NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra - NV40 Debuts

NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra - Page 9

The GeForce 6800 Ultra
NVIDIA's NV40 Debuts...

By, Marco Chiappetta
April 14, 2004

We were very interested to see just how high our GeForce 6800 Ultra sample would overclock, considering how large the core is and that it's using a relatively new memory technology. We installed NVIDIA's registry hack called, "CoolBits" (yes it still works with the Forceware v60.xx drivers) and raised the core and memory clock speeds on the 6800 Ultra until we started to see visual anomalies on-screen during our benchmarks...

Overclocking The GeForce 6800 Ultra
There Is Always Some Wiggle Room...

When all was said and done, we were able to take the core up from its default 400MHz clock speed to 449MHz, an increase of over 12%. The Samsung GDDR3 memory on the card didn't overclock very well though.  We were only able to take the memory up to 1.14GHz DDR, an increase of only 40MHz.  At anything higher than 1.14GHz, the card would fail the stability / quality test built-into NVIDIA's Forceware drivers.  To demonstrate the benefit of overclocking the card, we re-ran the Aquamark 3 benchmark at 1600x1200 with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled.  In the end, we saw roughly an 11% increase in performance.  Not bad considering the GeForce 6800 Ultra was already the fastest video card we have tested to date.

Following a long steady succession of incremental upgrades, it was refreshing to test a product like the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra.  After evaluating its in-game image quality and benchmarking it versus the previous generation of flagship products, we're reminded of ATi's release of the Radeon 9700 Pro back in August of 2002, or dare we say even the 3Dfx Voodoo 2.  It has been quite a while since we have seen such  dominant performance from a new product in this market.  Thanks to its new rotated-grid anti-aliasing sampling algorithm and excellent anisotropic filtering techniques, the GeForce 6800 Ultra's in-game image quality is vastly improved over the GeForce FX as well.  In our opinion NVIDIA has even surpassed ATi's image quality this time around - the 6800 Ultra's AA seemed just a bit more crisp, and its anisotropic filtering was a tad better as well.  The GeForce 6800 Ultra's performance is obviously a strong point also.  We tested the card in 43 different configurations using 9 different benchmarks, and in all but a few CPU limited circumstances, the GeForce FX 6800 Ultra was the dominant performer, in some cases more than quadrupling the performance of the previous generation.

Its image quality and performance are great, but what about pricing and availability?  Well, NVIDIA will be setting the MSRP of the GeForce 6800 Ultra at exactly the same level as the 5950 Ultra, $499.00 US.  While 500 clams isn't exactly cheap, expect street prices to drop rather quickly.  The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra isn't quite 6 months old and they can be found for less than $370 at a few on-line resellers.  The 12-Pipe 6800 "non-Ultra" will be priced at a much more palatable $299 at launch.  However, without knowing its final shipping clock speeds and testing the card, we can't attest to its performance just yet.  We also don't know exactly when to expect cards to hit the retail shelves, although we're told late next month, or early June is likely.

The last unknown is what the folks at ATi have up their sleeves.  Rumor has it, their next generation high-end GPUs will also be 16 and 12 pipeline parts.  If they can hit similar clock speeds and improve upon the efficiency and quality of the R3x0, ATi may be still be able to retain the 3D performance crown, but lets not speculate.  We're sure ATi will show their hand shortly, and we don't want to steal any of NVIDIA's thunder.  They are to be commended for producing a killer product in the GeForce 6800 Ultra.  Those of you that waited to upgrade your video card recently made a wise choice.  This generation appears to be an order of magnitude faster than the last.  Just be prepared to upgrade your power supply as well.


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Tags:  Nvidia, GeForce, Ultra, force, 680, ULT, BU, id

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