Nvidia GeForce 8800GT - The Battle for the Budget

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Product(s): EVGA e-GeForce 8600GTS 256MB Video Card
Provided By:
 Memory Express
Price: ~$159.95 CDN (MemoryExpress.com)

Product(s): Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB Video Card
Provided By:
 Memory Express
Price: ~$289.95 (MemoryExpress.com) or ~$279.99 (MemoryExpress.com)

 

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Introduction:

I've dubbed this review the "Battle of the Budget", because that's what I'm aiming to find out, which of these cards suits a gamer on a budget. Before we even start we are pretty sure that the Nvidia Ge-Force 8800GT is going to come out on top, but the real question that I set out to answer is how much better the 8800GT is than a card like the 8600GTS.

The Nvidia GeForce 8600GTS is a great option for someone who doesn't play a ton of games on a regular basis, but still wants that option if they want to try out the latest and greatest games, its aimed at the casual gamer and carries a ~$160 dollar price tag.

The Nvidia GeForce 8800GT is aimed at the casual/mid-range gamer who likes to play the new games, but still doesn't want to dish out big bucks for an 8800GTX which is about double the price of the 8800GT. This is a pretty big group of people, and a huge market that is currently dominated by the 8800GTS, which is eventually going to be phased out with the release of the 8800GT.

But enough of the cards, let's move onto the testing and see how this new offering from Nvidia stacks up....

 

First Impressions: 

As you will be able to see from the pictures the 8800GT is a single slot card, and the sample we reviewed is a reference model and contains a reference cooler, once companies such as EVGA, XFX, BFG and others start releasing their models the biggest difference you are going to see is with the coolers they come with, each company will most likely modify the cooler to their specifications and colors.

 

The 8800GT 
8800GT - Side View
 Dual, Dual-Link DVI
8800GT - Outputs

 

6-pin PCIe Power 
8800GT - 6-pin Power Connection
Top Profile 
8800GT - Top View

 

 Back of 8800GT
8800GT - Back View
  Back - Closeup
8800GT - Closeup Back View

So that's what the 8800GT looks like, let's move onto the differences in specifications.

Right off the bat you're going to notice that there are a few major differences between these cards that we are going to be comparing each other against, so here is the short version of what's different:

 

  GeForce 8800GT GeForce 8600GTS
Memory 512MB GDDR3 256MB GDDR3
Memory Bandwidth 57.6 GB/s 32 GB/s
Stream Processors 112 32
Shader Clock Speed 1500 MHz 1450 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 128-bit

 

So before we even start, we can see that the 8800GT holds an advantage and should easily outperform the 8600GTS, and this is also expected due to the 8800GT being a more expensive card. The real question now is how much more performance do you gain going with the 8800GT and is that extra money worth the extra performance? Biggest thing that is going to impact performance is the stream processors, where the 8800GT has over three times more, and therefore the memory bandwidth is also going to be more, so it's going to be safe to assume that at higher resolutions and higher detail the 8800GT is going to take a good lead, the interesting thing will be to see how much of a lead.



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EVGA e-GeForce 8600GTS 256MB Specifications : 

Features

- NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
- Next-Generation Superscalar GPU Architecture
- nView Multi-Display Technology
- High-Speed GDDR3 Memory Interface
- NVIDIA® PureVideo™ Technology
- OpenGL 2.0 Optimizations and Support
- NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
- Dual Dual-Link TMDS Connector
- NVIDIA® unified architecture with GigaThread™ technology
- Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 Shader Model 4.0 support
- 16x full-screen anti-aliasing
- True 128-bit floating point high dynamic-range (HDR)
- NVIDIA Quantum Effects™ physics processing technology
- Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista™

Specifications

Chipset: Nvidia Geforce 8600 GTS
Core Clock: 675MHz
Shader Clock: 1450MHz
Stream Processors: 32
Vertex Units: N/A
Memory: 256MB 128-bit DDR3
Memory Clock: 2000MHz
Memory Bandwidth: 32GB/sec
Fill Rate: N/A
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Resolution & Refresh
Max Refresh Rate: 240Hz
Max VGA Resolution: 2048 x 1536 @ 85Hz, 32-bit color
Max DVI-I Resolution (Dual-Link): 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz, 32-bit color
Max HDTV Out (Component) Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (1080i)
Max TV Out (S-Video) Resolution: 1024 x 768

Connectors:
DVI: Dual DVI-I
- Dual Dual Link TMDS DVI Connector
VGA: Yes, with Adapter
Video-Out: S-Video, HDTV
Video-In: N/A

 


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GeForce 8800GT 512MB Specifications : 

