 TD-128E does not require an additional power connector, deriving all its power from the PCIe x16 slot. As you can see, the SLI connector is present on the top of the card, allowing it to be linked to other SLI-compatible video cards with a compatible motherboard.
I was glad to note that MSI ships the NX6800 TD-128E in a more reasonably sized box than those holding some of the company's other high-end cards. It seems wholly unnecessary that while most motherboards come in a cardboard box barely large enough to contain them and their accessories, video cards frequently ship with acres of surplus cardboard and plastic. MSI is by no means the only company doing this, but I think it's high time that the computer parts industry took the same responsible approach to packaging that the video game industry adopted a few years ago.
Overclocking the NX6800 TD-128E
We did two separate overclocking tests on the MSI NX6800 TD-128E cards. The first tested a single card as normal, while in the second test we attempted to overclock both cards at once in an SLI setup.
A single MSI NX6800 TD-128E videocard proved to be a very good overclocker, achieving a 454MHz core speed and an impressive 227MHz boost to memory speed, maxing out at 827MHz.
We had few expectations about overclocking the pair of MSI NX6800 TD-128Es in an SLI setup. Our experiment proved to be a success as the cards achieved considerably better than half the speed gain shown by the single card. We settled at 436MHz core/776MHz memory for the dual-SLI setup.
The MSI NX6800 TD-128E is a fairly plain Geforce 6800 videocard with a feature set typical to the current videocard market. It supports HDTV-out, with component, composite and S-video outputs all available. We had no complaints about the makeup of the card, and we appreciated its lightness relative to many high-end cards weighed down by heavy cooling solutions.
MSI has avoided the typical software bundle in favour of a single game, CryTek's Far-Cry. We applaud the idea of giving gamers a game which will actually utilize the features of the card they are buying, something which used to be common in the industry but is now rare.
The MSI NX6800-TD128E is a great overclocker's card, gaining very significant MHz (and real performance) advantages both in single and SLI modes. Some of the scores achieved by the overclocked SLI setup were particularly impressive. If you buy this card with the expectation of getting extra performance for your money, you will not be disappointed.
When configured in SLI mode, the MSI NX6800-TD128E shone. While using mid-range 6600GT cards in SLI provides buyers with great performance and value for money, these cards still cannot equal the high-end videocards in most benchmarks. Dual MSI NX6800-TD128Es often considerably exceeded the other videocards in our roundup, especially when overclocked. Where SLI really kicks in is at extreme resolutions and with AA/AF enabled. In our advanced tests, the dual cards absolutely tore up Doom3 with full-eye candy enabled. At one point the SLI setup was almost four times faster than a single MSI NX6800-TD128E!
At a price of CAD$285 ($230US), the MSI NX6800 TD-128E is priced nicely in between the midrange and the high-end. A single one will give you good performance and overclockability, and buying two for SLI should still work out considerably cheaper than the higher-end single video cards while giving comparable performance.
Source from the PCSTATS.com