Introduction

NVIDIA owns the high end graphics market. For the past six months, there has been no challenge to the performance leadership of the GeForce 8800 GTX. Since the emergence of Windows Vista, NVIDIA hardware has been the only platform to support DX10. And now, before AMD has come to market with any competing solution whatsoever, NVIDIA is releasing a refresh of its top of the line part.

The GeForce 8800 Ultra debuting today doesn't have any new features over the original 8800 GTX. The GPU is still manufactured using a 90nm process, and the transistor count hasn't changed. This is different silicon (A3 revision), but the GPU has only really been tweaked rather than redesigned.

Not only will NVIDIA's new part offer higher performance than the current leader, but it will introduce a new price point in the consumer graphics market moving well beyond the current $600 - $650 set by the 8800 GTX, skipping over the $700 mark to a new high of $830. That's right, this new high end graphics card will be priced $230 higher than the current performance leader. With such a big leap in price, we had hoped to see a proportional leap in performance. Unfortunately, for the 38% increase in price, we only get a ~10% increase in core and shader clock speeds, and a 20% increase in memory clock.

Here's a chart breaking down NVIDIA's current DX10 lineup:

NVIDIA G8x Hardware
SPs ROPs Core Clock Shader Clock Memory Data Rate Memory Bus Width Memory Size Price
8800 Ultra 128 24 612MHz 1.5GHz 2.16GHz 384bit 768MB $830+
8800 GTX 128 24 576MHz 1.35GHz 1.8GHz 384bit 768MB $600-$650
8800 GTS 96 20 513MHz 1.19GHz 1.6GHz 320bit 640MB $400-$450
8800 GTS 320MB 96 20 513MHz 1.19GHz 1.6GHz 320bit 320MB $300-$350
8600 GTS 32 8 675MHz 1.45GHz 2GHz 128bit 256MB $200-$230
8600 GT 32 8 540MHz 1.19GHz 1.4GHz 128bit 256MB $150-$160
8500 GT 16 4 450MHz 900MHz 800MHz 128bit 256MB/512MB $89-$129


We do know NVIDIA has wanted to push up towards the $1000 graphics card segment for a while. Offering the top of the line for what almost amounts to a performance tax would give NVIDIA the ability to sell a card and treat it like a Ferrari. It would turn high end graphics into a status symbol rather than a commodity. That and having a huge margin part in the mix can easily generate additional profits.

Price gaps larger than performance increases are not unprecedented. In the CPU world, we see prices rise much faster than performance, especially at the high end. It makes sense that NVIDIA would want to capitalize on this sort of model and charge an additional premium for their highest performing part. This way, they also get to introduce a new high end part without pushing down the price of the rest of their lineup.

Unfortunately, the stats on the hardware look fairly similar to an overclocked 8800 GTX priced at $650: the EVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTX KO ACS3. With core/shader/memory clock speeds at 626/1450/1000, this EVGA overclocked part poses some stiff competition both in terms of performance and especially price. NVIDIA's G80 silicon revision might need to be sprinkled with magic fairy dust to offer any sort of competition to the EVGA card.

We should also note that this part won't be available until around the 15th of May, and this marks the first launch to totally balk on the hard launch with product announcement standard. While we hate to see the hard launch die from a consumer standpoint, we know those in the graphics industry are thrilled to see some time reappear between announcement and launch. While hard launches may be difficult, going this direction leaves hardware designers with enough rope to hang themselves. We would love to believe AMD and NVIDIA would be more responsible now, but there is no real reason to think history won't repeat itself.

But now, let's take a look at what we are working with today.

The GeForce 8800 Ultra
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  • dsumanik - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Let this be a lesson kids, buy an ATI card, and an AMD processor or two.

    Even the low end stuff, for your mom or your kids machine.

    The reason why the CPU market is so awesome right now is because intel felt real pressure from amd and they had to respond with a superior product at lower prices or face a continual market share loss.

    We now see nvidia's true colors, the sky's the limit on the prices, and they quite surely, could have released a product with far more performance, at a lower price point, had AMD been simply been putting pressure on them.

    If anyone buys this card, you are wholeheartedly supporting $1000 dollar retail graphics cards, that will increase in performance incrementally over the years instead of quantum leaps, at a fair, and still profitable cost...

    Mise well just buy a wii im thinking...
    Reply
  • sxr7171 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    I'm not buying an AMD processor or graphics card simply because they offer competition to Intel or Nvidia. I will buy an AMD product when they offer simple superior performance to the competition again. At the $300 I paid for my 8800GTS, there is nothing that comes close in performance for the money.

    Don't tell me that ATI didn't try some insane pricing when they had the lead.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    AMD would love to join NVIDIA on this. Don't forget about the FX series of processors or the 4x4 program.

    Rather than pressure companies to build hardware that doesn't cost much, let's encourage them to build hardware that's worth the price they put on it.

    There is a market for high end hardware. There is no reason NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel shouldn't satisfy that market. But there's no point in charging $830 for performance we can get for $650 just because people will buy it.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    Great point. Yeah, lets be a charity for AMD. Come on. Where are these people coming from??? When AMD offers a competitive part again for a decent price, I will buy from them again. If Intel starts offering parts I feel are not worth it, I wont buy from them.

    I have 8800GTX in SLI and am running at 629/1000 and these are just plain old air cooled GTX parts. NVidia is nuts on this Ultra. It wont sell well at this price and they will either have to put more value or drop this down to regular GTX pricing.

    THe market adjusts itself and doesnt need political statements from ideological consumers to drive it. Of course if you choose to spend your money that way, more power to you! One could argue that it keeps AMD weak though. If they know they have a comfortable revenue stream for substandard parts, the can rest. Remember... they rose to challenge Intel from NOTHING, not from a flow of "charity" revenue.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    I think they are following Murphy's Law: It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money. They made changes at minimal cost to a product, slap a high price on it, and see if anyone is dumb enough to bite. When sales numbers drop off, they cut the price, and probably end up closer to $700 where the performance should leave it.

    I don't blame nVidia for making it, I just laugh at anyone who buys it.
    Reply
  • Speedo - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Yeah, I don't think its worth that much more $$ just for that little extra edge in performance. Reply

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