Closer Look: The Card and Its Unique Features
We mentioned in the introduction that the GV-NX88T512HP is no ordinary 8800 GT. Now, it's time to show you what we meant. The first thing you'll notice when you see the GV-NX88T512HP is that the cooler is definitely not the regular reference heatsink and fan combo. Instead, Gigabyte opted to utilize the Zalman VF830-AlCu for temperature control. Like many of you, we are fans of Zalman products, so we see this as a promising choice. Additionally, the PCB is not reference either. As you can see in the third image, the GV-NX88T512HP's PCB is actually more than an inch shorter than NVIDIA's reference design.
We are all for cards getting smaller but still packing the same amount of muscle. If there's anything negative to say about the GV-NX88T512HP's design versus the reference design, it's that the Zalman cooler on the GV-NX88T512HP sticks out much farther than the reference cooler. The size of the VF830-AlCu practically makes this a two-slot card.
In the next four images, we wanted to give you a closer look at the Zalman cooler, which is comprised of copper and aluminum. You can see that the cooler features two heatpipes that run through the array of fins. On top of all that metal, we find a relatively big fan. It looks like a pretty typical Zalman cooler if you ask us, but that is usually a good thing. One issue with this cooler, in addition to its size, that may concern some readers is that it only covers the GPU, leaving the memory chips with no direct cooling. We really don't think it's anything to be too concerned about, however, as the cooler does a fine job keeping the GPU cool and residual air-flow does cool the RAM as well.
Before we close out the board tour, let's take a look at the connectors on the card. There is nothing surprising here. The GV-NX88T512HP has an HDTV out and two dual-link DVI connectors (yes, that blue connector really is a regular DVI connector). On the other side of the card, you can see the 6-pin PCI Express power connector. You also get a good look at the higher quality (over the reference design) ferrite core chokes, which leads us to our next topic.
As we have already mentioned, Gigabyte decided to take overclocking one step further with the GV-NX88T512HP by allowing users to increase GPU voltage via custom software. No crazy volt mods here; just use Gigabyte's Gamer HUD software, and you can change the voltage from 1.05V to 1.20V. The default voltage is 1.10V. It would be nice to see the voltage go up to at least 1.30V, but we think it's a nice addition to this unique card regardless.
You may be wondering how Gigabyte achieves this voltage change feature. Since Gigabyte uses a custom PCB, the company was able to include an extra chip on the board, and that chip is dubbed Voltage Gear Overdrive. In the slide below, you can see a close up of this chip and where it is located on the card.
So far, we've covered three main ways that the GV-NX88T512HP is different from a reference 8800 GT: the shorter PCB, the Zalman cooler, and the inclusion of the Voltage Gear Overdrive chip. Gigabyte didn't stop there, though. The GV-NX88T512HP also features Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 2 design initiatives. The following slides describe the benefits of Ultra Durable 2.
"Using high quality components on graphics cards is the key factor for having a long lasting, stable and reliable product. GIGABYTE is again setting a new standard by using Ferrite Core Chokes, Low RDS (on) MOSFET and Lower ESR Solid Capacitors, providing the stability and reliability from their high-end graphics solution. In addition, GIGABYTE Ultra Durable 2 Edition graphics cards now feature a sophisticated layout topology. This state-of-the-art power design from GIGABYTE delivers the ideal integration of thermal, electric characteristics, digital signals, power circuitry and optimum placement of components for enhanced graphics performance." - from www.gigabyte-usa.com