by Alexey Stepin
05/20/2007 | 05:55 PM
New companies and new products debuting on the market often provoke ambiguous impressions on the customer part. On one hand, the company that is squeezing into a highly competitive market tries hard to satisfy and even astonish the client. But on the other hand, new brands may want to achieve their goal by any means and some secondary consumer properties of their product may suffer as a consequence.
The quality of such a young brand as Foxconn is vouched for by the history of Hon Hai Precision Industry (also known as Foxconn Electronics). Having been an OEM supplier of major companies like Dell and Hewlett Packard, Foxconn decided to directly sell its products to customers in 2003-2004. It released its mainboard series in 2005 and graphics card series in 2006.
Seemingly a new name on the market, the company has got production facilities that serve major PC, game console and consumer electronics makers such as Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Sony and others.
Introducing its graphics card series to the market, Foxconn didn’t limit itself to bottom market sectors. March 2006 it announced the Foxconn GeForce 7900GTX model that was the fastest single-chip solution from Nvidia at the moment. Afterwards the company released a wide range of GeForce 7-based products for different user categories.
In this review we will check out the newest and currently the fastest solution Foxconn offers right now – Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON. We’ll learn in what points this product differs from other companies’ alternatives and see how the ForceWare driver has improved since the launch of the GeForce 8800 series in the early November of 2006.
Once you’ve bought a graphics card, you will hardly scrutinize its packaging ever after. We should acknowledge the job of Foxconn’s designers, though. You can’t pass indifferently by this giant:
ASUS is a recognized trend-setter in package design for graphics cards, but Foxconn has almost overtaken the competitor – this box design is very remarkable indeed. It is painted violet and lilac hues showing an abstract picture with elements from video games and astronomy.
Some product information is printed on the front panel: its support of SLI mode, compatibility with Microsoft Windows Vista, and enclosed free accessories amounting to $180.
Foxconn’s marketing men don’t think the customer needs free games or software which often prove to be useless and go into the trash bin along with the box. Instead, Foxconn includes the following bonuses with the card:
The graphics card is protected from damage during transportation. It is put into an antistatic bag as well as into a blister wrap and is fixed firmly in its compartment.
The Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON comes with the following accessories:
This set of accessories is comparable to the one included with the Foxconn FV-N79GM2D2-HPOC we have reviewed earlier (for details see our article called GeForce 7950 GT: 256MB or 512MB? Foxconn and Gigabyte Graphics Cards Review).
The exclusive Foxconn 3D Game Pad is a good accessory for sure. It is shaped like the famous Sony DualShock, one of the most optimal gamepad designs from the ergonomics standpoint. The gamepad case is made from rubberized plastic for additional convenience. It is agreeable to touch and prevents your fingers from slipping off. Besides the main 8-position joystick, the 3D Game Pad offers 10 buttons and two analog controllers. The latter two can react to a press, too, thus increasing the number of available buttons to 12. The gamepad is connected to the PC via a USB port. It is recognized by the OS as a generic gamepad and does not require special drivers. To configure and calibrate it, you just go into the Game Controllers section of the Control Panel in Windows. Without a doubt, it makes a nice addition to the graphics card.
We guess it would be appropriate to have some popular third-person shooter or a fighting game included into the package together with the gamepad, but Foxconn decided different. The software bundle consists of programs for creating and managing CD/DVD images (VirtualDrive Pro) and for system recovery (RestoreIT). This approach is somewhat more pragmatic but justifiable. You may want to have software that allows creating a virtual optical drive in your system. Gamers also need to restore their systems more often than other users. So, these two programs are indeed helpful and they cost $39.99 each separately. Yet we are dealing with a gaming graphics card – with the most advanced such card available today – and one or two games would indeed be appropriate.
The included manual is quite a normal thing. We don’t have any complaints about it. It can help an inexperienced user to install the new graphics card into the system.
The package and accessories of the Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON are appealing due to the free-of-charge items, particularly a 3D Game Pad. We would be pleased even more if the box contained at least one game. On the other hand, this would raise the retail price of the card and make it less attractive for those people who wouldn’t need the particular games.
The GeForce 8800 GTX from Foxconn can be either black or green. Our sample of the Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON uses a black solder mask and is an exact replica of Nvidia’s reference card.
As is the case with many products available on the market, the difference from the competing solutions is only in the stickers on the cooler casing and on the fan motor. The picture with stellar bodies on the cooler resembles the collage on the product box.
