Nvidia announced today the widespread availability of its new mainstream GPU, the GeForce 8800 GT. The new GPU has all the GeForce 8 series features, including a unified shader architecture and DirectX 10, as well as additional support for PCI Express 2.0 and dual-link DVI video support. To establish some perspective, watching Nvidia fill out its GeForce 8 series graphics-processor line has been a fitful experience for many budget-minded PC enthusiasts. Nvidia first launched the GeForce 8 series in November 2006 with the GeForce 8800 GTX and the GeForce 8800 GTS. The cards offered fantastic performance, but hardly anyone could afford to pay $500 or $600, and so we waited.
Then came the GeForce 8600, 8500, 8400, and 8300 GPUs--all decent products for entry-level gaming systems, but, with prices below $150, none offer 3D performance comparable to the GeForce 8800 GTX or the GTS. The $300 GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB came close to the $200-250 sweet spot that gamers crave, but the price was a little too high, and performance, though good, wasn't amazing enough to make it a must-have card.
Nvidia was offering us only small bites around the perimeter of the GeForce 8 shortbread cookie, when what we really wanted was the dollop of strawberry jam sitting in the middle. If you imagine the most delicious jam in the world--made from ambrosia, beautiful strawberries, and hand-stirred by Oompa-Loompas--it would probably taste like a GeForce 8800 GT.
The GeForce 8800 GT's $199-$259 estimated price slots the card between the GeForce 8800 GTS and the GeForce 8600 GTS on the price scale, but the GT's exceptional 3D processing power places it closer to the GeForce 8800 GTX in performance. Initial 512MB cards such as our XFX GeForce 8800 GT will retail closer to the $249 mark, but several card manufacturers will also release GeForce 8800 GT cards with 256MB of memory to hit the lower $199 price point in the coming weeks. Also, expect manufacturers to venture into the $275-$300 range by offering preoverclocked 512MB GeForce 8800 GTs.
PC owners won't have any trouble fitting the single-slot XFX GeForce 8800 GT into their systems. You just find an open PCI Express graphics slot and slide the card inside. However, like most modern video cards, the XFX requires an additional 6-pin power cable from the system power supply. XFX recommends using a 500W power supply for single-card systems and 600W or more for a dual-card SLI system.
Nvidia was able to lower the price and increase performance by redesigning the chip and shrinking the manufacturing process from 90nm down to 65nm. The older 90nm GPUs required card manufacturers to add a separate display chip onto each card, but that functionality is now integrated into the GeForce 8800 GT. The GPU also includes an upgraded PureVideo processing engine. PureVideo performs HD DVD and Blu-ray high-definition video decoding work, which is usually done on the CPU. Moving the work to the GPU will let people watch HD video content on systems with less powerful CPUs. The GeForce 8800 GT has two dual-link HDCP DVI connectors, which let 30" widescreen LCD owners watch HD movies in full-screen at 2560x1600.
|GPU||GeForce 8800 GT||GeForce 8800 GTS||GeForce 8800 GTX|
|Price||$249||$279 (320MB), $375 (640MB)||$499|
|Memory||512MB GDDR3||320MB-640MB GDDR3||768MB GDDR3|
The GeForce 8800 GT features 112 stream processors clocked at 1.5GHz, which is close to the GeForce 8800 GTX's 128 stream processors clocked at 1.35GHz and much better than the GeForce 8800 GTS's 96 stream processors clocked at 1.2GHz. The GTX and GTS cards still have superior 384-bit and 320-bit memory interfaces, respectively, but many high-end GPUs still use a 256-bit memory interface just like the GeForce 8800 GT. If the GeForce 8800 GTS sounds like the odd card out, that's because it is. Nvidia has already discontinued the 320MB version and is keeping the 640MB around only to satisfy channel demand. Nvidia will have to upgrade the GTS soon if the company wants to keep the brand relevant in the GeForce 8800 GT era.
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit. Graphics Cards: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB. Graphics Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 169.01, ATI Catalyst 7.10.
Our performance numbers show the XFX GeForce 8800 GT coming in slightly behind the GeForce 8800 GTX but ahead of the GeForce 8800 GTS and the Radeon 2900 XT in all of the games we tested except for BioShock, where the Radeon outperformed the GT. We're not sure why the GeForce 8800 GTX SLI system also gave us a lower than expected framerate result in World in Conflict, but the GT and the Radeon both showed framerate gains in dual-card mode.
The GeForce 8800 GT's performance is impressive when you consider that the GT costs only $249 compared to $500 for the GTX. You could spend the same amount of money on two GeForce 8800 GT cards to create a dual-card SLI setup that will handily beat a single GeForce 8800 GTX. It's pretty shocking how much performance value the GT offers in comparison to the most powerful cards on the market--you're getting top-of-the-line performance at a mainstream price point. Anyone looking to build a Windows Vista gaming system should start with the GeForce 8800 GT.
The GeForce 8800 GT is the GPU to buy for this holiday season, and the XFX GeForce 8800 GT is an excellent card based on Nvidia's new blockbuster chip. It's affordable, supports both DirectX 9 and DirectX 10, and has more than enough performance power to handle graphics-heavy games such as BioShock, World in Conflict, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3, and Hellgate: London. The XFX GeForce 8800 GT ships today with a $249.99 MSRP.