Some time ago there was no such thing as a top-performance graphics card with a unique design. All high-class cards were not only copies of the reference designs from Nvidia and ATI but were even manufactured for the GPU developers at contracted facilities and then shipped ready-made to their partners. Any experiments with the PCB design were absolutely forbidden. Occasionally you could see a graphics card with a non-standard cooler, but most often the replacement of the stickers with the graphics card vendor’s own was the single “modification”. A few pre-overclocked products could also be released. This approach is indeed justifiable as it ensures high quality because the PCB design and the cooling system are developed by the GPU developers themselves. On the other hand, there have been examples when this approach didn’t work right. We can recall the problem with a wrong rating of a resistor on early Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX or the obviously bad cooler of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT. So, even GPU developers make mistakes sometimes.
Well, everything is changing, and the era of identical top-performance cards comes to an end, too. The ban on developing unique PCB designs was removed with the release of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. One of the reasons is that G92-based cards can be much simpler than G80-based solutions that require expensive and sophisticated 12-layer PCBs. Nvidia currently allows and recommends to develop inexpensive 6-layer PCBs for G92-based cards. The single card under the restriction is the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB but this may change in near future, too. So far, there already exist unique models of GeForce 8800 GT, one of which, the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH, was tested in our recent review.
Today we are going to discuss another product from Gainward. Besides a unique PCB design and an original cooling system, it also features 1 gigabyte of graphics memory. To remind you, the last graphics card with such an amount of memory was the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB GDDR4, which did not really take off and was completely forgotten after the release of the ATI Radeon HD 3870. It was not much better than the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB GDDR3 in our tests, indicating that 1 gigabyte of graphics memory was too excessive. The PC hardware world is changing rapidly, however, and things that used to be excessive or wasteful yesterday can prove to be a necessity today. Some questions should be asked again and again, and the question about the required amount of graphics memory is among them. There are ever more games using DirectX 10 capabilities, and such titles as Crysis, Call of Juarez DX10 Enhancement Pack and Call of Duty 4 may have brought a different answer to the question if the graphics card needs over 512MB of memory. We’ll see it soon but first let’s take a look at the unique card designed by Gainward.