Gigabyte GA-660
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Introduction
In the past setting out to review next-generation graphics accelerators for the super7 platform has been a somewhat daunting task.  Since Intel-based system boards far outsell VIA, ALi and SiS based boards, is it any wonder that hardware hits the shelves as soon as it performs with relative stability within the average Intel-based  system.  Super7 users often have to wait weeks if not months for adequate driver support whether from the chipset or hardware manufacturer themselves.  Our first TNT2 based card, the Asus V3800TVR 32MB AGP, offered decent performance at a somewhat high price but instability with the ALi Aladdin V chipset left us somewhat dissatisfied.  However after giving Gigabyte's GA-660 graphics card, that all may be about to change.

Gigabyte, best known perhaps for its fine line of mainboards, has for some time now turned their expertise to manufacturing a pretty fair line of graphics accelerators. Their current offering in the high performance arena is the GA-660. Based on nVidia's TNT2 chip, the card comes with 16 or 32MB of quality -7ns Samsung SDRAM and also offers a model (GA-660F) capable of flat panel digital display.

GIGABYTE GA-660 KEY FEATURES

  • nVidia RIVA TNT2, 2D/3D graphics processor
  • 128-bit TwiN-Texel (TNT) architecture
  • 16/32MB 166MHz capable frame buffer with 128-bit interface
  • AGP 4X/2X/1X interface with sideband addressing
  • 300MHz RAMDAC
  • Single-pass multi-texturing
  • 32-bit true color rendering
  • Per-pixel MIP-mapping
  • Optimized for Direct3D acceleration

 

ADVANCED 3D FEATURES
  • Hardware triangle setup engine
  • Optimized for Direct3D acceleration
  • Complete DirectX 6.X support
  • TwiN-Texel (TNT) 32-bit graphics pipeline
  • 2 texture-mapped, lit pixels per clock
  • Single pass multi-texturing
  •  Square and non-square texture support
  • Texture blending support, including:
  • Multi-textures, bump maps, texture modulation, Light maps, reflection maps, environmental maps
  • Backend blending, including:
             
    DirectX 6.X: 121 modes supported for source, destination and alpha blending  
    32-bit ARGB rendering with destination alpha 
    Point sampled, bilinear, trilinear, and 8-tap 
    anisotropic filtering 
  • Per-pixel, perspective-correct, texture mapping, including fog, light, mip mapping
  • 24-bit or 16-bit Z-buffer and 8-bit stencil buffer
  • Anti-aliasing (full scene and order independent)

DRIVER SUPPORT
 Windows 9X, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000
 DirectDraw, Direct3D, DirectVideo, and ActiveX
 OpenGL ICD for Windows 95/98 and NT
 Standard 32-bit VGA and SVGA support

2D ACCELERATION
  • 128-bit graphics engine, optimized for single cycle operation
  • Internal 256-bit data paths for high speed Windows acceleration
  • Pipeline optimized for multiple color depths
  • Execution of all 256 raster operations
  • Multi-buffering (double, triple, and quad) for smooth animation
  • True color hardware cursor

VIDEO ACCELERATION

  • Acceleration of full-motion video playback, sustaining 30 frames per second with high quality color resolution
  • Implements true bilinear filtering for scaled video
  • Backend hardware video scaling for video conferencing and playback
  • Hardware color space conversion and multi-tap X and Y filtering
  • Support for scaled field interframing
  • Per-pixel color keying
  • Multiple video windows with hardware color space conversion and filtering
  • Support for software MPEG acceleration and H.261 video conferencing
  • DVD sub-picture alpha blending compositing
  • Video acceleration for DirectShow, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and Indeo

 

2D VIDEO MODES

Resolution Color Depth Max. Refresh Rate
Up to 640X480 8/16/32 240Hz
800X600 8/16/32 240Hz
960X720 8/16/32 200Hz
1024X768 8/16/32 200Hz
1152X864 8/16/32 170/170/150Hz
1280X1024 8/16/32 150/150/120Hz
1600X900 8/16/32 120/120/100Hz
1600X1200 8/16/32 100/100/85Hz
1920X1080 8/16/32 85/85/85Hz
1900X1200 8/16/32 85/85/75Hz
2048X1536 8/16 60/60Hz

Packaging
With an MSRP of $170.00 the GA-660 is one of the lowest priced of the TNT2 cards currently available. Consequently you won't find a whole lot of extras. The card ships brightly boxed with a reasonably decent User's Guide and driver's CD. This holds drivers for Windows 9x and NT 4.0 as well as Windows 2000 beta drivers, runtime libraries for DirectX 6.1, a BIOS flash utility and a few rather useless utilities  CDWizard 98 from CyberLink, HighPoint XStore Pro, an OEM version of Trend's PC-cillin and the Final Reality 1.01 benchmark.  Gigabyte has already released updated drivers based on nVidia's Detonator ver 1.88 that most assuredly boost the card's performance as well as compatibility but the Win 9x drivers on the CD are good enough to get you up and running.The User's Guide is fairly well illustrated and informative but seems to have been translated with a Chinese/English dictionary.  Still, it does get the point across and installation of both the hardware and software are thoroughly covered.

Smaller than many typical TNT2 cards, Gigabyte built the GA-660 on a cool blue tinted PCB with 4 - 8MB -7ns (143MHz) SDRAMs and the TNT2 chip itself is cooled with a heatsink/fan combo of small but effective proportion.  

This heatsink/fan combo features a ball bearing fan that is remarkably quiet and is attached to an additional heatsink on the reverse of the board. This helps to keep the GA-660 cool even under the most stressful of operations. 

Unlike the majority of TNT2 cards in current release, Gigabyte has opted not to include the means to overclock the graphics engine or memory by means of a software utility, choosing instead to allow users to set the card in "Turbo Mode" by means of a jumper setting on the card itself. I have heard allusions to including a software utility to achieve this same end in future driver releases but have heard nothing concrete from Gigabyte themselves.  The GA-660's standard mode provides for a core frequency of 125MHz and a memory speed of 150MHz.  Setting the card to "Turbo Mode" increased these settings to 156MHz and 156MHz respectively and with -7ns SDRAMs it is rather unlikely that you would get stable performance increasing the memory to much more than that although you could conceivably get 166MHz out of them. One cool feature of the Turbo setting is that the BIOS reports it onscreen at boot up so you'll know from the get whether it's on or off.

Image Quality & Performance

 

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