Gainward PowerPack! Ultra/2400 "Golden Sample" GLH
On October 12th, Gainward announced its latest "Powerpack Ultra/2400" family of graphics cards. This family is based on the 6800GT and 6600GT and is aimed at the 3D gaming enthusiast.
In this review, we will be testing the Gainward PowerPack!
Ultra/2400 "Golden Sample" GLH. The Golden sample GLH (Goes Like
Hell) cards are based on hand selected 6800GT Nvidia processors and redesigned
by Gainward to improve speed flexibility, overall performance and bandwidth.
Each card is really overclockable and guaranteed by Gainward to work at the
same speed as the 6800 Ultra. This is a card with which you should have no
The PowerPack! Ultra/2400 family details are summed up in the following table:
Gainward PowerPack! Ultra/2400
"Golden Sample" TM GLH
Gainward PowerPack! Ultra/2400
"Golden Sample" TM
GeForce 6800 GT 400Plus MHz
GeForce 6600 GT 400Plus MHz
GeForce 6600 GT 350 MHz
- Packaging - Bundle
The card ships in the Gold and Blue theme packaging, seen in the picture below.
Even though the card targets the gaming enthusiast market, the software that is bundled along does not include any games whatsoever. Instead, Gainward provides the user with some useful programs for video playback and authoring.
The bundle consists of among other things, 3 CD-ROM disks. One contains Muvee autoProducer 3 for video editing, the second interVideo's most famous WinDVD 5 and on the third disk you'll find drivers and application software for the card.
Also included in the package is a Quick Start Manual with details
and easy instructions on how to install the card on your motherboard and
using its utilities (such as EXPERTool).
Of course, the cables for connecting the graphics card with external devices couldn't be missing. A short S-to-Composite cable, two DVI-to-VGA connectors and a dual molex power connector complete the set of bundled accessories.
2. A closer look
02 - A closer look
||Nvidia 6800GT - NV40
||256MB 1.6ns 256-bit DDR3
||2 DVI-I / D-Sub
||AGP 8X,4X,2X (requires 2 expansion slots)
The card's full title is "Gainward Powerpack! Ultra/2400 Geforce 6800GT Golden Sample GLH". Simply put, the card is a special version of the 6800GT built for the purposes of overclocking it up to the 6800 Ultra's clock speeds.
Cooling is taken care of by a couple of fans protected by a huge magenta copper cage. The cage is intended to keep the user from accidentally touching the high speed fans and to prevent damage to the card.
The memory chips are from Samsung and are located on the front of the card, covered by heatsinks. The dual fan set draws colder air from the case interior and blows it on the chips in order to keep them from overheating.
You can see there is no direct cooling solution for the core. Instead, Gainward focuses on the memory components which are the main concern in overclocking when enabling the Enhanced Mode Settings from the driver menu.
|A front view of Gainward 6800GT GLH. Click to enlarge.
|The back side of the card.
Unfortunately, in order to support the cooling system, the Gainward card acquires two major drawbacks.
The first one is that the card consumes around 150W. Even though the design is such that it doesn't need a second molex connector for power, the power consumption in itself is simply insane. The required power supply as suggested by Gainward is for at least 300W.
|In order to reach to 6800GT's core first we had to unscrew the copper cage.
|and after removing all the heatsinks.
|After a while we reached our target. The NV40 chipset
The second drawback is that the card also hogs the space over PCI slot below the AGP slot of your motherboard. While the card with just the heat sinks installed could fit in the AGP slot alone, the fans and copper cage require the extra space.
The extended bracket of Gainward 6800GT
We didn't mind repositioning our PCI expansion cards but what troubled us is the fact that on the left hand side of the package there is a clear message stating "The Gainward 3D processor board occupies one AGP slot"...
As you can see in the picture above, the Gainward 6800GT GLH offers 2 DVI outputs for direct connectivity with a TFT monitor and one for S-Video input. With the supplied cables and adaptors that come with the card, you will have no problem connecting your accessories or hardware to it.
