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Gainward 8800GTX

Gainward 8800 Review

Introduction

2006 was the year of Nvidia. Straight off the back of their 7950GX2 release – an awesome card in itself – came the jaw dropping performance of their latest incarnations, the 8800GTX and GTS. Today I have with me Gainward’s rendition of the 8800GTX; lets see if this card is all its hyped up to be.

A little about Gainward

“Gainward is a world leading producer of High-quality, High-End 3D accelerators for the Personal Computer market. Gainwards offers a full product line of value adding products targeting gaming enthusiasts as well as entry-level consumers.”

NB. Blurb taken from the Gainward website.

Specifications

  • GPU Clockspeed: 575mhz
  • Memory: 768Mb 1,1ns DDR3
  • Memory Clockspeed: 1800mhz
  • Bandwidth: 86.4 GB/s
  • Ramdac: 400Mhz
  • Bus: PCI-Express
  • Cooling: Fan (Two-Slot)
  • Video Features: Component, S-Video & Composite out
  • DVI+DVI+Video-Out

NB. Specs. taken from Gainward’s website.

Gainward’s Tak on the 8800GTX

BLISS 8800GTX 768 TV DD is powered by NVIDIA´s® GeForce™ 8800GTX GPU integrating 768MB/384bits High-Speed DD3 memory, offering a mindblowing experience for all 3D enthusiast who think they have seen it all. Never before have 3D rendering experiences appeared as life-like as with the next generation GPU architecture from NVIDIA®. Vivid ultra realistic rendering of 3D projects and enviroments in the highest resolutions without suffering any loss of it´s kick-ass performance, makes BLISS8800GTX from Gainward the only choice for hardcore gamers. Reference clocksettings for the BLISS8800GTX is a core clock of 575MHz and a memory clock of 1800Mhz, though these already impressive settings have been pushed to an incredible 620+MHz on the core and 1900+MHz on the memory and has more to give under the right circumstances! This card will rock your world and forever change your view of 3D graphics

The GeForce® 8800GTX graphics processor unit (GPU) delivers such a vast amount of performance that none of the available processors (CPU´s) on the market are able to keep up with it; thus guaranteeing an extraordinary performance today and tomorrow for future applications and operative systems like Microsoft Windows Vista.

Bits and Box

The 8800 comes in a huge box completely covered with a large rendering of some kind of ruin; seems like an odd choice of background for a intuitive product. Also on the front is the oddly proportioned Gainward “8800 Lady”; with an oversized body and pre-op features. Gainward should realise that we like the ATI sword wielding girl and the Sapphire cyborg lady, there’s no room for small headed, masculine looking women in the world of GPU box covers!

Gainward 8800 Box

Gainward 8800 Box Rear

The back of the box has a screenshot from upcoming DX10 game Crysis along with some performance comparison figures between top end Nvidia hardware. Oddly there is also a couple of pictures from Tomb Raider: Legend to show the difference between integrated graphics and a “Dedicated Geforce” card. Not surprisingly the differences were great; bet you want to buy it now you know its better than integrated eh?

Gainward 8800GTX Box Rear

Inside the box, a wealth of treasures awaits you. Along with the GPU itself you have: 2 dashingly red DVI-VGA converters, a host of DVD and media software, a manual and some assorted cables.

Gainward 8800GTX Vs. Integrated

Bit of a shame not to see some games bundled with this card as it is aimed at gamers; though of course there will be those wanting to take full advantage of Vista’s Aero prettyness.

The 8800GTX

Here it is, the current pinacle of graphics processing power, the Gainward 8800GTX:

Gainward 8800GTX

Not the most impressive looking card ever. The logo is a little odd and the card itself just doesn’t look as cool and flashy as other nvidia manufacturers (E.G. PNY’s 8800) or even ATI’s x1950 range. I know Nvidia’s colour is Green, but it doesn’t half make the PCB look boring.

Gainward 8800GTX

One of the first things you notice with the 8800 is that it has two 6-pin power inputs. This is because the 8800 series takes so much juice, that one is simply not enough. With future cards, Nvidia and its partners will no doubt encorporate the new standard of high end GPU power, the 8-pin connector.

Like ATI’s current range of GPUs, the Gainward 8800 features an exhaust style cooler to extract the heat from that oh so busy G80 core. It works by drawing air from inside the case, blowing it over a heatsink – encased in a plastic surround – extracting the heat from said heatsink and then blowing the now rather warm air out of the back of your case.

This cooler also uses heatpipe technology to help achieve the goal of a relatively cool running card, lets hope it is up the challenge.

Heatpipe

The end of the card features two DVI outputs and an S-Video output. The back of the exhaust cooler is grilled to stop any kiddies getting their lil’ fingers stuck in there.

Card End

The back of the card shows just how many screws are needed to hold on the large cooler this card sports, eleven in total. Surprisingly the cooler is a lot lighter than that of the x1950 coolers.

Gainward 8800GTX Rear

This card also sports two SLI bridge connectors which presumably is to come into play in future Tri and Quad SLI setups.

Size wise the 8800GTX is about an inch longer than the x1950 and x1900 which makes the card pretty darn huge. Lets hope it doesn’t pose a problem fitting it into our test case.

Comparison
The x1900 is fitted with the heatsink from a Sytrin Kurformula VF1+

Ideazon FragMatr Underside

Installation

Unfortunately this is where we encountered some problems with the 8800. It was so big that although it would fit into the case, the hard drive cage simply wouldn’t let it past when you tried to get the front end of the card into position. Removing the HD cage was the only option. Potential buyers really need to be aware of this, if you have a small case or an HD cage that sits very close to your motherboard, you are going to have installation problems.

