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Appeared on: Thursday, May 17, 2007
Gainward 8800GTX


1. Introduction

Nvidia's 8800 series, managed to make a big impact, being the first DirectX 10 compliant graphics card ever sold on the market. The top model, the 8800GTX, is the current flagship of Nvidia with a massive 768MB of memory on board and of course a top price. This graphics card promises superb performance with all current and next generation games. At almost double the price of an 8800GTS 320MB, we were curious to see how much faster this "monster" is, and if users can really benefit from such a high priced graphics card.

- Gainward BLISS 8800GTX 768 TV DD

The BLISS 8800GTX 768 TV DD from Gainward, is powered by NVIDIA´s® GeForce™ 8800GTX GPU integrating 768MB/384bits High-Speed DD3 memory, offering a mind blowing experience for all 3D enthusiasts who think they have seen it all. Never before have 3D rendering experiences appeared as life-like as with the next generation GPU architecture from NVIDIA®. Vivid ultra realistic rendering of 3D projects and environments in the highest resolutions without suffering any loss of it´s kick-ass performance, makes BLISS8800GTX from Gainward the only choice for hardcore gamers. Reference clock settings for the BLISS8800GTX is a core clock of 575MHz and a memory clock of 1800Mhz, though these already impressive settings have been pushed to an incredible 620+MHz on the core and 1900+MHz on the memory and has more to give under the right circumstances! This card will rock your world and forever change your view of 3D graphics.

The GeForce® 8800GTX graphics processing unit (GPU) delivers such a vast amount of performance that none of the available processors (CPU´s) on the market are able to keep up with it; thus guaranteeing an extraordinary performance today and tomorrow for future applications and operating systems like Microsoft Windows Vista.

Comparing the 8800GTX with the 8800GTS, we have several interesting findings:

The fastest Gainward 8800GTX card you can buy, comes with 575MHz/1.80GHz clock speeds. For our tests, Gainward provided the "8262-BLISS 8800GTX" model. The card can be found online at the retail price of €520. The retail box follows the usual design for Gainward graphics cards:

To sum it up, the retail package includes:

Looking at the card, it is a full sized card, meaning you will need an plenty of room to fit it in your case. The card takes up two backplane slots, the second being for the heat exhaust which blows air out the back of the case. The cooling system covers both the memory modules and GPU core, and in most cases is very quiet:

At the top, we can see two SLI connectors for using with other 8800GTX cards:

The card has two DVI-D and one HDTV outputs:

In order to power up this little "monster", you need at least a 600Watt PSU with two PCI-E lines.

Here, you can see how much the 8800GTX card exceeds the size of a typical ATX motherboard. Be careful before buying!

On the back of the card, we see the sticker with the full model name, Part and Serial numbers:


2. Tests and setup

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2007, we can see more features for the Gainward 8800GTX 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 have 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 tests, we used the default settings from 3DMark05 as follows:

3D Mark 05 is a well know benchmark utility that represents the combination of CPU+VGA strength. The Gainward 8800GTX was, as expected, faster than the 8800GTS models, but slower than a 8800GTS 320 SLI setup.

- 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 8800GTX is again faster than the 8800GTS models.


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 the game engine to v1.08. The game offers 1280x1024 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except 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 8800GTX performed very well, delivering up to 126FPS (average). It would be interesting to now see which card suffers the least performance impact after enabling AA/AF:

Enabling AA/AF impacts on the performance of all tested cards. The 8800GTX and 8800GTS 320 SLI are very close, and at AF/16xQ AA the 8800GTX is a couple of FPS faster.


5. Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly 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 8800GTX outperformed the 8800GTS 320SLI!

Enabling the various AA/AF rendering modes, we see that after 4x AA, the 8800GTS 320 SLI outperformed the 8800GTX and suffers far less as the effects are piled on.


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 from within the hocbench software:

Similar performance from 8800GTX and 8800GTS 320 SLI.


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 the timedemo for each card. All tests were carried out at 1280x1024, with HDR shadows fully enabled. Antialiasing and Filtering modes were enabled from Nvidia's 3D control panel:

At 1280x1024, no AA/AF and HDR enabled, there's not much between the cards.

HDR Effects and AA/AF do have an effect on performance. With the highest possible visual quality settings after enabling 8xQ AA, the Gainward 8800GTX suffers a major drop in performance.


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 destructible 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 maxing out all visual quality settings.

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

The Gainward 8800GTX is very fast, actually faster than the 8800GTS 320SLI setup! Flat performance across all rendering modes. Simply superb.


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). Then we used the Guru3D BF2 benchmark modified, in order to support BF 2142. We used the following quality settings: anti-aliasing is disabled by default in the game, and we used Nvidia's 3D Control Panel to enable/disable the AA/AF rendering modes:

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

Enabling AA/AF in Battlefield 2142 enhances visual quality and of course gaming experience. As we can see, the Gainward 8800GTX is neck and neck with the 8800GTS 320SLI setup until 6x AA, where its performance slowly drops off.


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 made 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.

NFS Carbon is a game that usually performs better with ATI cards. The Gainward 8800GTX showed superb performance with 76FPS in all rendering modes:


11. Overclocking

There is always a way to improve the performance of your system by overclocking it. We were curious to see if the card could handle even higher clock frequencies. 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 was halted every time we tried.

Our next attempts were with RivaTuner v2.00 Final, which was a success. Overclocking was selectable! Next step was the trial and error process, raising the frequency, running 3D Mark06 to stress test the VGA card and seeing if we had a stable system. Our best trials are shown below, including the stock clock frequencies for comparison:

The Gainward 8800GTX proved to be overclockable but only with a 7.83% improvement for the GPU core and 11.11% for the memory. After setting the highest possible clocks, we re-ran a few tests to see if performance improved at all.

3D Mark05 and 3D Mark 06 are affected by the increase in GPU and Memory clocks, but only by a small margin. We don't think that users will gain much from overclocking the Gainward 8800GTX. On the other hand, the 8800GTS seems to benefit more from overclocking, as the above results showed.


112. Conclusion

Nvidia's 8800GTX series offer the highest performance a user can buy nowadays. Before testing the Gainward 8800GTX, we were curious to see how much improvement a user can expect from buying the most expensive 3D graphic card, at least for gaming use. The price of the Gainward 8800GTX is around €522, while the 8800GTS 640 at €400 and the 8800GTS 320 at €320~€350. Based on the the retail prices, some might think that pairing two 8800GTS 320 could achieve the performance of a 8800GTX, something we also looked at in this review.

From our tests, in the majority of games, the 8800GTX's performance was excellent, compared with the 8800GTS 640 and 320MB models. On the other hand, pairing two Gainward 8800GTS GS 320MB gave better performance in some games (F.E.A.R., Prey, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, HL2 Episode 1, BattleField 2142), while in other cases, the increased on board memory of 768MB, made the difference (NFS Carbon, Company Of Heroes). So it seems that most current games will benefit from a 8800GTS SLI setup, while specific games can run even faster on a single 8800GTX card. In any case, the 8800GTX is a single card, so imagine adding a second one in the near future, when prices will have dropped.

The card supports HDCP output from the two DVI-D ports, and is rated as VISTA ready. This means users won't have to worry about compatibility, only the retail price. If money is not a problem for you, then the Gainward 8800GTX will become your best 3D gaming friend. Just remember to check the space inside your case. This card is full size and takes up two backplane slots. You also need a heavy duty PSU, since this little "monster" requires two +12V PCI-E power lines to work properly :-)

Performance
Overclocking
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Value for money


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