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BFG 8800GT OCX & 9600GT OCX Video Card Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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GTX-36.jpg


BFG 8800GT OCX & 9600GT OCX Thermointelligence Video Card Review





Manufacturer Product Page: www.thermointelligence.com
Product Number:
9600GT OCX: BFGE96512GTOCXE
8800GT OCX: BFGE88512GTOCXFE
Availability: Now
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices for 9600GT OCX
Click Here to Compare Prices for 8800GT OCX



In the battle for market supremacy, many times the little guys are forgotten with minimal refreshes to mid-range video cards. That was the way it used to be but these days it seems like it is the high-end (think $500+) that is suffering as both Nvidia and ATI reshuffle their decks in order to broaden appeal in a lackluster market environment. Due to this current economic situation we are all living in, the $100 to $300 price range has seen a massive influx of cards which are either new to the market or are the recipients of price cuts. Cards like the HD3870 have dropped to below the $150 mark while some 8800GT’s have been lowered to $160 without any help of the oh-so-famous mail in rebates. In the end, it is the consumers who reap the benefits since we are now able to play most games at mid to high level settings on a card which costs less than $200.

While it may seem like we have had our fill of mid-range cards here at Hardware Canucks, companies continue to innovate and release new products. Our interest was recently piqued by BFG’s release of two new cards straight into the lucrative mid-end market: the 8800GT 512MB OCX and the 9600GT OCX. Both of these cards are part of BFG’s vaunted Thermointelligence lineup which used to consist of only 8600-series products but are not quite at the forefront of graphics card performance these days. With both the 8800GT and 9600GT going under the OCX microscope, it looks like BFG has added some much-needed flair to their Thermointelligence lineup.

BFG targets their OCX line of video cards at the people out there who want some of the fastest pre-overclocked cards on the market and in this case they have also equipped the 8800GT OCX and 9600GT OCX with aftermarket coolers (hence the Thermointelligence name). This provides a great jump in performance over stock-clocked cards while staying within the bounds of BFG’s Lifetime warranty. This means that users can feel confident that their cards are some of the highest-clocked out there without having to resort to possible warranty-voiding overclocking and aftermarket cooler installation.

At this time finding stock of the 8800GT OCX and 9600GT OCX is not easy but depending on where you look they are priced around $220 and $200 respectively. You also get access to BFG’s lifetime warranty and exclusive trade-up program but more on that later.

This review will be a little different from some of the past GPU reviews we have been doing here on Hardware Canucks. Since both the 8800GT and 9600GT have been around for quite some time, we will be foregoing the usual technology overview and jumping into the benchmarks as soon as possible. So, sit back and enjoy the show.

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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look & Nvidia’s Lineup & the OCX Cards

A Closer Look & Nvidia’s Lineup


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Within a very short amount of time we have seen the Nvidia lineup expand exponentially by offering several renditions of basically the same core. Gone are the G80-based cards like the 8800GTX, 8800 Ultra and 8800GTS and in their place has risen a somewhat confusing lineup of both 8 and 9-series cards in the mid to enthusiast pricing brackets. These “new” cards basically hold respun G80 cores which are now based on a more efficient 65nm manufacturing process. Thus, core speeds are up over the G80 generation while prices have fallen significantly. Speaking of prices, there has been a rash of price reductions of late throughout the Nvidia lineup which means that enthusiast-level performance is well within the grasp many more consumers than it once was. With cards like the 8800GT retailing for under $175, people who normally wouldn’t even consider upgrading their year-old graphics cards are looking at things in a whole new light.

There has also been the addition of the new G200-based cards with the GTX 280 and GTX 260 but these cards are aimed solely at the well-heeled buyer who as over $300 to spend on a graphics card. While both these cards may offer some of the highest performance to date, they have faced some stiff competition from a reinvigorated ATI which has some of their own solutions vying for the customers’ attention. That being said, with the 9800GX2 now riding the End of Life bandwagon the GTX 280 is the undisputed champ of the high performance video card world…but it comes at one heck of a price.


The New OCX Cards


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As we have already mentioned, BFG’s OCX cards have always been at the very forefront of pre-overclocked products with their high clock speeds. In this case the 8800GT OCX gets a 100Mhz bump on its core speeds coupled with a 200Mhz DDR increase in memory speeds. The icing on the cake comes with the Stream processors running at a blistering 1728Mhz.

Meanwhile, the 9600GT OCX is pushed quite hard as well with overclocks on the memory and GPU core of 150Mhz and 75Mhz respectively while the Stream processors are upped by 125Mhz. While these overclocks are not at the level of the 8800GT OCX, they are nonetheless quite impressive.

The tradeoff we see here is that both the 9600GT OCX and the 8800GT OCX cost significantly more than their stock-clocked brethren even though their overclocks look to be enough to affect real-world performance.
 
