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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
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Appeared on: Thursday, August 05, 2004
Gainward CoolFX 6800 Ultra/2600 Golden Sample


1. Introduction

Gainward CoolFX 6800 Ultra/2600 Golden Sample

Author: Jonathan Jacobs

Water has always been a life giving source. When scientists are searching for life on foreign planets, the first sign they look for is water as an indication that life may exist or may have existed.

Now you may ask, what does this prologue regarding water have to do with a VGA card review? Well, water gives the graphics card that we are going to review, a new lease on life. The GeForce CoolFX 6800 Ultra, incorporates a water-cooling system. It seems that water is one of the best solutions to help keep electronic chipsets at low, operating temperatures. Furthermore, as can be seen from the specifications for Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra card, the high clock speeds it operates at is testimony of the raw power delivered by the card thanks to this fiendish cooling system. But let's dig deeper into this microelectronic's wonder.

- Specifications

GPU GeForce 6800 Ultra (NV40)
Memory Bus Width 256 MB
Memory interface 256 bit
Memory Type DDR3
Core Clock 450+ MHz * (enabled with Exper Tool)
Memory Clock 1200+ MHZ (2x600) (enabled with Exper Tool)
Memory Bandwidth 38.4+GB/s
Pixel Fill Rate 6.4 Gpixels/sec
Geometry rate 475 Mtriangles/sec
Bus 8x/4x/2x AGP
Processing technology 0.13µ
Output Connections 2x DVI out, 1x S-Video out.
Cooling Innovatek Water cooling system
2D Display Resolutions & Hz 640x480@240, 800x600@240, 1024x768@200, 1152x864@170, 1280x1024@150, 1600x1200@100, 1920x1440@85, 2048x1536@85
3D Maximum resolution 2048x1536 with 16.7M colors
Anisotropic Filtering modes (AF) 2x/4x/8x/16x
Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) modes 2x/2xQ/4x/8xS
Dual Display Supported
Pipelines 16
Texture units per pixel pipeline 1
Technologies supported

- NVIDIAŽ CineFX? 3.0 Technology

- NVIDIAŽ UltraShadow? II Technology

- Superscalar 16-pipe GPU Architecture

- 64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending

OpenGL support 1.5
Pixel Shader Support 3.0
Vertex Shader Support 3.0
DTV/HDTV decoding
Supported
System requirements

The Gainward 3D processor board occupies one AGP slot Intel Pentium, Amd or Compatible CPUs and requires:
- Minimum 64MB RAM
- CD-ROM Drive
- Minimum 480 Watts Power Supply
- AGP compliant motherboard
- Two unused hard disk power connectors are needed to operate this product
- Supports Windows XP, 2000

 

- The chipset

 

Click to enlarge

The front side with Innovatek's water-cooling heat-sink exchanger

Click to enlarge

and the back side.

 

2 DVI outputs. The package also includes 2 DVI-CRT adaptors, so don't worry if you have a plain CRT monitor.

 

- Package Contents

Click to enlarge

Included with the card are all the components you need to get your water-cooling system up and running. 2 instruction booklets (in English and German), mounting screws, plastic rivets, the 6800 manual, a driver/software disk (61.21 + Expert tool) and the various s-video cables.


This radiator-fan does most of the essential work, since it is responsible for cooling the water that flows through the system.


The pump is literally the heart of the system, cirulating the water to all parts of the circuitry. And best of all ... it is completely silent!


The tank which is attached to the pump must be filled with 1 part InnovaProtect and 3 parts distilled water.


The InnovaProtect contains Ethandiol so try to avoid skin contact.

-Installation

When I first opened the box, to assemble the kit seemed like a daunting task, with the large number of parts, tubes screws and other stuff all sprawled before me. It's quite impressive, when you consider that all this tubing and gadgets assemble into an efficient cooling system enabling the card to work at extreme clock speeds. Yes, Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra may at first glance, seem a bit tricky to assemble and install but it didn't take me more than an hour to get the entire system functional. To be honest, is was a lot of fun too!

Regarding the installation process and more specifically the included guide, I was quite disappointed by the documentation which has very limited instructions and lacked any real detail. The only pictures shown had to do with the easier portions of the installation. For the rest, I had to use my "imagination".

