Introduction

For three months now, NVIDIA's 8800 series has enjoyed the distinction of being the only DX10 graphics hardware on the market and the GTX is absolutely the fastest option out there enabling gamers to achieve huge resolutions and framerates with all the eye candy enabled. The downside is that the features and performance come with a price: the top of the line runs at least $550. Even the 8800 GTS weighs in at about $400.

While we would love to have a top to bottom line up from NVIDIA based on their new architecture, we will have to be content with a gradual introduction of parts. It does make sense to introduce the high end parts first, keeping the high profit margin cards on the market for as long as possible helps recoup development expenses. Also, lower performing chips can be binned and saved for later use in lower end parts. When the rest of the lineup is eventually introduced, the combination of low performance G80 silicon with models specifically designed for a cheaper product will provide high enough volumes to meet the increased demand the market places on less expensive hardware.

Today, NVIDIA is introducing the next part in its GeForce 8 Series lineup, the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB. As the name implies, this is a lower memory part, and thus also less expensive than the current 640MB GTS. NVIDIA expects the new GTS to sell for between $300 and $330. We certainly hope the $300 mark will stick, and we will try to track this as we start to see cards for sale. The $300 price point is particularly interesting, as more than just the hardcore gamers will start to take a look at the new 8800 GTS 320MB as a good fit for their rig.

There are other very important factors at play here as well. The first half of this year should be very exciting in terms of the competition NVIDIA will have to face. While we don't know any of the specifics of AMD's next part, we are very excited to see what it have in store to compete with NVIDIA in the first round of DX10 class hardware. In the meantime, NVIDIA will certainly want to ship as many 8 series parts as possible before it has a true competitor in terms of feature set out there.

The games scheduled to come out over the next few months look quite impressive as well, which should inspire more people to upgrade their hardware for that must have title. Among the most anticipated software, Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 will be headed our way. Both of these games are from developers who have produced ground breaking titles in the past, and the screenshots and videos on the web have us drooling. And it is almost certain that, in order to experience the incredible graphics that go along with the (hopefully) amazing gameplay, graphics hardware will need to pack a punch.

While we can't test the next generation of games yet, we are very interested in how the new GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB stacks up against the competition in currently available games. First, we'll take a look at the hardware and just how much cutting down the memory on the new GTS will affect performance.

The 8800 GTS 320MB and The Test
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  • nicolasb - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    The conclusion to this article:

    quote:

    Based on the games and settings we tested, we feel very confident in recommending the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB to gamers who run at 1920x1200 or less. With or without AA, at these resolutions games look good and play well on the new part.


    This conclusion does not seem to bear much resemblance to the actual observations. In virtually every case the card performed well without AA, but dismally as soon as 4xAA was switched on. A fair conclusion would be to recommend the card for resolutions up to 1920x1200 without AA, but definitely not with.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    The GTS 320MB still performs well if taken on its own at 19x12 with 4xAA ... But I will modify the comment to better reflect what I mean. Reply
  • nicolasb - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    The way the conclusion now reads is a big improvement, IMNSHO. :-) Reply
  • munky - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    I was expecting better performance with AA enabled, and the article just glossed over the fact that the in half the games with AA the card performed on par or worse than last gen card that cost less. Reply
  • Bob Markinson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    For the base Oblivion install, yes, it's not so much of a memory hog. In-game texture use usually doesn't exceed 256 MB with HDR and 4xAA on @ 1152x864. (Also, please test AA perf too with HDR, both ATI and Nvidia do support it on their current gen cards at the same time.)
    Most popular texture mods will bring up the memory usage north of 500 MB. I've seen it hit over 700 MB. Thus, there's a good chance that any 256 MB card would be crippled with texture swapping. I should know, mine is.
    Reply
  • Bob Markinson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    For the base Oblivion install, yes, it's not so much of a memory hog. In-game texture use usually doesn't exceed 256 MB with HDR and 4xAA on @ 1152x864. (Also, please test AA perf too with HDR, both ATI and Nvidia do support it on their current gen cards at the same time.)
    Most popular texture mods will bring up the memory usage north of 500 MB. I've seen it hit over 700 MB. Thus, there's a good chance that any 256 MB card would be crippled with texture swapping. I should know, mine is.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    What texture mod would you recommend we test with? Reply
  • Bob Markinson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Qarl's Texture Pack 2 and 3 are quite popular world texture packs. Please check this site for more details:
    http://devnull.devakm.googlepages.com/totoworld">http://devnull.devakm.googlepages.com/totoworld

    Note that version 3 really does need a lot of texture memory. Also, check out Qarl's 4096 compressed landscape LOD normal map texture pack, it'll add far more depth than the plain, overly filtered Oblivion LOD textures.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    We will take a look at those texture packs and do some testing ...

    Hopefully we can provide a follow up further exploring the impact of memory on the 8800 architecture.
    Reply
  • blackbrrd - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    I looked at the Oblivion scores, and the first thing that hit me was: they are using the standard crappy looking textures!

    No oblivion fan running a 8800gts would run with the standard texture pack. It is, at times, really really bad.

    Running a texture pack like the one above is quite normal. If you have enough video card memory there isn't much of a slowdown - except when the data is loaded into memory - which happends all the time... It does make the game look nicer though!
    Reply

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