TABLE OF CONTENTS
NVIDIA has officially launched GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB on February 12, 2007. It has become the cheapest Hi-End solution of the GeForce 8800 series.
As a result, the updated 8800 series looks like this:
Our readers might have already read the baseline article about these cards and formed an opinion. Considering that many users still ask questions about the differences between these products, and which manufacturer offers higher quality, we decided to publish another article about these cards. But it will be rather short.
The main point that I want to get across to our readers once again is that all 8800 video cards are manufactured at two plants by NVIDIA's orders. For the sake of simplicity we'll assume that they are manufactured by NVIDIA. Its partners - ASUS, MSI, Palit, Gigabyte, XFX, BFG, Leadtek, etc - just buy ready cards from this Californian company. So here comes the main conclusion: ALL GeForce 8800 CARDS OFFER IDENTICAL QUALITY, because they all come from two assembly lines and they all passed NVIDIA's severe quality control. It was toughened after November 2006, when the first lot of GeForce 8800 GTX cards contained defective video cards, which were then recalled and repaired.
Now about the color of cards. The appearance of green PCBs in 8800-series cards raised some gossip and fantasies. Some forum users even wrote that all black cards were defective, while green models were fully functional. We assure you that they are utterly wrong! Only the first lot (November 2006) was defective. They are gone long ago (the cards were replaced or returned by warranty). PCB color just indicates that most cards are manufactured by Flextronics, which has been manufacturing green reference cards for NVIDIA for a long time. I shall not mention who manufactured (and is still manufacturing) black cards, experienced readers have already guessed it.
So, our article will review four video accelerators. As I have already mentioned, they are all absolutely the same (you can see it well even on the collage in the beginning of the article). But one of them operates at higher frequencies.
At the same time, we should introduce a new brand on our market - Zotac. Zotac Technology is related to well-known Sapphire Technology. Both companies are independent and have nothing to do with each other. But they have the same "father" - powerful PC Partner. Sapphire became a daughter company to let PC Partner enter the market with a retail brand and sell video cards with ATI processors. And now there appeared a company to sell NVIDIA cards under Zotac trademark. All these long years, PC Partner has been into OEM manufacturing and outsourcing.
But as in case of RADEON X1950 XT and Sapphire buying these cards from ATI; Zotac also just buys GeForce 8800 cards.
I think it's unnecessary to remind you that all such cards are identical, but I'll do it anyway. The photos also prove that these are copies of reference cards. That is we can say that all 8800 GTS cards are manufactured by NVIDIA, not by its partners.
That's why all 8800 GTS/GTX cards are as like as two peas. Except for overclocked models, of course - they are already appearing on the market. Even in this case, they differ only in raised frequencies, the cards preserve their reference design. Note that the highest overclocking is currently demonstrated by the Foxconn product, while the other three cards operate at the standard frequencies.
Amazingly, there are no stickers or labels on the card from Foxconn, which would have indicated its increased frequencies. Only the box has a sticker.
All these 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.
Pay attention to the lack of Modify Full-Screen Video Options in the driver for all 8800 cards - this option is responsible for full-screen video playback mode on the second display (while the primary display plays video in a window).
This option may be locked due to some problems with the NVIO chip. We can only inform our readers that the latest generation of video cards from NVIDIA currently lacks this feature. It's difficult to say whether it will be fixed and when.
All the cards require additional power, so each one contains a black 6-pin connector. If your PSU does not have this cable, the cards are bundled with a splitter to connect to any power cable with a Molex.
Now about the cooling systems.
Even when the core is overclocked to 575 MHz, its temperature does not exceed 85°C (not dangerous). And fan speed does not grow much, so there is practically no noise.
On the whole, the bundles are not brilliant, sometimes even over-modest.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
Video cards' performance
If you understand 3D graphics, you may draw your own conclusions from the diagrams below. What concerns beginners and those who just started to look for a video card, we shall include some explanations.
Firstly, you should look through our reference materials on modern video cards and their GPUs. Note operating frequencies, support for modern technologies (shaders), as well as a pipeline architecture.
Secondly, if you have just faced the problem of choosing a video card and are at a loss, our 3D-Video section offers articles about 3D basics (you will still have to understand them - when you run a game and open its options, you'll see such notions as textures, lighting, etc) as well as reviews of new products. There are just two companies that manufacture graphics processors: ATI (it has been recently bought by AMD and now bears the same name - AMD) and NVIDIA. So most information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly 3Digests that sum up all comparisons of video cards for various price segments.
Thirdly, analyze test results of the video cards under review. As these cards are actually no different from the previously reviewed models from BFG/MSI and Foxconn, there is no point in publishing new diagrams and tables. You must understand that the title of the card (8800 GTS 320MB) without mentioning a vendor (manufacturer) belongs to the three cards under review (from Leadtek, Zotac and ECS). Results of MSI 8800 GTS 320 should be also referred to the Foxconn product with increased frequencies, because these products are almost identical.
FarCry, Research (No HDR)
We can see well that we should analyze only modes with antialiasing and anisotropy. These modes show that the 8800 GTS 320MB, even operating at its nominal frequencies, outperforms all its competitors, including more expensive cards.
