Goes Like Hell: Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH Graphics Card Review

We expected that some vendors will launch unique GeForce 8800 GT models that differ from the reference Nvidia graphics card not only by the heatsink stickers. Little by little our expectations start coming true and graphics accelerators like that arrive into the market. Today we are going to talk about a solution from Gainward.

by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
12/24/2007 | 09:19 AM

The mass release of GeForce 8 series cards based on the new 65nm G92 chip was one of the most important events that happened in the world of consumer 3D graphics in the second half of 2007. The GeForce 8800 GT is a real gift for every gamer as it brings you the performance of a high-end product at a price of the performance-mainstream class. However, despite the excellent technical specs and superiority in games, there are some things that prevent Nvidia from enjoying an unrivalled dominance in the below-$300 sector.

 

Today, the GeForce 8800 GT has got dangerous rivals, ATI’s Radeon HD 3850/3870 that are cheaper and more available – the GeForce 8800 GT is still a rare product and its retail price is considerably higher than the manufacturer’s recommended price of $259 for the 512MB version.

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT also has two serious technical problems. First, it is incompatible with a number of mainboards that support version 1.0/1.0a of the PCI Express interface. Today, such mainboards are the most widespread variety. The second problem is about cooling. The new cooler developed by Nvidia especially for the GeForce 8800 GT was designed to be compact with all the ensuing consequences. It is a complex device with heat pipes but its design is questionable. For a single-slot cooler, it is preferable that the hot air is exhausted at the rear of the card, also cooling the power circuit elements, like it was with the coolers of Nvidia’s GeForce 6800 and 7800 GTX. On the GeForce 8800 GT the air flow goes in the opposite direction, partially towards the mounting frame and partially to the side panel of the case. This may provoke a heat bag effect in many system cases where the graphics card is installed with the fan facing downward – the hot air will just stay below the card.

The GeForce 8800 GT is similar to the GeForce 7900 GTX in terms of heat dissipation, but the latter came with one of the best dual-slot coolers whereas the former has the described cooler with a rather weak fan that becomes very loud at an increased speed. All of this has a negative effect on the reliability of the GeForce 8800 GT, especially of its pre-overclocked versions that generate more heat. This problem has been reported by many users of such cards at Web forums.

To avoid the potential problems with pre-overclocked cards, Gainward has introduced a unique version of GeForce 8800 GT that differs from the reference card not only in clock rates but also in its cooler system as well as some other features. In this review we will see if the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH can be viewed as an ideal GeForce 8800 GT 512MB.

Package and Accessories

The Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH comes in the same box as the Bliss 8800 GTS 320MB GS we described in an earlier review. The box is rather small and doesn’t need a handle. It is designed in mild colors that don’t annoy the eye, but do not attract it, either.

Judging by the model name indicated by means of a sticker, Gainward uses the same box design for the entire Bliss 8800 series. The Golden Sample sticker is a different color than before and spells out the GLH abbreviation in the product name: Goes Like Hell. We’ll check out this claim in our tests, of course.

The box contains the following accessories, besides the graphics card:

The accessories are appropriate for such a special product. A copy of Tomb Raider: Anniversary is going to be a nice gift for the buyer. This game can demonstrate the capabilities of the graphics card well enough. Unfortunately, Gainward includes CyberLink PowerDVD 6, a rather old version that cannot play movies on Blu-ray and HD DVD media and cannot employ the features of video decoders and post-processors available on the last generations of graphics cards.

The card’s most exciting feature is the ability to output audio over the HDMI interface. The current generation of Nvidia’s GPUs not containing an integrated audio core, this is implemented by means of an external SPDIF adapter attached to the appropriate output of the audio card. This elegant and cheap solution helps avoid a clutter of cables around your home entertainment center. The only obstacle to using this feature may be the lack of a coaxial SPDIF connector because some mainboards and audio cards are equipped with an optical TOSLINK socket instead. We can’t yet test this implementation of the audio-over-HDMI feature, unfortunately.

So, the Gainward card deserves our praises for its accessories, which are free from drawbacks except for the outdated version of the video player. The exterior design of the box is not such an important thing, but it might be more attractive in the potential buyer’s eyes. Perhaps Gainward should think about variegating the box design because they use the same picture for the whole Bliss 8x00 series. We guess that special products from the Golden Sample and Goes Like Hell series need to be remarkable in every aspect, including the package design.

