The NVIDIA 6200 with TurboCache is an entry-level graphics chip that is also a great demonstration of modern PC technology. Since the release of PCI Express most analysts and editors have been screaming for a reason to move past AGP since the current high end and mid range PCIe cards just don’t show a performance advantage. But here with the 6200TC, we have a saving grace for PCI Express since this is a technology that simply can’t be implemented on the AGP bus as the bandwidth is uni-directonal and much too slow. The 6200TC is probably the second best application and use of the PCI Express bus after SLI (see our investigation here) — interesting that both of these technologies are from NVIDIA.
The TurboCache technology also paints a pretty picture for high-end and mid-range applications. We have been waiting for 6800 Ultra cards with 512 MB of frame buffer for quite some time, but the cost of memory hasn’t been declining very quickly and these parts are being pushed back. NVIDIA may be able to work around that by having a 256 MB local frame buffer and another 256 MB of TurboCache like we are seeing today on the 6200TC. But in order to do the same latency hiding tricks that the 6200TC does, we would need to see a new high-end core. This might end up being a cheaper way to get Ultra Quality in Doom 3 into gamer’s hands.
The 6200TC is also significant because it completes the GeForce 6 series integration into every market NVIDIA wants to hit: entry level, mid-range and high-end. The 6200TC brings DirectX 9.0c and SM3.0 support to the $79 and $99 price range and gives game developers even more of a reason to start implementing the technology (like SM3.0) in their titles. And after all, that’s what we really want — technology that is used!
As of writing this, I had received two notifications from vendors that mention a 64 MB local frame buffer version of the 6200TC will be available. Since we were not provided with a reference card for that option in this article (we only have the 16MB and 32MB models), I can’t say for sure how overall performance is affected, but I would guess that it would improve by somewhere around 25-35% (by using math based on performance differences between the 16MB and 32MB 6200TC). If and when we can get a hold of one of these cards, we’ll let you know more.
This card is really going to be aimed at the OEM market for a while, as PCI Express systems still need to proliferate quite a bit. End users that are going to be building or buying systems with PCI Express are already going to be spending a lot of money on the upgrade and thus a $99 card is probably not going to be their first choice. The 6600GT or 6800 line are better suited for that early adopter market. For the time being, its the major OEMs that will be building cheap PCI Express systems that will xert the demand for a sub-$100 PCIe graphics card. Once we see PCIe become the dominant bus architecture in PCs, cards like the 6200TC will be great buys for the budget end-user.
For the cards that do end up reaching the retail channel, NVIDIA has an up-hill battle in marketing with the 6200TC, as users are likely going to be turned-off by a card that “only” has a 16 MB or 32 MB frame buffer, whereas the competing ATI cards have 128 MB of memory. NVIDIA and their partners are instead labeling their cards as “GeForce 6200 w/ TurboCache supporting 128 MB, including 32 MB of local TurboCache” — now that’s a product name for you!
The implications for the TurboCache technology also extend into the mobile market, as the ability to have a entry-level graphics solution that is lower power and smaller in profile is always appealing to the ODMs.
The GeForce 6200 with TurboCache technology is the fastest sub-$100 graphics card we have ever tested, and NVIDIA keen foresight into PCI Express has allowed them to reach the expected performance goal while still maintaining an incredibly low cost to the manufacturer (and hence the consumer). While users that want to do a lot of gaming may want to look towards the 6600 or 6800 lines for better game experience, users that are on a budget and are casually gaming (including even the latest titles like HL2 and Doom 3) should be more than happy with the results they see from this card.