The whole principle of the cooling system is to create a closed circuit between the radiator-fan, the pump and the heat-sink. But don't worry, you don't have to call the plumber to assemble it. You simply cut the tubes into the appropriate lengths and connect each of the three parts making up the circuit. In the end, it is as easy as it sounds.

After completing the water circuit, you then have to apply the water "cocktail". I say cocktail because you have to fill the tank with 3 parts distilled water (same as that used in car batteries) and 1 part InnovaProtect Ethandiol liquid. After this, you need to test the circuit to see if it is functional. To do this, remove the main power supply cable that connects to the mother board from the mother board connector, and then apply the included connector to the end of the cable (at this point the mother board is not connected). This enables the power supply to work without powering up the motherboard. It will be necessary to refill the tank a feww times with more "cocktail" as the liquid mixture begins to circulate through the tubing. If everything is ok, then remove the connector and plug the power back to your motherboard. That's it.

When you read this, it may sound confusing, but if you have all the parts in front of you, it is much easier to conceive the procedure.

One last thing you must do is to attach the pump and the fan to the computer case with the screws found in the package. This will make the whole system silent, and believe me, if you do it correctly, you will not experience even the slightest noise.


2. Test specifications
Test specifications

- Test PC

  • Processor Retail Intel Pentium 4 2.4C*
  • CPU Cooler Zalman 7000Cu
  • Case Antec 1080AMG
  • Motherboard: ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe (firmware 1014)
  • Memory: 2x256MB OCZ PC-4200EL Memory
  • Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
  • CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
  • PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
  • Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
  • DirectX v9.0b

*Latest generation VGA chipsets (6800, X800) need a CPU of more than 3GHz CPU in order to get the best of it.

- Benchmarking Software

  • 3DMark03 Build 340
  • Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
  • AquaMark3 v3.0
  • GLExcess v1.2
  • Farcry v1.2 Built 1325
  • Painkiller v1.3.1
  • Unreal Tournament 2004 v3186
  • Unreal Tournament 2003 v2225
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v49
  • Halo 1.04
  • Hitman: Contracts v1.74
  • X2: The Threat Benchmark
  • ExperTool for overclocking

 

 

- Drivers used

  • Detonator 61.77
  • DirectX 9.0c

3. 3DMark 2003

3DMark 2003 Build 340

3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stress tests the DirectX performance of a VGA card. For testing the performance of each card we use the 4 benchmark games include in 3DMark. The first is a DirectX 7 game, the second and the third use DirectX 8, and the last one tests graphics under DirectX 9.

3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests, as well as some other feature tests. On this page we offer the average FPS (frames per second) for the benchmark games, comparing Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra against the Aopen Aeolus 5900 XT, Exair R9800XT and Sapphire R9800 Pro Ultimate.

- Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury (DX7)

This test is a combat flight simulator written for older hardware (DirectX 7). Particles are used a lot in this test - smoke and vapor trails, flak and gunfire, and explosions are produced using point sprites and quads.

There are plenty of planes but their polygon frame rate is low, as well as single textured background objects. Hence, the average FPS is high for all cards.

 



A higher FPS was expected for the 6800 Ultra, but considering that the latest games use DX9, this is not a big issue.

- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)

This test is a simulation of first person shooter game types. 1.1 and 1.4 Vertex shaders are widely used since all character models are skinned using vertex shaders.

This makes this test a good vertex shader comparison for VGA cards.

 

Pretty amazing results from the 6800. It is also worth noting that most cards fail to perform smoothly in this test, but Gainward's 6800 Ultra performed with awesome power. This also shows its great capabilities when processing shaders.

- Game Test 3 - Trolls' Lair (DX8)

This test should be the favorite of all RPG lovers. It is a cut scene of a female warrior facing two malicious trolls. Again, the same vertex and pixel processing is used as in game test 2.

This test also uses post-processing effects, such as Depth of Field and Bloom effects which are widely used in today's game cut scene sequences.

 


Same story here with a difference of 47 FPS from the next best, the Radeon 9800 XT.

- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)

This game test represents the level of effects and realism that are possible using 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders, plus some other features that DirectX 9 offers.

 

 

 

 


Here again the 6800 is way on top.

- 3DMark Official score

If you test your machine with 3DMark you can post the results at 3DMark' online results page. For more information visit futuremark.com.


No comment required.