PCB Design and Specifications

We had anticipated that there would be versions of the GeForce 8800 GT with a unique PCB design and the discussed product from Gainward proves our point. Its PCB topology resembles the reference card only at first sight.

 

There are differences even in the left part of the PCB, although they mostly boil down to a different position of some smaller elements and slightly different wiring. The two-pin plug near the MIO connector is missing on the reference card. It serves for an internal SPDIF connection when the audio card or mainboard lacks an external coaxial port.

The power circuit has undergone most changes. It doesn’t resemble that of the reference card at all. Power transistors are grouped into a single block and cooled with one heatsink. Instead of a Primarion PX3544 controller, the three-phase GPU power circuit is governed by a Richtek RT8802A. The memory chips are powered through a Richtek RT9259A instead of a traditional Intersil ISL6549 controller. Like on the reference card, there is only one additional power connector (a standard 6-pin one) because G92-based solutions do not need more.

Examining the reverse side of the PCB we found an error the developer made when designing the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH:

There is an additional capacitor near the GPU that should not be there. Perhaps it is a quick correction of some error in the PCB wiring or the choice of component ratings. Such corrections can often be seen in presale samples of graphics cards such as ours. Off-the-shelf samples of Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH are going to be free from that.

Like GeForce 8800 GT 512MB with the reference PCB design, the Gainward card carries Qimonda HYB18H512321BF-10 memory chips. These GDDR3 chips have a capacity of 512Mb (16Mbx32), 2.0V voltage, and a rated frequency of 1000 (2000) MHz. They are clocked at 1025 (2050) MHz on the card, which leaves no room for overclocking. The total amount of graphics memory is 512 megabytes.

Like the GPUs of the graphics cards from Leadtek and MSI we had tested earlier, the GPU of the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is dated the 40th week of 2007, i.e. early October. Its clock rates are increased greatly over the reference ones: the main domain has a specified frequency of 700MHz while the shader domain, 1750MHz. These are higher than the frequencies of the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme. Due to the specifics of the clock generator, the real frequencies are somewhat different: 702MHz for the main domain and 1728MHz for the shader domain. That’s slightly different from the frequencies of the Leadtek, so we can expect the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH to deliver about the same performance.

The card is equipped with a standard selection of interface connectors: two dual-link DVI-I ports with support for HDCP and display resolutions up to 2560x1600 pixels, and a universal mini-DIN port for analog video output and for receiving SPDIF signal from the audio card. The MIO connector is necessary for uniting two such cards in a SLI configuration. The card has only one MIO and does not support configuration with more than two GPUs.

Cooling System

The efficiency of the reference GeForce 8800 GT cooler is questionable, especially when the GPU is clocked at an increased frequency. That’s why Gainward refused to install it on the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH. This card comes with a unique cooler that differs greatly from everything we have seen so far. It resembles the reference cooler of the GeForce 7900 GTX, but with some special nuances such as the placement of the fan below the heatsink.

The main heat-dissipating element of the cooler is the massive aluminum heatsink with a large ribbing area. The GPU die contacts with a copper heat-spreader that has no ribbing of its own but is connected to the main heatsink by means of two copper heat pipes. There is a hole in the heatsink where the fan resides. The fan is sucking the air in through the ribs and blowing at the heat-spreader’s sole, the PCB, and the metallic plate that cools the memory chips.

This solution is arguable from an aerodynamics point of view. The air flow doesn’t cool the heatsink very efficiently, and the hot air is not exhausted out of the system case although there are slits in the mounting bracket that might be used for that purpose. The power circuit elements have a heatsink but the air flow doesn’t reach them.

Anyway, this system is going to be superior to the reference cooler due to the larger heat dissipation area as well as to the high-performance fan. It is also good that the fan is blowing directly at the PCB. The overall efficiency of the cooler depends on the quality of the heat pipes as well as on the thermal contact in the spots where the pipes are fastened to the sole and heatsink. That’s only true if there is a proper thermal contact between the cooler and the GPU, though.