Features

  • 8800 Series single slot solution*
  • PCI Express® 2.0 support*
  • Increased to 112 Stream Processors
  • NVIDIA® Unified architecture with GigaThread™ technology
  • Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 Shader Model 4.0 support.
  • NVIDIA SLI™-Ready
  • 16x full-screen anti-aliasing
  • True 128-bit floating point high dynamic-range(HDR) lighting
  • NVIDIA Quantum Effects™ physics processing technology
  • Two dual-link DVI outputs support two 2560x1600 resolution displays
  • NVIDIA PureVideo™technology®
  • OpenGL® 2.0 support
  • Nvidia ForceWare® Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
  • Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista™

 

System Requirements

  • Minimum of a 400 Watt power supply. (Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 22 Amp Amps.)
  • Minimum 450 Watt for SLI mode system. (Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 24 Amp Amps.)
  • An available 6 pin PCI-E power connector

 

Specifications

Chipset: Nvidia Geforce 8800 GT
Engine clock: 600MHz
Memory: 512MB GDDR3
Memory clock: 1800MHz (900MHz DDR)
Memory interface: 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth: 57.6 GB/s
Shader clock: 1500MHz
Stream Processors: 112
Fillrate: N/A
Bus Interface: PCI Express x16
SLI Capable: Yes

 

Resolution & Refresh Rate
Max Refresh Rate: 240Hz
Max VGA Resolution: 2048 x 1600 @ 85Hz, 32-bit color
Max DVI-I Resolution (Dual-Link): 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz, 32-bit color

 

Connectors
VGA: Yes, With VGA-to-DVI Adapter
DVI: Dual DVI-I (2 x Dual Link)
Video Out: S-Video, Composite, HDTV(YPrPB) Component
HDCP Support: Yes
Video In: N/A

 

 


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Testing:

I will split my testing into two sections: Synthetic testing and Gaming Testing. For synthetic testing I will be using PCMark Vantage and PCMark06. For the gaming portion I will be testing using Call of Duty 4 Demo, Timeshift Demo, and Call of Juarez. All 3 of these games are DirectX 10 games.

 

Test System:

 

3DMark 2006 Benchmarks:

This is going to be the test where a more expensive video card really shines, this is a synthetic benchmark that gives a pretty good indication how a video card is going to run games, and gives a final result that can be easily compared to other video cards on other platforms. For my testing I ran this 6 times on each card and compared the results using the exact same test rig, just with two different video cards.

 

3DMark Performance

 

Well, the results aren't really too surprising that the 8800GT beat the 8600GTS, we were expecting that, the surprising thing was how well the 8800GT did. If you go online and check out results from other 3DMark06 users, you're going to see at 1024x768 with No AA and No AF as final score of 10772 is pretty decent, considering an 8800GTX normally scores in the 12-13k range, the final score just under 11k really surprised me since a 8800GTS 320MB card can't even pull those numbers. What sort of gets lost in these results is that the 8600GTS pulled some decent scores too, unfortunately they were overshadowed by the performance of the 8800GT, but when you consider that the 8600GTS retails for about $160 bucks CDN, the numbers aren't half bad, and for the gamer who only plays occasionally and at lower resolutions, the 8600GTS isn't a bad choice to save a few bucks. But, after just these results, I'd think anyone who plays games regularly is going to want to shell out an extra $100 bucks and upgrade to the 8800GT for the extra performance, especially if you like to play games with all the eye-candy turned on, or want to play at higher resolutions.

 

PCMark Vantage Benchmarks:

PCMark Vantage is the new benchmarking tool from futuremark and has replaced PCMark05. This benchmark measures performance in more than just games, and therefore isn't as heavily reliant on the video card as 3DMark06 is, but the results are still interesting, and it's interesting to see how a video card can affect total system performance.

 

Futuremark - Vantage


These results also are not too shocking, but I was really interested to see how much a video card would impact these results. For your regular home user that does the normal e-mailing, websurfing, photo editing, you're probably not going to see a huge difference between the two cards, but in a benchmark like this the reason there is a difference is because this test also takes gaming into account and benchmarks that in one section, therefore giving the 8800GT a higher score, but if you excluded that in your testing you really wouldn't see as big of a difference between the two cards.


memex

 

Gaming Testing :

The gaming testing is probably the section where most people will base their decision off of when looking to buy a video card, since these are real world tests and a good indication of what you can expect when playing the newest games available. I have included 3 of the newest games out there (Call of Juarez, Timeshift, and Call of Duty 4), and have included results from both the 8800GT and the 8600GTS. For my testing I ran through the demo much like anyone else would and took the average results for fps, as well as the minimum fps, and the maximum fps I encountered while playing. This should give a pretty good indication of how the 8800GT stacks up with real world results.