3. Test System
Test System - Page 03
Processor: Retail AMD Athlon 64 FX-55
Case: Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: Asus A8V
Memory: 2x512MB OCZ PC-4200 Memory
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro SP2
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
CounterStrike Source Beta
Medal of Honour Pacific Assault Demo
Ground Control II
3DMark05 - Page 04
With 3DMark05, Futuremark continues the tradition in its benchmarking software by providing a state-of-the-art Microsoft ® DirectX ® 9 3D performance benchmark.
3DMark05 is an all new 3DMark version, making the most out of Microsoft's DirectX
9. The previous version, 3DMark03, provided a nice testbench for this
technology. However, 3DMark03 used DirectX 9 specific features in
manner, because fully supporting hardware
was rare at the time of its launch. In contrast, 3DMark05 requires DirectX
9 hardware with full support for at least Shader Model 2, and takes shader
usage to never before seen levels.
Just like its predecessors, 3DMark05's point system is set so that at the moment
of release, the high-end VGA cards available on the market can only score around
5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the program's requirements,
yields a score of 1000.
Game Test 1 - Return to Proxycon
Being the sequel to the "Battle of Proxycon" from
3DMark03, in "Return to Proxycon" we're
once again set in space and the battle continues as space pirates invade
a cargo ship in order to take control of its valuable cargo.
This test, tries to simulate a futuristic first-person shooter
game with all the high details that such a game entails. The dynamic shadows,
highly detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques, ensure that
under normal circumstances,
no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.
At last, a decent performance on this Game test. For the first time, we were able to actually follow the storyline of the game test without being distracted by the low framerates we had witnessed with other cards.
Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest
A forest is filled with magic fireflies at night. The moon is nearly full, illuminating the forest with a bluish faint light. The magic fireflies have flickering, bright green lights that playfully move around the forest.
This scene is a nice example of a smaller scale outdoor scene with rich vegetation. Immediate visibility is only short range, and there is a skybox surrounding the whole scene.
A large number of trees with their branches swinging separately, and dense vegetation being dynamically distributed according to the camera movements, make this test the most demanding of the three.
The results we got demonstrate the game test's GPU requirements. The constant use of dynamic shadows and complexity of the grass and trees drop the framerate to 15.
Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight
A Jules Verne type airship flies through a canyon guarded
by a dangerous sea monster. The airmen defend their ship using heavy cannons,
but these seem to have no effect on the huge sea monster.
Finally, the crew manages a narrow escape using the airship's "last resort"
This scene is fairly complex with large areas of
water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water is actually one of the
key points of interest in this scene. The water not only does realistic
looking reflections and refractions, it has a depth fog, making the sea
monster swimming under the airship appear deep down in the water.
The air in this scene also uses
a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs in the canyon appear far away.
The resulting chart expresses Gainward's 6800GT superiority
against the lower class X300 and X600XT. The game test ran smoothly and we
actually enjoyed watching as the card successfully unraveled all of its details
without too many problems.
3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated with the following formula:
(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250
This is basically the geometric mean of the total frames in each game multiplied by 250, which means that all game tests are on an equal par.
Let’s see the result for the 6800GT GLH:
Excellent performance. It might not be close to the 7000 3DMarks which indicate an overall sufficient framerate for all game tests but comparing it to the X300 and X600, you get 3-4 times their performance with only 2 times the money needed for an X600 XT.
5. 3DMark 2003
05 - 3DMark 2003
3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stresses the DirectX performance of a VGA card. A very strong point of 3DMark is that its VGA card measuring does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card, we used the 4 game benchmarks from 3DMark.
3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests as well as some other feature tests.
- 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.
- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)
This test is a simulation of a first person shooter game. 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.
- 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.
- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)
Mother nature 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.
The 350+ frames per second we got in the first game is just insane
and completely useless as the game is based on DirectX 7 code. For the following
three games, the 6800GT GLH continues to deliver excellent performance but
still on the last game, it couldn't keep the framerate above 25 at all times,
especially in the most demanding scene of 3DMark03.
- 3DMark Official score
If you test your machine with 3DMark, you can post the results at 3DMark's online results page. For more information visit futuremark.com.
The Gainward easily surpassed the 10000 3DMarks, indicating how obsolete 3DMark03 is for newer cards and justifying the need for 3DMark05.
6. Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001
06 - Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001
Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been stepped up. This particular benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from the Aquanox game.
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 tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.
3DMark 2001 is the predecessor to 3DMark03. It's mainly a directx 8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However, for reference use only, we decided it would be best to just leave it in our benchmark list so you can compare the next generation cards with the possibly outdated one you have at home.
07 - Codecreatures
CodeCreatures 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 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 pixels resolutions.
The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process and is basically the geometric mean of the three framerates multiplied by 100.
Even with a drop of 11 frames per second, every time we increased
the resolution the card still brought off the benchmark absolutely smoothly.
The resulting 7600 codecreatures number compared to the 2433 of the X600 is
just another reason why ATi decided to stop manufacturing the X600 chipset.
8. Half life 2
08 - Half life 2
Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers keeping the excellence of Half Life 1 in their mind as well as the remarkable E3 demo preview, have been anxiously waiting for the much delayed release of HL2.
Regarding the storyline, the player again picks up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. And a lot of people he cares about are counting on him.
Characters - Advanced facial animation system delivers the most sophisticated in-game characters ever seen. With 40 distinct facial "muscles," human characters convey the full array of human emotion, and respond to the player with fluidity and intelligence.
Physics - From pebbles to water to 2-ton trucks respond as expected, as they obey the laws of mass, friction, gravity, and buoyancy.
Graphics - Source’s shader-based renderer, like the one used at Pixar to create movies such as Toy Story® and Monster's, Inc.®, creates the most beautiful and realistic environments ever seen in a video game.
AI - Neither friends nor enemies charge blindly into the fray. They can assess threats, navigate tricky terrain, and fashion weapons from whatever is at hand.
To measure performance we used the Video Stress Test(VST) that is available in the CounterStrike:Source beta available through Steam. We set all the details to the highest level and changed the resolutions from 800x600 to 1600x1200.
Even though Half Life 2 was supposed to be an Nvidia game, the 6800GT from Gainward seems to have no problems bringing the best framerate we've ever seen in the Video Stress Test.
All the results point out that as long as your CPU and memory can handle half life 2's Source engine this video card won't stand in your way in terms of performance..
9. Doom 3
09 - Doom 3
A massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporations? (UAC) Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of the few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.
Activision made it's miracle again with Doom 3 which is said to be the best-looking game ever, thanks to the brand-new OpenGL graphics engine used to generate its convincingly lifelike, densely atmospheric, and surprisingly expansive environments. If you are a fan of the previous Doom games then you will get many flashbacks with this revision, since you will find reimagined versions of almost every monster from both Doom and Doom II.
To measure performance on the game we used the timedemo demo1 command from the console (Alt+Ctrl+~).
Enabling the high quality setting and executing the timedemo demo1 command twice for each resolution, we witnessed the following:
First without the Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings enabled, we got the following results:
The 6800GT was promoted as the perfect choice for this game and our benchmarks prove this true. There's no Doom 3 setting that's able to bring the card down to its knees and that is a fact, even when we set AntiAliasing to 4x and Anisotropic Filtering to 8x:
Yes. With the Gainward 6800GT GLH and enhanced mode settings selected at the driver menu, you will enjoy Doom 3 with all the eye candy effects, quality settings enabled and at the maximum resolution of 1600x1200.
10. Far Cry
10 - Far Cry
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 as 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 the CryEngine offers.
A great advantage and strong point of the 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 believable 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 referable benchmark to speak of.
- Benchmark Settings
For this game we recorded a new demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid being CPU bound under any circumstances. This will produce slightly higher results since it is also less gpu intensive but we can't afford being stuck at 40-50 fps because of our cpu.
The 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 run the demo in are as follows: 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was committed with the Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test, we leveled up AA to 4x and AF to 8x.
Outstanding performance."The way it was meant to be played" fits
exactly the way the card ran our Far Cry benchmark.
Far cry is the only game that, with an official patch, offers
further support for new graphics effects. Starting with patch 1.3.1337, Ubisoft
gave Far Cry a whole new look with the latest Nvidia cards, using only HDR
(High Dynamic Range) lighting. Here are some screenshots showing how HDR lighting
makes the game much more impressive.
