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New Video Decoder and Post-Processor

Nvidia’s new GPU is one of the first top-end GPUs with a full-featured HD video decoder. Another such chip is the ATI Radeon HD 3800. The G92 employs the video-processor introduced in the Nvidia G84 with all its highs and lows. Thus, the GeForce 8800 GT can do all HD decoding on the GPU, including decoding of data that use the entropic compression algorithms CABAC and CAVLC (at least for the H.264 format).

VC-1 is probably supported on the same level as before, but our earlier test proved that the average CPU load when playing this format was not much worse than with the most advanced video processor of today which is incorporated into ATI’s Radeon HD 2600 and 3800 series (for details see our article called The Look of Perfect: Analysis of Graphics Accelerators Performance during Media Playback). So, the GeForce 8800 GT claims to be the first graphics card to combine good 3D performance with superb multimedia capabilities.

Besides offloading the CPU when decoding high-definition video, the new PureVideo HD features a more advanced post-processor for such content. This means you can expect a high visual quality when watching Blu-ray and HD DVD movies on a PC equipped with a GeForce 8800 GT.

ATI’s Radeon HD 2000/3000 series cards still hold a monopoly on the audio-over-HDMI feature, though. The GeForce 8800 GT lacks this ability because the G92 doesn’t incorporate an audio core. This is not much of a drawback considering the limited capabilities of the audio solution offered by ATI’s Radeon HD 2000/3000 cards, yet the idea of using only one cable for connecting your multimedia system to an LCD or plasma panel is appealing anyway.

PCI Express 2.0 Bus

Among innovations that are not directly related to the graphics architecture the G92’s support of the PCI Express 2.0 but that delivers two times the bandwidth of the widespread PCI Express 1.x must be mentioned. When using an x16 connection, the bandwidth of PCI Express 2.0 is 16GB/s (8GB/s in each direction) as opposed to 8GB/s (4GB/s in each direction) with PCI Express 1.x. Moreover, version 2.0 has a higher load capacity of the slot (150W instead of 75W) but this doesn’t concern the GeForce 8800 GT which should be able to work on both new and older mainboards. On the other hand, the user may have compatibility problems that have been reported by some mainboard manufacturers, for example ASUS. This problem may occur to owners of mainboards that support PCI Express 1.0/1.0a whereas mainboards with PCI Express 1.1 should be perfectly compatible with the new graphics cards.

Nvidia’s new card will be available in two versions, with 256 and 512MB of memory, at a recommended price of $199 and $259, respectively. Thanks to the new GPU and simplified PCB these prices can be reduced later on to $199 for the 512MB version. This appealing pricing should make the new card a real bestseller especially if it does well in gaming tests.

In this review the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB will be represented by Leadtek’s WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme. We’ll use it to check out the design features and gaming performance of the new graphics card from Nvidia.

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