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PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB PCIe 2.0 Graphics Card
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Date: Feb 02, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Robert Maloney
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Introduction




Late last year, NVIDIA released a pair of new 8800-series graphics cards based on their G92 GPU.  The new cards were designed to keep NVIDIA's products at the top of the food chain at their respective price points, while also being a bit more affordable.  The first of the two was the GeForce 8800 GT.  It brought high-end performance to the mainstream crowd mostly due to its 112 stream processor configuration and 65m G92 GPU.  The G92's shrink to 65nm from TSMC's 90nm process used with the G80, brings with it lower power usage, but also lower prices due to a reduced die size, enabling NVIDIA to set the MSRP for the 8800 GT in the range of $200-250.

One thing we noticed in the launch piece for the 8800 GT was the odd number of stream processors enabled in the GPU.  We explained the 8800 GT's 112 stream processor configuration by pointing out that there were only 7 groups of SPs enabled, rather than the 8 used in the G80, and speculated another cluster of unused SPs was lurking inside the GPU.  Then a month later, the 8800 GTS was refreshed and our suspicions were proved true.  The new 8800 GTS 512 has more in common with the 8800 GT than the previous cards in the 8800-series because of its new PCB design and the G92 as its core, but with the newly refreshed GTS all 8 groups of stream processors were enabled, for a grand total of 128.  Rather than offering 320MB and 640MB frame buffers though, the new 8800 GTS 512, as its name suggests, comes with 512MB of memory due to its 256-bit memory interface.  Core and memory clock speeds were also raised as well to keep fill rate and bandwidth as high as possible.  And today we're going to look at an 8800 GTS 512 in full retail trim courtesy of PNY Technologies.

 

PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB PCIe 2.0
Features & Specifications
Fabrication:  65nm

Number of Transistors: 
754 Million

Core Clock (Includes dispatch, texture units and ROPs)
:  650MHz

Shader Clock (Stream Processors): 
1.625GHz

Stream Processors: 
128

Memory Clock: 
970MHz (1940 DDR)

Memory Interface: 
256-bit

Memory Bandwidth: 
62 GB/ps

Frame Buffer Size: 
512 MB

ROPs: 
16

HDCP Support: 
Yes

HDMI Support: 
Yes

Connectors:
2xDual-Link DVI-I
7-Pin TV Out

RAMDACS: 
400MHz

Bus Technology: 
PCI Express 2.0

Max Board Power: 
150 Watts


 

NVIDIA unified architecture:

Fully unified shader core dynamically allocates processing power to geometry, vertex, physics, or pixel shading operations, delivering up to 2x the gaming performance of prior generation GPUs.

Full Microsoft DirectX 10 Support:
World's first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.

NVIDIA SLI Technology:
Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single graphics card configuration for unequaled gaming experiences by allowing two cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI dramatically scales performance on today's hottest games.

NVIDIA Lumenex Engine:
Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
16x Anti-aliasing: Lightning fast, high-quality anti-aliasing at up to 16x sample rates obliterates jagged edges.

128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR):
Twice the precision of prior generations for incredibly realistic lighting effects - now with support for anti-aliasing.

NVIDIA Quantum Effects Technology:
Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation enable a new level of physics effects to be simulated and rendered on the GPU - all while freeing the CPU to run the game engine and AI.
NVIDIA nView Multi-Display Technology:
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.

Dual 400MHz RAMDACs:
Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates - up to 2048x1536@85Hz.

Dual Dual-link DVI Support:
Able to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution flat-panel displays up to 2560x1600.


NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology:
The combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video.

Discrete, Programmable Video Processor:
NVIDIA PureVideo HD is a discrete programmable processing core in NVIDIA GPUs that provides superb picture quality and ultra-smooth movies with low CPU utilization and power.

Hardware Decode Acceleration:
Provides ultra-smooth playback of H.264, VC-1, WMV and MPEG-2 HD and SD movies.

HDCP Capable:
Designed to meet the output protection management (HDCP) and security specifications of the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, allowing the playback of encrypted movie content on PCs when connected to HDCP-compliant displays.

Spatial-Temporal De-Interlacing:
Sharpens HD and standard definition interlaced content on progressive displays, delivering a crisp, clear picture that rivals high-end home-theater systems.

