When Nvidia launched the GeForce 8 series last November with the release of the GeForce 8800 GTX, no one really expected the graphics monster it was, and that is saying a lot given the hype that surrounds every upcoming high-end graphics product.
The GeForce 8800 GTX was significantly faster than anything available at the time, and even today it still holds the performance crown for Nvidia. The cut-down 8800 GTS version was also very impressive and soon became a favourite amongst gamers. Priced at around $400 the 8800 GTS was far from cheap, but even then it was hard to beat given what it had to offer.
Then a cheaper $300 version of the 8800 GTS came to light with only half the memory. With 320MB of on-board GDDR3 memory, the cards had enough juice to perform in most games, however it was the higher resolutions that saw the cut down GTS suffer compared to its more expensive siblings. Nevertheless, at just $300 the 8800 GTS 320MB graphics card was impressive, defeating everything in the price range.
And now finally, after a long wait Nvidia has released their mainstream GeForce 8 series graphics cards, but was the wait worth it?
The mid-range GeForce 8 graphics cards could potentially become one of the most important product launches in Nvidia history. Until very recently ATI/AMD had nothing to respond to the GeForce 8 series leaving their loyal fans in the dark. Already many of those performance-seekers loyal to ATI have been converted by the ever so tempting GeForce 8800 GTS. However, only a small percentage of gamers can afford to drop over $300 on a graphics card. This means the real battle, the battle of sales, takes place at the more affordable $200 - and below - price range.
Until the release of the mid-range Nvidia cards this battle was not really being won by either side, though if I had to pick a winner it would in fact be ATI. Therefore if Nvidia wished to continue to walk all over AMD they would want to impress with their mid-range DX10 GeForce 8 cards. If these new GeForce 8600 GTS and GT graphics cards were to be as impressive as the 8800 series, it would be difficult for anyone to remain loyal to AMD.
After a long and drawn out wait Nvidia finally revealed their GeForce 8600 GTS and GT graphics cards, along with the 8500 GT, on mid-April. The GeForce 8600 GTS was set to go on sale for roughly $200-$230 while the GT version would cost just $150-$160. Then the GeForce 8500 GT would cost even less at $90-$130, offering DX10 support at a bargain basement price. So the pricing of these new mid to low-end graphics cards seemed about right and it was now coming down to how they would perform.
Considering previous generation products such as the GeForce 7900 GS and Radeon X1950 retail for about $170, and the 320MB version of the GeForce 8800 GTS can be had for $280, the 8600 GTS would have to be pretty impressive to justify a $180-200 price tag (current street price). Then there is the 8600 GT which has to carry on the stellar reputation of the 6600 GT and 7600 GT graphics cards. Priced between $130-$150 the 8600 GT would need to be much faster than existing Radeon X1650 Pro and GeForce 7600 GT graphics cards to be a worthwhile product.