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SKYMTL

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The BFG Advantage: Lifetime Warranty & Trade-Up

The BFG Advantage: Lifetime Warranty & Trade-Up

With dozens of manufacturers vying for your attention in the highly competitive graphics card market, companies are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves from their competition. Some have gone the route of offering highly overclocked cards while others tend to focus on the customer satisfaction aspect of their business before thinking about increasing the performance of their products. BFG has been making a name for themselves by offering the best of both worlds by releasing both overclocked versions of their cards while giving a customer service experience that is second to none. Two of the major aspects of BFG’s commitment to their customers are their Lifetime Warranty and newly-introduced Trade-Up program.


Lifetime Warranty

One of the longtime marquees of BFG has been their Lifetime Warranty on all their graphics cards sold here in North America. From personal experience, all someone has to do is call BFG’s 24/7 customer support hotline, troubleshoot with the representative and if nothing comes of it an RMA number will be issued. This may seem too easy to be true but numerous posts across several tech-centric forums bear nothing but praise for BFG and the way they handle their customers. Indeed, our own http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/troubleshooting/1829-canadian-rma-experience-3.html thread has several posts about good experiences with BFG’s Lifetime Warranty. Just remember: in order to be eligible for the lifetime warranty you must register your card with BFG within 30 days of purchase.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers have one-upped BFG by offering their own lifetime warranties but unlike BFG they also cover aftermarket cooler installation and overclocking.

For more information about BFG’s Lifetime Warranty, please visit their website here: BFG Tech - Warranty


Trade-Up Program

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BFG has recently introduced their Trade-Up program which is in effect for 100 days after the purchase of a new BFG graphics card. This program gives a BFG customer piece of mind by offering them the opportunity to trade in their graphics card for a newer model within 100 days plus pay the difference in cost. The worth of the BFG graphics card you trade in is based off of the pre-determined MSRP of the card in question at the time you apply for the trade-up so this price will probably be quite a bit less after a few months. For now, there is only a few graphics cards listed on the Trade-Up page with their current trade-in value but that will change as more come out: BFG Tech - tradeupmatrix.

This means if you purchase either card we are reviewing here today, you will be able to trade it in for a better card if one is released within 100 calendar days of your invoice date. The only caveat about this is that your card’s value will be based off of the pre-determined BFG price whenever it is you choose to trade it in. In addition, you must register your card within 30 days to have a chance at trading it in for something better.
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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Both the 8800GT OCX and the 9600GT OCX come packaged in very plain looking black boxes which (unlike many others we have seen) offer a blissful amount of information on them. You may be used to seeing various macho characters portrayed on BFG boxes but since both these cards are bound for e-tailers, BFG leaves the usual flair off the covers.

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The cards are protected in BFG’s usual packaging method of first wrapping the card in bubble-wrap and then enclosing the whole affair with a cardboard façade. There is some additional Styrofoam thrown in for good measure which makes this an extremely durable way to protect the cards from any damage.

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9600GT Left / 8800GT Right

Considering the price premium we are paying for these cards, it was somewhat expected that they would come with very well-rounded accessory packages. Unfortunately, all which was included were the usual adaptors which are included with the stock cards. What is really perplexing is the fact that there was no SPDIF cable included for the 9600GT considering the card itself has an SPDIF connector right on the PCB.

All in all we get the run-of-the-mill DVI to VGA dongles, a TV-out connector and a single Molex to 6-pin power adaptor. That’s it folks.

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The rest of the bundle isn’t anything to write home about either with only the usual warranty information and technical instructions included. There is also a pair of BFG case badges and a driver CD with old drivers on it but that pretty much sums it up. All in all, we aren’t overly impressed with what BFG has included with these cards but let’s move onto the cards themselves.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the OCX Cards

A Closer Look at the OCX Cards


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The first distinguishing feature you will all see first is BFG’s inclusion of their new “Thermointelligence” heatsink installed on these cards in the place of the stock cooler. Both the 8800GT and the 9600GT keep their usual green PCBs and basic backplate layout.

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9600GT Left / 8800GT Right

Taking a bit closer look at each of these cards, it is obvious that even though they have quite high clocks, there have been no changes made to their PCBs in any way. Indeed, other than the dual-slot heatsink and increased clock speeds there is nothing to distinguish them from the reference Nvidia designs.

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As wit hall 9600GT cards, the BFG 9600GT OCX has an SPDIF connector included which can be used to pass audio signals through the card. If you were so inclined to get the optional DVI to HDMI dongle, you would be able to use a HDMI cable to pass both audio and video signals from the card to your receiver. Unfortunately, BFG did not include either the SPDIF cable or the DVI to HDMI adaptor.

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9600GT Left / 8800GT Right

The back portions of each card are dominated the VRM heatsinks which are used to disperse the excess heat these hot-running components produce. Other than that, there are the usual 6-pin PCI-E power connectors and an otherwise stock power distribution section. We are guessing BFG figures it wasn’t needed but we were a bit surprised to discover that despite the increased clock speeds of these cards, no effort was made to take advantage of the solder points for additional capacitors and VRMs.