The heat-spreader’s base that has contact with the GPU die is secured on the PCB with four screws. The cooler being rather heavy, it wouldn’t be right to let the heatsink hang freely on the heat pipes as it might damage the GPU. So, the heatsink is additionally fastened to the PCB with a casing and four more screws, two near the mounting bracket and two in the rear part of the PCB. This fastening mechanism ensures the necessary rigidity. The plate on the memory chips and the heatsink on the power circuit elements are fastened to the PCB separately. The fan uses a 4-pin connection with PWM-based resolution of speed. The speed controller is set to maintain a constant speed, though.

Alas, we had some problems with the cooler of our sample of the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH. The heat-spreader proved to be not exactly flat, which resulted in poor contact with the GPU die and, consequently, in overheat. We suspected that after the card would hang up all the time during our tests, so we dismantled the cooler to check it out. The traces of thermal grease of the die and the cooler were uneven, and the thermal grease itself was dried up. The card would still hang up in 3D application even when we replaced the thermal grease. So, we had to polish the cooler off to achieve a proper contact with the GPU. Hopefully, this is only a problem of presale samples of the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH because the cooling system developed by Gainward seems to have a high potential.

Noise, Overclockability and Power Consumption

We measured the level of noise produced by the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT card with a digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326 using A-curve weighing. The level of ambient noise in our lab was 36dBA and the level of noise at a distance of 1 meter from the working testbed with a passively cooled graphics card inside was 43dBA. We got the following results:

Gainward’s cooler proves to be absolutely silent in comparison with the reference cooler from Nvidia, at least within a standard gaming system. You can only hear it in a system with a quiet PSU (perhaps with passive cooling), an acoustic insulation of HDDs, and low-speed system fans. The fan speed never changes. According to RivaTuner, it is fixed at 29% for every operation mode. However, we cannot call the cooler ideal due to the above-described problem with thermal contact. That may be a problem of our particular sample of the card, though.

Our attempt to overclock the GPU of the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH by 20MHz was unsuccessful. The card would not be stable. The memory refused to overclock at all, being already clocked at a higher frequency than the rated one. We didn’t try to overclock the card with additional cooling.

The Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is free from the compatibility problems typical of GeForce 8800 GT with the reference PCB design and worked normally on every mainboard we had. We measured its power consumption using a special testbed with a modified Intel Desktop Board D925XCV.

We performed our measurements at the card’s default frequencies and with the frequencies reduced to those of the reference card. In 3D mode the cards were loaded by the first SM3.0/HDR test from the 3DMark06 suite running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05.


Click to enlarge

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB resembles the GeForce 8800 GTX with its power consumption: the external +12V line has a higher load than the internal line (in the PCI Express slot). The +3.3V line has almost no load at all as opposed to the G80-based cards. The card consumes less than 1W of power from it in every mode, but this may be a peculiarity of the non-standard power circuit developed by Gainward.

Note how economic the GeForce 8800 GT is in 2D mode. When the GPU and memory frequencies are increased, the power consumption of the GeForce 8800 GT doesn’t grow up much: the consumption is 7.4W higher at the frequencies of the Gainward card than at the frequencies of the reference card in 3D mode. The difference is no bigger than 1.2-1.6W in 2D mode.

So, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB is quite an economical graphics card with a power consumption of 78W in 3D applications. This is far below the power draw of Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS, let alone ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT/Pro. The GeForce 8800 GT 512MB is even more economical than the previous-generation flagship GeForce 7900 GTX. It is now clear why Nvidia decided to develop a single-slot cooler for the new card, yet the power draw of 80W seems too high for such risky experiments. There are rumors that new batches of GeForce 8800 GT will be equipped with an improved cooler with a larger fan.