4. Aquamark 3
Aquamark3


Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that thoroughly test DX 9 has become paramount. Aquamark3 is just such a benchmark and uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from the Aquanox game.

Unlike synthetic benchmarks, Aquamark3 allows benchmarking in a real-world scenario with an engine and art assets representing the complexity of current state-of-the-art games. The results you get from Aquamark vary from a general result score (AquaMark Triscore), which is a result of 9 chapters where each one utilizes different graphical operations. The AquaMark3 benchmark also delivers scores for specific hardware components as well as an overall score for the entire system.

The chapters that stress Graphics performance are the following:

In this section we present comparison charts for the following chapters: High particle count, Vertex and pixel lightning and Massive Overdraw

- High particle count

This chapter demonstrates a high number of particles being used for simulating dust and smoke. Each particle is approximated by a mass point with one degree of freedom for its rotation.

The particle system of this test is designed to render a large number of physically, accurately simulated particles, as efficiently as possible.

 


No problem at all for Gainward's CoolFX 6800 to render many particles.

- Vertex and pixel lightning

The objects in this scene show a broad range of different material and lightning effects used in modern game engines.

Aquamark3 tests two things: It applies many vertex and pixel shader changes straining the graphics hardware and its many texture lookups (determining the lighting contribution and material reflectivity) also strain the Multitexturing and rasterization components.

Here it finds it hard to process lightning effects, noting that Radeon 9800 XT is behind by only a small difference of 12 FPS.

- Massive Overdraw

This scene demonstrates the application of the particle system for large explosions. The test stresses the graphics hardware by the high overdraw of textured areas as many particles overlap each other. A huge explosion that is included on this chapter, pushes the VGA card to the limits. It's really awesome if you imagine the number of pixels and shaders needed to make such an explosive scene.


This is an important test, because the explosions in games require a lot of vertex and pixel processing. In many games when an explosion occurs, this cause frames to drop suddenly at that particular moment. So this test is a simulation of what to expect from your card when facing explosions and other similar effects in games.

 

The 46 fps says a lot for the capabilities and the smooth performance of the 6800 Ultra.

- Aquamark Triscore

The Aquamark Triscore comprises 3 values: the overall system performance, the performance of the graphics system and the CPU performance. Keep in mind that this is not the total result of the above tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.

This score is a sum of all chapters and not just the 3 minor chapters examined. And as you can see, Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra maintains it's lead.


5. Codecreatures

Codecreatures

Code Creatures is a synthetic 3D benchmark that is a good reference for VGA performance comparison. This is a high-end 3D benchmark that also requires DirectX 8 copliant hardware, making it a good tool for measuring the potential of DirectX 8 game performance.

The Codecreatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and PixelShaders popular on next generation 3D accelerators.

The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. The score is a geometric mean of those three resolutions called the Codecreatures number.

For this Benchmark we offer the average FPS results of each card in the following resolutions: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.

 

What we see here is proof that the latest generation VGA chipsets need very fast CPU's. The same fps the 6800 Ultra achieved shows that our test system's CPU (P4 2.4) holds it back from performing up to it's true capabilities. In the near future a new review with a faster CPU will be published analysing this issue in detail.

- Codecreatures number

The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process.

Gainward's Ultra 6800 is on top again. But let's see the cards' performance with GLExcess OpenGL benchmark.


6. GL Excess

GL Excess

GL Excess is a very good tool for measuring the performance of VGA cards with OpenGL applications and games. This benchmark consists of 12 scenes grouped in 4 categories (3 scenes in 1 category). Each category stresses different OpenGL graphical sequences. The overall result named XSMark is the sum of the first scene of each category. All scenes were run in the 1024x768 resolution at 32bit.

- Category 1


The first category includes scenes 1, 9 and 12. Nothing specific is stressed on these scenes. Just average use of general OpenGL techniques.

The pic you see is from scene 12 and is made of three shifting and rotating layers, which are textured in 4 blending modes. Nice effect!

 



Three-fold performance for CoolFX 6800 Ultra.

- Category 2

Scenes 3, 5 and 6 stress the card's 3D particle and polygon processing. Particles are widely used in games and you see them for example when you fire with a laser beam or when you light up a torch.

All 3 scenes are made with a particle system that stresses the card's polygon count and video memory. The spaceship you see in the picture is made of a very large number of polygons.