There are almost no differences from the 640MB modification of the 8800 GTS card, 320MB are enough.
FarCry, Research (HDR)
But HDR mode significantly drops performance, much lower than in RADEON X1950. So we can establish a fact that only the fastest accelerator from Foxconn (the MSI label on the diagrams) managed to become an absolute winner. Although other products also offer good performance.
Differences from the 8800 GTS 640MB appeared clearly only in the highest resolutions.
All the three cards are successful here. Even the slowest card operating at the nominal frequencies (the 8800 GTS 320MB) demonstrated good results, being outperformed only by the more expensive 7950GX2.
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (No HDR)
The situation changes in this game. Only the fastest product from Foxconn becomes a leader (the victory of the 7950GX2 does not count)
And the other cards are actually on the level of the X1950 XT or even lower. But they are definitely better than the 7900 GTX. Consequently they are much better than the 7950GT (it's actually the 7900 GTX card operating at reduced frequencies).
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (HDR)
It's almost a similar situation. Performance drop from HDR in NVIDIA products is again a tad greater than in AMD products.
Call Of Juarez
It's a new game, much more complex than even FEAR. The most powerful cards are brought to knees by maximum settings. That's where we can see the stunning superiority of the new cards over the previous generation.
Have a look at the percentage. We don't even have to enumerate cards: the breakaway is so large!
By the way, 320MB of memory are sufficient here as well, there are no differences from the 8800 GTS 640.
BUT DON'T FORGET THAT 8800-SERIES CARDS WITH THE LATEST DRIVERS (mid February - Version 97.92) DEMONSTRATE GRAVE ARTIFACTS. SO IT'S TOO EARLY TO BE HOPEFUL. PERFORMANCE MAY DROP, WHEN THE BUG IS FIXED.
Company Of Heroes
This is also a relatively new game. But look how radically the situation has changed!
Alas, even the fastest 8800 GTS 320 from Foxconn is outperformed by RADEON X1950.
Serious Sam II (No HDR)
This test demonstrates a huge array of textures, memory size starts to play an important role: the difference from the 640MB card is great.
On the whole, the 8800 GTS fares well in this game. Even the slowest modification.
Serious Sam II (HDR)
It's a similar situation here. We can see that the new cards win.
OpenGL and games based on engines from id Software have always been good to NVIDIA products. The 8800 GTS is at advantage in this case as well.
3DMark06: SHADER 2.0 MARKS
3DMark06: SHADER 3.0 MARKS
I'll analyze all 3DMark test results at once. There is actually nothing to say: The new products based on the 8800 GTS 320MB are always victorious. It was to be expected, considering characteristics of the cores and cards: the power of shader computations is evident.
Zotac GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB PCI-E is a standard video card of this class. It does not stand out in bundle and frequencies. You consider its price. If it's not higher than for other similar products, you should pay closer attention to this card. Don't forget that all 8800 GTS cards are manufactured at the same plant by NVIDIA's orders. I also want to remind you that Zotac is a daughter company of PC Partner (like Sapphire Technology). It was created to sell PC Partner products in the retail market.
ECS GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB PCI-E - our conclusions are identical, because ECS didn't introduce anything original in this card either. The card has a minimal bundle. There are no increased frequencies either. So let's consider the prices and then make our choice.
Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTS Overclocking Version 320MB PCI-E is currently the fastest 8800 GTS 320MB card. But you should be careful when you buy it, because stickers informing users about the increased clocking are available only on the boxes. There is no information on the cards themselves. It may be the case only with our sample, while all production-line cards will also have stickers on PCBs.
Leadtek WinFast PX8800GTS TDH 320MB PCI-E is also a standard card operating at standard frequencies. Its bundle is spiced up with two games. And we should also mention an unusual cooler cap. Although it has a little effect. It just looks better.
On the whole, all the four cards were stable, we had no gripes with their operation. They are actually identical cards. You see, everything is simple. No more interesting unusual cards in the Hi-End segment. We have nothing to say even about Leadtek, which has always offered interesting R&D solutions. So I want to ask you not to overpay for titles and bright boxes. Trust me, all GeForce 8800 cards have the same quality and come from a couple of assembly lines.
Watch the prices! And don't say that you were not warned. All our conclusions may go to pot, if vendors raise prices so that the 8800 GTS 640MB is cheaper. By the way, speaking of the competition with RADEON X1950. Don't forget that the latter cards do not support DirectX 10 on the hardware level. And this technology belongs to the future.
The choice is up to our readers, as always. We can only inform you about this or that product. But we do not give direct instructions which products to choose.
And one more thing: having decided to choose a 3D accelerator on your own (a video card in your computer), you should understand that you change one of the key components of your system unit, which cannot and shouldn't work without proper configuration. This is not an end product, it's just a component. So you should understand that you'll have to learn 3D graphics basics in order to get maximum performance from a new video card. And some graphics as well. If you don't want to deal with it, you shouldn't upgrade your computer on your own: you'd better buy ready PCs with preconfigured software, or game boxes, where no configuration is required.
You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.
We'd like to thank
and Natasha Lagunenko
and Alexander Trukhachev
for the provided video cards
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
March 13, 2007
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