Testbed and Methods

To test the performance of Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH in games we assembled the following standard test platform:

Since we believe that the use of texture filtering optimizations is not justified in this case, the ATI and Nvidia graphics card drivers were set up to provide the highest possible quality of tri-linear and anisotropic filtering. Also, to ensure maximum image quality, we enabled transparent texture filtering - Adaptive Anti-Aliasing/Multi-sampling for ATI Catalyst and Antialiasing – Transparency: Multisampling for Nvidia ForceWare. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings looked as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia ForceWare:

For our tests we used the following games and benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

RPG

Strategies

Synthetic Benchmarks

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way. Games supporting DirectX 10 were tested in this particular mode. Performance was measured with the games’ own tools or, if not available, manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.1. We also measured the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

With a few exceptions, the tests were performed in the following standard resolutions: 1280x1024/960, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200/1440. We used “eye candy” mode everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR/Shader Model 3.0/Shader Model 4.0. Namely, we ran the tests with enabled anisotropic filtering as well as MSAA 4x antialiasing. We enabled them from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of Catalyst and ForceWare drivers

Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH will be competing against the following graphics accelerators participating in our test session:

Performance in First-Person 3D Shooters

Battlefield 2142

This game doesn’t support display resolutions of 16:10 format, so we use a resolution of 1920x1440 pixels (4:3 format) instead of 1920x1200 for it.

The Gainward has a higher result than the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme, but the difference is no bigger than 2.1fps. This is unimportant for the gamer considering the average frame rates of above 70fps at 1920x1400. The Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is just as suitable for playing Battlefield 2142 as the more expensive GeForce 8800 GTX.

BioShock

BioShock doesn’t support FSAA when running in Windows Vista’s DirectX 10 environment. That’s why we benchmarked the cards without FSAA.

Despite its lower memory bandwidth, the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is ahead of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX at 1920x1200. The gap amounts to an impressive 12%. This must be due to the much higher frequency of the shader processors of the Gainward card. It is 1728MHz as opposed to the GeForce 8800 GTX’ 1350MHz. BioShock cannot use FSAA in DirectX 10 mode, so the memory bandwidth of the GeForce 8800 GT is not a bottleneck here.

Call of Juarez

The Gainward is always ahead of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX, enjoying a serious 18% advantage over the ex-flagship at 1920x1200. It has no rivals in terms of minimum speed, too.

512 megabytes of graphics memory is not enough for the game to run at full speed in DirectX 10 mode if you play at resolutions above 1280x1024. That’s not crucial from a practical point of view since the frame rate is too low on every modern card even at 1280x1024. By the way, Gainward offers a Bliss 8800 GT similar to the one described in this review but with 1024MB of onboard memory. That card would probably rival the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX at resolutions of 1600x1200/1680x1050 and higher.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

As opposed to the previous titles in the series, this sequel to Call of Duty does not allow to play for different factions but focuses on a linear plot set in our days. The game runs on an original engine with rather advanced special effects, including HDR dynamic shadows and depth-of-field, but does not utilize DirectX 10. A special feature of the physical model implemented in the game is the ability to shoot through obstacles such as wooden walls, car doors, etc, and the bullet’s killing force changes accordingly.

The results suggest that the game is not very demanding, but such cards as Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX and pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GT 512MB cannot provide a frame rate of 50fps at 1920x1200. The effect of the clock rates of the GeForce 8800 GT 512MB is obvious here: the difference between the reference card and the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is as big as 23% at 1280x1024 and grows up to 30% at 1920x1200.

The results of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB indicate that 320 megabytes of graphics memory is not enough for this game. The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB suffers from insufficiently optimized drivers and, probably, from fundamental drawbacks of the Radeon HD architecture. Thus, the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH or any other version of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB with similar specs is the optimal choice for playing Call of Duty 4 in terms of price/performance ratio.

Crysis

The game being too hard at its Very High level of detail, we benchmarked the cards without FSAA to get a more playable speed.

Not only the frequency of the shader processors but also their amount is important for Crysis. This can be seen from the results: the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH can’t catch up with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX in any of the test modes.

Anyway, the currently available hardware doesn’t allow to play Crysis normally at the Very High level of detail.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

The frame rate is fixed at 30fps in this game as this is the rate at which the physical model is being updated at the server. Thus, this 30fps speed is the required minimum for playing the game.

The pre-overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB can challenge the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX at a resolution of 1280x1024 only. At the higher resolutions the latter is in the lead due to better memory subsystem parameters (capacity and amount). The architecture of the TMUs may have affected its performance, too.

Anyway, the Gainward and the other GeForce 8800 GT, including the reference card from Nvidia, provide an acceptable speed at 1920x1200 with enabled 4x FSAA. Don’t forget that you need an average frame rate of 30fps to play Quake Wars normally. You can get this speed even from the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB which has reduced performance in OpenGL and provides no reserve of speed.