High-Quality Scaling:
Enlarges lower resolution movies and videos to HDTV resolutions, up to 1080i, while maintaining a clear, clean image. Also provides downscaling of videos, including high-definition, while preserving image detail.

Inverse Telecine (3:2 & 2:2 Pulldown Correction):
Recovers original film images from films-converted-to-video (DVDs, 1080i HD content), providing more accurate movie playback and superior picture quality.

Bad Edit Correction:
When videos are edited after they have been converted from 24 to 25 or 30 frames, the edits can disrupt the normal 3:2 or 2:2 pulldown cadences. PureVideo HD uses advanced processing techniques to detect poor edits, recover the original content, and display perfect picture detail frame after frame for smooth, natural looking video.

Video Color Correction:
NVIDIA's Color Correction Controls, such as Brightness, Contrast and Gamma Correction let you compensate for the different color characteristics of various RGB monitors and TVs ensuring movies are not too dark, overly bright, or washed out regardless of the video format or display type.

Integrated SD and HD TV Output:
Provides world-class TV-out functionality via Composite, S-Video, Component, or DVI connections. Supports resolutions up to 1080p depending on connection type and TV capability.

Noise Reduction:
Improves movie image quality by removing unwanted artifacts.

Edge Enhancement:
Sharpens movie images by providing higher contrast around lines and objects.


  


The PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512 comes in a tame (by today's standards) black box with green and blue highlights.  A large red badge at one corner clearly states that this card is made for PCI Express compliant motherboards, a warning that probably is a bit outdated in that almost all enthusiast-class cards released in the past few years have been PCI-e based.  What is missing from the note is that the 8800 GTS 512 (and 8800 GT) are both PCI-E 2.0 compliant boards.  The 8800 GTS 512 will run in PCI Express 1.0 slots as well, however, so don't throw out those older motherboards just yet.



In lieu of any other graphics is a script "XLR8", marking this card as part of PNY's XLR8 performance series of hardware, which includes everything from memory to graphics cards and even Flash drives.  Similar to what we had reported with the Sapphire Atomic HD 3870, PNY has their own gaming oriented website, where they advertise tournaments and other events, as well as their products, of course.

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Inspecting the PNY 8800 GTS 512MB




Now that we have set the stage, we will take a closer look at the card itself.  A quick look at the card reveals a dual-slot cooling system with a rear-mounted heatsink - nearly identical to NVIDIA's original reference design albeit with PNY's XLR8 logo and graphics stickered on top.



    



Core speed and memory speeds remain untouched as well, tuned in to a 650MHz clock on the GPU and 970MHz for the memory.  We had somewhat expected that having been labeled a "performance edition" card, PNY may have tinkered around a bit and raised speeds like we saw with the Asus and XFX cards from our original review.  Instead, keeping speeds at stock values makes PNY 8800 GTS 512 just another "me, too" product.



     

     



That's not to say that there isn't anything good going on here.  Although based around the same core as the single-slot GeForce 8800 GT, the higher clock speeds and full compliment of stream processors apparently require just a bit more cooling, thus the larger heatsink and extra ventilation.  However, unlike the 8800 GT, the fan operates very quietly, even under the stress of benchmarking.  Encapsulated in the fan's shroud is a single standard 6-pin power connector, not requiring the dual power lines that cards like the 8800 GTX use.  In a similar vein, the 8800 GTS 512 also only comes with one SLI connector, relegating 3-way SLI to GTX and Ultra cards only at this time.



  



The PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512's collection of literature, media, and cables is just a tad bit mundane.  A quick start guide differs from the norm by covering not only installing the card, but some hardware basics, as well as tips on configuring the driver properties in Windows.  Accompanying the guide is a driver CD with some bonus demos and other goodies from NVIDIA.   S-Video and Component cables provide output options, with a power splitter and two DVI-to-VGA adaptors thrown in for good measure.  Overall, not a bad lot to start with, but nothing to get overly excited about. 

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Test System and 3DMark06 Results




HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an MSI P6N Diamond nForce 680i SLI motherboard powered by a Core 2 Duo E6300 processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring our test systems was enter into the BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS, and installed the latest DX10 redist and various hotfixes along with the necessary drivers and applications.