 


Again high count of OpenGL polygons were not a problem for Gainward's beast.

- Category 3

The third category made up of scenes 4, 10 and 11 render the blending ability of the card. Blending is the mixture of the graphic layers that result in complicated textures and effects.

The fill rate of each card is also stressed in these scenes. So this test should be a reference on the quality of each card.


Here, the 6.4 Gpixels/sec pixel fill rate of the 6800 Ultra performed this test with a rather expected score.

- Category 4

Scenes 2 and 7 that constitute this category have to do with multitexturing effects. Multitexturing is the process of applying two or more textures to a single polygon or pixel, in order to provide spectacular images.

Scene 8 uses a sphere map that is mixed to a simple texturing technique in order to give reflection effects. For your info, the reflection and shadow effects you see in games are accumulated in the stencil buffer.



A higher score was expected for the high-toned 6800 Ultra.

XS Marks

The XS Marks is the score awarded by the GL Excess benchmark. Keep in mind that this score doesn't sum up the results of all 12 scenes, but sums up the score for each category's first scene. The XSMarks you get with your card can be posted on the GL Excess web site to compare it with other scores.

The overall performance of the 6800 Ultra shows that there is no comparison with previous generation VGA cards.

Till now the synthetic benchmarks indicated that Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra is at least 2 times better than the other cards. Now let's see if the situation changes with our game benchmark suite.


7. Farcry v1.2

Farcry v1.2

You are Jack Carver running your own boat charter business in beautiful Micronesia. With a past best left behind you, you'll be focusing on your present assignment: escorting an ambitious journalist named Valerie Cortez to the Island of Cabatu. It seems like a piece of cake, but you'll soon learn: paradise can be hell.

Farcry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that CryEngine offers.

A great advantage and strong point of CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in realistic ways.

With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the view distance to 2km, these features make Farcry a perfect action game and also a refferable benchmark to speak of.

- Benchmark Settings

Click to Enlarge
I recorded my own demo with Farcry for benchmark purposes. For the demo I picked the Fort map and based the character on the top of the mountain where the whole island can been viewed at an unbelievable distance of about 2 kilometers. It's truly a stressful benchmark for VGA cards since we used the high quality settings for all tests. I was careful not to use many bots because the advanced AI system of the game consumes a lot of CPU power.




Click to enlargeThe latest patch (1.2) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the Shader model 3.0. Unfortunately this is supported for the 6800 series only.

The resolutions we ran the demo at are as follows: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was executed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test we leveled up AA at 4x and AF at 8x. Keep in mind that this test is the most stressful of our whole game benchmarks series.

 

The low CPU issue shows itself here. As you can see, for the first 2 resolutions we have the same fps for the 6800 Ultra and the Radeon 9800. This of course is quite misguiding as it is due to the CPU that holds the card back. It's like driving a Hayabusa motorbike in a traffic jam.


Enabling the quality settings, things start to clear out. Even though the performance difference from the other cards is clearly visible, the fact that the same 40 fps is achieved at all resolutions shows that the card again is being held back.


Click to enlarge


8. Painkiller v1.3

Painkiller v1.3

You play as Daniel Garner, a seemingly regular guy who has just been killed in a horrific car accident. Trapped in a dark and un welcoming world between heaven and hell, you struggle to uncover the reasons why you've been denied entry into heaven. Awaiting your purification, you must fight through an endless number of demon soldiers as you attempt to stop an imminent unholy war.

If I was told to describe the game in a few words, I would just say "action in all its magnificence". Painkiller is a FPS, but totally different from others of its kind like Farcry. In Painkiller you don't have to use any stealth or tactical abilities. You only shoot and run. An interesting feature of the game is that you will always be outnumbered and surrounded by hordes of enemies. Definitely a pure action game.

Painkiller's 3D engine, named PAIN Engine, puts out an unbelievably high polygon count, while adding increased texture quality and the latest lighting and shadowing techniques, including soft shadows, DOT3 bump mapping, water reflections, glass simulation, volumetric light and fog, and more.

The game features 24 single-player levels, each one made up of an average 350,000 polygons. The game boss monsters are massive, made up of 8000+ polygons and 2x2048x2048 textures. Enemies also have advanced bump-mapping and lighting models including specular lighting.