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate

Like Battlefield 2142, this game does not support resolutions of 16:10 format. So, we use 1920x1440 (4:3 format) instead of 1920x1200 in this test.

The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX wins two out of three resolutions but is suddenly overtaken at 1920x1200 by the pre-overclocked G92-based cards, including the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH. The gap is no bigger than 3fps, though. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB are the only two cards that cannot ensure a comfortable speed at 1920x1200. The other cards cope with that task successfully.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2: Episode Two has higher system requirements than Episode One: the GeForce 8800 GT and GeForce 8800 GTX are no faster than 50fps at 1920x1200. You can play the game quite comfortably, though, but you may want to disable FSAA to avoid slowdowns.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

The game doesn’t support FSAA when you enable the dynamic lighting model, but loses much of its visual appeal with the static model. This is the reason why we benchmarked the cards in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. using anisotropic filtering only.

Every version of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB provides a comfortable minimum speed at resolutions up to 1600x1200/1680x1050 pixels but the minimum speed at 1920x1200 is below 25fps. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX can keep it above that critical mark, which makes it a better choice for owners of monitors with a diagonal of 23” and longer.

Unreal Tournament 3

Contrary to the developer’s promises, Unreal Tournament 3 doesn’t support FSAA even in the Windows Vista environment. Forcing FSAA from the graphics card’s driver doesn’t produce any effect. Perhaps the FSAA support will be added by means of a patch.

It’s hard to choose one winner here – every graphics card passes this test successfully and ensures comfortable gaming conditions at every standard resolution. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX stands out among the others, but it is also far more expensive than the fastest of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. The 8% performance gain is obviously not worth the price difference.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Lost Planet is about as difficult for the graphics subsystem as Crysis but is far inferior in terms of visual quality. The transition from the High to Medium level of detail is less conspicuous in it than switching from Very High to High settings in Crytek’s game. As for choosing a graphics card to play this game, there is virtually no difference between the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX and the pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. The latter product is preferable considering the price factor.

Tomb Raider: Legend

The Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH delivers excellent performance in Tomb Raider, being slightly ahead of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX at high resolutions. Considering the lower price and the noiseless cooler, this graphics card is going to be a good choice for every fan of Lara Croft.

Performance in RPG

Hellgate: London

The plot of this game narrates about an invasion of demons in 2038, and the main scene is London, as you may guess. Hellgate allows using both third-person and first-person views and is no different from a first-person shooter if you play with a long-range weapon. Thus, you need the same frame rate as in a first-person shooter to enjoy the game fully.

Using the DirectX 10 environment and being a single-platform project (for the PC only), the game is, however, no better visually than BioShock or Crysis. Its system requirements are very serious, though. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX and the per-overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB are only capable of providing a playable frame rate at 1280x1024 with enabled FSAA. The minimum speed of these cards is below critical level at higher resolutions.

The other cards, including the reference GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, are not so good in this test. The GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB is especially slow. It looks like a serious modern gaming graphics card must have at least 512 of memory on board.

Gothic 3

The current version of the game doesn’t support FSAA, so we performed the test with anisotropic filtering only.

The G92-based cards and the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX have almost identical results at every resolution, probably reaching the ceiling set by other factors such as specifics of the game engine, CPU performance, etc. From a gamer’s point of view, the cards are equals except that the GeForce 8800 GTX ensures a somewhat higher minimum of speed at a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The game loses much of its visual appeal without HDR. Although some gamers argue that point, we think TES IV looks best with enabled FP HDR and test it in this mode.

The Gainward card is in the lead when it comes to playing in closed environments such as homes, dungeons, etc, but the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX overtakes it in open game scenes. There is no difference between these two cards in terms of performance but the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH looks preferable in terms of price. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB is a loser in this test, with a minimum speed lower than 25fps in open scenes.

Performance in Strategies

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

The new add-on to Company of Heroes is tested in DirectX 10 mode only since it provides the highest quality of the visuals.