Booth - No HDR
Booth - HDR 7
Elevator - No HDR
Elevator - HDR 7
Wall lights - No HDR
Wall lights - HDR 7
Of course, all this new eye candy comes at a price:
The drop is more than 50% as the lighting is very intensive for the graphics card to handle. Performance at 1600x1200 was sometimes jerky but when playing at 1280x1024, the 6800 GT GLH ran the benchmark without any problems.
To enable HDR lighting for your card, you need 3 things:
1) A latest generation Nvidia card (6800, 6600 etc)
2) Run the game using the -devmode switch added to the shortcut.
3) Open up the console using the tilde key (~), type "r_HDRrendering 7" and "r_HDRlevel 1".
There are 12 different types of HDR rendering you can set with r_HDRrendering and you can also set the amount of lighting using the r_HDRlevel command.
11. Medal of Honour Pacific Assault
11 - Medal of Honour Pacific Assault
Medal of Honor Pacific Assault puts you in the boots of a WWII soldier in the Pacific Theater of Operations. As Marine Private Tommy Conlin, you must survive the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and then join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody conquest of the Pacific. From the attack at Pearl Harbor to the pivotal battle against Japanese Forces at Tarawa Island, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault gives PC gamers a sense of the courage it took to endure and overcome the Japanese threat in WWII and fight for VICTORY in the Pacific.
To record performance of this game we used fraps and played around for a minute in the first stage of the demo.
Even though the performance difference between the cards is imminent, the 6800GT couldn't produce more than 84 fps at the lowest possible detail settings. As the latest series Medal of Honour comes with new models and rendering effects, it needs a state of the art computer to run the game in full detail and quality options enabled.
As we couldn't set any AntiAliasing at this point, we will just present the plain results until we get the full game version.
12. Thief 3
12 - Thief 3
of Deus Ex, from now on we’ll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It
is based on the same engine but it's much less GPU intensive and playable
on more VGA cards than Deus.
The game makes severe use of Pixel Shader 1.1 instructions, the bloom effect and stencil shadows to achieve a wonderful result in your screen.
In the game you play the part of Master Thief Garrett who is back to rule out any evil forces using his unique stealth abilities. Deadly Shadows shows what stealth gameplay is all about. This game really gives you the feel of sneaking around and holding your breath when stuck in a sticky situation.
Since there is no official benchmark for the game, we'll do our tests
using a GPU intensive scene from the tutorial-level which we believe that
represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.
The X300 and X600XT are nothing but a bad joke when comparing them with the 6800GT powered Gainward card. The framerate is very stable and above 40 at all times, up to a resolution of 1280x1024.
Enabling 4x multisampling is for once, worth the drop. The best combination of quality and performance seem to be the 43 fps under 1024x768.
13. Colin McRae 05
13 - Colin McRae 05
For all you racing fans out there, this test is for you and will represent the Racing game category in our benchmarks.
From the graphics point of view, the first thing you'll
notice in the game is the excellent amount of detail on your racing car.
High resolution textures on the car and lighting make it quite impressive.
All the eye candy such as the sun reflection in the virtual camera are
still the same as the older CM versions but motion blur has been added
when your card hits something hard which will happen most often if you're
new to the racing simulation world.
To measure performance on the game we used fraps to get the average fps of the whole 8th stage of UK which is actually the only stage you get to play on the demo.
The 131 fps rate seems to be our CPU limit using our top-notch
AMD Athlon FX-55. The card can deliver more than that but the processor can't
cope with it. Increasing the resolution further, the graphics card is the
one that limits the framerate but fortunately the resulting numbers are still
at optimal levels even when we turn on AntiAliasing and Anisotropic Filtering:
14. Ground Control II
14 - Ground Control II
Control 2 is an action-oriented game of tactics and warfare. As Captain Jacob
Angelus of the Northern Star Alliance, you will command squads of infantry,
artillery, and airpower against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building
are replaced with unit control and combat tactics where your knowledge of
the battlefield maneuvers will make the difference in your fight against
a ruthless enemy. Position your troops on hilltops for better aim or inside
buildings and forests for protection as you'll need to use every inch of
terrain to your advantage. Call in air strikes or assault pods to bring the
battle behind enemy lines. Send out scouts to locate the enemy and use spotters
for your artillery with the 360° free-roaming camera. Experience the
total immersion of futuristic warfare as you lead your forces to victory!
