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XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E

June 5, 2007






Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Videocards features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions

Today we are going to examine a couple of overclocked GeForce 8800 GTX cards as well as an 8800 GTS 320MB solution.

The card from XFX is one of the fastest in its class and is one of the best choices, though it yields to EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX ACS3.

The second card is a very interesting GeForce 8800 GTX from MSI equipped with a powerful liquid cooling system. Its efficiency allowed to raise card frequencies up to 610/2000 MHz. That's why it's the fastest product of all three reviewed today.

The third accelerator is a simple 8800 GTS 320MB reference card from ASUS.

Videocards

MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 8800 GTX (G80)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 610/1350 MHz (nominal — 575/1350 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 1000 (2000) MHz (nominal — 900 (1800) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 384bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 128
  • Texture processors: 32
  • ROPs: 24
  • Dimensions: 270×100×33 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a videocard).
  • PCB color: green
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: in a separate chip.
  • Output connectors: 2×DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).




XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 8800 GTX (G80)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 600/1350 MHz (nominal — 575/1350 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 950 (1900) MHz (nominal — 900 (1800) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 384bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 128
  • Texture processors: 32
  • ROPs: 24
  • Dimensions: 270×100×33 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a videocard).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: in a separate chip.
  • Output connectors: 2×DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).




ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 8800 GTS (G80)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 512/1200 MHz (nominal — 512/1200 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 800 (1600) MHz (nominal — 800 (1600) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 320bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 96
  • Texture processors: 24
  • ROPs: 20
  • Dimensions: 220×100×33 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a videocard).
  • PCB color: green.
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: in a separate chip.
  • Output connectors: 2×DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).






XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
Each videocard has 768 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in twelve chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.0 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1000 (2000) MHz.




ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
The videocard has 320 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in ten chips on the front side of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (GDDR3). 1.1ns memory access time, which corresponds to 900 (1800) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX
MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS


Comparison with the reference design, back view
XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX
MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS


A simple examination shows that these are typical reference cards. I repeat that all such cards are currently not manufactured by NVIDIA partners. The Californian company places orders at third-party plants and then sells ready cards to its partners.

That's why all 8800 GTS/GTX cards are as like as two peas. Of course, except for overclocked models that abound in the market. Even in this case, they differ only in raised frequencies, the cards preserve their reference design.

The above-said applies to cards themselves. And now what concerns cooling systems. As we can see in the MSI card, these devices can be installed by NVIDIA partners now. They are not bound to use default coolers. But we'll write about it below.

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:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 × 1536 × 32bit ×85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 × 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface (both DVI jacks in 8800-series cards are Dual-Link ones, 7600-7300 cards may have only one such jack with Dual-Link)

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 videocards does not exceed 25%. What concerns HDTV and other trendy video features, we are going to sort them out as soon as possible.

All the cards require additional power, so each one contains a black 6-pin connector (the 8800 GTX model has two of them). The cards are bundled with a splitter to connect to any power cable with a Molex in case your PSU does not have this cable.

Now about the cooling systems.

XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
All these cards actually use the same cooler (the 8800 GTX has a longer heatsink). With the launch of the 8800 series we roll back to the old turbine design with a fan at one end of a closed heatsink that drives the air through.

This solution has a number of advantages.

Firstly, the device drives ALL hot air out of a PC case.

Secondly, the turbine is very large and slow, so it's quiet even under heavy load.

Thirdly, efficiency of the cooling system is reinforced by heat pipes at the sides of the heatsink.

The cooler is not heavy, as copper is used only for the plate that touches the GPU. Other components are made of aluminum alloy. The design resembles devices from Arctic Cooling.

We found out that the cooling system worked very efficiently in all cases and did not allow the core temperature to rise above 85°C. But on the whole, both 8800 cards get very hot during operation, their PCBs may even burn your fingers. So you'd better install a good ventilation system inside your PC case.










MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E

This videocard actually differs from the other cards and MSI 8800 GTX models only in its unique cooling system.

You can see on the photos that the device, which uses water as coolant, consists of a water block installed on a GPU (it also cools the heatsink that covers memory chips and NVIO); a pump mounted on the card and powered from it; an expansion vessel and connecting pipes.

We have practically no gripes with the noise. A large fan on the expansion vessel is slow and generates minimum noise. Pump noise blends with the general noise of your system unit (it does not rise above the background noise).







We've analyzed temperature conditions of XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E using RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder) and obtained the following results:

XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E





As we can see, the temperature does not exceed the critical mark (90 degrees and higher), the cooler is not noisier than the overall background.

Here are results demonstrated by the card from MSI:

MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E


The cooling system copes well with its task even when the card is overclocked!

Bundle

XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E
MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E
It's a standard bundle: A pile of papers with various warnings and instructions which slots to avoid, a CD with drivers and software, CD with an old game, two DVI-to-VGA adapters, external power splitter, component output adapter.


ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E
It's a similar bundle, plus a leather CD album. It also includes CDs with additional software, for example, 3Dmark06.


Packages

MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E

A traditional huge box-bag. All components are arranged into compartments inside. The card itself is secured in a foamed polyurethane section.




XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E

A large box in a jacket of the traditional design. All components are arranged into compartments inside. The card itself drowns in a sea of foam-rubber, so damages in transit are out of the question.




ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E

ASUS offers a traditional huge box-bag. But while the bundle may move around inside the box (it's not secured well in compartments), the card itself is put inside a special box made of foamed polyurethane, so it's protected from damages.




Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Intel Core2 Duo (775 Socket) based computer
    • CPU: Intel Core2 Duo Extreme X6800 (2930 MHz) (L2=4096K)
    • Motherboard: EVGA nForce 680i SLI on NVIDIA nForce 680i
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1142MHz (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
    • PSU: Tagan 1100-U95 (1100W).

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitor: Dell 3007WFP (30").
  • Drivers: ATI CATALYST 7.3; NVIDIA Drivers 158.16.

VSync is disabled.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with/without HDR), maximum settings.

  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (HDR), demo (demo Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

  • FarCry 1.4 (beta) (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0b/3.0 (with/without HDR), 3 demos from the Research level (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings. We used HDRRendering=1 for HDR tests

  • PREY 1.01 (3D Realms Entertainment / Human Head Studios / 2K Games) — OpenGL, shaders 2.x, demo003 (40MB!). Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, trilinear filtering.

  • Serious Sam II 1.068 (Croteam/2K Games) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with/without HDR), batch file to start the test. It's the standard demo0002 that comes with the game. Tests settings — maximum.

    We express our thanks to our reader, Vozniuk Valery AKA Px, for his batch file to run this game.

  • F.E.A.R. v.1.08 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, maximum test settings, Soft shadows disabled.

  • Company Of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, startup batch file. When you start the game, you should go to options, choose the graphics section, and press the test button. Tests were run with maximum quality.

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

Videocards performance

Those of you who are into 3D graphics will understand the charts themselves. And newbies and those who have just begun choosing graphics cards can read our comments.

First of all, you should browse our brief references dedicated to modern graphics card series and underlying GPUs. Note clock rates, shader support, and pipeline architecture.

Reference of ATI RADEON X1300-1600-1800-1900 series

Reference of NVIDIA GeForce 7300-7600-7800-7900-8800 series

Secondly, you can browse our 3D graphics section for the basics of 3D and some new product references. There are only two companies that release graphics processing units: ATI (recently merged with AMD and obtained its name) and NVIDIA. Therefore all information is generally separated in two respective parts. You can also read our monthly 3Digest, which sums up all graphics card performance charts.

Thirdly, see the test results of the videocards under review. We shall not analyze each test, because we've already done it on the example of the product from EVGA. Detailed analysis is also available in the article about the 8800 GTS 320MB cards. There are no tests of the MSI card for technical reasons either. But the difference in test results between this card and the card from XFX is minimal, about 4-5%.

FarCry, Research (No HDR)

Test results: FarCry Research (No HDR)

FarCry, Research (HDR)

Test results: FarCry Research (HDR)

F.E.A.R.

Test results: F.E.A.R.

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (No HDR)

Test results: SCCT (No HDR)

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (HDR)

Test results: SCCT (HDR)

Call Of Juarez

Test results: CoJ

Company Of Heroes

Test results: CoH

Serious Sam II (No HDR)

Test results: SS2 (No HDR)

Serious Sam II (HDR)

Test results: SS2 (HDR)

Prey

Test results: Prey

3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

3DMark06: SM2.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 SM2.0 MARKS

3DMark06: SHADER 3.0 MARKS

Test results: 3DMark06 SM3.0 MARKS



Conclusions

XFX GeForce 8800 GTX Extreme 768MB PCI-E is rather powerful, judging by its results. But a reference card is always a reference card. The increased frequencies give it some advantage. The bundle is poor. It includes an old game, which can be disregarded. Everything depends on the price. In other respects, it's a decent product, considering that the quality of NVIDIA drivers is growing gradually. BUT... We should mention a strange situation with DVI scaling under Windows XP, which allows per-pixel video output without distortions to displays with non-standard resolutions. This option works ONLY in unofficial beta 100.87. Despite the time the product has been available in the market. NVIDIA hasn't demonstrated such an ugly approach to fixing bugs for a long time. We can only hope that this text will help users who bought such videocards.

MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E - everything written above applies to this product as well. Plus the unquestionable advantage of the MSI card in frequencies, efficient cooling system (being relatively noiseless). But there may be some problems with installing the expansion box inside your system unit. The pipes are not long enough to give much flexibility in the issue. It must be taken into account.

ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E is also a reference card. This card differs only by its bundle that has several bonuses. But on the whole, the 8800 GTS 320MB is actually one of the most expedient cards. However, it suffers from the aforementioned drivers problem as well.

On the whole, all videocards worked well, we had no hardware problems. They are reference cards, after all.

Note that you should watch the prices. All our conclusions may become wrong, if, for example, the 8800 GTS 640MB gets cheaper than the 8800 GTS 320MB. By the way, speaking of competition with RADEON X1950, don't forget that although much cheaper, the latter does not support DirectX 10 in hardware. But this technology is the future.

And another thing that we are not tired to repeat from article to article. Having decided to choose a graphics card by yourself, you have to realize you're to change one of the fundamental PC parts, which might require additional tuning to improve performance or enable some qualitative features. This is not a finished product, but a component part. So, you must understand that in order to get the most from a new graphics card, you will have to acquire some basic knowledge of 3D graphics and graphics in general. If you are not ready for this, you should not perform upgrades by yourself. In this case it would be better to purchase a ready chassis with preset software (along with vendor's technical support,) or a gaming console that doesn't require any adjustments.

More comparative charts of this and other graphics cards are provided in our 3Digest.

ASUS EN8800GTS 320MB PCI-E gets the Excellent Package award (April):

Our Original Design award (April) goes to the MSI NX8800GTX OC Liquid 768MB PCI-E:

PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by TAGAN




                               The Dell 3007WFP monitor for the testbeds was kindly provided by NVIDIA




We'd like to thank
ASUS Russia
MSI Russia
for the provided videocards



Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
June 5, 2007

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