Foxconn’s GeForce 8800 GTX comes with Samsung K4J52324QC-BJ11 memory. The twelve 512Mb GDDR3 chips work at a voltage of 2.0V and have a rated frequency of 900 (1800) MHz, which is exactly the memory frequency described in the official 8800 GTX specification from Nvidia. The total amount of memory is 768MB with a 384-bit memory bus. The GPU frequencies are standard, too: 575MHz for the main domain and 1350MHz for the shader domain. The GPU is configured to have 32 TMUs, 24 ROPs and 128 unified shader processors, just as it should be on a GeForce 8800 GTX.
The graphics card has two universal DVI-I connectors and a 7-pin mini-DIN connector you can plug an S-Video cable directly into.
High-performance products have always been milestones of the evolution of the engineering thought. To satisfy the ever-increasing power requirements of the GPU and memory the graphics card’s PCB was getting longer and thicker. As opposed to CPUs, which haven’t surpassed the limit of 125W after reaching it a couple of years ago, GPUs have constantly demanded more and more power.
The increased heat dissipation made Nvidia develop a massive cooler capable of taking off over 130 watts of heat from the G80 GPU and GDDR3 memory chips. Foxconn preferred not to change anything in the cooling system, so you can go to our review of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX for details.
In our overclocking experiments with graphics cards we use simple, safe and cheap methods everyone can use. In this test the card worked with its native cooler but we replaced its thermal paste.
We overclocked the card using the Nvidia nTune software that supports the latest generation of Nvidia’s graphics cards. To achieve the maximum cooling efficiency we had increased the cooler’s fans speed to the maximum. We managed to increase the graphics core clock rate from 575 to 630MHz and the card was stable at that.
The memory frequency was increased by 100MHz, from 900 (1800) to 1000 (2000) MHz. This is a good result, considering the 384-bit memory bus with complex PCB wiring and the surpassing of the rated frequency of the memory chips. So, the reviewed graphics card from Foxconn can be successfully overclocked without extreme methods like volt-modding or replacing the native cooler with a water- or cryogen-based one.
As we wrote in the previous section, we checked the overclocking potential of the Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX at the maximum speed of its fan. Using a sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326 we can now provide you with an objective estimate of the amount of noise produced by a particular graphics card (the measurement methodology was described in this review).
We measured the level of noise produced by the cards in three modes: 2D, 3D typical and 3D maximum (the maximum level of noise with the automatic fan-speed adjustment enabled). The noise is measured at a distance of 1m and 5cm from the working testbed assembled in a Chieftec LBX-01 system case with the side panel removed.
Since the Foxconn card’s cooler speed was set at 3D mode by the manufacturer, its results are identical in each test mode. The level of background noise in our test room was 36dBA. At a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card installed our sound-level meter showed 40dBA. Here are the results:
The cooling system installed on the Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX proved to be very quiet. The card is comparable to the GeForce 7900 GTX, one of the quietest graphics cards. The new card is nearly silent in every situation except for serious overheat, and the fan speed management system reminds you of itself only during the first few seconds on your turning the system on. This is an excellent result considering that the cooler of the GeForce 8800 GTX has to dissipate over 130W!
During our comparative testing of the GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card we used the following hardware to build our test platforms:
The graphics card drivers were set up in standard way to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering.
We selected the highest possible graphics quality level in each game, identical for ATI and Nvidia solutions. Performance was measured with the games’ own tools or, if not available, manually with Fraps utility. We also measured the minimum speed of the cards where possible.
To load the video subsystem to the full extent and to minimize the CPU influence on the performance we didn’t run the tests in “pure” speed mode. We only worked with “eye candy” mode with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. In this mode the graphics subsystem is utilized more rationally, and the image quality is much higher than in cases when anti-aliasing and/or anisotropic filtering are not enabled. We ran the tests in following test modes:
We enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare.
Besides the Foxconn 8800 GTX we have also included the following graphics cards into our test session:
For our tests we used the following games and benchmarks:
First-Person 3D Shooters
Third-Person 3D Shooters
Online gamers should definitely consider the Foxconn 8800 GTX. This card beats the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB in high resolutions with an advantage of 15fps. An interesting fact, the speed of today’s fastest graphics card has slowed down relative to the older driver.
Unfortunately, graphics cards from the previous generation do not suit for monitors that support resolutions higher than 1280x1024. Although the Radeon X1950 XTX and GeForce 7950 GX2 deliver an average of 50fps, their reserve of speed is too low for graphically complex scenes.
One of the newest titles on our test program, Call of Juarez does not support HDR and FSAA simultaneously. The game is very heavy for the computer’s graphics subsystem anyway.
The GeForce 8800 GTX is the only graphics card to deliver a comfortable frame rate here. It is followed by the GeForce 7950 GX2, a previous-generation dual-chip solution from Nvidia. Note that even on such powerful graphics cards you have to lower the graphics quality settings to have a normal speed in high display resolutions.
