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Appeared on: Monday, March 26, 2007
Gainward 8800GTS GS 320

1. Introduction

Nvidia's 8800GTS series have been very successful in sales due to the performance/price ratio. Besides the top model with 640MB, Nvidia and its partners are shipping a stripped down version of the 8800GTS with only 320MB of internal memory vs 640 RAM for the standard model. After having tested the Gainward 8800GTS GS 640MB, we had the chance to also test and review the new Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB. Our tests will unveil if there is any significant performance drop with half the memory. As usual, we will be putting the card through our array of synthetic benchmarks and real life gaming experience. But first, let's see what the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB has to offer...

- Gainward BLISS 8800GTS GS 320MB Golden Sample

Gainward presents its proposal for the 8800 series platform. Powered by NVIDIA´s® GeForce® 8800GTS graphics processor unit (GPU), the BLISS 8800GTS 320TV DD is designed to deliver an incredibly realistic gaming experience, displaying 3D and HDR lightning effects as never seen or experienced before. With it´s 320MB/320-bits high-speed memory, the BLISS 8800GTS offers a knock-out performance allowing gamers to blast through games at record breaking speeds.  

The BLISS 8800GTS 320MB comes with the "Golden Sample" logo, indicating improved core/memory clocks over the reference design.

"...Golden Sample products from Gainward offer a higher clock setting than reference-design boards. That is the heart and soul of Gainward's Golden Sample. With some products this is achieved by using higher performing components than on the reference design boards and on other products the higher performance is achieved by using software utilities..."

The fastest Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB card you can buy comes with 550MHz/1.76GHz clock speeds. For our tests, Gainward provided the "8347-BLISS 8800GTS GS 320MB Golden Sample" model. The card can be found online at the retail price of €320~350. The retail box has a unique design:

To sum it up, the retail package includes:

Looking at the card, it is mid-sized, so it should fit without many problems in your mid ATX box. It will however, occupy two backplane slots, due to its air cooling system. The cooling system covers the memory banks and the GPU core and in most cases is very quiet. There are no physical differences compared with the 640MB model:

On the rear of the PCB, we find a label with the Model, Part Number and Serial Number:

2. Test and Setup

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, we can see more features for the Gainward 8800GTS card:

All tests were conducted with the same PC setup:

With the 8800 series, the 3D control panel has some minor changes. Users can now set the AA mode,

and select up to 16x, even with a single card:

From our tests, the 16x setting seems to offer the same performance as 8x, so the best possible AA mode is 16xQ. We used numerous games and applications to evaluate the VGA card's performance:

3. 3D Mark 05 - 3D Mark 06

3DMark®05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX®9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware. 3DMark05 is the answer to the continuously growing challenge in benchmarking!

For all test results, we used the default settings of 3DMark05 as follows:

3D Mark 05 is a well known benchmark utility that represents the combination of CPU and VGA strength. The Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB is faster(!) than the 640MB model, by 3 points. Of course, such differences can appear in benchmark tests and don't always represent real life gaming experience...

- 3D Mark 06 v1.0.2

3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking and the latest version in the popular 3DMark series! 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, advanced SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. Futuremark's exclusive Online ResultBrowser web service tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores. Again we left all settings at default:

In 3D Mark 06, the difference between the 320MB and 640MB is only 14 points but this time in favour of the 640MB model.

4. F.E.A.R.

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

For all tests, we used the latest available patch that updates game engine to v1.08. The game offers 1280x1024 resolution, which used for all tests. We maxed all details for the CPU and VGA card, except for Soft Shadows and AA/AF. We used Nvidia's 3D Control panel to enable AA/AF as indicated in each graph.

Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

F.E.A.R. is a demanding game and the 8800GTS GS 320 performed very well. In fact, without enabling anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, it is only 1 FPS slower than the 640MB model. It would be interesting to see which card suffers the least in performance after enabling AA/AF:

Enabling AA/AF gives a performance hit on all tested cards. The 320MB model was actually "faster" with 2x AA, however, at 4x AA we can see a clear advantage for the 640MB model.

5. Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an other worldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

We used the latest available patch that updated the game engine to v1.2.0. For all tests, we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320 was 6 PFS slower than the 640MB model.

Enabling the various AA/AF rendering modes, we see that after 4x AA, both the 320MB and 640MB models have almost identical performance.

6. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged.

Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea. As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 1 and 3, HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options from an easy GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below, using SM1.1

Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory also supports Shader Model 3.0 that can be enabled easily fro within the hocbench software:

Both the 320MB and 640MB models had the same performance...

7. Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the built-in console to run a timedemo. All tests were done at 1280x1024 with HDR shadows fully enabled. Antialiasing and Filtering modes are enabled through Nvidia's 3D control panel:

At 1280x1024, the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB and 640MB models had exactly the same performance.

HDR Effects and AA/AF do have an impact on performance. With the highest possible visual quality settings, the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB stills manages above 60FPS, making gameplay really enjoyable.We see no differences between the two cards.

8. Company Of Heroes

In Company of Heroes, gamers will experience the journey of the brave men of Able Company in a deep single-player campaign that begins with the invasion of Normandy through their fight across Europe, all set against the most dynamic battlefield ever seen in a game.

Company of Heroes' completely destructable environment means no two battles ever play out in the same way. Advanced squad AI delivers startling new realism and responsiveness, bringing soldiers to life as they interact with the environment and execute advanced squad tactics to eliminate the opposition forces.

The game offers impressive graphics, especially when all visual quality settings are maxed out.

We used the built-in benchmark for all tests at 1280x1024 resolution. Since AA/AF cannot be set from within the game, we used Nvidia's 3D control panel for each mode. Let's now see how the cards performed in Company Of Heroes Benchmark with High Quality settings.

Company Of Heroes was the second game in which we saw a significant performance difference between the 320MB and 640MB models. For a strange reason, the 320MB model was much slower than the other tested cards when AF/AA were initially enabled although it maintains a steady framerate throughout.

9. BattleField 2142

The year is 2142, and the dawn of a new Ice age has thrown the world into a panic. The math is simple and brutal: The soil not covered by ice can only feed a fraction of the Earth's population. Some will live, most will die. In Battlefield 2142, players will choose to fight for one of two military superpowers in an epic battle for survival, the European Union or the newly formed Pan Asian Coalition.

Armed with a devastating arsenal of hi-tech assault rifles, cloaking devices and sentry guns, players will also do battle using some of the most imposing vehicles known to man. Massive battle Mechs wage fierce combat on the ground, while futuristic aircraft rule the skies. When facing one of these new behemoths, players will need to use their wits and an arsenal of new countermeasures like EMP grenades to level the playing field.

Team play features allow up to 64 players to enter the action on the front lines as part of a formal squad, or work behind the scenes in Commander Mode to direct the strategic assaults of their teammates. With in-game success, players increase their rank and unlock awards, including new weapons, medals and more, delivering the most comprehensive and flexible persistence in the Battlefield universe to date.

In order to benchmark the graphics card, we recorded our own timedemo using the built-in command (demo.recordDemo). We then used the Guru3D BF2 benchmark modified, in order to support BF 2142. Anti-aliasing is disabled inside game so we use Nvidia's 3D Control Panel to enable/disable AA/AF rendering modes. The quality settings are as follows:

Note that 1280x1024 resolution is not supported in the game. However, it can be enabled from the command line. All tests are performed at that resolution (1280x1024). Since the game counts all frames, including loading screens, we removed them so that all values represent pure gaming experience. Note, that all tests use the default camera view. Let's now proceed to the first test results.

Enabling AA/AF in Battlefield 2142, enhances visual quality and of course gaming experience. There are some differences, especially at the highest quality modes (16xAA), between the 640MB and 320MB models.

10. NFS Carbon

Need for Speed Carbon delivers the next generation of adrenaline-filled street racing and will challenge players to face the ultimate test of driving skill on treacherous canyon roads.

What starts in the city is settled in the canyons as Need for Speed Carbon immerses you into the world's most dangerous and adrenaline-filled form of street racing. You and your crew must race in an all-out war for the city, risking everything to take over your rivals' neighbourhoods one block at a time. As the police turn up the heat, the battle ultimately shifts to Carbon Canyon, where territories and reputations can be lost on every perilous curve.

Lets race...

Need for Speed Carbon delivers the next generation of customization giving you the power to design and tweak your crew's cars in every way using the ground-breaking new Autosculpt technology. Represent your car class, your crew, and your turf in Need for Speed Carbon, the next revolution in racing games.

In order to benchmark the graphics card, we created the same two rounds on the same track with the same car. Using FRAPS, we recorded all 2 minutes of driving.

Black and beautiful...

Keep in mind that all tests results were done with "Blur Effect" and "Rain" disabled, since enabling them gives a huge performance hit on all cards. In any case, all other detail settings are maxed out. As usual, AA/AF modes are set from Nvidia's 3D control panel. Without enabling AA/AF, we can see the performance for each card at 1280x1024 resolution.

