We will say it upfront, we are not impressed with the new GeForce 8600 series and while admittedly expectations were set high, it is hard to be pleased with the performance of these new graphics cards. This is not to say the new 8600 GTS and GT graphics cards are pathetic and should be avoided like the plague. Realistically speaking, these are good products despite of being disappointing considering what they could have been.
So it looks like this is set to be a love/hate relationship with the new GeForce 8600 series, which is disappointing given how much we appreciated the 6600 GT and 7600 GT cards in the past. The majority of gaming titles that I still happen to play on a regular basis, such as Far Cry, F.E.A.R, Prey, and a few others based on the Doom 3 engine, play quite poorly on the new 8600 graphics cards. Given the 8600 GTS costs more than the Radeon X1950 Pro and GeForce 7900 GS, you would expect equal to or greater than performance in these games.
While the 8600 GTS was actually faster than the older 7900 GS in S.T.A.L.K.E.R, it fell short in Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes and all other games tested. A similar performance trend was found when comparing the old 7600 GT with the new 8600 GT though the 8600 GT did fair better in this match up as the margins were quite minimal most of the time.
Supposedly upcoming games should work in favor of the DX10-compliant 8600 GTS when opposed to graphics cards such as the 7900 GS. How much better is yet to be determined. The question still remains, should you spend $200 on an 8600 GTS or $160 on a previous generation 7900 GS? Currently, with the games I'm playing, the 7900 GS is a much better option.
Therefore we believe it is best to ask yourself what games you currently play and what games you expect to be playing in 6 months time. If you like to quickly work through games and then push them aside, the 8600 GTS might be a better option. However, if you are anything like me, the 7900 GS is a far better option as I tend to get hooked on a few select games and play them to death for longer periods of time. As it stands the 8600 GT is almost useless in my opinion, and had it been called the 8600 GS it would be a worthy successor of the 7600 GS instead.
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