Installation Problems
The claw in this picture belongs to SorX

Ideazon FragMatr Underside

Now though, with the card in place and the HDs looking a bit miffed at having been converted to external drives, we moved onto the testing.

Testing

To test the 8800, we decided to pit it against its main rivals in the red camp, the ATI x1950XTX and the x1900XT – the latter being clocked to XTX speeds.

We used the following hardware in our test PC:

Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 2.7ghz
Asus P5W-DH Deluxe
OCZ 2gb Special Ops Urban Elite 6400 @ 900mhz
Hiper Type R 580w (Used 2xMolex – 6pin connector for second PCIE plug).
Antec SLK3800B case

The tests that we performed were our usual mix of synthetic and real game tests. These are: 3Dmark01, 3Dmark03, 3Dmark05, 3Dmark06, FEAR, X3, HL2: Lost Coast and our in-house BF2142 benchmarking demo; run at two different resolutions.

To make sure all results were accurate, all tests were run 3 times and the average of those 3 results was taken. All tests were run at stock speeds on all cards, and then at overclocked speeds on the 8800GTX to see the cards full potential if pushed to its limits.

Overclocking

I will begin my results round up by describing the process and results of my G80 overclocking experience.

NB. I attempted to use Ntune to overclock this card – as recommended by other sites – however upon raising the cards memory or core frequency even by one mhz, I was instantly greeted with a white screen. Therefore, I decided to do things my own way or, as a friend of mine calls it, “Doing a Rambo”.

First off, I used Rivatuner to set the fan speed to 100% and added some ram sinks to the rear of the card, along with two fast spinning 80mm fans to make sure that the card would run cool at all times.

Extra Cooling

I then used ATI tool to slowly raise the memory frequency, usually preferring to start there. I reached 1000mhz mark (Effective speed of 2ghz) and was able to go a little futher but began to see the familar artifacting signs in the 3d window. Sticking with the 1000mhz setting I moved onto the core and slowly raised the frequency, all the time keeping an eye on the temperatures. I was able to reach 650mhz before I began to encounter problems and although at this frequency I was able to benchmark 3dmark06, other tests were not so lucky. I had to drop all the way down to 620mhz before all tests were able to be completed. A lengthy process indeed, but very interesting. I think that with an aftermarket cooler, it would not be impossible to have a stable overclock around the 650mhz area.

Benchmark Results

First off is the synthetic benchmarks, beginning with 3Dmark01.

3Dmark01

01 shows some small dominance of the 8800 over the x19XX cards with a slight increase again when overclocking the former card.

3Dmark03

3Dmark03 shows some much bigger performance increases with over 50% score rises in the 8800 crowd. The overclocked GTX giving a nice little boost to the already sterling score.

3Dmark05

05 showed smaller gains, though the performance increase was still nice and healthy. Well worth the extra £150 that the GTX costs over the x1950.

3Dmark06

Wow! Now thats some serious performance. Over 10,000 in 3Dmark06 with a single card, and thats at stock. I have no doubt with a little more overclocking the 8800GTX could reach 11 or even 11.5k.

Now onto the gaming benchmarks.

FEAR

Little to say here. Huge performance gains when moving from an X19xx to a 8800.

X3 Reunion

Interestingly the ATI cards beat the 8800 here, though all cards still acheieve great performance numbers. Will this be a one off?

HL2: Lost Coast

Our survey says, yes. Half Life 2: Lost Coast gives the 880 back its crown.

Battlefield 2142

Battlefield 2142

Battlefield not only showed a large increase in frames when moving from an x19xx card, but also the 8800 didn’t suffer from the same shadow pixelation at close quarters like the ATI cards did.

DX10 Support

The 8800 is the first card to support Microsoft’s new DirectX 10 standard. However, unless you are really desperate to be the first person you know to have Vista running with the new Aero theme showing its full glory, there is little else that can be gained from this feature at this point. There are a few games that currently support DX10, Company of Heroes being perhaps the most popular. However, if you are buying this card simply for its DX10 features, you would be well advised to take a serious look at whether this is the right time to do so. Later this year many more games will be released which support this feature, and Vista’s larger holes should have been fixed by then so it may be better to hold off buying this card until then.

Noise & Cooling

The 8800’s stock equipped cooler is actually not too bad. This goes back on my normal philosophy of “If it’s stock, don’t bother”; this cooler actually did an alright job. My first impression of it was poor as the card idled in the high sixties. However, cranking up the fan speed soon sorted that, causing it to idle at mid fifites and load at high sixties to low seventies. At 100% the fan is noisy enough to annoy, but not horrendous. Messing about with speed settings soon gave me the much sort for mixture between good cooling performance and low noise. Setting the fan to 85% gives enough cooling performance to allow an overclock that will keep you happy, and also mean that you arn’t annoyed by the fan noise.

Cost

This card is currently retailing for around four hundred of your fine English pounds. Considering this is the worlds fastest GPU, you can’t really be surprised with the rather weighty price tag. However, second hand ones can now be picked up for around £300 and I am sure that when the R600 is released these prices will fall again, making this card a very affordable, high end gaming solution.

Conclusion

The 8800GTX is undoubtedly performance crown of the GPU world at the moment. If you are after simply the best money can buy (If you don’t count factory overclocked models) then the Gainward 8800GTX graphics card is for you. Be aware however, that DX10 support is limited and the card is bulky, and a little ugly. If you are not phased by such things then the Gainward 8800 will give you the best Frame rates currently possible with image quality to match.

ProsCons
Jaw dropping performanceWay to big for “Normal” cases
Relatively quiet coolerNot very visually appealing
Overclocks well

XSR Value Award

I’d like to thank our sponsors BeastComputers for providing us with this GPU.

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