NFS Carbon is a game that performs better with ATI cards. Gainward's 8800GTS GS 320MB and 640MB had near identical performance.

Enabling AA/AF in NFS Carbon is... demanding on all VGA cards. The Asus EAX1950XTX has very good performance until 4xAA. The Gainward 8800 GTS GS continues to perform very well, even at 8xQ AA, with 38FPS average. There are no significant differences between the 2 Gainward cards though.

11. NeverWinter Nights 2

Bards sing tales of heroes from ages past, but never have the Forgotten Realms so desperately needed a champion. Years have passed since the war between Luskan and Neverwinter, almost enough time for the wounds of war to heal. But the brief peace the Realms have known may be at an end. Tension growing between the mighty city-states means the Sword Coast again teeters on the edge of open war.

Unnoticed, a greater danger stalks the City of Skilled Hands. Unbeknownst to the denizens of the North, deep in the Mere of Dead Men, dark forces from across the Realms have been rallied under the banner of a legendary evil. If left unchallenged, all of the North is doomed to fall under its power.

Even in this darkest hour, hope remains. A mysterious relic is borne to Neverwinter in the hands of a lone hero so that its secrets may be unlocked - secrets that carry the fate of all the North. So begins an epic tale of shattered alliances, noble acts and dark deeds to be told across the Realms for generations to come.

Under Game options, we maxed all available visual settings.

Anisotropic filtering was enabled under the "Advanced Graphics" tab, while Anti-aliasing modes were set by using Nvidia's 3D control panel.

We saved a gave and ran the same route (more or less) moving the camera a lot around the player. This is the worst case scenario while playing. Using FRAPS, we recorded two minutes of the game and logged the lowest and average readings.

NeverWinter Nights2 is a "difficult" game with all visual enhancements enabled. The Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB showed superb performance with 56FPS average refresh rate.

Antialiasing is not offered within the game options. Using Nvidia's 3D control panel, we enabled up to 16xQ AA. Here, we see something interesting. The 320MB model was "faster" than the 640MB model at least until 8xAA. After that point, we had a significant drop in performance where it appears the extra on-board memory makes a difference...

12. Overclocking

There is always a way to improve the performance of your system by overclocking it. The Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB is already overclocked compared with Nvidia's 8800GTS reference board, by 50MHz for Core and 80MHz for memory. We were curious to see if the card could handle even more overclocking. Using coolbits registry "hack", we enabled the overclocking features in Nvidia's control panel. We tried Ntune to find the optimal performance, but the system halted every time we tried.

Our next attempt was with RivaTuner v2.00 Final, which proved a success. Overclocking was selectable! Next step was the usual trial and error procedure, raising the frequency, running 3D Mark06 to stress test the VGA card for a stable system. Our best trials are shown below, with stock clocks for comparison:

VGA Card
% difference
% difference
8800GTS GS

The Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB proved to be highly overclockable. We got 16.73% improvement for GPU core and 12.73% for memory. The Gainward 8800GTS GS 640MB was somewhat better for overclocking, but it could be due to the particular sample we had in our labs. The capabilities could also be higher if a different cooling system is used. After setting the highest possible clocks, we ran a few tests to see if performance was improved at all.

3D Mark05 and 3D Mark 06 are affected by the increase in GPU and Memory clocks. We tried several games and also saw improvements in framerate. Overall, we are satisfied with the overclocking potential of the Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB.

13. Conclusion

Nvidia's 8800 series offers a major performance improvement over previous generation 79xx cards. The price for the 640MB cards reaches €450, while the stripped down version with 320MB has a retail price of €320~350. The reduced price is very enticing for entry level users who want a "cheap" VGA card with DirectX10 support but still offering very high performance for today's games.

From our tests, in the majority of games, the performance differences between the 640MB and 320MB models is not that great. We can say that as you increase anti-aliasing modes, the 640MB model has an advantage. There were also cases where some games actually use high quality textures so that the higher on-board memory of the 640MB card offered faster performance. But in the main, we found that the extra memory was not a factor and in some cases, the 320MB card was faster (!) than the 640MB model, especially without AA/AF rendering modes enabled.

The Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB is a real "value for money" VGA card. Not only does it in most games offer the same performance oas the Gainward 8800GTS 640MB model, but it also costs €100 less! Overall, a great performer and future proof VGA card for all types of users.

Value for money

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