Announcing the G92 graphics core, Nvidia introduced two GeForce 8800 GT cards with 512 and 256 megabytes of graphics memory on board and priced at $259 and $199, respectively. However, it was only the more expensive model that came to market in mass quantities. There was a shortage of G92 chips, and the 512MB version was not freely available while its retail price exceeded the recommended one greatly. On the other hand, there was no serious alternative to the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB that could provide comparable performance at a similar price.
This situation changed with the release of ATI Radeon HD 3800 on November 19, 2007. Knowing beforehand that even the senior model of the new series wouldn’t be competitive against the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, AMD launched an attack in the lower market segment setting the recommended price of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and ATI Radeon HD 3850 at $219 and $179, respectively. Our tests showed that the new card really provided good performance in the below-$250 sector and Nvidia had to respond somehow. Although the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB had been expected to ship in mass quantities in late November, first such cards only emerged in December. Nvidia had lost its leadership in the mentioned price sector by that moment.
The problem with the availability of GeForce 8800 GT is being solved steadily, and the new inexpensive version of the card, with 256MB of memory, has appeared in large quantities on the market. But is it efficient under modern conditions? A few years ago even 256 megabytes of memory was excessive as the existing games could not use up all of it. 3D games are constantly developing, though, and today the optimal amount of graphics memory is 512 megabytes while some latest projects, e.g. Crysis, can use even more if you run them at the highest graphics quality settings together with full-screen antialiasing.
Today we’ve got an opportunity to check out the performance of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB in popular games to compare it with its two most dangerous market rivals, ATI Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850. We are going to see what effect the amount of graphics memory has on performance of Nvidia’s mass solutions and if 256 megabytes is enough to compete with the ATI Radeon HD 3870. Prices of G92-based products still being very high, the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB has to rival that ATI solution as long as the price of the former card differs greatly from the recommended one. We will also see if the ATI Radeon HD 3850 can show its worth in comparison with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and prove the correctness of ATI’s approach to designing graphics processors.
In our today’s review the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256 is represented by a graphics card from Sparkle that goes under the incomprehensive name of SF-PX88GT256D3-HP. We’ll be referring to it as Sparkle GeForce 8800 GT 256MB especially as its parameters are exactly those of the reference card.