- Benchmarking Settings

To test Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra with Painkiller, I recorded a time demo on the Psycho deathmatch map. I picked a multiplayer stage since this was the only way to record a time demo. The timedemo has only 2 players fighting each other so the fps are high. After recording the demo, I grabbed the average FPS at the following resolutions: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was executed with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test, I upped the level for AA to 4x and AF to 8x.




Double performance for 6800 Ultra even with AA and AF Quality settings on.


9. Hitman: Contracts

Hitman: Contracts


Agent 47 is holed up in a hotel somewhere in Paris. He has been shot and is heavily doped up on painkillers. He's in a ghastly state and is both hallucinating and suffering from nightmarish flashbacks. This is where the missions in Hitman: Contracts come into play, as each one is designed to be a flashback to a previous hit from 47's past.

Every mission in the game use a structure that's similar to those in past Hitman games, thus giving you multiple objectives and multiple ways to achieve them. At his disposal, 47 has more than 30 firearms and a host of new melee weapons and attacks, including new sneak attacks for stealth killing.


To be honest, I expected more from the 3rd revision of this game. Even though I really enjoyed Hitman 1, I found boring and awkward the next 2 sequels. But Hitman: Contracts differentiates from the previous games for its awesome graphics. You have to play this game to see what I mean. I was staring in awe those fabulous weather effects. I haven't seen anything like it in any other game.

But the real reason I included Hitman: Contracts in our benchmark suite is it's very demanding post filtering quality setting. This game uses a unique post filtering system with complicated bluring effects. And as you can see for yourselves, it really extends even the latest GPUs, making it a very good benchmark.


- Benchmarking Settings
Unfortunately, the game doesn't have a decent benchmark process or a demo recording capability. Thus, I played manually a part of a stage that I found suitable. The stage is named "Beldingford Manor" and it has very spectacular rain effects. For the sake of VGA benchmarking, Agent 47 storms at a Scottish manor eliminating whatever gets in his way.

Firstly, I played the stage at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions without having the quality settings (post filtering, anisotropic) enabled. I again played the same stage doing the same thing, but this time with Anisotropic and High Post filtering enabled.

Now let's see if Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra will pass this test ...

Interesting results. It seems that ATI chipsets are good at this game. But let's see what happens when Post Filtering was enabled.

It's pretty amazing how this game's Post Filtering technique manages to break down the performance of the most powerful VGA chipsets. But it seems that for CoolFX 6800 Ultra it is no problem to render. It is worth noting though that it dropped its fps down to 42 when at the 1600x1200 resolution with the very demanding Post Filtering on.


Agent 47 at work


10. X2: The Threat

X2: The Threat


Trade
your way through the space lanes and achieve mogul status.
Fight your way through dozens of interlinked missions within an all-new storyline.
Build your empire of stations and ships across the Universe.
Think if your next move could be your last as the Universe reacts to your actions.

A first person space experience designed for today's game players with sound and graphics to match.

Discover new worlds and races, become a trader, bounty hunter, pirate, miner or a cunning combination of them all.

The uneasy peace that befalls the Universe is about to be broken...

Can you meet the Threat head on?

Yes, this game is as good as it sounds. If you enjoyed freelancer then you will fall in love with X2: The Threat. Apart from it's vast universe environment, perfectly suitable for countless space explorations, this game also includes a very remarkable 3D engine. Also, it's full support of Antiliasing and Anisotropic filtering settings makes it a good reference for testing the capabilities of the latest generation VGA cards.

For our tests I used a benchmark of X2 that I found on the net and believe me, it is very demanding even for the high-end chipsets currently available.

But, let's see if it will be a challenge for Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra.


Yep. An other match point for CoolFX 6800 Ultra.


Click to enlarge


11. Unreal Tournament 2004

Unreal Tournament 2004

Unreal Tournament 2004 is a multiplayer first person shooter that combines the kill-or-be-killed experience of gladiatorial combat with cutting-edge technology.

Ten game modes - both team-based and "every man for himself" -- provide even the most hardcore gamer with palm-sweating challenges through unbelievably detailed indoor arenas and vast outdoor environments.