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9600GT Left / 8800GT Right

Both backplates are identical to one another with the usual two DVI connectors and single TV-out port. What is interesting is that even though the heatsink is a dual-slot solution, the backplate uses a single slot. We would have liked to have seen the backplate extend upwards to include an exhaust grille to rid the case of some of the heat these coolers let go inside the confines of the enclosure but that wasn’t mean to be.
 

SKYMTL

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The New Thermointelligence Heatsink

The New Thermointelligence Heatsink


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While the last Thermointelligence cards had a custom-designed heatsink which looked very close to the one used on reference 8600-series cards, BFG has gone a bit different route with their newer cards. Both the 8800GT OCX and the 9600GT OCX have Zerotherm’s GX815 “Gamer Edition” installed to keep temperatures under control. Instead of the copper finish the stock GX815 comes with, BFG seems to want to stick with a bit more understated dark chrome finish.

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The center-mounted fan is rated to spin up to 3000RPM depending on the temperature of the core while pushing air outwards towards the fins which are mounted in a radial pattern around the core. All 120 of these thin fins is designed to take advantage of the air movement from the fan in order to pick up and then cool the heat from the heatpipes.

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This cooler comes with a single 6mm heatpipe that makes direct contact with the base of the heatsink and then transports the heat away from the core to be distributed to the fins. All in all, it is an interesting heatsink design but its major downfall is that all of the heat is left within your case with no way out.

The ramsinks are attached with a simple pushpin mounting method and are oriented to take advantage of the direction the air circulation takes from the heatsink’s fan.

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Both cards have identifying markings placed on one side of their ramsinks which is great for those of you with a side window on your cases. If you are spending this kind of money on either an 8800GT or a 9600GT, you are sure going to want people to know it…

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The crowning glory of these coolers is their green LEDs which are sure to catch anyone’s eye. It is a nice touch and even though we usually look down on these needless touches of “bling” BFG has kept this tasteful and somewhat understated.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9770 @ 3.852Ghz
Memory: G.Skill 2x 2GB DDR2-1000 @ 1052Mhz DDR
Motherboard: DFI LanParty DK X38 T2R
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 320GB SATAII
Fans: 2X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

BFG 8800GT OCX
BFG 9600GT OCX
Sapphire Radeon HD4850 512MB (Stock)
Palit Radeon HD4870 512MB (Stock)
EVGA 8800GT 512MB (stock)
XFX 8800GTS 512MB (stock)
BFG 9800 GTX (stock)
HIS HD3870 (stock)


Drivers:

ATI 4800 Series 5 Beta (release: June 23rd) Public availability: ???
Nvidia 175.19 WHQL
ATI Catalyst 8.6 WHWL (HD3870)

Due to the unpredictability of some beta drivers in Windows Vista x64, we have decided to only use WHQL drivers for all graphics cards other than the one being tested.


Applications Used:

3DMark06 Professional
3DMark Vantage
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Devil May Cry 4 Demo
Crysis
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Prey
Unreal Tournament III
World in Conflict


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

- If the game did not support 2560 x 1600 resolution, the closest resolution to that was used
 

SKYMTL

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3DMark 06

3DMark 06


While some may wonder at the use of still including 3DMark06 in the tests it gives us a good idea of the basic limitations of a graphics card. Since the standard test runs at 1280x1024 there will be a fair amount of CPU bottlenecking with higher-end cards and remember that in many cases a higher 3DMark score does not equate better performance. Here we have also included tests with AA and AF enabled

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Our first stop in our whirlwind benchmark session is 3DMark06 where we see both BFG OCX cards perform very well with the 8800GT nearly matching the scores of the 9800GTX and the 9600GT OCX right “up” there with the 8800GT.
 

SKYMTL

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3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses exclusively DX10 so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about running this benchmark. However, it presents us with a truly stressful test of any modern graphics card so we have decided to begin including it in our testing procedure.

Overall Score

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GPU Score

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CPU Score

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Here we see much the same as in 3DMark06 but with some very interesting differences. To begun with, the 8800GT OCX is actually able to surpass the stock 9800GTX in terms of scores at every resolution. In addition to this, the 9600GT OCX is behind the stock 8800GT at the Performance preset but surges ahead when using the High and Extreme presets. Overall, these are extremely impressive results.
 

SKYMTL

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Unreal Tournament III / Prey

Unreal Tournament III


With absolutely stunning graphics, this popular online FPS provides great visuals to go hand-in-hand with palm-sweating gameplay.

For these tests we set up a 15 minute Bot Match on the Serenity level and let it play though. All of the results were recorded with the in-game benchmark tool.

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Once again the 8800GT OCX surprised us quite a bit with its scores since it was once again right up there with the 9800GTX. The 9600GT OCX on the other hand performed well but couldn’t surpass the cheaper stock 8800GT.


Prey


Even though Prey may be a bit older game compared against many of the other ones we are testing, it still provides a workout of even the best graphics cards on the market. This time we have enabled its Graphics Boost feature (Gboost in the charts) and run through a custom timedemo.

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Here we see both OCX cards punching pretty far above their weight class with very, very good increases over their stock-clocked counterparts.
 
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