The HotHardware Test System

Enjoy the beautiful Vista


Processor
-


Motherboard -




Video Cards -




Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive
-

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Duo E6300

MSI P6N Diamond
nForce 680i SLI chipset

GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB
GeForce 8800 GTX
Radeon HD 3870
Radeon HD 3850



2048MB Corsair PC2-6400C4D
2 X 1GB, 4-4-4-12 (1T)

Integrated Creative X-Fi

Seagate Barracuda
 7200.10

750GB - 7,200RPM - SATAII



OS - 

DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) - 

DirectX9 -
DirectX10 -
OpenGL -
DirectX10 -
DirectX10 - 

DirectX10 - 
 
Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate

DirectX 10

NVIDIA Forceware v169.25
ATI Catalyst v7.12


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.1.0
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
Company of Heroes
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars 1.2*
Crysis Demo
Bioshock 1.1
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

* - Custom Test
(HH Exclusive demo)


Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.1.0
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06


3DMark06
3DMark06 is the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

 




 

Although the 8800 GTX has greater memory bandwidth than the newer 8800 GTS 512, the card's higher core and memory clock speeds propel the GTS to the head of the pack in most of the 3DMark06 testing, and it ends up with a 68 point lead overall.  The GeForce cards, in general, were better performers with regards to HDR rendering, while Shader Model 2 went in favor of the ATI Radeon HD 3870.  The slower clocked HD 3850 was between 15-25% behind in all of the tests.

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Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Details: www.half-life2.com



Half Life 2:

Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.


 

In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the PNY 8800 GTS 512 manages to beat out the 8800 GTX by roughly two frames per second at each resolution, making it the top performer overall.  Even with 4X Anti-aliasing enabled, the GeForce cards are producing close to 90 frames per second.  In this test, at least, the cards from ATI really can't keep up, posting frame rates 15-30 fps behind at 1280x1024, and 20-35 fps behind at 1600x1200.

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Company of Heroes



Performance Comparisons with Company of Heroes

Details: www.companyofheroesgame.com



Company of Heroes

Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows.  But recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details.  The game features a built-in performance test which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.


 

Company of Heroes is the first of our DirectX 10 suite of games, and the performance difference is quite noticeable.  Even higher-end cards find it difficult to maintain the higher frame rates that we saw with the DX9-based Half-Life 2.  With 4xAA and Aniso enabled, and all graphics set to their highest quality, the extra memory bandwidth afforded to the 8800 GTX allow it to render the scenes quicker, and post the highest frame rates, although the difference at 1600x1200 was minimal.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars



Performance Comparisons with ET: Quake Wars

Details: www.enemyterritory.com



Enemy Territory: 
Quake Wars
 

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.


 

NVIDIA-powered cards have typically fared very well in id produced OpenGL titles, and we saw no difference with their latest title, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.  The 8800s, and the GTX in particular, are running more than a third faster at the lower resolution than ATI's offerings.  The delta between the GeForce cards and the Radeons is much less pronounced at higher resolutions, with the delta nearly halved.

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Crysis



Performance Comparisons with Crysis

Details: www.ea.com/crysis



Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player demo of the hot, new, upcoming FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.


 

Even without at any anti-aliasing, the frame rates in Crysis are relatively low with only the 8800 GTX able to break the 30 fps barrier at 1280x1024.  PNY's 8800 GTS 512 tries to keep pace with the powerful GTX, but remains 2-3 frames behind at either resolution.

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Bioshock



Performance Comparisons with Bioshock

Details: www.2kgames.com/bioshock/enter.html



Bioshock

BioShock is the "genetically enhanced" first person shooter with RPG elements, that has a feel very reminiscent of System Shock 2 or Deus Ex.  It uses a modified Unreal Engine 3.0 with heavy emphasis on enhanced water effects to the extent that Irrational Games actually hired a water programmer and water artist just for this game.  Part horror flick, part sci-fi novel, BioShock is an experience that one won't soon forget.  We gathered our testing results by measuring frame rates through FRAPS while performing the same set of actions in the opening corridors of Rapture at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with all graphical settings turned to High.