As the ultimate techno-gladiator of the future, players will take their fates into their hands, battling against up to 32 other players online in action-packed, frag-filled arenas

 


- Unreal Tournament 2004 Benchmark

Click to enlargeMany new features and maps are available in Unreal T. 2004. Also, the gameplay has changed in many of its game types. For example, there is the Onslaught game type where you have to take over the enemy base using warmachines and vehicles in a massive map. For this reason, we included an Onslaugh and a Capture The Flag (CTF) map.

As with the other games, we conducted the benchmark using our timedemos at the 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. All tests were done with the maximum detail settings selected. 2 bots were used on the Ons-Torlan map and 8 bots on the CTF-Bridge of Fate map. First let's see the Onslaught game type test on the Torlan map.

 



Except from the Onslaught game type, unreal T. 2004 also has the following game types: Assault, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Double Domination, Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion and Last Man Standing. We also used a Capture the Flag timedemo with the same high quality settings.

CTF is our favorite, so we couldn't resist including a CTF timedemo in our benchmark suite. The CTF map we picked is the Bridge of Fate with 8 bots.






What we should note here is the unbelievable 125 fps returned at the 1600x1200 resolution. This also shows that when enabling AA and AF settings, the VGA card carries the weight, taking on the most calculations and minimizing CPU usage. This may be the process strategy of the NV40 GPU.


12. Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003

In the latest Unreal Tournament series, the player models contain a very high polygonal count. They are extremely detailed from the head to toe and they all look totally different from all the other players. The character animations are the most impressive. From running, jumping, and all the death animations.

Thanks to the new karma psychics system, every death is handled in a different way that corresponds to the surrounding environment. If players are shot with a rocket, they will be on fire, or if they die and are on the edge of a cliff, they will roll down according to the of the cliff-face terrain.

- Unreal Tournament 2003 Benchmark

To test Unreal T. 2003 we used the death-match map dm-antalus with 5 bots. Below you can see the average fps results with the same resolutions and quality settings as used in UT 2004.

No matter how many times I ran the same benchmark with the same settings, the 6800 Ultra kept returning the same, unacceptable for its kind, fps count. Of course, this has nothing to do with the performance of the card but rather it is again the the CPU issue.


13. Halo
HALO

Halo is a sci-fi shooter that takes place on a mysterious alien ring-world. Packed with combat, Halo will have you battling on foot, and in vehicles, inside and outdoors with Alien and Human weaponry. Your objective: to uncover Halo’s horrible secrets and destroy mankind’s sworn enemy, the Covenant.

The game supports the latest shader technology of pixel shaders 2.0. Of course the graphics are somewhat better on PC than Xbox, since most of the game's shader effects have been redesigned to support the latest 2.0 shaders in DX9. Having in mind that there are few games supporting 2.0 pixel shaders, Halo is a good test for VGA cards performance on the shader technology.

A prominent disadvantage of the game is its lack of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering support. If you get the funny idea to enable these settings via the control panel of your card, you will experience no difference in graphics quality as well as a slow down and loss in performance.

Halo also supports pixel shaders 1.1 that offer better performance at a cost in quality.

Click to enlarge- Halo Benchmark

For the Halo benchmark I set the default settings with pixel shaders 2.0 at the following resolutions: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and the awesome 1600x1200. The -timedemo command was used to run the default benchmark.


In Halo too, the CPU limitation issue appears again.With a CPU at 3.2 GHz, I believe the fps of the 6800 Ultra might reach 100 fps, having in mind that Nvidia's GPUs are made for performing better on shaders.


14. Tomb Raider : Angel of Darkness

Tomb Raider : Angel of Darkness

A series of grisly murders brings Lara into conflict with a sinister Alchemist from the past, and a secret alliance of powerful individuals shrouded in mystery. Accused of the murder of her one time mentor, Werner Von Croy, Lara becomes a fugitive on the run. Pursued by the police, she follows the Alchemist into a dark world of blood, betrayal and vengeance where it is up to her to defeat this unholy alliance, and stop them from unleashing their incredible powers on the world.

Angel of Darkness employs a brand new engine with Lara now made up of over 5,000 polygons as opposed to just 500 in previous Tomb Raider games. The range of special effects create a batch of cool visuals.

From the many kinds of water (mercurial liquid forms, good surface texturing, and realistic pools of water) to fire (heat blurs and colorful fiery pits), to the game's many light effects (lots of shadowing, multiple light sources and effective reflections), Core mixes more realistic settings with special effects to create a well-rounded whole. It is worth mentioning though that Tomb Raider: AOD uses pixel shader 2.0 technology at a higher extent than Halo does.

