As we noted in our previous reports, the era of uniform top-performance graphics cards based exclusively on the reference designs from ATI and Nvidia has come to an end. Today, graphics card vendors are not afraid to experiment even with sophisticated dual-GPU solutions. For example, PowerColor has recently announced a unique version of ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 with support for GDDR4 memory while the GeCube Radeon HD 3870 X2 X-Turbo Dual features as many as four DVI ports! The final stronghold of the departing era was the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB that had come to replace the GeForce 8800 GTX.
Every version of GeForce 8800 GTS 512 we’ve seen so far was a copy of Nvidia’s reference card. The permission to develop non-standard PCB designs for Nvidia’s less advanced cards didn’t cover that model. That seemed to be a temporary thing, though. Unique versions of GeForce 8800 GTS were sure to come out. And we’ve got one such card here, in X-bit Labs.
By the way, we proved in our earlier review that 1 gigabyte of graphics memory is not a mere marketing trick anymore. This amount of memory ensured performance benefits in six out of the fifteen games we use for our tests, namely Call of Duty 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Hellgate: London, Call of Juarez, Tomb Raider: Legend and Gothic 3. In the first three games these benefits had a real practical value. Well, the game industry is constantly progressing while 3D games are getting more and more sophisticated and realistic. As a result, the requirements to the graphics subsystem and the amount of graphics memory increase, too. What seemed to be a sheer waste of money yesterday now looks like a demanded feature and may become a necessity tomorrow. At the moment of the announcement of the Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB GDDR4 this amount of memory was redundant, but it’s going to be standard for top-end graphics cards quite soon. After that, we’ll be discussing the question if the graphics card needs more than 1GB – and we’ll perform new tests.
Getting back to the subject of this review, the first non-standard version of GeForce 8800 GTS we’ve got is Gainward’s Bliss 8800 GTS 1024MB TV DD GS GLH. As you can guess, the main distinguishing feature of this card is that it’s got 1024 megabytes of graphics memory, clocked at 2100MHz. Coupled with the increased GPU frequencies (730/1825MHz), this looks like a promise of unprecedented level of performance among single-chip solutions. According to the recently released slides, the Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX will be clocked at 675/1688MHz for the GPU and 2200MHz for the memory, which means a lower performance than the described Gainward can offer. Let’s now take a closer look at the new card. We’ll call it Bliss 8800 GTS 1024MB for the sake of convenience.