 

Surprising, considering the performance of the other DX10 games, Bioshock plays and looks great.  Frame rates rebounded back to levels we would expect from the current crop of graphics cards, especially for NVIDIA's pair. The 8800 GTX and 8800 GTS 512 were within a hair of each other at either resolution, with one test going for the GTX and the other for the GTS 512.

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PT Boats: Knights of the Sea



Performance Comparisons with PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Details: www.pt-boats.net



PT Boats:
Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval war-sim based on a substantially modified version of the Storm engine.  It takes a full grip of all DirectX 10 graphics and film-quality features to create a more realistic gaming experience. These improvements include: advanced ocean rendering, soft particles, reflections, light beams and advanced transparency, and advanced HDR for gunfire and sun reflection.  We used the DX10 Benchmark available from their website using High Quality settings at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without any Anti-Aliasing applied.


 

In the final game of our benchmark suite, we once again saw a 1-2 punch from NVIDIA's 8800 cards.  Here the variance was so slight - less than a frame in both runs - that we will have to call this a virtual tie.  The 8800 GTS 512 balances its lower memory bandwidth with higher clock speeds to keep a level playing field with the 8800 GTX. 

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Overclocking Results

 

Before we concluded our testing, we also spent some time overclocking the PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card using the GPU core and memory clock frequency sliders that become available within NVIDIA's Forceware drivers when nTune is installed. 

Overclocking the PNY 8800 GTS 512MB

Gotta Love 'Free' Performance

 
To find the peak core and memory frequencies for the PNY 8800 GTS 512, we slowly raised their respective sliders until we begun to see visual artifacts on-screen while running a game or benchmark, or until our test system was no longer stable.  In our testing with PNY's GTS 512, we never actually saw any artifacts in any of the games, but the engine would either quit and/or we would get an error message from Vista referencing the ForceWare drivers when we reached speeds of 805MHz for the core (650MHz default) and 2.2GHz for the memory over the original 1.94GHz.


PNY 8800 GTS 512 Overclock - GPU=805MHz, Memory=1096MHz (2.2GHz DDR)



PNY 8800 GTS 512 Overclock - GPU=805MHz, Memory=1096MHz (2.2GHz DDR)

With the extra 155MHz we added to the core speed on the PNY 8800 GTS 512, we expected to break the stalemate so far between the two GeForce 8800 cards.  Re-running Half Life 2: Episode 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars showed that the additional performance gained in both engines made the card about 8% faster than the stock 8800 GTX.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

 



Performance Summary:
For the better part of the benchmarks, the PNY 8800 GTS 512MB traded victories with the more expensive GeForce 8800 GTX, with neither card holding a clear performance advantage.  When you consider price, however, you have to look more favorably upon the 8800 GTS 512.  And looking at ATI's cards, there's really no meaningful comparison to be made as the 8800 GTS 512 outpaced ATI's single-GPU powered cards in every benchmark we ran.


 


Because NVIDIA released the 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512 so close to each other last season, it made choosing the right card just a bit harder for some users.  As we have seen, the performance of the 8800 GT is also quite good, and it comes in at a great price (about $230 currently).  But the GT is also hampered a bit by its thermals and somewhat whiny fan.  The 8800 GTS 512 corrects both of these issues with its dual-slot cooler, and improves performance too, but it is priced about $70 - $80 higher at roughly $319 on average.  Performance is comparable to the GeForce 8800 GTX though, making the 8800 GTS 512 a relative steal as the GTX cards still retail for $200 more, even though they have been on the market for ages.

So, in our opinion going with an 8800 GTS 512 seems like a good idea in terms of overall value.  If we focus solely on PNY's offering, however, we're a bit underwhelmed. A few of the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards we've already looked at are pre-overclocked, and come with a game thrown in to the bundle for good measure.  PNY's XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512 card, however, doesn't fall too far from the NVIDIA tree in terms of speed, cooling, or accoutrements.  And at about $339, it's priced approximately the same or higher than many of its brethren, including some faster cards that ship with higher default speeds and include a game.  Overall, the PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512 is a solid piece of hardware, but there are just some better values out there if you shop around.

  • Great Performance
  • Some extra room for overclocking 
  • Quieter than the 8800 GT
  • Doesn't stand out from the crowd
  • Price Relative to other GTS cards

 



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