 

Call of Juarez Demo

Gameplay Settings:

Resolution: 1280x1024
Max Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Shader Model: 3.0
Antialiasing: Off
Texture Filtering: Bilinear
Shadows: Low
Shadow Map Size: 1024
Depth of Field: On
Material Quality: Medium
Texture Quality: Low
Foliage Quality: Log

Call of Juarez - Performance

 

Call of Duty 4 Demo

Gameplay Settings:

Resolution: 1280x1024
Refresh Rate: 60HZ
Antialiasing: Off
Shadows: On
Specular Map: On
Number of Dynamic Lights: Normal
Soften Smoke Edges: No
Model Detail: Normal
Water Detail: Normal
Texture Filtering: Bilinear
Texture Resolution: Normal
Normal Map Resolution: Normal
Specular Map Resolution: Normal

Call of Duty 4 Performance

 

Timeshift Demo

Gameplay Settings:

Resolution: 1280x1024 32bpp
Material Quality: Medium
Texture Resolution: Medium
Anisotropic Filtering: 2x
VSync: Off
Projected Shadows: None
Smooth Shadows: Off
Shadow Map Quality: Medium
Shadow Map Resolution: Medium
Dynamic Lights: On
Decals: Medium
Distortion Effects: On
HDR Quality: Medium
Parallax Mapping: Off
Parallax Shadows: Off
Grass and Debris: On

Timeshift - Performance

 

 

Well, the results are in and I doubt anyone will be shocked to see that the 8800GT came out on top, but I think people will be surprised to see how well the 8800GT performed. For my gaming testing I did all the testing at 1280x1024 and medium settings, I didn't go too overboard since we are trying to test two "budget" cards. For the majority of users out there, 1280x1024 is a pretty standard gaming resolution, and many LCD's on the market are maxed out at 1280x1024. If you game at 1024x768 then a card like the 8600GTS is going to be fine for you, at lower resolutions you aren't going to see a huge noticeable difference between the two, but once you start getting into the 1280x1024+ range and start turning on some of the eye candy is where you start to see a difference between the two cards, and that's exactly what these benchmarks show. Even at 1280x1024 if you turned down the quality settings a bit you can easily make all these games run smoothly on the 8600GTS, but for the average gamer that doesn't want to break the bank, the 8800GT is obviously going to play games much better, and for an extra $100 bucks its going to be pretty easy to justify the upgrade.


memex

 

Final Conclusion:

The 8800GT is looking to be crowned the best bang for the buck card, and from what we've seen, it has made a very strong case for itself. The purpose of this article wasn't to find out who has the fastest card, but more to provide a comparison between the 8600GTS and the 8800GT to help figure out which provides the best value for the money. The 8600GTS fell quite a bit short in the performance category when compared to the 8800GT, but it's also priced ~$110 dollars cheaper too, and provides a lower-cost alternative. At the moment there is no current Nvidia card between the 8600GTS and the 8800GT, since the 8800GTS is eventually going to be retired, and its most likely going to come down to the 8600GTS and the 8800GT when most people are looking to buy a new DX10 video card and want to stick with the Nvidia camp. The 8600GTS provides decent enough performance, and I can see a lot of people going with the 8800GT instead of the 8600GTS, especially if you play much for newer games. Right now you can still buy an 8800GTS, but unless the prices drop (8800GTS is still ~$350) I can't see many people buying the 8800GTS anymore since the cheaper-priced 8800GT is outperforming them.

What does the ATI team have in the bag to counter this? Well, they are going to be releasing a 2950 series card which is rumored to be in the same performance range as the 8800GT, which could make the Mid-Range video card battle a good one. Biggest thing though for consumers is going to be pricing, and at the moment with the 8800GT in the ~$270-280 range, I'd think ATI will have a hard time keeping up with  it price-wise. I really doubt though that ATI is going to give up either, and I think at the end of the day this competition between the 8800GT and the ATI 2950 series is going to only benefit the consumers, which is always a good thing.

I really think Nvidia has a winner on their hands though, and I think they are going to sell a lot of cards. For the majority of gamers out there, who play games at 1280x1024 this card will be more than enough to keep them satisfied, and this mid-range market is a big one, as not everyone wants to drop $600+ dollars on a video card. The 8800GT really shines at higher resolutions and once you start turning on some eye candy in games, at lower resolutions a card like the 8600GTS can keep up, but once you turn on AA and AF is when you really start to see the 8800GT take over.

Since this card we've tested is a reference sample, we are not going to be providing a final score, but as you can see from the results its most likely going to be a very popular product and companies such as BFG, eVGA, XFX and many others will be carrying them very shortly. Undoubtedly you will be seeing overclocked 8800GT's hitting the market, which should be able to squeeze even more performance out of this card, and for those who held off on buying a new video card in anticipation of the 8800GT, you'll probably be very happy about that.

Even though we're not giving this an overall score, even as a reference sample it's still a Top Pick! 

  Top Pick

 

A big thanks to Memory Express for providing us with the 8800GT for testing. If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback, please leave it at the "Comments" link below.