iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
Based on NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV42)


  1. Introduction
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions

Do ATI and NVIDIA have different marketing strategies? Of course they do. Both companies have been trying to confuse potential customers. Let's take chip designations (and consequently video cards), for example. In case of the Canadian company, the XT suffix means the superlative degree, that is the top product in a series. To spite ATI, the Californian company decided to use the same suffix for the lowest products in a series. At one time users couldn't possibly understand what GeForce FX5600XT was and how it differed from the 5600. Moreover, the 5600XT 64-bit was slower than the 5200 128-bit... After that FX5700 cards appeared... What was faster: the 5700LE or the 5600Ultra? - You couldn't clear up the issue without tests.

Each time a lot of clever words were said about the expediency of this or that new name... But both companies were little concerned about the confusion on the market, baffling users.

Confusion with ATI products was still worse... We all remember the RADEON 9250, which was weaker than the 9200 (lower frequencies). Many smart words were said about pricing and this allegedly new product... OK, on we go... We all remember the R420 (it was later called the X800XT/PE/PRO) and its PCI-E counterpart - the R423. Six months after, the company launched THE SAME CHIP, but on the next revision (better as far as the yield of effective dies is concerned) under the name... R480. OK, forget about codenames... But why is it now called the X850XT? They toyed a little with frequencies for form's sake (±20 MHz) and here is it - an allegedly new product... And again marketing specialists blow their horns, parades, presentations, lots of nice words... What was the product? The same video card, as had been released six months ago...

In 2002 the company launched the R300 - a new product, a new name - the RADEON 9700. Hurrah!

The R350 is the overclocked R300 (improved process technology) - thus the new name RADEON 9800... The R360 is the old, but overclocked R300 - again a new name. But conscience prevented designers from calling it the 9900: too humble compared to the 9800 PRO... They called it the 9800XT. That is the chips are actually the same, only their revisions and names are different... I wonder what Pentium would have Intel launched now, if it had increased the version with each new stepping. It would have been Pentium45, not Pentium4.

That's right, when nothing really new is added, all they can do is to goof us off with new names. In case of the X800-X850, they actually sell the same product FOR THE SECOND TIME.

The question is... why NVIDIA dares applying the GeForce 6800 name to the NV40, cut down to 12 pipelines, to the NV41, which has had 12 pipelines from the very beginning, and even to the NV41, manufactured by the new process technology - NV42? These are all different revisions, but they are essentially the same, users will get the same effect no matter what card is installed - the NV40 with the reduced number of pipelines or the NV41/42. Things are somehow different in ATI (for example, RADEON 9500 128bit or RADEON 9600. - They are essentially the same, 4 pipelines. But in the first case it's the reduced number of R300 (RADEON 9700) pipelines, while in the second case the product initially had this number of pipelines). And now the renaming virus is caught by NVIDIA - GeForce 6600LE. But it's another story.

The photo below shows two dies (NV41 on the left and NV42 on the right). It's a perfect scale-down of the original dimensions.

The insides of these two dies are essentially identical. Only process technologies are different (NV41 - 0.13 mkm, NV42 - 0.11 mkm), both dies are manufactured by TSMC. The new process technology gave ground to change the codename. But there is absolutely no reason to change the real name, as the chip operates in the same way. So they are all GeForce 6800.

Here are the videos, which briefly illustrate the new product.

Up to now we have reviewed GeForce 6800 PCI-E - not just NV41-based, but also equipped with 256MB DDR SDRAM. Today we shall review a similar product, but with 128MB (and higher operating frequencies). This product is interesting in many aspects, so let's start the ball rolling.

Video card

Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 350/350 (700) MHz (nominal — 350/300 (600) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 5

Number of pixel pipelines: 12

Dimensions: 190x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
The video card has 128 MB of DDR SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips. 2.8ns memory access time, which corresponds to 350 (700) MHz.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV42)

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV42)

The card is obviously based on the reference design. In fact, the only departure from the reference design is memory chips - less capacious than usual.

We should also mention that the card is equipped with a couple of DVI connectors.

Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)

But this product has a unique cooling system. Our readers may have noticed the trend to shuffle off the larger part of cooling burden on to the heatsink on the back of a PCB, while the front side heatsink is getting smaller. The heat is transmitted along special pipes filled with low-boiling liquid that carries the heat to the back of the video card.

We have a similar situation in this article. Even though it's another modification of the Albatron invention (Wise-Fan - a cooler with three fans, one of them is spare, it is enabled only if one of the active coolers fails), it's becoming a complex device. As we can see, the front heatsink is really small and is of little cooling importance. Its main task is to channel the heat via the pipes to the large back heatsink.

The back of the video card is equipped with a large device with three fans (only two of them are running at a time). You can watch our video (the link is at the beginning of the article) to see how a stopped fan is automatically replaced by the spare one - the cooler has special logic that controls rpms of the two extreme fans. When one of them stops, the middle fan snaps into action - the one, which is usually idle.

Besides, Wise-Fan coolers are traditionally equipped with illumination. It's probably for the first time we can see illumination, when a card is inside a PC case. In most cases video cards are installed into PC cases with their front side down, so that all illuminated coolers installed on that side of cards throw light upon the bottom of a PC case or the next expansion card installed. But in this case the main part of the cooling system is located at the back side of the video card and faces up. So modders will be pleased, the cooling system of this video card will be easily visible through transparent walls of their special PC cases.

We have already seen relative dimensions of the GPU (NV42) at the beginning of this article. And this is how the graphics processor looks in full:

Let's compare it to the NV41 once again:

Besides the core dimensions, the chip carrier is also changed. GeForce 6800 (NV42) "lost" the protecting frame. Probably there are some design rules concerning die dimensions, which regulate the lack/presence of such a frame. We remember that both GeForce FX 5700 and RADEON X700, having smaller die dimensions than their senior brothers, don't have such a frame.

