It was known even before the official announcement that the Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra, a premium-class graphics card solution, would be an overclocked version of GeForce 8800 GTX. Developing a more advanced GPU, even based on the existing G80, would have been a slow, expensive and hardly worthwhile undertaking considering that such graphics cards amount for but a tiny share of the market of discrete desktop graphics. There had been precedents, too. We can recall the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 and the older GeForce 2 Ultra and GeForce 3 Titanium as examples.
So, the GeForce 8800 Ultra was supposed to come with the same GPU as its predecessor and the only arguable things were the frequencies, the possibility of using a new PCB (as it had been the case with the GeForce 7800 GTX 512), the use of an improved cooling system, and the installation of fast GDDR4 memory. Some people named core frequencies of 650-700MHz and a memory frequency of 2000MHz and higher and a price of $999, but what do we have in the end?
The GeForce 8800 Ultra uses a total of 768MB of GDDR3 memory, the same memory amount as is installed on the GeForce 8800 GTX. The GPU frequency is only 612MHz for the main domain and 1.5GHz for the shader processor domain, i.e. 6% and 11% higher than those of the GeForce 8800 GTX. The memory frequency has increased from 1800MHz to 2160MHz – the biggest frequency growth of the new card.
The GeForce 8800 Ultra was supposed to be a preemptive strike on AMD prior to AMD’s release of the R600 chip and graphics cards with it. This strike was indeed made on May 2, some time after the announcement of the new mainstream solutions, the G84 and G86 chips, but our tests of a GeForce 8800 GTX overclocked almost to the level of the GeForce 8800 Ultra showed a small performance gain, from 2% to 14%. Besides, AMD launched its counterattack in other market sectors and the new card from Nvidia found no opponent to compete with. The Radeon HD 2900 XT with a recommended price of $399 was made a rival to the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, which was quite a different price range.
The GeForce 8800 Ultra is a bit of a disappointment, actually. People had hoped for something more, especially as many of Nvidia’s partners had long been offering pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GTX with parameters very similar to the new card’s. Some of such cards were described in our article called The Invincibles: GeForce 8800 GTX Roundup. Nvidia did not introduce anything new. It just rolled out a luxurious product priced at $829 and targeted at a lean group of enthusiasts that strive to have maximum possible performance regardless of the price.
Anyway, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is undoubtedly the fastest gaming graphics card today and deserves our interest for this fact alone. Our preliminary tests were performed by emulating the new card, but now we’ve got an opportunity to test the original in our traditional selection of gaming and synthetic tests. We are about to review the XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB DDR3 Extreme.