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Conclusion

So, is the new graphics card from NVIDIA a worthy successor to the passing-away GeForce 6800 GT and is it a worthy rival to the new ATI RADEON X1600 XT? We can answer both these questions in affirmative, now that we’ve seen the GeForce 6800 GS in action. The new member of the GeForce 6800 family turned to be faster than the older one, sometimes by as much as 30-40%! The injection of megahertz steroids into the GeForce 6800 architecture brings about the desired effect. In most games and applications the GeForce 6800 GS leaves no chance to the RADEON X1600 XT, a not yet available product from ATI Technologies. In a few cases these two graphics cards have the same speed, and the RADEON X1600 XT won 3DMark05, but this is hardly an achievement.

Considering the identical price of these two graphics cards (about $250), the GeForce 6800 GS enjoys a complete victory, making the RADEON X1600 XT a much less appealing product for gamers. It is yet too early to make any final verdicts, since the latter device obviously suffers from insufficient driver optimization, but the general trend is unfavorable for ATI Technologies. The RV530 graphics processor has a performance-negative feature: it has only four texture-mapping units which automatically become a bottleneck in games that operate with high-resolution textures. Another drawback is the 128-bit memory bus. Working at 690 (1380) MHz, it has a maximum bandwidth of 22.1GB/s, while the 256-bit memory bus of the GeForce 6800 GS clocked at 500 (1000) MHz easily provides 32GB/s and positively affects the performance of the card in high resolutions and/or with enabled full-screen antialiasing.

If the price of the RADEON X1600 XT remains the same, it will not stand a chance against the GeForce 6800 GS, except in applications where low power consumption and advanced video support are crucial. Note also that the GeForce 6800 GS is already shipping while the RADEON X1600 XT will be coming to market in mass quantities only starting from November 30. This is a definite advantage for NVIDIA before the imminent Christmas sales season.

As for the ATI RADEON X800 XL, the GeForce 6800 GS is slower in some cases, mostly when FSAA and anisotropic filtering are turned on. But each time the new card from NVIDIA could overtake the X800 XL through overclocking. Moreover, the RADEON X800 XL does not support Shader Model 3.0 and HDR which may be important features for PC gamers.

The excellent overclockability of the GeForce 6800 GS needs to be mentioned, too. The combination of the GeForce 7800 GT printed circuit board with the 0.11-micron NV42 chip proved to be very overclocker-friendly. We managed to speed up our sample of the card from the default 425/1000MHz to the impressive 500/1360MHz. The ensuing performance gain lifted the speed of the card to the level of the more expensive GeForce 6800 Ultra and this is probably not the limit. We could have achieved higher frequencies if we had replaced the cooling system for something more efficient.

Thus, the GeForce 6800 GS is not just a high-performance solution at a relatively low price. It may become a sensation among overclocker! It’s not certain yet how much room for price adjustment NVIDIA has: the 6800 GS PCB is obviously cheaper than the PCB employed in the GeForce 6800 GT, but more expensive than the GeForce 6800 one. Theoretically speaking, the GeForce 6800 GS has some reserve for further price reduction, but considering that the NV42 is produced in mass quantities and the chip yield is high, the price of GeForce 6800 GS graphics cards may go down by a few dozen dollars in a few weeks after the release. On the other hand, NVIDIA may not want to reduce the price because of the virtual lack of competition.

So, a highly appealing product has emerged in between the GeForce 6 and GeForce 7 series. It is probably not destined to live long because NVIDIA is already preparing the G72 GPU, a mass-user version of the G70, but the GeForce 6800 GS will surely fulfill its purpose – to be the killer product in NVIDIA’s lineup during the Christmas sales season.

Highs:

  • High performance
  • Efficient cooling system
  • Shader Model 3.0
  • HDR support
  • Hardware HD content playback acceleration
  • HDTV support
  • Excellent overclockability
  • 256-bit memory bus
  • SLI-ready

Lows:

  • Noticeably loud
  • Rather high power consumption
 
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