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Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E
Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP

Based on NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT

June 17, 2005










TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video cards' features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results: summary performance diagrams
  5. Conclusions



Summer 2005 has some presents in store for 3D graphics fans. A new product from NVIDIA, codenamed G70, is round the corner, the new ATI card (R520) will also come out soon.

That's why we actually wind up our reviews of video cards, manufactured almost a year ago. Our final chord is a review of production-line cards from Gainward and Albatron based on GeForce 6800GT with different interfaces: PCI-E and AGP. If you read our previous articles, you know that this interface difference actually results in different GPUs: the PCI-E card is based on the NV45, and the AGP card is based on the NV40. The former is equipped with HSI bridge integrated into the chip package, and the latter doesn't have it.

The product from Albatron will be reviewed in brief, because it's of little interest to us: a complete copy of the reference design in all respects, including the cooling system. Taiwanese Albatron is well known in our parts. Some time ago a part of Gigabyte management left this company and established a new Albatron company. Perhaps that's why all video cards from this company are actually OEM products manufactured by Gigabyte. Aside from the coolers installed on some Albatron cards, there are no differences between the cards from Gigabyte and Albatron (if we don't take into account their bundles, of course).

Unfortunately, the times of original cooling systems from Albatron sank into oblivion, we have seen nothing new for a long time, all video cards come with reference coolers with Albatron stickers.

But Gainward products are always interesting. There is always something new. Though there are many targets for criticism as well. This card is ordered by NVIDIA (green PCB, complete reference). And only the cooler from Gainward indicates that this company "tampered" with it.



Video Cards



Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 350/500 (1000) MHz, 400/1100 MHz in Enhanced mode (nominal - 350/500 (1000) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 220x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: green.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP
Interface: AGP 2x/4x/8x

Frequencies (chip/memory — physical (memory — effective): 350/500 (1000) MHz (nominal - 350/500 (1000) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 6

Number of pixel pipelines: 16

Dimensions: 220x100x17mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: dark blue.

Output connectors: d-Sub, DVI, S-Video.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E; Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP
The cards have 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 2.0ns memory access time, which corresponds to 500 (1000) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT PCI-E









Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT








Comparison with the reference design, back view
Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT PCI-E









Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT








So, both cards are obviously copies of the reference design. By the way, we can refer to Albatron as a Taiwanese company, but Gainward is another pair of shoes: we all know that this company has been bought by a large Chinese holding. Its headquarters have been relocated from Taiwan to Munich (Germany), its Taipei office is closed. So it has become a german company. But essentially it's not correct, it remains a Chinese brand as it used to be. The blue card from Albatron is evidently made by Gigabyte (there are several signs). What concerns the green card from Chinese-German Gainward, the PCB is from NVIDIA and components are from Gainward. I wonder why it's not a traditional red card manufactured by the company on its own. Anyway, it may be just our sample (the company assured us that all production-line cards will be red).

Let's review the cooling systems. I am not going to examine the cooler in Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP, because it's a reference device and we have examined such cards many times (the list of articles is published below).

Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E

It's almost a reference cooling system offered by NVIDIA. But if you have a look at the photo below, where this cooler is compared with the reference one, you will see that the Gainward device is wider, its large heatsink also covers memory chips. The cooler consists of three parts: copper base installed on a core itself and some memory chips, plastic housing with a turbine (shifted to the left), and a curved heatsink for the memory.

The turbine drives the air through the base (cooling it), then the air flows to the heatsink on voltage regulators. Unlike the reference cooler, this one has no heat pipes and the same air flow cools memory chips as well as GPU.

The turbine rotates at 3000-7000 rpm. We'll describe the noise below. And finally it should be added that the heatsink is equipped with soft red illumination for modders.


















Let's proceed with the examination of cooling systems and the resulting video card dimensions.

Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E

It's a two-slot cooler, so the card takes up much space in the system unit. You should also take into account that the accelerator requires much empty space around it for better cooling.

Startup noise is rather high, it abates only in 5-8 minutes of operation in 2D mode. You can watch a video and evaluate the noise at this link (2.6MB, AVI DivX 5.1).






I want to emphasize that the Gainward card is suffixed with Golden Sample, which means that it should operate not only in the regular mode but also in the so called Enhanced mode with the help of ExperTool, included into the bundle. This mode ensures operation at frequencies of the first 6800 Ultra cards - 400/1100 MHz (all 6800 Ultra cards now operate at 425/1100 MHz). That is you buy the 6800GT, but you actually get the 6800 Ultra.

Bundle

Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E
The box contains a user's guide, CD with drivers, WinDVD (old version), DVI-to-d-Sub adapters, a power cord, a TV extension cord. Unfortunately, this luxury of a card does not come shipped with games or demos.


Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP
This bundle is similar to the previous package, but this bundle lacks DVI-to-d_Sub adapters and includes some old game demos (it's a shame to include them into a package of such a powerful card in 2005!).




Let's have a look at the boxes.

Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E

Representatives of this company may start complaining again that I always criticize them for the same box design, which is obviously not worthy of such a powerful High-End accelerator, but let's look facts in the face. Indeed, the Golden Sample could have had a nicer looking box, instead of a regular package (which design has not changed for maybe five years) with just a sticker.




Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP

The box has a traditional for this company design - bright colors, glossy coating. All components are neatly arranged into polyurethane sections.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (754Socket) based computer:
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS K8V SE Deluxe based on VIA K8T800
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200
    • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 4000+ (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI
    • RAM: 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI drivers 6.525 (CATALYST 5.5) NVIDIA drivers 71.89.

VSync is disabled.

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,

  • 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.

If you want to get the demo-benchmarks, which we use, contact me at my e-mail.

Overall performance



Conclusions

  1. Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E is nearly the most powerful accelerator based on NVIDIA chip these days (I repeat that I mean the situation for early June! There will be other most powerful accelerators at the end of June :). It's certainly an image product at a high price. It's an excellent device as far as its characteristics are concerned, but the demand will be up to the price. Excellent 2D quality at 1600x1200@85. 425/1160MHz overclocking. If the cooler seems too noisy to you (it's noisy only for the first 5-8 minutes from startup), I can recommend a utility from Gainward - ExperTool, which will set the frequencies as in the 6800 Ultra and reduce the noise as well.

  2. Albatron GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP is based on a similar chip, but it has standard 6800GT frequencies. But on the other hand, the price is more acceptable. You can hardly call this cooling system quiet, it requires the utility from Gainward to minimize the noise :). Overclocking — 420/1130 MHz (but I repeat that overclocking depends on a given sample!) Excellent 2D quality at 1600x1200@85.

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





Gainward PowerPack Ultra/2400PCX Golden Sample PCI-E gets the Original Design award (June).








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)



We express our thanks to Gainward
for the provided video cards.



Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

June 17, 2005.


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