The G92 is a carefully designed, polished version of the G80. Models based on this chip are named 8800GT and, should they appear in appropriate quantities, are bound to become very popular.
The first thing in the “improved” list is the manufacturing process, which has been reduced down from 80 to 65 nm. This implies that the power consumption will not be as high (the cards we tested need no more than just over 100 W) and that the card will only require a single 6-pin power connector. The G92 comprises over 754 million transistors, which is undoubtedly impressive, but it must be noted that the die-size of this chip is huge.
Nvidia claims that this card should take up the market slot found between the 8800GTS models with 320 and 640 MB. We shall see if the card complies. The G92 possesses 112 stream processors, divised in seven blocks, which is 16 SPs better than the 8800GTS. The ROP number is lower by four, however, Nvidia claims that they are now better optimized by far, and should present no overall performance impact even at resolutions as high as 2560x1600. The ROPs have 128-bit floating point HDR and 16xAA support.
Also, the number of texture units has gone up by eight, which is logical, as there are eight per SP block, which means that the total number of texture units is now 56. This results in an enormous texture fillrate, which is something that a great number of games relies upon, so in cases such as these, good performance is guaranteed. The shader section has always been the weak point of Nvidia products, which is the case now as well, which makes ATI a better choice for shader-heavy games such as Oblivion etc.
The clock values have gone up as well, so the default clocks are 600 MHz for the core, which is an almost 100 MHz improvement, and 1700 MHz for the stream processors. The interesting thing about the new series is that the bus width is only 256 bits wide – obviously, both major manufacturers came to the conclusion that a bus wider than this is irrational for this class of products. We agree with this point of view, as the resolutions are unlikely to go any higher than 1600x1200 in mid-range configurations. The last variable – memory clocks. They are set to 1800 MHz on 1ns GDDR3 memory chips. Unlike the weaker GTS, which has 320 MB of VRAM, 8800GT has the optimal quantity of 512 MB of VRAM.
The latest offering of Nvidia is also the first card we received that supports the PCI-E 2.0 standard (the card arrived just a few days before the Radeon HD 3850). PCI Express 2.0 increases the motherboard-to-graphics card bandwidth to 8 Gbps/lane, which totals at 16 Gbps. Naturally, the card will never require such a large amount of bandwidth, but PCI-E 2.0 has yet another advantage. The native PCI-E 2.0 slot can provide the card with up to 150 W of power, which means that if you plug the card in a PCI-E 2.0 compatible motherboard, no external connector is required to supply the card with power – 150 W is more than the card will ever need. The next advancement in line is the cooling system.
By looking at the specs alone, one would probably deduce that the cooling is very similar, if not exactly the same. However, this card is very thin, elegant and pretty much quiet all the time. It doesn't take up more than one slot. Although the system itself isn't lacking in quality, we would prefer a better solution for the fan, one that would be even more quiet and efficient. The cooling body was made out of aluminium, while copper is present only in the heatpipe system, which transfer the heat equally over the entire body.
Nvidia has an interesting policy when the PureVideo is in question, which comprises the VP1/VP2 engine. Video Processor 1 is present in GeForce 8800GTS, GTX and Ultra models, simply because these accelerators are generally paired with only the best CPUs, so any form of advanced “de-burdening” of the CPU is not really necessary, as those CPUs are more than capable of decoding HD video. Therefore, Video Processor 2 is reserved only for the weaker models such as 8600 and 8400 series, as the CPUs which are teamed up with 'em are more likely to be not particularly fast nor efficient. However, for reasons beyond our capabilities of speculation, 8800GT also sports the VP2 variant of the processing chip, along with the Bit-Stream Processor and AES 128-bit decryption. This practically means that the HD video is entirely decoded in the card, placing a minimal load on the CPU.
Although there is a rumour in circulation that there is a major lack of G92 chips in production, and thus on the market, as well as the fact that Nvidia stock value has gone down significantly since the release of 8800GT, we received a total of three 8800GTs signed by different manufacturers: ASUS, XFX and MSI. All three cards were obviously manufactured in the same factory, which makes them nearly identical. Nearly. First of all, some of them came to us pre-overclocked, just enough to give their competitor a slight advantage in synthetic tests. Secondly, the packaging and bundle are quite different between the three. The third and final difference is, although it may seem dull, the sticker on the cooling profile.
ASUS EN8800GT 512 MB
As we already mentioned earlier, this card is identical to the referent model, just like the other models on the test, and the first noticeable difference is the huge sticker with a motive from the Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts game. It has obviously become a tradition to advertise the bundled game via the very card. We are dealing with the full version of the game, a detail which might be of great relevance to fans.
However, that's about it as far as this card's advantages are concerned. It all comes down to standard equipment, like the driver disc, basic cables, leather disc case with space for about 10 discs and so on. The clocks are set to their default values, which, naturally, results in just the same performance as the referent card's, as you can see in the charts.
MSI NX8800GT OC 512 MB
Now this is a card that stands out. Alongside the extra bundle software (Colin McRae Rally: DIRT and LOTR: Online), this card has another advantage – it is factory-shipped with overclocked values, with 650 MHz for the core and 1900 MHz for the memory. This small boost results in somewhat better performance.
We say somewhat because, when we got down to really overclocking the cards to the maximum possible extent, this one turned out to be the weakest, i.e. has the smallest overclock potential. However, this cannot be considered a drawback either, as the general O/C limit is " class="system-pagebreak" />10 MHz, which is a purely theoretical difference and varies from card to card.
XFX GeForce 8800GT Alpha Dog Edition
XFX, present on the European market for some time now, proved to be very expedient when the latest models are to be presented. This american manufacturer is the symbol of quality in the GPU business. Beside the regular models, done entirely “by the book”, XFX also has three other categories – the factory-shipped overclocked models with the suffix XXX, then the Alpha Dog Edition we are testing now, and finally the Fatal1ty Edition which we already wrote about.
The game here is the same as with ASUS (literally – CoH:OF in both cases!). This model's overclocking limits are the highest we've had the chance to see yet – 710 MHz for the core and 2180 MHz for the memory. Also, it proved to be the coolest one (again, literally!), as the maximum temperature with default clocks was 69 degrees.
Definitely the most interesting part of the story, especially to you, potential buyers. After extensive testing and consideration, we must admit that the new accelerator is really well-optimised, both hardware and software-wise. In comparison with the 8800GTS 320 MB, this card can be quite a bit faster.
The optimal resolution seems to be 1600x1200, then the FPS remains high even with a certain amount of AA, AF and other post-processing effects. It is amazing what one receives from a card that seems less impressive than the 8800GTS by far. All games were equally rewarding in performance, so we can only give our recommendations.
We were also very interested in how exactly the same card (hardware-wise, that is) by different manufacturers will work in SLI mode. The results can be seen in the charts, but please note that older games and 3DMark versions do not show the expectable results simply because the processor is the limiting factor, even if it is a high-class Core2Quad (as there was little to no multi-core optimisation earlier on).
Even in the latest games, you are not really going to use the full potential of two paired 8800GTs to the max. The thing that presented a very pleasant suprise was Crysis demo performance, which became very playable even in such an offhand resolution. All in all, if you have an SLI motherboard, take this option into consideration, as you will be lacking in performance sooner or later.
Although we don't have the real prices of these cards (all cards were received as samples), the global price of 220-240 € seems more than reasonable for this card. With such a complete product in our hands, we have no other choice but to give and Editor's Choice reward without any further comments.