For our benchmarks we used the highest possible settings on the first mission of the single player game and moved around the camera to get an average framerate using fraps.
Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power. Click on the picture above to view a screenshot from the game. Check out the excellent water effects!
For one more time, Gainward's 6800GT GLH comes up with excellent power in games. With sometimes more that 4X the performance of the X300 and X600XT cards, Gainward gave us exactly what it promised : " the best possible gaming experience!".
As we enabled all the quality options, the framerates drop the
usual 30-50%. Even so, the fps are still at high levels no matter the resolution.
The 40fps at 1600x1200 was a bit threatening but considering the stability
in framerate throughout each game level, the result is very satisfactory.
15 - Overclocking
No matter your graphics card, there comes a time in your computer's life when it can no longer cope with the latest technology the ever so popular games use. This is one of the main reasons for overclocking your graphics card. Gamers are always looking forward to a little extra boost in terms of framerate. Even though most of the time the boost is far from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford to buy a brand new VGA card.
The default clock speeds for the card are 350MHz for the core and 500MHz for the memory. All overclocking is managed through Gainward's utility ExperTool which is supplied inside the driver software disk.
ExperTool is a software for tweaking your Gainward card's clocks and desktop settings. It loads at the windows startup by default and can be found on the tray bar as an X icon.
Right clicking on it presents us with the menu illustrated below. What is of interest here is the performance option. The rest of the options are typical of any driver software, be it ATI or NVidia.
When we click on performance, once the ExperTool overclocking program starts, we are presented with the following screen.
On the left, there's a list of options for tweaking your Gainward card as in the tray menu we saw a bit earlier. On the right, you can see two fake heat indicators, one for the core and one for memory clock. Increasing the core and memory clock speeds, the indicators increase their pointed value accordingly. In other words they don't really show how hot the graphics processor gets but just offer a suggestion of how far you should go when overclocking the card.
As the card is built for the purposes of overclocking so it will reach the 6800 Ultra's values without any risks, we immediately clicked on the Enhanced Mode Settings as advised in the manual. The speeds increase to 400 and 1200Mhz respectively for 3D performance and we are ready for gaming as ExprerTool will hold these settings as long as it keeps running.
Through ExprerTool, you can also set the fan speeds in case you're worried about the card overheating. The default selected value for Fan speed is "Dynamic Speed", which means that whenever the card's internal temperature sensor indicates the card is getting hotter than normal, the fan speeds are increased by the driver software automatically to cool it down.
For the record, the maximum values you can set the clock speeds at are 420MHz for the core and 1300MHz for memory. The card is already overclocked at a satisfactory level and we found it most proper not to overclock this card any further, as the tiny performance gain we got wasn't worth the risk of instability.
16 - Conclusion
Certainly the performance of the 6800GT GLH is excellent. Only Thief 3 and Medal of Honour seemed to mind when we increased our resolution to 1600x1200 and that happened only when turning on AA and AF. This card can render all the games with all their eye candy enabled.
When it comes to the card's value for money we have to consider, "Is it really worth picking this card instead of a plain 6800GT"? This card ships at the recommended price of €550 whereas a typical 6800GT costs around €450. Considering that most 6800GT cards can be easily clocked to Ultra speeds, we don't believe there was a need for further improvements on the card's part to handle the overclock. Why pay for an overclocked GT almost at the price of the Ultra?
The software bundle does not include any game at all. Nowdays, PowerDVD is almost always bundled with everything you buy. We don't need another copy of it. The simple muvee autoproducer is the only thing that keeps the bundle alive.
Overclocking on the other hand was great. What counted the most is Gainward's approval of pushing the clocks higher. Gainward wants you to overclock this one. The cooling method is excellent and provides you with plenty of breathing room, in overheating terms.
-Guaranteed to overclock to Ultra speeds
-Consumes a lot of power
-Occupies the space over a second slot in order to fit on the motherboard
-Mediocre bundled software
Value for money: