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Appeared on: Thursday, September 22, 2005
AOpen Aeolous 6800Ultra


1. Introduction

Several months ago, CDRinfo released a review about the capabilities of the Aeolus 6800 Ultra SLI. As the new age dawns for the Nvidia based chipset graphic cards with the release of the already famous 7800 GPU cards (which will be reviewed shortly by the CDRinfo team), we will take a look at the capabilities of the Aeolus 6800 Ultra PCI-E in single mode. As one will see from the following pages, this card has a lot to offer the potential buyer and should not in any way be considered outdated. For OC capabilities and SLI performance, feel free to look at the full review of the SLI Aeolus 6800 Ultra.

- Packaging/Bundle

Nice, stylish retail box. Notice the PCI-E logo clearly indicating that the card is a PCI Express interface graphics card.

AOpen included in the package a 5 in 1 Game Collection, with the following games in "Lite version":

  Games
1 Vietcong
2 Railroad Pioneer

3

Neighbors from Hell
4 Tropico 2: Pirate Cove
5 Aquanox 2: Revelation

AOpen couldn't do only with these "Lite" games and added two more, SpellForce: The Order of Dawn, and Arx Fatalis.

There are some other accessories included in the retail package :
- Cable : S-Video to Compose cable
- DVI-CRT converter
- User's Guide : AOpen User's Guide
- VGA driver disc : AOpen VGA driver disc


2. Features

These are the main characteristics of the AOpen Aeolus 6800Ultra.

GPU

nVidia GeForce 6800-Ultra
Chip Technology : 256-bit
DirectX Generation : 9
Process : 0.13 Micron
16 Pixel Pipelines

Video Memory

DDR3
256 MB

Highest Resolution / Colors / Refresh Rate

2048x1536 / 32bit / 85Hz

RAMDAC speed 400 MHz
2D Performance

2048x1536 @ 85hz

Revolutionary 3D Accelerator Features Optimized DirectX and OpenGL acceleration
Connectors DVI connector x 2
TV-Out(S-Video) x 1
Driver Support

Microsoft Direct3D®, DirectDraw® ,DirectVideo® and ActiveX® for Window 95/98/ME®
OS : Windows 2000/XP
DirectX : 8 / 9
SGI OpenGL ICD : Windows 2000/XP

Software Package

Auto driver installation wizard
User-friendly interface to control VGA settings
Full version WinDVD

Accessory

Cable : S-Video to Compose cable x 1
DVI-CRT converter x 1
User's Guide : AOpen User's Guide x 1
VGA driver disc : AOpen VGA driver disc x 1

The AOpen Aeolus 6800Ultra is based on the NV40 architecture. The RAMDAC speed is clocked at 400MHz. Its card uses 256MB of RAM, clocked at 1100MHz.

On-screen properties for the 6800 Ultra as reported by the VGA driver properties tab are show below:

Several features of the Aeolus 6800Ultra:

- CineFX 3.0

This is a groundbreaking new hardware technology that pushes 3D real-time graphics one step closer to film quality. It offers infinite length shader programs, dynamic flow control, displacement mapping, vertex frequency stream divider and Multiple Render Target (MRT) technology. Previously, highly complex effects were not possible without sacrificing performance and precision, because of long shader programs that required many computational passes. Now, with the CineFX 3.0 engine, groundbreaking effects can be created without compromising performance.

- SLI enabled

The NVIDIA nForce4 Scalable Link Interface (SLI) technology allows two graphics processing units in a single computer. This technology takes advantage of the PCI Express bus architecture and features intelligent hardware and software solutions that allows multiple GPUs to work together and achieve exceptional performance.

 

 

- UltraShadow II

More photo-realistic scenes and environments in your games, without compromising PC performance. Complicated lighting and shadow effects become practical and next-generation games rise to the next level in cinematic realism.

- E-Color 3Deep

E-Color 3Deep provides color and lighting correction to optimize your 3D gaming environment. 3Deep eliminates dark or washed out graphics for a key competitive edge in multiplayer games.

- Pixel Shader Model 3.0

Better performance and more realistic shades to produce high quality images within games.


3. A closer look

The largest portion of the card's surface area is occupied by the large heatsink bearing the manufacturer's name. It is a rather simple yet effective heatsink that will keep the temperature at normal levels. The card weighs more or less the same as most of the graphics cards on the market, maybe a bit heavier due to the size of the GPU cooler. The card requires a dual Molex power feed from your power supply.

Underneath the cooler and the metal plate, there is a series of 8 32MB GDD3 memory modules, resulting in 256MB capacity.

The picture below shows the "heart" of the card, the nVidia chipset. It is manufactured using the 0.13 Micron process and offers 16 Pixel Pipelines. Due to the 0.13 Micron thickness, it really heats up under heavy load, but the GPU cooler does a great job keeping the GPU temperatures at considerably low levels.

The 6800 Ultra is a heavy duty graphics card, so the cooler required must also be heavy duty and hence the metal fins at the side of the GPU cooler, enhancing cooling performance. Note also that the rotation of the GPU fan varies according to the load the card is put under.

A close look at the metal fins...

Now let's move to the next page where we cover in detail our graphics card's testbed.


4. Test System



Benchmarking Software
3DMark05,03,01
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro
AquaMark3 v3.0
RivaTuner
Farcry v1.3
HL2
Doom 3
Thief 3
Ground Control II
Colin McRae '05

For comparison reasons, we will be posting the results of the AOpen Aeolus 6800 Ultra along with those of the Sapphire X850XT graphics card. Both cards are considered Heavy Duty, sufficient for most heavy 3D tasks.


5. 3DMark05

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 of Microsoft's DirectX 9. The previous version 3DMark03, did a nice introduction into this level of technology. However 3DMark03 used DirectX 9 specific features in a limited 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 in stores can only score around 5000 3DMarks, whereas the worst card that meets the programs requirements yields a score of 1000.

Game Test 1 -Return to Proxycon

Click to enlargeBeing 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 future first-person shooter game with all the high details that entails. The dynamic shadows, high-detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques ensure that under normal circumstances, no recent card can run it with decent frame rates.

 

Game Test 2 - Firefly Forest

Click to enlargeA forest gets filled with magic fireflies in the 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 not so far, 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.

Game Test 3 - Canyon Flight

Click to enlargeA 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 "last resort" afterburners of the airship.

This scene is fairly complex with large areas of water reflecting the high canyon walls. The water actually is 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 actually look deep down in the water. The air in this scene also uses a volumetric fog, making distant cliffs of the canyon really look far away.

 

Let's take a look at the test results for each "game" in this benchmark. The first game, as discussed above, features dynamic shadows, high-detailed environment and advanced lighting techniques. The 6800 Ultra manages to achieve an average framerate of 25.2 fps to the 26.9 average fps reported for the X850XT. In the second game, the 6800 manages to score an average 17.1 fps again slightly behind the X850. Note here that the second test is the most demanding. The Aopen 6800 Ultra managed to achieve a higher frame rate with the third test, almost reaching 30fps average.

Final Score

 3DMarks on 3DMark05 are now calculated by the following formula:

(Game Test 1 * Game Test 2 * Game Test 3)^0.33 * 250

That's basically the geometric mean of the total frames in each game multiplied by 250. This means that all game tests are now equal.

The overall outcome of this test is given in marks as described in the formula above. The X850XT manages to outscore the 6800 Ultra by almost 200marks. In the next pages, we look at how the card performs with the remaining benchmarks.


6. 3DMark03

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 it's VGA card measuring is does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference a VGA card's rendering performance. For testing the performance of each card we used the 4 game benchmarks 3DMark has.

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 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.

- 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.

In the first three games, the AOpen Aeolus cards reported the better performance, while in the fourth game test, the X850XT took the lead by a 5fps difference.

- 3DMark Official score

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

As expected, according to the GT results, the Aeolus dominated this specific benchmark, with a total of 13271 3DMarks total.


7. 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 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.

-Codecreatures number

The codecreatures number is the resulting score of the total benchmarking process and is basically the geometric mean of the three frame rates multiplied by 100.

The use of nVidia's PixelShader Model 3.0 greatly improves the performance of these cards. This test uses Vertex and PixelShaders, and CineFX engine makes its appearance, producing more realistic scenes. With a total of 7653, this card is sure to satisfy any demanding user.


8. Aquamark3 / 3DMark 2001

Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need of benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been brought up. The benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) of the Aquanox game.

 

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 tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.

particle
vertex
massive

3DMark 2001

is the predecessor to 3DMark03. It's mainly a directx8.1 benchmark and the score depends a lot on the CPU power of your computer. However for reference use only we decided it'd be best to just leave it in our benchmark list so you can compare the next generation cards with the possibly outdated you have at home.

Again in this test, the Aeolus graphics card has the lead, even though the differences may well be considered as negligible. As discussed above, this test is merely for comparison reasons (new and next generation cards with previous generation) since the use of directx8.1 is used here.


9. Half life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times.

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 each time changed the resolution from 800x600 up to 1600x1200.

With AA and AF settings off, we measured the average fps at each resolution. The Aeolus managed to sustain a small lead over the X850XT at all tested resolutions.

With AA and AF set at 4x and 8x respectively, the Aeolus remained the dominant card at the first two tested resolutions. However, as the resolution increased, the cards were more evenly matched. Nice performance from the 6800 Ultra and Half Life II.


10. 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:

As the introductory logo display informs us while launching Doom3, Nvidia based cards perform better with this specific test. Notice the fps differences between the two cards.

Once more, with all the features enabled, the Aeolus card managed to lead the X850XT ATI card, Even at the 1600x1200 resolution, the game is still playable and enjoyable.


11. FarCry

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 custom demo from the start of the Rebellion stage. We chose an indoor scene in order to avoid getting the CPU bound effect. This will result in 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 (1.3) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the 3.0 Shader model. This option is only supported for the 6800 series.

The resolutions we ran the demo under are the following:1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.

Not much to say here, as the above graph speaks for itself. The difference in fps here is massive. Even at 1600x1200, the 6800 Ultra went all the way up to 143 fps average. Great performance once more.

In the first of the tested resolutions, the Aeolus once more was out of reach in terms of fps, while with the second and third resolutions things changed, as the framerate dropped for the Aeolus 6800Ultra whereas the X850XT managed to remain steady across all resolutions and at 1600x1200 actually produced a higher framerate.


12. Thief 3

Instead of Deus Ex from now on we'll be testing our cards using Thief 3. It's based on the same engine but it's much less GPU intensive and playable by 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.

Thief 3 is a torture test for graphics cards. All lower class cards fail to provide stable performance in this benchmark when selecting full details from the settings menu.

With this specific game and with AA and AFx0, the 6800 Ultra did quite well. The reported average fps is considered enough for smooth in-game movement without any noticeable"onscreen breaks". The X800XT did far better in this test with a total of 56fps at the highest possible resolution tested.

From what we can see in the above graph, the 6800 Ultra does not have sufficient power to run smoothly at the higher resolutions with AA and AF at 4x and 8X respectively.


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 detail of 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.

Good performance with both graphics cards, while at the maximum possible resolution, the ATI based card was clearly the winner.

By enabling AA and AF to increase image quality, the ATI card is still the "king of the highway ".


14. Ground Control II

Ground 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 air power against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building and resource-collecting 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.

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 frame rate 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 these excellent water effects!

The performance of both cards with the specific game and AA - AF off is evenly matched, while at the highest tested resolution, the X850XT dropped its performance by 15 fps.

With AA and AF enabled, the Aeolus asserts its dominance in this test, as one can clearly see from the above graph.


15. Conclusion

From our previous review on the 6800 Ultra SLI mode, we've seen what this card can do when doubled up and put under the stress tests. Throughout these pages, we've seen how this card performs as a single PCI-E card and we can surely say that the results will satisfy even the most hardcore gamer.

The AOpen Aeolus 6800 Ultra dominated in almost all benchmarks, with the exception of the 3DMark05 where the comparison rival card, the X850XT managed to achieve better results, though with minor differences. With the tested games, the Aopen Aeolus 6800 Ultra did quite well and in no case was a game rendered unplayable as the average fps never dropped to low levels, exception in the case of "Thief 3", a game which is infamous for torturing VGA cards.

The Aeolus 6800 Ultra comes with a complete retail package, containing all the software and hardware needed for the potential buyer to enjoy his graphics card right out of the box, including power cables and a DVI adapter. The package also includes seven games, five of them in "Lite" version (i.e. demo), while two of them are full version games, though the bundle is not likely to draw your attention, since it can be described as outdated. This is not a drawback, although it would be nice if the released bundles contained a collection of full version latest games. Last but not least, the package also contains the AOpen Nvidia VGA drivers, which we advise should not be used. A download of the latest official Nvidia VGA drives is recommended for optimal performance (aka updated profiles).

The noise generated by the GPU cooler is not great, but is noticeable, especially when the GPU load is increased, when the fan's rotation is likewise increased in order to keep the GPU cool. As discussed before, the heatsink is a rather simple yet effective cooler that will keep the temperature at normal levels. The metal fins located on the right side of the heatsink help the process and it's a nice addition to the cooler system.

OC capabilities are described in detail in the SLI mode review for this card, which can be found here.

One may ask, why buy a this PCI-E SLI enabled VGA adapter if not for its SLI capabilities? The answer is simple. The only PCI-E 6800 that can be found on the market is the SLI model. But whether for single card use or for future SLI investment, the 6800 Ultra is an excellent choice for games enthusiasts who are willing to sacrifice a few extra $$$ for game performance. The AOpen 6800 Ultra costs approx. US$465 at newegg.com.

Pros:
- Excellent performance in all tests
- Excellent cooling system
- Considerably low noise levels
- Great nVidia features improve image quality

Cons:
- High priced, aiming at PC games enthusiasts

 

Performance:
Overclocking:
Bundle:
Value for money:


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