MSI was funky enough to send over its brand new Ares graphics card for us to take a look at. The card is based on the standard 6600 chipset, and it's got some neat features which make it rather good for overclocking.
The standard clock speeds of the 6600 are 350MHz core and 800MHz memory. The Ares includes MSI's Dynamic Overclocking Technology - a software utility that gives you a decent amount of playability over the clocks you're using from within Windows. The card comes with more memory than is normal for the 6600, with 256MB of DDR2 included on board.
By default, the Ares clocks up to 385/880 at the 'Extreme' setting. However, with RivaTuner, we were able to push the card up to 420/970 with 100% stability.
Without using RivaTuner, letting MSI's D.O.T. do its own thing on 'Automatic' yielded similar results to RivaTuner.
We benchmarked the card in Quake 4 and FEAR to see what difference it made, and the difference between stock and highly overclocked was, obviously, pretty stark.
The card is going to be on sale in roughly a month, and will cost in the region of £100-£105. That is roughly equivalent to a 6600GT card from XFX with 256MB of memory that is clocked a little higher, so quite how this product will interact with the upcoming mainstream line from Nvidia, and the existing freefall prices of the 6600 we're not sure - but it looks like it could end up being good value for the gamer on a cut-price budget, depending on how MSI play it after CeBit, where the card officially launches.
We will, of course, have full coverage of MSI's activities at the German show next week, but for now, take a look at these benches (which show the scaling of the card from stock speeds to overclocked) and let us know what you reckon over in the forum.