Nevertheless, you should keep it in mind, if you are going to change your cooling system. You must be really careful, when you install it, not to damage the chip surface.

Potential buyers should take into account the large heatsink at the back of the PCB. Even though this heatsink is high above the motherboard surface, Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800) may still fail to fit into a number of motherboards, where the northbridge with a large heatsink is installed close to the PCI-E slot.


Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)
User's Guide, CD with drivers and utilities, two discs with very old demos and a full version, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, HDTV and TV-out adapter.


Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800)

The box is made of thick glossy and bright cardboard (traditional design). The entire bundle is arranged into polyurethane sections to avoid dangling components inside the box.

Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • RADEON X800 256bit (Gigabyte, PCI-E, 256MB GDDR3, 400/990 MHz)
  • RADEON X800 128bit (Gigabyte, PCI-E, 128MB GDDR3, 400/990 MHz);
  • RADEON X800 256bit (GeCube, PCI-E, 128MB GDDR3, 400/700 MHz);
  • GeForce 6800 (ASUS, PCI-E, 256MB DDR, 350/600 MHz);
  • GeForce 6600GT (XFX, PCI-E, 128MB DDR, 500/1000 MHz);
  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.553 (CATALYST 5.7) NVIDIA drivers 77.72.

VSync is disabled.

Overclocking: we managed to overclock the core of this video card up to 440(!) MHz and still preserve operating stability. The memory limit is 810 MHz.

We monitored card's temperature during operation, there were expectedly no surges. The core stayed below 70°.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) — DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo. The tests were conducted with the quality set to maximum, only Depth of Fields PS20 were disabled.

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01, ixbt02, ixbt03 The tests were carried out with maximum quality, option -dxlevel 90, presets for video card types are removed from dxsupport.cfg.

  • FarCry 1.3 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, 3 demos from Research, Pier, Regulator levels (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings.

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — High Quality (ANIS8x), demo ixbt1 (33MB!). We have a sample batch file to start the game automatically with increased speed and reduced jerking (precaching) d3auto.rar. (DO NOT BE AFRAID of the black screen after the first menu, that's how it should be! It will last 5-10 seconds and then the demo should start)

  • 3DMark05 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • F.E.A.R. (Multiplayer beta) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, Maximum test settings, Soft shadows.

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Starbreeze/Vivendi) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44 and demo ducche.

    I wish to thank Rinat Dosayev (AKA 4uckall) and Alexei Ostrovski (AKA Ducce), who have created a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help

Game tests that heavily load pixel shaders 2.0.

TR:AoD, Paris5_4 DEMO

Test results: TRAOD

Even though this test is critical to shader performance, the memory bandwidth (i.e. memory operating frequencies of the GeForce 6800) also has a say: the higher memory operating frequency has an effect on the performance growth, even though the memory capacity of the model under review is smaller than in its 256-MB counterpart. In other respects it's approximately on a par with the ATI X800 128MB 256bit.

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, mixed pixel shaders 1.1 and 2.0, active multitexturing.

FarCry, Research

Test results: FarCry Research

FarCry, Regulator

Test results: FarCry Regulator

FarCry, Pier

Test results: FarCry Pier

Here is the situation: the Albatron product fairs very well versus the X800 128MB 256bit; it's outperformed by the more expensive X800 256MB in heavy modes (mostly due to the increased memory bandwidth in the latter). It's quite OK on the whole.

F.E.A.R. (MP beta)

Test results: F.E.A.R. (MP beta)

There is no reason to pay attention to heavy modes with AA+AF and highest quality in this game, because the gameplay gets below the tolerable level.

The Albatron product demonstrated very good performance compared to its competitors. It fact it's a leader here. This is very indicative, because this test (this game) embodies a cohort of state-of-the-art and graphics-intensive games.

Game tests that heavily load both vertex shaders and pixel shaders 2.0

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01

Half-Life2: ixbt02 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt02

Half-Life2: ixbt03 demo

Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt03

The situation is diverse. Victories, defeats, parities. Due to driver specifics, 128MB ATI cards drastically lose performance in heavy modes, as the resolution grows. The FPS level in this game allows even middle end accelerators to cope with high resolutions or AA+AF. That's why the GeForce 6800 fairs rather well.

Game tests that heavily load pixel pipelines with texturing, active operations of the stencil buffer and shader units

DOOM III High mode

Test results: DOOM III

Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo ducche

I guess there is no need to comment on the block of tests, where NVIDIA accelerators rule supreme due to a more flexible and longer render pipeline, streamlined and fast stencil-buffer operations, and the fine-tuned OpenGL driver.

Synthetic tests that heavily load shader units

3DMark05: MARKS

Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

The results are similar to those in TR;AoD, where everything is up to the capacity of shader units.


Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800) is an interesting product. Firstly, its performance level corresponds to a $210-$230 card. Secondly, it has a unique quiet cooling system, which will please many modders. Thirdly, it has good overclocking potential. But don't forget that GeForce 6800 PCI-E can be based on NV41 (with lesser overclocking potential) or on NV42. So we cannot guarantee that all these cards will be based on NV42, which is better at overclocking.

And you shouldn't forget that the cooling system on the back of this card is bulky, so it may not fit into a number of motherboards.

This video card is very stable, 2D quality in this sample is up to the mark: 1600x1200@100Hz - excellent sharpness.

You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.

Albatron GeForce 6800 128MB PCI-E (PC6800) gets the Original Design award (August).

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)


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