November 2006 Nvidia announced its landmark graphics processor G80 that featured a unified architecture and support of Shader Model 4.0 and next-generation DirectX. The new chip turned out to be very complex, incorporating an unprecedented 681 million transistors. The analog section and TMDS transmitters were moved into a separate chip. The G80 processor became the foundation of the GeForce 8800 graphics card series led by the flagship GeForce 8800 GTX.
The G80 features a 384-bit memory bus and has a high power draw, so the new best product from Nvidia is a large and heavy device, but our tests proved that these drawbacks were made up for by unprecedented performance in games (for details see our article called 25 Signs of Perfection: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX in 25 Benchmarks).
In 14 tests out of a total of 23 we used in our review the GeForce 8800 GTX was faster than dual-GPU SLI and CrossFire subsystems based on the fastest graphics cards from the older generation and even faster than a GeForce 7950 Quad SLI system Nvidia had expected so much from. The new card was actually as fast as to make it possible to use new high-quality full-screen antialiasing methods 8x MSAA and 16xQ CSAA. With traditional 4x MSAA and at common display resolutions up to 1600x1200 the GeForce 8800 GTX would often be limited by the CPU. Coupled with anisotropic filtering that was better quality even than ATI cards’ HQ mode, this made the GeForce 8800 GTX an unrivalled king of gaming 3D graphics hardware. We also mentioned a few drawbacks then, faulty drivers being the most annoying one.
Anyway, the GeForce 8800 GTX remains the fastest gaming graphics card available and is being offered by most of major vendors. We must note, however, that this graphics card is made by contract manufacturers and is then supplied to Nvidia’s partners that have little room to personalize their GeForce 8800 GTX to make it unique and more attractive in the potential customer’s eyes. The deepest modification they can do is to replace the cooler, but the stock cooler from Nvidia is already both efficient and quiet. Graphics card suppliers have to look for other ways to distinguish their products, but usually limit themselves to putting their own stickers on the cooler casing.
Are there any exceptions from this rule? In this review we will discuss four GeForce 8800 GTX models offered by ASUS, Foxconn, OCZ Technology and XFX:
- Asustek Computer EN8800GTX/HTDP/768M
- Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON
- OCZ Technology GeForce 8800 GTX
- XFX GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB DDR3 XXX Edition
We’ll see how original each of these products is and what you should specifically look for when shopping for a GeForce 8800 GTX.
All GeForce 8800 cards are manufactured at Foxconn’s and Flextronics’ facilities and shipped ready-made to Nvidia’s partners. That is why it doesn't make much sense to describe the PCB and the cooler – we have already done this in our earlier review. Here, we will only dwell upon the specific features of the four graphics cards – they do have some peculiarities despite the unified design. GeForce 8800 GTX may also come with different memory, from Samsung or Hynix, that may have an access time of 1 or 1.1 nanoseconds.