MSI NX 6800 Ultra
MSI is one of the largest manufacturers of NVIDIA chipset based graphics cards. The latest MSI product we tested was the FX59590U which proved to be too pricy for its performance. This time we received another very expensive card from MSI, the NX 6800 Ultra. However, this card is built using the very successful 6800 Ultra core from NVIDIA, so we expect it to deliver solid performance thus justifying its price.
- Packaging - Bundle
MSI continues the tradition that sees them shipping their cards in huge fancy packages. The gladiatorial theme is once again featured on the box along with the various tags showing off the card's main features.
The most interesting thing about the NX 6800 Ultra, beyond its performance of course, is it's software. We're used to MSI's rich bundles included with their packages but never before in this quantity. Believe it or not, this card ships with a complete 14 CD set. You would expect the games to be of lesser value and not widely known but no, MSI surprisingly bundled "XIII", "Prince of Persia : The sands of time" and "URU : Ages beyond mist". All three are great games and loved by their target audience.
- Prince of Persia : The sands of time(2CDs)
- URU : Ages beyond mist
- InterVideo WinDVD / Supreme foreign Language Learning Machine
- MSI 3D Desktop
- VirtualDrive / RestoreIT!
- Photoshop Album SE / 3D-Album
- MSI Media Center Deluxe II
- MSI Games Collection (14 game demos)
MSI Multimedia (drivers & utilities)
A DVI-to-VGA adaptor and two molex power connectors conclude the set of accessories.
2. A closer look
02 - A closer look
||Nvidia 6800U - NV40U
||256MB 256-bit 1.6ns GDDR3
||2 DVI-I / D-Sub
||AGP 8X,4X,2X (requires 2 expansion slots)
The MSI NX 6800Ultra uses the Nvidia 6800 Ultra core running at 400MHz. Of course, the number of pixel pipelines is 16, the highest available on the market right now.
As you can see above, there are 8 memory chips spread around the core. The memory chosen by MSI is the Samsung K4J55323QF-GC16, which is of course GDDR3 with a delay of only 1.6ns.
|One of the Samsung K4J55323QF-GC16 memory parts.
The memory chips form a total of 256MB of memory that the card can take advantage of at the maximum speed through it's 256-bit interface. The memory clock is set to run at 600MHz making the effective speed 1.2GHz.
|At the back side of the card there's nothing really interesting to see as all the card's parts have been moved to the front side to get better cooling.
Removing the fans and heat-sinks didn't take too long and we were soon at the heart of the card, the GPU:
|The Geforce 6800U core in all its glory.
The NX 6800U features two DVI outputs and no direct output for VGA connectors. Instead, you'll have to use the bundled adaptor to plug in your VGA monitor.
The 6800U chipset is famous for being power hungry. You can see on the picture above that it requires 2 power connectors on it to work properly, but fortunately MSI provides you with extensions in case you have a limited number of power cables left on your power supply.
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
Power Supply: Levicom 500Watt
OS: 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.
The two 6800 cards are almost equal in performance and a lot of fps ahead of the X600XT.
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 fps in this game test are relatively low but since the light source is moving slowly across the different scenes, you can't really tell the difference between 15 or 25 fps. The MSI NX 6800 Ultra is still on top regarding performance with the Gainward 6800GT threateningly close behind. Both cards outperformed the X600XT by a factor of 4 to 1.
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 Gainward card took the lead in this test from the MSI NX 6800Ultra by only 0.4 frames per second. This shows just how little difference there is between the two cards so far.
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 NX6800Ultra:
You can see that Gainward did a great job in tweaking the 6800GT core. Both cards performed extremely well but MSI's NX6800 Ultra managed to get a slightly higher final score.
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 3DMark03 test accurately reflects the NX 6800U current game performance. It can render, at incredible quality and speed, DX7 & DX8 games whereas it can offer great performance even with the latest DX9-only games.
- 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.
MSI did slightly better than its opponent keeping a distance of 207 3dmarks between it and the overclocked 6800GT.
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 difference between the 6800s starts at 0.8 fps at the lowest resolution dropping down to 0.5 at the mid resolution and finally vanishes at 1600x1200. The X600XT couldn't do any better than run the benchmark at 50fps lower than the other two cards.
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.
The Codecreatures number represents exactly what we saw in the game tests. You would hardly spot the difference in the chart if it wasn't for the number written above each bar.
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.
Half life 2 was supposed to be extremely GPU intensive, but looking at the results, excuse us for being somewhat skeptical. MSI's 122 frames per second at 1600x1200 is more than enough to enjoy this game.
Even enabling 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering can't bring this card's performance down at all. As long as your CPU can handle the Source Engine that is working at the backend of Half Life 2, the MSI NX 6800 Ultra can ensure you have the highest framerate possible currently.
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 had the following results:
The NX6800U performed 1-2 frames per second better than the Gainward GT. The X600XT isn't worth mentioning. As you can see, it couldn't even run the game satisfactorily at the 800x600 resolution.
Unfortunately, the fps didn't stay above 60fps at all resolutions but if the top card from NVIDIA could not succeed at doing this, then there's probably no card around presently capable of such a feat.
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 at are the following: 800x600,1024x768, 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 to 4x and AF to 8x.
Once again, the NX 6800 Ultra leads the race by 4-5 fps under all resolutions.
Turning on the quality options for Far Cry, dropped the performance as expected, but the card kept it at the great level of 50fps.
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.
In this game, the MSI NX 6800Ultra shows that overclocking is not enough to reach the MSI NX 6800Ultra's level. Even though the Gainward is designed with a great set of parts, the difference is obvious.
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.
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 on 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
represents the average fps you'll get when playing the game.
The difference we see in the chart is not obvious when playing the
game. Both cards performed well at low resolutions when rendering
the game, but they
to present us with a satisfactory framerate.
Likewise, when enabling MultiSampling and Anisotropic Filtering,
the MSI NX 6800 produces more frames than its relative from Gainward when running
at 640x480. However, increasing the resolution further, that advantage is immediately
lost and it falls behind the GT which finally shows its teeth.
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.
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
car 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 proccessor
can't cope with it. The two 6800s seem about equal in power with perhaps
a slender lead from MSI's NX6800 Ultra.
Running the game with 8x anisotropic filtering and 4x AntiAliasing,
the difference immediately increases but descends as we move on to higher
resolutions. Even so, both cards seem to have no trouble running the game
under any setting.
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
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 benchmark testing, we used the highest possible settings on the first
mission of the single player game and moved the camera around to get an average
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!
As in all previous games, MSI's NX6800 Ultra offers a little better performance
than the overclocked GT card.
However, for some reason Ground Control II and quality options
don't fit well together when running the game with the Ultra. The card's framerate
drops below its main competitor, no matter the resolution we choose.
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 technological
demands the ever so popular games impose. This is one of the main
reasons for overclocking your graphics card. Gamers are always looking forward
boost in terms of framerate. Even though most of the times the boost is far
from noticeable, overclocking remains the last resort when you can't afford
to buy a brand new VGA card.
The clocks of the NX6800 Ultra tick at 400MHz for the 6800 core
and 550MHz (1100MHz effective) for the memory. The clocks are already
set at a high speed so we didn't expect much framerate gain from overclocking
it any further.
Sadly, the MSI card seemed to be already at its limits and even
though we tried different combinations of clock speeds, the card was extremely
Finally, we managed to set the clocks at 415MHz for the core
and 560MHz for the memory. However the results in benchmarks were quite
unsatisfactory. Even though we double checked to avoid being mistaken, the
following was sad but true:
- The NX 6800 Ultra's average performance gain from
overclocking was less than 1fps and far from noticeable. Increasing the clocks
further would either cause the testing to fail or the computer to freeze up.
16 - Conclusion
The performance of the MSI NX 6800 Ultra was excellent. You can
certainly rely on it, as all games will run on your computer at the highest
possible framerate your CPU can handle. Take note however, that in case your
is slower than Intel's 2.6Ghz or AMD's 2600+, the CPU will, more often than
not, hold back your gaming experience. The card's performance will be bound
to a certain framerate by the CPU, no matter what resolution you decide to
run the game under.
When it comes to judging this card's value, you need to look at two things.
The performance and the price tag when compared to an overclocked 6800GT.
The MSI NX6800 Ultra costs around US$600, whereas the GT version US$450.
for the NX6800U as the only thing that seperates it from the GT is the slightly
different clock speeds. However, overclocking the GT eliminates this problem
and saves you the extra US$150.
Overclocking is really a four letter word for this 6800 Ultra. The clocks are already set at high speeds so don't expect any hidden rendering potential.
The bundle with the NX6800 Ultra is unique. MSI's excellent choice of quality
games will probably save you some money, provided of course that you don't
-No overclocking abilities
Value for money: