Does Size Matter?

To answer our question: it depends. Different games seem to be impacted in dramatically different ways, and resolution does play a large role in how much memory size matters. In order to understand the differences, we have taken all our 8800 GTS and 8800 GTS 320MB numbers and looked at how much faster the 640MB part performs via percent increase.

The graphs below are organized by resolution. Unfortunately, the scale between each graph couldn't be kept the same as the variation on the data was much too high. We should also remember that each of our tests can have a bit of variance. We try to keep this to 3%, but that means these numbers could have a little higher deviance. First up is 1600x1200.



Quake 4 jumps out as being a huge beneficiary of more memory. We do test with Ultra Mode, which means uncompressed textures and uncompressed normal maps. This seems to have a huge impact on performance, affording the 640MB card a 50% performance advantage over its new little brother.

In most of the other cases where size matters, the big performance hit comes along with enabling 4xAA. The memory requirement for enabling AA can be quite high, but the exception here is Quake 4. Memory size seems to have less of an impact with AA enabled, but keep in mind that the performance of both cards is much lower with 4xAA enabled.



Looking at 1920x1200, most of the numbers are very similar to what we saw with 1600x1200. This isn't surprising, as the number of pixels being rendered at each of these resolutions is similar. This time around, the odd man out is Battlefield 2. There is a much larger impact on performance under BF2 with 4xAA enabled at 19x12 when running the 320MB 8800 GTS as opposed to the 640MB part.



The trend continues here with BF2 jumping way up in performance difference at 2560x1600. F.E.A.R. and Battlefield 2 both see a larger performance drop at this resolution even with AA disabled. Also of interest is the fact that this resolution shows an impact on Half-Life 2: Episode One with 4xAA whereas others did not.

It is very important to note that Oblivion and Rainbow Six: Vegas don't see much of a performance loss with the decreased memory size. Of course, we can't test these applications with AA enabled, but it is still interesting that there remains so little difference between these numbers. This is especially compelling; as Oblivion and Vegas are the two best looking games in our test suite. Rainbow Six even uses the Unreal Engine 3 from Epic which is capable of producing some incredible visuals.

Does that mean size won't matter in the future or with other UE3 titles? We can't say that with any real certainty, as developers can always find ways to push memory usage. But that does mean that right now, gamers who play a lot of Oblivion and Rainbow Six: Vegas will find a better value in the 8800 GTS 320MB than the 640MB version.

When looking at other titles, especially with AA enabled at high resolutions, the 640MB card does offer much more than the 320MB part. But is it compelling enough to warrant spending an extra $100? Let's take a look at the individual performance numbers and find out.

The 8800 GTS 320MB and The Test Battlefield 2 Performance
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  • anandtech02148 - Sunday, February 18, 2007 - link

    what is the power consumption idle/load for this card?
    less memory matters right? 30buxs cooler, 200-300 buxs cpu, and an overheat graphic card more money for cooling.
    Reply
  • Maroth - Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - link

    Article is very fine, but can additional benchmark make ? Between 8800GTS 640MB and 320MB (in Q4 or BF2):
    1) in different PCI-Express mode (x16, x4, x1, PCI-Ex Disabled)
    2) in different "PCI-Ex Texture Memory" setting (256MB, 128, 0MB)
    (default used in test was 256MB ?)
    3) in different "Texture Quality" in-game setting


    What about "Frames Render Ahead" driver setting ? Default value (3) used in test was ?
    Is these option performance-impact (on 8800GTS 320MB) ?
    Reply
  • Webgod - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    Isn't it pointlessly taxing the video card with pixels so small?

    It's been a while since I've tried anything at 1600x1200 on my 19" CRT, now I use a 26" LCD TV at 1360x768. Obviously AA is my friend at that rez, but higher on up, why not just crank the anisotropic filtering to 16x or 32x and run with it??

    Isn't SLI becoming seriously less relevant once you've got a great framerate at 1600x1200 and above?

    Who's going to run anything higher than 1900x1200, much less with forcing 4xAA??
    Reply
  • MadAd - Thursday, February 15, 2007 - link

    I took some comparison screenshots in battlefield 2 the other week and 4x AA is definately worthwhile in 1600x1200 and 1920x1200 (full ansio, everything on high), 8x is better but not at the expense of the big performance hit- hopefully the next card I go to will get me 8x.

    The change from none to 4 has more impact than 4 to 8 but its definately not pointless and the more the better IMO, who needs 999 fps when you can spend some of it ratcheting up the AA to look good.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    As one of those in the ideal target audience of 22" widescreen displays (and I would have loved to see some 1680x1050 tests, since you guys say that's the ideal resolution) and on a reasonable budget, this card does seem interesting. (For now, I'll buy Jarred's explanation of driver issues with AA). One thing I would love to see are numbers comparing overclocked performance between max OC'd 8800GTXs and both GTS parts. Not only am I interested in general with seeing how close the GTSs can get to the GTX, but I'd also love to see whether or not the difference in memory affects the memory overclock on this new model. Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    While I agree that NEW systems will probably be pairing the 8800GTS 320MB with a 22" 1680x1050, there is a still a large % of people very happy with their 19" 1280x1024 displays. There are also people that might save a little on the display and get a 19" WS 1440x900 in favor of more RAM or better video.

    The large screen segment is also interested in 1280x1024. There are plenty of people running Large 27"-32" LCD TVs as gaming monitors. these have usable 1280x720 or 1280x768 wide screen modes for most games. Also the 30" LCD crowd likes to see 1280x1024 to get an idea of how a nicely scaled 1280x800 will run. On a 30" LCD, I want World of Warcraft to run smooth at 2560x1600 with some AF and light AA, but am happy to get smooth Oblivion at 1280x768.

    The bottom line is there are too many people looking for 1280x1024 to ignore it. ESPECIALLY with any video card products focused on price. Ignoring 1280x1024 in an 8800GTX SLI review ... I don't think anyone would fault you much there.

    I really think you need to go back and run 1280x1024.

    Also what is up with Quake4 "ULTRA", from what I remember with Doom3 and Quake4 ULTRA mode was specifically for cards with 512MB or more of video RAM due to the uncompressed textures. Is there any difference on Non-Ultra?

    Any video card review dealing with memory size needs a mention of MMOs. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people think they need to spend more $$ on a card with more video RAM for an MMO. Until I ran some benches of my own I had also convinced myself that 512MB video RAM would be better for MMOs.
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Derek, great review as usual. Noticed you said you were going to take a closer look at the 320MB's poor performance at high resolutions, especially considering how the 256MB X1900 parts performed better with AA in some instances.

    Earlier today a Polish review was linked on AT http://www.in4.pl/recenzje.htm?rec_id=388&rect...">here. What's interesting to note is they used some utility (someone said RivaTuner) to track memory usage at each resolution. If you go through the benchmarks, they all tell the same story. System memory/page file is getting slammed on the 320MB GTS at higher resolutions/AA settings.

    I'm no video card/driver expert but I'm thinking a simple driver optimization could improve the 320 GTS performance dramatically. It looks like the 8-series driver isn't correctly handling the 320 GTS' lower local memory limitations and handling its memory like a 640 or 768 GTS/GTX, so the additional requirements are being dumped into system memory, drastically decreasing performance. Considering the 256MB parts are handling high resolution/AA settings better, maybe an optimization limiting memory to local and faster caching/clearing of the local frame buffer would be the fix?

    Just a thought and maybe something to pass along to nVidia.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Again, NVidia accomplishes a genuine hard launch..........Seems as if AMD/Ati will have a lot to live up to with their Dx10 graphics-card releases.

    See:-

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?DEPA...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi...GTS&...

    And comparison-sampling from the above list:-

    The EVGA Superclocked 576/1700 8800GTS/640 is $379.99 ( with Dark Messiah and after a $30 rebate thru 3/31)

    and for comparison the
    EVGA (superclocked) 576/1700 8800GTS/320 is $319.99 with same bundle but no $30 rebate.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    At the same time, the inconsistency in G80 driver quality is something to be noted when buying a G80 (note: I own an 8800GTS, and can speak to this).

    This inconsistency is something that seems to have been largely glossed over by hardware review sites, so a number of purchasers have had some disappointments from games with texture corruption or that weren't/aren't well supported. nVidia's slowness in making their cards as "Vista Ready" as they advertised them to be is something to consider too.

    Don't get me wrong, I like my card. I just think that when looking at ATI vs. nVidia, one needs to look objectively. I've owned 7 ATI-GPU cards and 7 nVidia-GPU cards (not including all the other ones) since 1992, and both have had their ups and their downs.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Remember that the 8800 is a brand-new architecture. Like to exchange your 8800 for my 7800GTX ? You are suffering the pain of being an early-adopter. ATi/AMD still has to go through the same pain with the R600, including having to handle the new driver interfaces in Vista, plus juggle the actual drivers themselves for both DX10 and DX9. Reply

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