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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  • Marlin1975 - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Whats up with all the super high resolutions? Most people are running 19inch LCDs that = 1280 X 1024. How about some comparisions at that resolution? Reply
  • poohbear - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    have to agree here, most people game @ 12x10, especially people looking @ this price segment. Once i saw the graphcs w/ only 16x12+ i didnt even think the stuff applies to me. CPU influence is`nt really a factor except for 1024x768 and below, i`ve seen plenty of graphs that demonstrate that w/ oblivion. a faster cpu didnt show any diff until u tested @ 1024x768, 12x10 didnt show much of a diff between an AMD +3500 and a fx60 @ that resolution (maybe 5-10fps). please try to include atleast 12x10 for most of us gamers @ that rez.:)thanks for a good review nonetheless.:) Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    WHY didn't you test at 640x480? Waaahhh Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Performance at 1280x1024 is pretty easily extrapolated in most cases. Not to mention CPU limited in more than one of these games.

    The reason we tested at 1600x1200 and up is because that's where you start to see real differences. Yes, there are games that are taxing on cards at 12x10, but both Oblivion and R6:Vegas show no difference in performance in any of our tests.

    12x10 with huge levels of AA could be interesting in some of these cases, but we've also only had the card since late last week. Even though we'd love to test absolutely everything, if we don't narrow down tests we would never get reviews up.
    Reply
  • aka1nas - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    I completely understand your position, Derek. However, as this is a mid-range card, wouldn't it make sense to not assume that anyone looking at it will be using a monitor capable of 16x12 or higher? Realistically, people who are willing to drop that much on a display would probably be looking at the GTX(or two of them) rather than this card. The lower widescreen resolutions are pretty reasonable to show now as those are starting to become more common and affordable, but 16x12 or 19x12 capable displays are still pretty expensive. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    1680x1050 displays are about $300, and I think they represent the best fit for a $300 (or less) GPU. 1680x1050 performance is also going to be very close - within 10% - of 1600x1200 results. For some reason, quite a few games run a bit slower in WS modes, so the net result is that 1680x1050 is usually within 3-5% of 1600x1200 performance. Lower than that, and I think people are going to be looking at midrange CPUs costing $200 or so, and at that point the CPU is definitely going to limit performance unless you want to crank up AA. Reply
  • maevinj - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Exactly. I want to know how this card compares to a 6800gt also. I run 1280x1024 on a 19' and with the 6800gt and need to know if it's worth spending 300 bucks to upgrade or just wait. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    The 8800 GTS is much more powerful than the 6800 GT ... but at 12x10, you'll probably be so CPU limited that you won't get as much benefit out of the card as you would like.

    This is especially true if also running a much slower processor than our X6800. Performance of the card will be very limited.

    If DX10 and all the 8 series features are what you want, you're best off waiting. There aren't any games or apps that take any real advantage of these features yet, and NVIDIA will be coming out with DX10 parts suitable for slower systems or people on more of a budget.
    Reply
  • aka1nas - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    It would be nice to actually have quantifiable proof of that, though. 1280x1024 is going to be the most common gamer resolution for at least another year or two until the larger panels come down in price a bit more. I for one would like to know if I should bother upgrading to a 8800GTS from my X1900XT 512MB but it's already getting hard to find direct comparisons. Reply
  • Souka - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Its faster than a 6800gt.... what else do you want to know.

    :P

    Reply

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