Working with all of these cards has been difficult, especially when one wrong move could cause quite a few problems. We apologize for not being able to report numbers that reflect what cards from Gigabyte, MSI, and Prolink can do in terms of cooling. We extend to these three companies an invitation: if you would send us another sample, we will retest your card and amend updated numbers to our tests. At the same time, we went ahead and included these numbers because these cards were how they were sent. It is rather alarming how few precautions were taken to prevent loss of contact between the GPU and the HSF on Geforce 6600 GT cards as a whole.
Just to clarify, the specific problem that we have is when companies used a thermal adhesive that cracks, tape that tears, or something that is otherwise compromised by the torque of a freely rotating heatsink. Vendors using non-adhesive solutions tended not to suffer the kind of immediate long-term damage that we saw with the aforementioned cards, but the ultimate solution is really to stop the heatsink from moving.
In the end, we survived the test, and we have handed out our awards. Here they are without further ado.
Among the top three performers in Noise, Idle Temp, and Load Temp, this card overclocked well to boot. Armed with a padded surface mounted around the exposed silicon and a circular HSF solution, many of the stability issues that plagued other implementations were avoided. We are very pleased to award the AnandTech Gold Editor's Choice to the Leadtek Winfast PX6600 GT TDH.
This card might not be the cheapest of the bunch, but it surpasses everyone else easily with Dual DVI, 1.6ns GDDR3, a loud fan, an even louder retail package, an attempt at stabilizing the HSF, and a load temperature that never rose above 69 degrees C. The only problem with this card is that all the added features likely contribute to its less than stellar overclocking capability. And thus, the XFX Geforce 6600GT Extreme Gamer is awarded our Silver Editor's Choice.
The Galaxy 6600 GT has quite a lot going for it. It is the coolest, quietest, fastest stock card that we tested. It also has a good HSF solution that doesn't fall off as easily as some of its competition. The problem is that this coolest card is also the worst overclocker. This could be bad luck, but it could also be indicative of something else. This is the first time we've had them in our labs, and shipping 525/550 while leading in cooling secures the Galaxy 6600GT AnandTech's Bronze Editor's Choice Award.
As for the rest of the pack, they all had many strengths that are spread among many cards. We'll tell you why potential candidates didn't quite make the Editor's Choice list.
When it comes to Inno3D, we liked them because of their firmly attached HSF solution and very solid all-around performance. The real downside to Inno3D was their noise level. They weren't the best overclocker in the bunch, but they weren't worst the either.
Chaintech and Albatron missed Editor's Choice because they didn't have any stabilization on their heatsinks. The problems that inflicted Gigabyte and MSI could just as easily have happened to them.
Solving this HSF mounting problem was one of the top issues for us today, and it should be a key factor in the decision for anyone in an IT build room or whose idea of a good time is playing around in their case. Being careful (taunting fate?) is fine if you open your box once every year-and-a-half to dust and upgrade. If your job has anything to do with video cards, and you might be seeing one of the cards that we mentioned in this review, don't get anything without a completely stable HSF mounting system. The expanded pads are a little more stable than the solutions that only make contact with the silicon, but if were building systems with these cards, I would limit purchasing descisions to cards with some sort of 4-corner support (or zero leverage). Of the products we tested, here's our short list of IT-friendly 6600 GT parts:
Inno3D - solid mounting foam at two non-attached corners
Sparkle - rubber nubs around 4 corners
Galaxy - very tight springs and no leverage around the circle to move the HSF
XFX doesn't make the list because, at this point, we aren't sure which way they are going to go with the design. It looks as if they are adopting a design more like Leadtek's and just expanding the contact area with the area around the core, so they may be dropping the rubber altogether. Hopefully, they'll just find some rubber that fits and squeeze it on in there.
When all is said and done, we have to put a good part of the responsibility for the HSF mounting issues on NVIDIA. They do come up with the reference board design, and they end up placing the mounting holes for the cooling solutions on these boards. Obviously, these boards aren't 6800 Ultra Extreme parts and they don't need to have the cooling solution torqued down onto the core. But, at the same time, it would be nice if vendors didn't have to rely on spacers, pads, or other tricks in order to keep their cooling solutions in contact with the GPU.