TABLE OF CONTENTS
We'll start the article with a story how NVIDIA and AMD/ATI created a hybrid method of launching Hi-End products. Do you remember 3dfx, which bought STB "upon itself", abandoned its partners, and started manufacturing video cards on its own? You surely remember how it all ended. Memorials in the list of NVIDIA trademarks.
ATI had also been reclusive until 2001. It didn't let any other companies manufacture video cards based on RADEON or RAGE 128/PRO (prior to radeons). But the disaster with 3dfx finally brought the Canadian company round. Since that time we have two camps of video card manufacturers: based on GPUs from ATI and from NVIDIA. Some companies gladly manufacture both types of video cards. However, Diamond Multimedia had manufactured video cards based on NVIDIA RIVA 128/TNT and 3dfx Voodoo2 even before 2000. The same concerns Creative - this company left the market of video cards.
Thus, ATI manufactured (to be more exact, ordered) few cards on its own after 2001. They were labeled "Built By ATI". All other cards were manufactured by partners. They bought processors from the chip maker, probably memory chips as well (it used to be fashionable some time ago - to sell CPU+memory kits). NVIDIA has never manufactured its cards on its own. It has always sold processors or those kits. Like the first cards, reference designs were manufactured by one of grand partners of NVIDIA.
But everything changed in 2002. There started to appear entire series of video cards for various price segments, not just new accelerators. The most expensive models were quite complex. The 256-bit memory bus appeared. So the production of GeForce FX 5800 (NV30) and RADEON 9700 (R300) was started at no-name plants. NVIDIA and ATI monitored the manufacturing process. And their partners, who used to manufacture cards on their own, had to content themselves with buying ready cards from the chip makers. Yes, it was done for such complex devices to pass the unified quality control. The chip makers were confident that all uber expensive products would meet all proper requirements.
This policy of manufacturing Hi-End cards has survived up to now. And now, all GeForce 7900 GTX, 7950GX2, 8800-series cards are manufactured at Flextronics and Foxconn plants, supervised by NVIDIA and by its orders. Partners just buy ready cards, not chips. The same situation concerns RADEON X1800, X1900/1950. Only the X1950 PRO, as a simpler product, is allowed to be manufactured by partners. So there are practically no plain reference cards based on this GPU. The other Hi-End cards are manufactured at Celestica, Foxconn, PC Partner plants under strict ATI's control. Moreover, all such cards are examined right in the office, in Toronto. It raises their prime cost (it's the stupidest idea to transport them from China to Canada and then back to distribution centers in South Eastern Asia). I guess the updated AMD company will change this situation and the common sense will prevail.
So we have learnt one more time that GeForce 8800 cards (all of them!) are manufactured at third-party plants. ASUS, MSI, Leadtek, etc just add their labels, bundle the cards, pack them as they please, and sell them through their channels. Neither NVIDIA nor AMD could have sold their products on such a grand scale through their own channels. Even though we cannot refer to NVIDIA and AMD as just chip makers now. They just design GPUs and order them at TSMC. Besides, they design video cards and order them at some plants.
We mean only the most expensive video cards. All cards below $300 are manufactured by partners. They buy chips and manufacture cards on their own.
In the light of the above said, we are actually going to examine reference cards GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS.
We'll have to repeat ourselves, because we already reviewed such cards. The card based on 8800 GTX is very long. In fact it's the longest video card for games we have ever tested. So it may not fit in some PC cases. You should keep it in mind. Besides, your PSU must have two power cables. PSU requirements are very high - no less than 450W, guaranteed 20A along the 12V line. The PCB contains a 384-bit bus. All chips are covered by a single cooler.
The 8800GTS-based card also has a PCB with a 384-bit bus. But it actually uses only 320 bit, because two chips are missing, just empty seats. That's one of the ways to cut down a High-End solution to make it cheaper. By the way, we've heard that this very PCB layout, just slightly reinforced, but just as long, will be used for the updated 8800GTX cards. These cards will be 220 mm long, not 270 mm.
The cards have TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV-set via S-Video or RCA. You can read about the TV-Out in more detail here.
Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:
What concerns MPEG2 playback features (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on all modern video cards does not exceed 25%. What concerns HDTV and other trendy video features, we are going to sort them out as soon as possible.
Now about the cooling systems. ASUS EN8800GTX (GeForce 8800 GTX) 768MB PCI-E and ASUS EN8800GTS (GeForce 8800 GTS) 640MB PCI-E are actually equipped with the same cooler.
It's a powerful imposing device that channels the heat from GPU and memory chips out of a PC case. The turbine is slow, so despite high power consumption, both cards are rather quiet and do not overheat, although the 8800GTX is on the brink of it.
You cannot remove this card from a computer right after you switch it off - you'll burn your hands.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
Video cards' performance
ASUS EN8800GTX (GeForce 8800 GTX) 768MB PCI-E is the most powerful video accelerator to date. As this product is actually not manufactured by ASUS, just a reference card, all the above-said applies to it. Our readers won't find anything new in this card. Just the bundle with an interesting game and a stylish CD album. The quality of the card is up to the mark, we have no gripes with it. But you should take into account that such cards may get very hot, so a good ventilation system inside your PC case is a must.
ASUS EN8800GTS (GeForce 8800 GTS) 640MB PCI-E - all the above-said holds true. This product is a tad weaker than the previous model. It does not get that hot, but your PC case still requires a good ventilation system. The 8800 GTS is very good for its price (recommended $500, not inflated $700 in Russian retail). We haven't tested the cards in overclocked modes, because we already reviewed such cards. And overclocking potential depends on a given sample.
The choice is up to our readers, as always. We just provide information about this or that product. But we don't give you direct instructions what products to choose.
You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.
Our Excellent Package award
is given to...
We express our thanks to
for the provided video cards
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
February 04, 2007
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