Our tests in the popular, but rather old, Far Cry produce expectable results. All of the graphics cards have similar speeds and do not differ much from each other. The Foxconn 8800 GTX is obviously unable to reveal its potential, being limited by the capabilities of the CPU and platform.
We see quite a different picture as soon as we enable FP HDR. The GeForce 8800 GTX proves its superiority. As opposed to its opponents, this card’s performance changes but slightly with the change of the lighting model.
The Research level does not use the CPU so heavily, and the Foxconn 8800 GTX delivers nearly two times the performance of such solutions as Radeon X1950 XTX and GeForce 7950 GX2. It is also 50% ahead of the GeForce 8800 GTS.
As is the case with Call of Juarez, the GeForce 8800 GTX meets some kind of competition only from the dual-chip GeForce 7950 GX2. Thanks to a good SLI profile in the driver, the 7950 GX2 can effectively use both of its graphics cores and keep very close to the current flagship of the series.
Using the deferred rendering technique, this game is incompatible with FSAA. So, there are only anisotropic filtering results here.
The game preferring Nvidia’s solutions, the Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX expectably delivers high performance with a min speed of 50fps in 1900x1200. This is more than enough for an enjoyable gaming experience.
Our test settings with 4x FSAA cannot load the GeForce 8800 GTX fully: the participating graphics cards all have the same speed in 1280x1024 and the Foxconn card maintains the same speed in higher resolutions while its opponents slow down. On the other hand, you can play Half-Life 2: Episode One in the highest resolution even on the GeForce 7950 GX2.
This reincarnation of the Doom 3 engine doesn’t have any surprises to show. The Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX is far ahead in every resolution and its speed is going to satisfy even the most fastidious user.
The engine of this game can’t boast complex shadows or textures or object models, but the employed HDR lighting model can load even powerful graphics cards fully.
The game speed is limited by the CPU in low resolutions. In higher resolutions the Foxconn leaves its previous-generation opponents behind, but the cheaper GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB is still very close to the leader.
You don’t need as high a frame rate in a third-person shooter as you do in a first-person one to enjoy the game fully. Still, we should note the superiority of the Foxconn 8800 GTX over the rest of the graphics cards. In the highest resolution the minimum speed of that card is 44fps, which guarantees you’ll have no slowdowns and jerkiness.
At the moment of our writing this review this next episode in Sam Fisher’s career was still unable to work correctly on G80-based solutions. In its release notes Nvidia says it is a developer’s problem and suggests that you run the executable splintercell4.exe with the -ll parameter or create an appropriate launch icon.
The Foxconn 8800 GTX looks a giant against the other three cards, outperforming them by 20fps. As a matter of fact, you don’t need such a high speed as is provided by the Foxconn to play the game comfortably. You can enjoy just as much comfort on the other graphics cards (and you won’t have to use the additional launch parameter on them).
If you feel like adventuring and treasure-seeking, you should appreciate the speed of the GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB. Its performance is almost 60fps even in 1900x1200. But if you don’t use extremely high resolutions, you may use the less expensive GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB just as well.
The latest tale of the adventures of the nameless hero in the Gothic universe shows the same picture as the previous test: the previous-generation cards can hardly deliver over 30fps even at 1280x1024 whereas the Foxconn 8800 GTX is a real breakthrough with its 44fps.
On the other hand, Gothic 3 seems quite playable subjectively even at 30fps. This is the level of the more affordable GeForce 8800 GTS.
At first glance Neverwinter Nights 2 seems to be too hard a test for our graphics cards, but the gameplay is actually smooth and enjoyable at 30fps. You can even play normally at an average speed of 20fps, but you have problems when the speed drops below 15fps: the characters under your control do not obey your commands, “forget” to strike blows, etc.
There are only two graphics cards to meet the mentioned criterion, the GeForce 7950 GX2 and the GeForce 8800 GTX. The former is limited to 1280x1024, though. The other cards have more modest results, but you should know that you’ll only have such a low speed in scenes with a lot of vegetation and models.
According to the diagram, it is quite comfortable in Elder Scrolls dungeons with any of the tested cards. Let’s check out the forests to see which card is better for playing the game.
The Foxconn 8800 GTX is close to notching 60fps in 1920x1200. Its min speed of 30fps is quite high, too, so there will be no slowdowns. Note that the cut-down version of the G80 chip – we mean the GeForce 8800 GTS – is quite comparable to the GeForce 8800 GTX again.
The cards seem to deliver similar frame rates, but take note of the minimum speed of the Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX.
This is surely a driver-related problem, not the card’s one, but it is somewhat uncomfortable to roam the Universe at a speed of 10-15fps. This problem has persisted for half a year since the release of the GeForce 8800 series.
