On April 17th, NVIDIA launched its mainstream line-up of Graphics Processing Units (GPU) based on their performance-leading GeForce 8 architecture by announcing the GeForce 8600 GTS, the GeForce 8600 GT and the GeForce 8500 GT.
NVIDIA GeForce Logo
The coup de grace delivered by announcement of these video cards is that more than half of NVIDIA's full top-to-bottom product line-up is now Windows Vista and DirectX 10-ready while their competitor has yet to launch a product in this field.
As is the case with the rest of the recently-announced mainstream line-up, the GeForce 8500 GT is manufacturer using an 80nm fabrication process, which allows its more performance-oriented brethren to offer higher core clock speeds than are attainable on the older 90nm fabrication. However, high core and memory clock speeds are not to be found on the GPUs targeted at the lower end of the performance spectrum, but that's not to say that this GPU can't still pack a punch!
GeForce 8500 GT & 8600 GT Specifications
Here we see that although the 8500 GT and 8600 GT are within the same line-up, they are two distinct and very different chips. NVIDIA differentiates its chips by price and performance. A look at the above chart displays a few key performance differentiators between the 8500-class and the 8600-class: use of DDR2 rather than GDDR3, half the stream processors, and a much lower fill rate.
One of the key features of the GeForce 8 Series mainstream line-up is the addition of PureVideo2 engine to NVIDIA's PureVideo HD technology. The new PureVideo2 engine allows the GPU to offload 100% of the processing required for decoding high-definition (HD) video playback content encoded in VC-1 and H264 such as that found on Blu-ray and HD DVD. This will allow high-quality playback on mainstream CPUs, which might not have the processing power to handle HD content without skipping frames. Use of the PureVideo HD technology with the 8500 GT is currently only supported via the ForceWare drivers for Windows Vista. NVIDIA has stated that they expect to be adding PureVideo HD capabilities to the 8500 GT when running under Windows XP in June.
Next, we take a look at the XFX GeForce 8500 GT that we've been testing.