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Review: Inno3D iChiLL 8600GTS XStriker3

by James Thorburn on 27 June 2007, 08:54

Tags: Inno3D 8600GTS, Inno3D

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Card appearance


As with its forerunner, the iChiLL 8600GTS XStriker3 is somewhat different from the NVIDIA reference design on which it's based. That's unlike the competing cards we've looked at before, the MSI NX8600GTS-T2D256E-HD-OC and ECS N8600GTS-256MX+.

Inno3D has replaced the reference cooler by a slightly-cumbersome looking heat-pipe and finned design - XStriker3 - that gives the card its name.

This does genuinely appear to be a custom design, in contrast with the cooler used to great effect on the 7900GS - an Arctic Cooling NV Silencer 6.

The XStriker3 has a pair of copper heat-pipes running from the GPU core to its aluminium fins and the whole is cooled by a single 70mm fan.



But, as the shot directly above shows, the XStriker3 doesn't cool the card's memory chips. However, these carry small aluminium heat-sinks that should receive some airflow since the base of the fan is not enclosed.

The cooler itself sits at a strange angle, giving the rather worrying - but incorrect - impression not only that it's a very late after-thought but also hasn't even been fitted properly.

However, if the cooler proves effective, few will worry about its quirky appearance.

From the image below, you can see that the iChiLL 8600GTS XStriker3 is very much a two-slot card - unlike models that carry a reference cooler.

The cooler moves air to the front and the back of the card but the backplane bracket only occupies a single slot. So, for optimum cooling performance, you'll need to remove the blanking plate from the slot below where the card sits.

As you'd hope, the enhanced cooling indicates that the card comes pre-overclocked.

The core has been increased to 705MHz from the standard 675MHz and the GDDR3 memory is given a 100MHz boost to 2100MHz. However, the shader units are left at their stock speed.

These speed-bumps, though, seem a little tame compared to those offered by the ECS and MSI cards, where the core is pushed to 720MHz and memory to 2200MHz.

However, like the Inno3D, the ECS did leave its shader units running at stock speed. We were unable to verify the shader speeds for the MSI board card, so can't comment further there.


A quick glance at the markings and layout of the back of the card reveal that Inno3D has made no substantive changes to the PCB design.

About all we could spot was a non-standard pin arrangement for the fan header. The standard 8600GTS uses a four-pin connector, whereas the Inno3D has a simple two-pin header, as required by the XStriker3's fan.

This could have some implications for those looking to fit a different cooler to the card. We'd guess that such a move would only be likely in the event of the supplied fan dying. But, at that point, the user would probably have to turn to Inno3D for a replacement.

A further downside is that the cooler doesn't take advantage of the temperature-controlled fan speeds of the reference card. As best we could tell, the Inno3D's fan spins at a constant speed.

As you'd expect from the reference PCB design, the outputs are standard as well - a pair of dual-link DVIs, complete with HDCP encoders. So, you could run even a Dell 3007WFP at its native resolution while still receiving full HDCP support for playback of movies on Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD.

Alongside is a TV-out connector but there's no provision for video-in.

The ports all have a stylish gold-and-black finish that's claimed to improve signal quality and reduce oxidation. This also makes the card look nicely pimped out for all you back-of-case admirers out there.

Summary

Thanks to the XStriker3 cooler, full-load temperatures are a few degrees lower than for the reference-cooled ECS card. That's as it should be, of course, especially since the core and memory speeds are slower than for the ECS and the card is using a second slot for exhausting heat.

One positive is that the Inno3D is slightly quieter at idle than the ECS and noticeably quieter in 3D mode. Even so, it's far from being a silent design.

It would have been nice to have seen Inno3D being a little more aggressive on clock speeds, especially considering we have not been overly impressed by the level of performance offered by higher-clocked competitor products. Inno3D was unable to provide us with pricing information but we believe that the iChiLL 8600GTS Striker3 will be pitched at around £135, allowing it to undercut the ECS by about a tenner.