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The Sparkle SF-PX88GT256D3-HP graphics card is a good product overall except for its scanty accessories. Packaged into a pretty box, it features an improved cooler and overclocks easily.

However, the card’s gaming performance – and that of any copy of the reference GeForce 8800 GT 256MB – is not quite good. The GeForce 8800 GT 256MB may be far behind the GeForce 8800 GT 512 in those applications where there is but a small difference between the ATI Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870.

This mostly shows up in modern games that use DirectX 10 capabilities, except for BioShock that runs on the thoroughly optimized Unreal Engine 3. We observed a considerable performance hit in such games as Call of Juarez, Crysis, Lost Planet, Hellgate: London, CoH: Opposing Fronts, and World in Conflict. These are all DirectX 10 applications and all of them are so demanding that mainstream graphics cards usually cannot provide high enough performance in them. In some other games the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB feels a lack of graphics memory at high resolutions, 1600x1200 and higher, this graphics card is not actually meant for.

This is already the second time that we see Nvidia’s GeForce 8 solutions suffer a performance hit when their local memory is reduced twofold. The first time we observed that with the 8800 GTS 640MB and 8800 GTS 320MB, and now we see the same with the 8800 GT 512MB and 8800 GT 256MB. We can only make guesses as to why the graphics cards behave like that:

  • The graphics card seems to feel a lack of graphics memory which is the result of an inefficient use of the available memory by the driver rather
  • The GeForce 8 memory controller works with portions of data of definite sizes while the memory bus remains the same. As a result, large data chunks reduce the efficiency and provoke a performance hit

We’ve combined the performance data on the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and two models of ATI Radeon HD 3800 into the following table:

Nvidia’s solution seems to be equal to the ATI Radeon HD 3870 at 1280x1024, but AMD’s card is preferable at 1600x1200. Although the latter comes at a higher recommended price ($219 as opposed to $199), retail prices of G92-based products are still too high, and the customer will often choose between the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and ATI Radeon HD 3870. The choice is obvious here.

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 256MB doesn’t look good in comparison with the ATI Radeon HD 3850, either. The AMD card is cheaper even in terms of recommended price. At the resolution of 1280x1024 such cards are actually meant for the AMD card is but rarely inferior to the Nvidia solution, for example in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Call of Duty. But it also allows playing some games comfortably at 1600x1200. If these two cards cost the same money, the choice would be based on the buyer’s personal gaming preferences, but with the current prices the ATI Radeon HD 3870 seems preferable to the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB.

Users who cannot afford to spend more than $200 for the graphics card should consider the ATI Radeon HD 3850 in the first place. Thus, the popularity of the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB depends directly on its retail price. If Nvidia brings it down to the level of the ATI Radeon HD 3850 or lower, the product will be demanded by gamers with limited budgets who do not plan to play at resolutions higher than 1280x1024. In this case the Sparkle card we’ve described here may be a good choice, particularly due to its good overclockability and lack of extra features that would increase the price of the product.


  • Pretty good performance in 1280x1024;
  • Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding support;
  • Advanced HD-video post-processing;
  • PCI Express 2.0 support;
  • Good overclocking potential;
  • No compatibility problems;
  • Efficient and compact cooling system;
  • Low level of generated noise;
  • Low power consumption.


  • Inefficient use of the available video memory;
  • Yields to ATI Radeon HD 3870 in high resolutions;
  • Not very rich accessories bundle.
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