- Tomb Raider:AOD Benchmark

Click to enlargeI recorded a timedemo on the Paris stage. The particular scene where the timedemo was recorded, is full of complicated fire effects. This benchmark stresses a lot of the cards' pixel shading process and we believe that this is the ultimate pixel shader 2.0 game benchmark.

I grabbed the fps from the timedemo twice. Once with the Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering off (Trillinear was used instead), and once more with AA at 4x and Anisotropic Filtering mode enabled from the game's settings console .




The raw power of the NV40 core shows itself mostly at the 1600x1200 resolution, where it returned the incredible for the particular benchmark, 39 fps.

It seems that there is no match for Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra from among the previous generation's best VGA cards.


15. Farcry Quality

Farcry Quality


We have seen enough regarding the performance of the CoolFX 6800 Ultra. Now let's exmine it's performance quality. Firstly, you will see some screenshots captured that indicate the anisotropic filtering quality the 6800 Ultra has.

These are the 6800 Ultra Anisotropic filtering levels. The NV40 GPU gives the ability to render textures up to 16x anisotropy.

- Farcry AF Quality Test

To test the anisotropic filtering quality of the 6800U, I picked 2 particular scenes in Farcry and I grabbed screenshots from specific scenes with different values of AF.

The scene you see below can be found at the Volcano campaign level. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it.

Click to Enlarge

CoolFX 6800 Ultra supports the following AF settings: 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x. Now let's see the quality difference on this scene at the 1024 x768 resolution.

AA OFF
AA 2x
AA 4x
AA 8x
AA 16x

With AF disabled the poorer quality is very visible in Farcry with the 6800 Ultra. Only after the 8x anisotropy level can you experience some quality graphics. It is worth noting that a slight quality difference is visible between 8x and 16x (observe the middle line of the floor when it meets the circle at the end of the hallway).

I also picked a scene from a rusty bridge. The scene can be found at the Bunker campaign level. I picked this one because the anisotropy level is very visible on the floor of the bridge.

Click to enlarge

Again I grabbed screenshots using all AF settings CooLFX 6800U supports at the 1024x768 resolution.

AA OFF
AA 2x
AA 4x
AA 8x
AA 16x

The bridge looks pretty ugly even with the 2x anisotropy level. Things start to to look better mainly at 4x and more. But if you see carefully the 4x and 8x pictures at the end of the bridge floor, you may notice that the 8x has cleared out the slight blur found at 4x.

Comparing these images with the performance of the 6800 Ultra, I recommend enabling AF at 8x. The good point of this card is that you will not face any major drops of fps when enabling it's quality settings.

16. Painkiller Quality

Painkiller Quality

 

- Painkiller AF quality test

I used Painkiller to check not only the anisotropic capabilities of the 6800 Ultra, but also the Anti-Aliasing rendering quality. First let's see some pics I captured to again check the anisotropy.

On Painkiller, there is a nice spot where you can see the difference between the different Anisotropic settings. On the DM_Psycho map, there is a hall with bloody footsteps on the floor. I believe this spot is a perfect reference to test any VGA card's texture quality. Clean your glasses and observe carefully :)

Click to enlarge

AF OFF
2x AF

4x AF
8x AF
16x AF

The footsteps at the end of the hallway start to clear out at the 4x anisotropy level. Here again there is a slightly better quality at 8x and you can hardly see it on the marbles at the end of the hallway. I can't see any difference at all between the 8x and 16x level. Keep in mind though that games use Anisotropic Filtering in different ways. Also, some games do not even support 16x AF.

Enough with the Anisotropic Filtering. I hope the owners of the 6800 Ultra can make up their minds up on what anisotropy level to use. Now regarding the Anti-Aliasing quality all Nvidia's 6800 Ultras, use the following AA levels:

I grabbed some screenshots from Painkiller and Unreal Tournament 2004 to check the differences between the above AA levels.

- Painkiller AA quality test

To test Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra Anti-Aliasing technique, I picked a scene which includes many edged textures. This scene can be found on the DM_Cursed multiplayer stage. On the following picture, you can see the area I used for the AA test. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it.

