BFG GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 ThermoIntelligence Review
Exciting new developments in the world of graphics cards are few and far between these days. Most of the hardware vendors you are able to buy graphics cards from are more or less selling reference cards with only minor frequency changes and fan decorations. All of NVIDIA's partners, including BFG, EVGA, XFX, Asus and others, take a card that is designed and built by NVIDIA (or at least outsourced by NVIDIA) and just rebadge it to sell as their own. The basic reasoning on this is cost: video cards change so quickly that most of these companies simply don't have the ability to design unique solutions and maintain product relevancy on such a tight schedule.
BFG recently introduced a unique water cooled version of the GeForce 8800 GTS, GTX and Ultra cards; the latest versions are overclocked well over the default NVIDIA reference specs. By using better cooling solutions BFG was able to increase the performance out of the bat for the end user. Now BFG is trying to do the same thing for the air cooled graphics card market as it has an exponentially greater market.
BFG ThermoIntelligence Series
BFG is launching a new series of graphics cards that will focus on the best quality custom air and water cooling solutions for gamers and enthusiasts. To quote from BFG's official ThermoIntelligence site:
"Ever since the company’s inception back in 2002, BFG Technologies has been at the forefront of high performance custom cooling. That experience has lent itself to the development of the ThermoIntelligence series which has been specifically designed to meet the cooling demands of the discerning PC gamer and enthusiast. Featuring custom air and water-cooled solutions, the ThermoIntelligence series provides exceptional thermal performance without the draw backs of traditional custom and after market solutions."
The first card in this series to be released is the one we are reviewing today: the GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 ThermoIntelligence.
While the new heatsink and fan might not look that much different than the NVIDIA reference design, BFG claims that by moving the fan to the front of the card they were able to remove a dead air spot. By also increasing the surface area that the heatsink has in contact with the GPU, BFG was able to lower the temperature on the GPU while keeping the noise levels at or before those of the reference cards.
What does BFG have to back up these claims? These test results:
"Of course anyone can just say something’s cool, but the fact is the 8600 GTS ThermoIntelligence fansink maintains a 5C lower GPU temperature on average vs. the NVIDIA reference fansink with a single card setup. For power users running dual cards in an NVIDIA SLI configuration, the thermal performance gets even better with the primary card operating at up to 11C cooler. The best part is these enhanced cooling properties don't come at the cost of increased acoustic noise from the fan* or the loss of an additional add-in card slot."
Lower GPU temperatures and lower ambient temperatures help everyone, but what is really important is that BFG put these advantages to good use. They do so by overclocking the CPU and memory clock speeds pretty dramatically:
Core clock of 720 MHz (versus 675 MHz stock)
Shader clock of 1566 MHz (versus 1450 MHz stock)
Memory clock of 2220 MHz (versus 2000 MHz stock)
Obviously with a 7% increase in core clock, 8% in shader clock and 11% at the memory clock, some performance enhancement should be seen in gaming applications across the board. How much improvement, and at what price premium, we will discuss as we move on.