Despite its poorly chosen name (more on that later), the MSI GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB is a very nice card that will suit gamers looking for an affordable interim card with some punch. On this iteration of the 8800 GTS 512MB, the NX8800GTS-T2D512E-OC, MSI has chosen to overclock the core and shader frequencies for a little extra kick.
Based on the G92 GPU (graphics processing unit), the 8800 GTS 512MB card is more closely related to the 8800 GT than it is to the other two 8800 GTS cards, the 640MB and 320MB versions; hence the confusion over its name. In the performance stakes it's probably closer to the 8800 GTX, which uses the same GPU (the G80) as the previous iterations of the GTS card.
On this 65nm (nanometre) GPU you get the pleasure of 128 stream processors, the very same as is used on the 8800 GTX, and the core clock speed has been marked up to 678MHz, a 4 per cent increase on the GTX and around 11 per cent increase over the other GTS cards. The shader clock has also seen a significant boost up to 1944MHz, around 22 per cent more than the GTX and 30 per cent more than the previous GTS iterations. Its 512MB of GDDR3 RAM sits snugly between two other variants of the card, but the memory clock runs at 972MHz (1944MHz effective speed), a 21 per cent increase over the other GTS cards and a marginal improvement over the GTX.
It all sounds very promising, but the MSI 8800 GTS 512MB is let-down by one vital feature, its 256-bit memory bus. While the previous GTS cards offered 320-bit memory bus, the new 512MB has been marred by a smaller bus, throttling its potential.
Other features of the card include NVIDIA's PureVideo, a dedicated video decoder core on the GPU that helps to free up the CPU from video decoding tasks. It's also HDCP compliant, meaning it's ready for high-definition Blu-ray movies. Although no HDMI adapter is included in the sales package, it's possible to get one and connect this unit to a high-definition TV.
In our benchmarks we saw fairly promising results. The biggest test is Crysis, a DirectX 10 title that's practically designed to push the limits of current graphics cards. Running the game in high quality mode with a resolution of 1920x1200, the maximum resolution of our Samsung SyncMaster 245B monitor averaged 24.7fps (frames per second) – just 2 frames over our standard clock Inno3D 8800 GTS 512MB. While this number seems quite low it's actually playable thanks to the game's design. In our other DirectX 10 tests we saw equally palatable results. In the DirectX 10 Lost Planet: Extreme Condition benchmark the MSI GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB averaged 36fps using the same resolution and all the DirectX 10 features turned on. This test yielded six frames higher than the Inno3D. At the default settings in a resolution of 1280x1024, the native resolution of a 19in monitor, the card averaged a far healthier 73fps. In the Call of Juarez DirectX 10 benchmark, using the default settings with the above resolution, we saw an average of 51.3fps.
In DirectX 9 games, the scores were significantly higher, though we actually saw a drop in Half-Life 2. On this card we saw an average of 91fps using the maximum resolution of our monitor and all the quality settings on max. On the Inno3D we got a nicer 123fps. In FEAR at a resolution of 1600x1200 with all settings again at the maximum, the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB managed an average of 75fps. We also ran 3DMark 2006 resulting in a score of 11,225. FEAR averaged one extra frame more on this card, but 3DMark 2006 dropped slightly from the Inno3D.
Although the smaller memory bus may hinder taxing games at higher resolutions it's clear from our benchmark results that you're going to get a good playing experience on even the latest of games. We saw some anomalous decreases in some DirectX 9 tests, but overall there is an improvement from the overclocked GPU.