Click to enlarge

AF OFF
2x AF
2xQ
4x AF
8xS AF

As you can see, the scale effect has been totally smoothed out even at 4x. There is no visible difference between 4x and 8xS.

17. Unreal Tournament 2004 Quality

Unreal Tournament 2004 Quality



- Unreal Tournament 2004 AA quality test

I also picked a scene from Unreal Tournament 2004 to check the card's Anti-Aliasing rendering ability. The scene can be found on the ONS_Antalus map on the powercore's base.

Click to enlarge

 

AF OFF
2x AA
2xQ AA
4x AA
8xS AA

On Unreal 2004, the stair effect has been totally swept away even at the 2x AA level. Maybe it's time to remove Unreal 2004 as a quality reference, since there are other games that use all the AA levels of the high-end VGA cards.


18. Overclocking Capabilities

Overclocking Capabilities


I'm pretty amazed by the total performance and quality the CoolFX 6800 Ultra offers. But as you all know, all cards hide some more power underneath. This extra power can be released through the overclocking procedure.

Gainward's 6800 Ultra is accompanied by a very nice and easy-to-use tweaking software application named EXPERTool. Below you can see the menu from EXPERTool that rolls up when right clicking it's icon on the taskbar.

When I first installed the card and clicked on the performance button the following window appeared indicating the default core and memory clock speeds.

Selecting the CoolFX Enhanced Mode, the clock speeds reach the limit of 450 and 1200MHz for core and memory respectively. And believe it or not, this is the normal state Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra operaties in. We haven't even overclocked it yet! The CoolFX Enhanced mode was the state I run all the benchmarks.

With trembling hands for the first time in my life, I pushed a VGA card over the 450 and 1200 boundaries. But unfortunately I only managed to overclock the card at 455MHz for it's core and 1250 for the memory.
When I tried to set the core clock speed to 450 MHz, the PC restarted before 3Dmark managed to finish. It seems that if the GPU surpasses a particular temperature, then it restarts the computer. 455 MHz is the maximum core speed I achieved.

As for the memory clock, some artifacts were still visible at 1260MHz.

Maybe there will be a better chance to overclock this card with a Thermaltake case. But I say "maybe" because the cooling method of Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra is internal water-cooling which means that there won't be a big difference in temperature no matter how many fans you use.

I used some games to test the new overclocking values achieved, but the results did not indicate any worthwhile boost in fps. So it would be futile to make any chart indicating 2 or 3 fps difference.


19. Conclusion

Conclusion

If you buy this card, you will be the King of graphics, you will be able to play ANY game in ANY resolution and with ANY quality setting, you will be the soul of any LAN-party, you will be rightfully boasting that you have the best VGA card ever, everybody will admire and respect you, you will be the center of attention of both your social and online environment and everybody will stare at you in awe when you start talking, BUT ... you will be about €700 poorer.

Well, if you eat lobster with caviar for breakfast and your biggest dilemma is whether to buy a Ferrari F50 or a Lamborghini Diablo, then this VGA card is made for you.

Seriously though, Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra is a performance beast and is no match for the last generation VGA cards. In the future*, you will be able to see some other reviews with ATI's and Nvidia's latest chipsets, but till then Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra justifiably can possess CDRinfo's BEST PERFORMANCE VGA SAMPLE.

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Even with the low CPU performance issue that held the card's performance back a little, Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra managed to make clear it's pressence taking the lead in all benchmarks and tests.

Another great advantage of the card is it's absolute silence. Honestly, when I first saw the pump, I thought that it will tear my ears away but I was left startled since neither the pump nor the radiator made any irritating noise. As I already mentioned at the start, to achieve this you must attach the pump and the fan to the case with the screws shipped with the package. This advantage makes it the perfect VGA card for movie lovers.

The only major drawback is it's price which is very high even for such a good performing product. It seems that the Innovatek water cooling system makes the difference with this card, but don't forget that there are other cooling methods too, enabling overclocking at the clock speeds Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra is set.

But to be fair, I don't think that any other water cooling system will be as good as Innovatek's. This is because water cooling technology is at the primitive stage now, but only Innovatek has made it's stand offering a trustworthy system. So, if someday I have the funny idea to "fill" my PC with water, I would choose Innovatek's water cooling system. That's for sure.

*19/08/2004 Review Updated. Read more tests Here




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