The very successful graphics card GeForce 6800, based on the 0.11-micron NV42 graphics processor, has a number of indisputable advantages including simple PCB design, support of advanced technologies like Shader Model 3.0 and HDR, and very low power consumption and heat dissipation parameters achieved through the use of the progressive tech process. Priced at about $199, this 12-pipelined card would be nearly ideal if it were not for its slow memory, clocked at 350 (700) MHz. This is a very low clock rate by today’s standards.
So, despite the 256-bit memory bus, it is the memory that prevents the GeForce 6800 from showing its full potential, especially in high resolutions and with enabled full-screen antialiasing. For example, in our PowerColor X800 GT review the 12-pipelined GeForce 6800 was often slower than the 8-pipelined RADEON X800 GT in the “eye candy” test mode, i.e. with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering, and only due to the sheer difference in the memory bandwidth (32GB/s against 22.4GB/s).
The ATI RADEON X800 GT is in fact an answer to the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT, while the GeForce 6800 is supposed to fight another market opponent, ATI’s RADEON X800 GTO, which has 12 pixel pipelines and GDDR3 memory clocked at 1GHz. So, we suspect it will also have some advantage over the GeForce 6800 in high resolutions, especially if you turn on FSAA.
Meanwhile, the 0.11-micron NV42 chip is known to have a very high frequency potential and can be easily overclocked from 325 to 450MHz and higher, its power consumption still remaining low. It was also clear that NVIDIA did not have a product to oppose the yet-unavailable RADEON X1600 XT with. The GeForce 6800 doesn’t suit for this part due to obvious reasons, but it also belongs to a lower price category ($199 against $249). The GeForce 6800 GT could serve that purpose, but NV40 and NV45 chips are being manufactured at IBM facilities and have a high cost, so NVIDIA doesn’t have much room for price adjustment with them.
Taken all together, these facts just called for the obvious solution. The potential of the inexpensive NV42 chip could be made use of to add more vigor to the GeForce 6800 by increasing the GPU clock rate and equipping it with 256MB of faster memory. That’s the background behind NVIDIA’s new product, GeForce 6800 GS, which is expected to replace the more expensive GeForce 6800 GT and challenge the RADEON X1600 XT as well as the RADEON X800 XL. We’ll check this graphics card today to see how power-economical and fast it is in comparison with competing solutions.