We suspect the fluctuations of performance are due to incorrect operation of the dispatcher that allots the available shader processors for executing pixel or vertex shaders.
The calculations of scripts and effects are bound strictly to a frame rate of 30fps in this game, it is impossible to play it with a disabled frame limiter. So, we decided against modifying the internal game settings to disable the limiter.
The participating graphics cards seem to be equally good in this test, but it is the minimum speed that is important for playing a strategy. When it comes to min speed, the GeForce 8800 GTX and Radeon X1950 XTX are beyond competition since their speeds are never lower than 20fps at 1920x1200 resolution. As for the GeForce 7950 GX2, we feel sorry for people who have got this card. The driver for the GeForce 7 series hasn’t been updated since November – no wonder it hasn’t got a SLI profile for Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.
You’ve got a wide choice if you like WW2-inspired strategies. The Foxconn 8800 GTX is impressive again, but 50fps is quite enough for this game type. And this frame rate is delivered by every graphics card in this review.
The last of the Total Annihilation games was released in those ancient times when the amount of onboard graphics memory was the single measure of graphics subsystem performance. Although the main features of the ancestor can be clearly seen in Supreme Commander, this game is among the hardest trials in our selection of benchmarks.
Once again we see the GeForce 8800 GTX outpacing its rivals “by a lap”. The lack of competition is partially due to the catastrophically low performance of the GeForce 7950 GX2. With no alternatives in view, the Foxconn card with its 60fps is surely the best choice.
As might have been expected, the Foxconn 8800 GTX boasts the highest 3DMark05 score among the tested cards. It scores 800 points more than its closest pursuer GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB.
In the 4x FSAA mode the Foxconn 8800 GTX is clearly limited by the CPU. No wonder as the new solution from Nvidia has 32 TMUs, 24 ROPs and a 384-bit memory which are all demanded in this first 3DMark test.
In the second test the mentioned advantages of the Foxconn 8800 GTX combine with the unified architecture that allows to dynamically allot stream processors to execute certain types of shaders. This architecture shows its best when you enable extremely high antialiasing levels.
No surprises in the third test: the Foxconn 8800 GTX performs brilliantly in every resolution. You should be aware that 3DMark05 does not support Shader Model 3.0 and thus doesn’t suit well for benchmarking solutions like Foxconn 8800 GTX. Let’s see how this graphics card does in the more advanced 3DMark06.
The Foxconn 8800 GTX is unrivalled in 3DMark06. The nearest pursuer is as many as 1000 points behind.
In the SM2.0 graphics tests the Foxconn 8800 GTX delivers twice the performance of the previous-generation cards and is about 10% ahead of the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB.
The SM3.0/HDR tests are like a home turf for the Foxconn 8800 GTX. It is still in the lead, leaving no chance to its opponents.
The Foxconn 8800 GTX’s first place is well-deserved since the first SM2.0 test is similar to 3DMark05’s first test and requires a high fill rate, too. As we learned in our theoretical research, Nvidia’s latest product is unrivalled in this respect.
In the second SM2.0 test the Foxconn 8800 GTX is far ahead of its opponents even in 1900x1200.
In the first SM3.0/HDR test the Foxconn 8800 GTX still holds first place among the solutions that can use FSAA and FP HDR simultaneously.
The Foxconn behaves likewise in the second SM3.0/HDR test, too, outperforming the Radeon X1950 XTX and GeForce 8800 GTS.
So, the overall 3DMark06 scores are quite correct. The Foxconn 8800 GTX wins every test from Futuremark’s latest benchmarking suite.
It was very easy to predict that GeForce 8800 GTX would be the winner since there were hardly any worthy rivals available at the time of our test session. The card is based on the newest and actually the most powerful G80 graphics chip from Nvidia.
The Foxconn solution proved a great high-performance solution in tests with HDR lighting model as well as in tests with enabled FSAA 4x. So, if you are looking for a high-end solution, then you may want to check out this graphics card.
However, do not forget that in some tests GeForce 8800 GTX had very little advantage over GeForce 8800 GTS with 640MB of memory onboard. This may be the reason why it might be more reasonable to consider a better value option in some cases.
Among the indisputable advantages of Foxconn 8800 GTX (Foxconn FV-N88XMAD2-ON) I have to mention a pretty impressive accessories bundle including a gamepad and a number of interesting programs that you may find useful.
As for the Nvidia ForceWare drivers, we have witnessed pretty impressive improvements over the last 6 months, especially in terms of stable gaming performance. Of course, the drivers still have room for further evolution, however our tests revealed that ForceWare 97.9x boast remarkable performance.