XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 1
Introduction

When a new line of cards comes out everybody focuses on the top-end hardware, playing games at high resolutions and generally seeing how much they push the envelope. What we tend to forget is that after these "beasts" come out there's a whole score of cards that are produced for the low end...cards that more people are interested in from a cost perspective.

Today we have one such card in the labs. XFX are showing off their lower end 8400 GS. Take a look-see how it gets on...

Packaging

The packaging on the XFX 8400 GS is typical XFX, with the Cyber-Dog snarling on the front colour. One of the things that struck me was the size of the package with this card. It's only around 14cm x 20cm long and does seem to be quite small in comparison to almost every package I have come across, but then it is the low-end offering from XFX.

8400 gs packaging xfx 8400 gs packaging

The inside of the packaging is about as minimal as you can get with the card and the small amount of package you get placed inside the box.

xfx packaging inside

Not much protection from careless e-tailors or couriers here I fear.

Package

This has to be the least impressive package I have seen with a graphics card and leaves me slightly dissapointed in XFX's choice here. Again though, the card is a low end very cheap part.

We have:

* Installation Manual
* S-Video output guide
* Driver CD
* S-Video cable

XFX 8400 GS package

All in all pretty poor in my opinion. I was disappointed that the card didn't come with any decent method of connecting it to an HDTV, even a composite cable wasn't included. Having said that it is extremely cheap so it is hard to moan about this in light of the excellent low price

Specification

From XFX's web-site:

Chipset
GeForce™ 8400 GS
Memory Clock
800 MHz
Clock rate
450 MHz
Shader Clock
1200 MHz
Memory
256MB SUPPORTING 512MB
Fill Rate
3.6 billion/sec
Memory Bandwidth
6.4 GB/sec
Memory Type
DDR2
Memory Bus
64 bit
RAMDACs
400 MHz
Output
VGA, DVI, HDTV
Highlighted Features
Vista , RoHS , HDCP Ready , HDTV ready , Low Profile Compatible [bracket not included]


The card also supports nVidia PureVideo , which is a great bonus for those wanting good quality HD content, especially on a budget card like this one.

nvidia purevideo

The specs aren't too bad for a low end card, now let's see what it looks like...


XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 2
XFX 8400 GS close up

The XFX 8400 GS is a half-height graphics card and as such is totally suited to HTPC and Media Centre PC's. With an attractive black PCB the card starts off on a good foot with me. The cooler is pretty small and bordering on tacky looking but I don't think this card was exactly made for a case with a window. This slightly budget appearance is made worse by the piece of wire connecting the VGA output to the PCB.

xfx 8400 gs xfx 8400 gs rear

The memory isn't covered with a cooler and really the whole card looks like a classic budget card. Still, the fact that the card is half height will be a total plus to many who want a decent performing card in their thin media centre.

nvidia 8400 gs

The chip has a small shim on it and unlike the 8800 chip is actually "naked" with no IHS.

xfx 8400 gs outputs

The card has DVI, VGA and S-Video for output, providing all that you should need for input into pretty much any type of monitor/TV. If only XFX had included more cables in the box it would be a complete package really.

The Cooler

The main point of contention people may have with this card isn't really its diminutive size, it's the cooler XFX have chosen to put with it.

xfx 8400 gs fan

The fan that is on the card is a very small size fan and although quiet at idle, makes a loud high-pitch whining noise when at full load. On a positive note the temperatures were 47°C at idle and 56°C load with a rather hot 27°C ambient.

xfx 8400 gs paste xfx 8400 GS paste

As you can see the thermal paste is applied pretty well acrss the GPU but as you can also see the heatsink is literally a block of aluminium.

Moving on from the rather basic fare the card gives us, let us see how it performs.


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Test Setup

The setup is:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: XFX 650i Ultra
RAM: 1gb Mushkin XP2-5300 4-4-4-12
Sound: Creative Labs X-Fi fatal1ty FPS
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
Power: Silverstone Zeus 560w
Case: Silverstone TJ09
Cooling: Scythe Infinity

As this card is a low end card I really don't have a whole lot to compare to (and the previous low end card setup was with an AMD 64 single core machine). However I will try to portray the card as best as I can using the target resolution of 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA.

I am using a manual run-through of the games listed, exactly the same as in previous reviews, but doing it slightly differently to get some consistant numbers. As stated above the target resolution is 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA. All synthetic benchmarks are at the stock resolution.

For installation I have installed the card as usual , checked that the card is seated correctly and powered on.

I am using a clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 with all the latest patches.

nVidia drivers used were 162.18


XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 4
Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing at these high resolutions. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow.

Note that for this review I played at 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA

COD 2 benchmark


The card fares pretty well in CoD 2 at 1024 x 768 although it got a little laboured dropping to 10FPS at points. Of course, dropping AA to 0 would benefit the frame rate, but I feel this degrades the gaming experience and quite frankly looks horrible.

F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's top of the line GPU's. I played a fully updated game with the latest patches installed. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

The cards were played at 1024 x 768, 2 x AA, no FSAA and soft shadows disabled. All other settings were on maximum.

fear fps


FEAR was actually pretty smooth to play, the minimum FPS of 12 not affecting gameplay too much. Indeed it was a pleasent experience and looked pretty nice.

Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the high-end cards here. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card. In-game settings used:

oblivion in game settings oblivion settings 2

oblivion in game settings 3 oblivion in game settings

Oblivion was played with 1024 x 768 and no AA

oblivion fps

With no AA on the scene the card coped much better in Oblivion. Luckily Oblivion looks a lot better without AA on. The gaming was fairly smooth, not dropping too low.


XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 5
Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that nVidia traditionally did well on being an OpenGL game. Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.

Again I ran the test at 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA, this time using "High" settings in Quake 4.

quake 4 fps

With the slightly less nice-looking "High" settings used, the XFX 8400 GS coped well with 1024 x 768 and 2 x AA, delivering a smooth gaming experience.

Counter Strike: Source

Counter Strike: Source is a hugely popular online FPS game based on the Source engine by Valve. This will show what a typical gamer will play on their PC and is a great indication of real-world gaming performance as the engine is so scalable.

Again 1024 x 768 and 2 x AA (4 x AF) was set. I played on Dust with HDR enabled to give the card a good challenge.

counter strike source fps

As always, the excellent Source Engine scaled well with the card. FPS stayed generally high even with some challenging HDR on the scene. There's no doubt that an avid CS:S fan would find this card suitable to play their favourite game.

Command & Conquer 3

C&C3 is the much awaited RTS from EA. Hugely popular and with some pretty nice visuals almost every modern PC should be able to play it. I tested a skirmish right at the end when I had a screen full of mechs to defeat the enemy.

I used 1024 x 768 and the following in-game settings:

cnc3 settings

Here's what the FPS looked like:

cnc3 fps

Whilst coping well generally with C&C 3, the XFX 8400 GS seemed to lag a little when a lot was happening on the screen which surprised me as I had adjusted the settings down somewhat. This left me slightly dissapointed.


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Game Quality Screenshots

Me telling you that I am playing at these settings is all very well, but what do they actually look like? Well I've compiled a few screenshots of the games I played through (though not necessarily actually during the test run) to show you what to expect. Click each image for full-size.

cnc 3 screenie cod 2

As you can see, Command and Conquer 3 looks pretty decent at this level of detail. Unfortunately whilst playing I was a little disappointed with CoD 2, but that may be just because I am used to it at Ultra-high resolution and detail.

fear detail quake 4 detail

FEAR and Quake 4 scaled very well, looking pretty nice at this level of detail.

Overall gaming at 1024 x 768 and 2 x AA was a pretty decent experience. Is it worth spending the extra for high resolution and detail? Depends on your aim I suppose, but I prefer higher resolution gaming.

HD Playback

HD playback is something that many people are pretty keen to get in their media centres and HTPC's. I tested the HD playback quality using both Windows Media Player 11 WMV HD content (Terminator 2 HD) and H.264 playback using the open-source movie Elephants Dream. I used my Dell 2405 FPW for 1080i and 720p playback. I made sure that I scaled down the screen to fit the content to properley judge the image quality. I used the PureVideo features of the GPU during the review.

WMV HD


T2 HD

Playing back WMV HD content was a good experience at 720p. The playback was smooth and glitch free. Moving up to 1080i there was the very occassional stutter, but this was only noticible as I was watching very closely.

H.264 Content

elephants dream

Playback of H.264 content was smooth throughout and was a pleasurable experience again. No stutter was experienced.

Generally I saw fairly low CPU usage during playback and luckily the dreaded whiney fan didn't kick in during play. I would say that the XFX 8400 GS is more than suitable for media centre HD content. nVidia's PureVideo made short work of both HD formats used.

Note that the XFX 8400 GS is HDCP-ready and could in theory be used with a HDCP TV. 

Additionally after enquiring with XFX about the noise I have found out that an XFX 8400 GS is being produced without a fan, though pricing and availability is not available at this time.

passive card


XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 7
Article <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 05/08/07
Author: Matt Kemp
Source: XFX


Overclocking


On the XFX 8400 GS I used Rivatuner. No volt mods or software mods have been used apart from increasing the clock speeds.

 Stock
Clocks
Overclocked
Core Clock
Stock Memory
Clocks
Overlocked
Memory Clock
XFX 8400GS450
551
800
940


This means that we got the following on the graph:

overclock graph

The core overclocked by a pretty huge 22% to 551MHz and the memory also got an impressive 17.6% overclock to 940MHz. That's a pretty nice OC so let's see how this affects performance by a quick 3DMark06 run:

3dmark06 stock vs OC

A nice increase of 345 3DMarks shows us that the overclock is an effective one.


XFX 8400 GS 256mb Page: 8
Article <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 05/08/07
Author: Matt Kemp
Source: XFX


Conclusion

The XFX 8400 GS is a pretty decently performing little card. Gaming at 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA is a nice experience and was fairly smooth throughout testing. HD playback was good and the cards features are definately suitable for a media centre.

However my biggest problem is that the fan on the cooler is whiney at full speed and would get incredibly annoying, especially if it was a tense moment in a game or it happened to ramp up during movie playback.

For around £30 from our recommended retailer Komplett and SpecialTech the card is certainly well whithin reach for a large amount of the people wanting to play decent modern games at respectable resolutions.

komplett recommended retailer

This is also available at CCL Online

As such I am giving the card a "Value for Money Award". When XFX brings out the card with a passive cooler I won't hesitate to award our "HTPC Approved" Award too, and we'll look forward to this in the near future.

Value For $$ Award

The Good

+ Decent performance at 1024 x 768
+ Good HD Media playback
+ Excellent Value for money
+ DX10 on a budget

The Mediocre

* Not too bad looking
* Fairly cool

The Bad

- Very loud fan at full load

Thanks to XFX for the review sample

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