The Gainward card is ahead of the Leadtek and goes neck and neck with the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX at high resolutions. The average frame rate is quite comfortable everywhere even with 4x FSAA while the minimum of speed is not quite good. Anyway, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB and ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB are the only cards you are going to have real slowdowns with.

Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars

The game having a frame rate limiter, you should consider the minimum speed of the cards in the first place.

All of the tested graphics cards allow playing this game with comfort at a resolution of 1920x1200 and with enabled full-screen antialiasing. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB has the worst minimum of speed, yet it is higher than 20fps anyway. The best result of 26fps and higher belongs to the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH.

World in Conflict

The increased clock rates of the Gainward card help it match the average performance of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB but its minimum speed is lower, especially at 1920x1200. It’s hard to tell if this is due to the less efficient texture processor architecture or to the smaller amount of raster operators or to both.

From a gamer’s point of view, all the tested graphics cards are not fast enough for comfortable play, yet you can try to use the solutions with Nvidia’s GPUs at 1280x1024. Better yet, you can disable FSAA because it doesn’t worsen the picture as much as the reduction of the level of detail.

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark05

The Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH set a new record among serially produced graphics cards with Nvidia’s GPUs, scoring over 18,000 points in 3DMark05. That’s a proper result for a graphics card that comes with the slogan “Goes Like Hell”.

Like the pre-overclocked versions of GeForce 8800 GT 512MB we had tested earlier, the Gainward is never slower than the GeForce 8800 GTX even at a resolution of 1920x1200 despite 4x multisampling. The gap between the two cards is the smallest in the third test that loads heavily the card’s memory subsystem and texture processors. So, Gainward’s claim to superiority is confirmed in 3DMark05. Let’s see what we have in 3DMark06.

Futuremark 3DMark06

The Gainward card stops only 43 points short of scoring 12,000 points. This is an impressive result we couldn’t achieve even with an XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra Extreme, let alone the slower GeForce 8800 models or ATI’s Radeon HD 2900.

The outcome of the individual groups of tests agrees with the overall scores: the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is far better than the reference card as well as the GeForce 8800 GTX and is the fastest GeForce 8800 GT 512MB we have so far benchmarked in our labs.

The individual tests prove the point: the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is in the lead, slightly ahead of the Leadtek WinFast PX8800 GT Extreme.

The second SM3.0/HDR test is the only one in which the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX is able to match the speed of the Gainward card, but the latter is the overall winner anyway.

Conclusion

The Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH might have left a better impression on us with all its exciting features such as superb performance in games, audio-over-HDMI, good accessories, compatibility with all mainboards, an efficient and silent cooling system, but, unfortunately, this impression is somewhat spoiled by the defective heatsink. The heatsink’s sole being not quite flat, there was poor contact between it and the GPU. The graphics card would overheat and hang up as a consequence. We solved the problem by replacing the thermal grease and polishing the heatsink, but that’s not quite what you want to do with a graphics card you’ve just purchased. When you buy a product that claims to be special – and Gainward’s Golden Sample series is special indeed – you expect it to work normally and to be free from factory defects. Gainward should really make sure that serially produced Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH come with a normal cooler if the company doesn’t want to worsen its reputation in the customer’s eyes. Hopefully, this is a defect of our specific sample of the card or only concerns presale sample that are not going to be sold in retail.

With a normal cooler, the Gainward Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH is a very appealing product. As opposed to the cards with the reference PCB design, it is absolutely silent while delivering the same or better performance. On the downside are its price and availability. First, the card is going to be more than the official price of $259 because it belongs to the Golden Sample series and has per-overclocked frequencies. The current shortage of G92 chips may affect its price, too. The same shortage limits the card’s availability – you are not going to find it freely available at your local shop. Anyway, the price is still going to be lower than the price of the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX, so if the problem with the cooler was a defect of our particular sample, the Bliss 8800 GT 512MB GS GLH can be viewed as the best choice for a devoted gamer.

This graphics card may also be interesting to people who are building an advanced multimedia system capable of running modern games because it features a silent cooler (but it prevents you from installing the card into small system cases) and supports audio-over-HDMI. Although the latter feature is not native (an integrated audio core is currently available on ATI’s Radeon HD series only), the SPDIF adapter will help avoid a clutter of cables just as successfully.

Highs:

Lows: