Introduction

Shortly after the launch of the GeForce 8 Series by NVIDIA, we released our first roundup of retail 8800 cards. At launch, none of these cards shipped with clock speeds that differed from the NVIDIA recommended base line. As a result, we were left with user overclocking, price, power, heat, and noise as the basis on which to recommend a card. With the high variability inherent in user overclocking, price is a major factor in similarly clocked hardware.

We recently explored the impact of user overclocking at a deeper level in our article on OCZ's entry into the high end graphics market. As readers have pointed out, the story isn't finished there either, as investigating the requested and actual clock speed with Riva Tuner shows some interesting links between core and shader clock speed. The focus of today will be on factory overclocked hardware with their core, shader and memory clock speeds set in the BIOS and guaranteed by the vendor.

The major advantage of factory overclocked parts is that they guarantee higher performance than the stock hardware. The advantage to the end user is that there is no tweaking necessary and there is no possibility that the card won't run at the advertised speed -- if instabilities do occur, you can send a card back for a replacement. Of course, manufacturers can take advantage of this and charge a premium for factory overclocked hardware. Among the questions we would like to answer today are: who makes the fastest 8800 available, and who provides the most value per dollar in overclocked 8800 series hardware?

Our roundup features four different manufacturers that currently provide factory overclocked parts. While we sent out requests for cards to various manufacturers, only four responded and two of these provided both GTX and 640MB GTS hardware. Overclocked 320MB GTS cards have also come out, but we are planning a separate roundup for these (both factory overclocked and stock) in the near future.

BFG GeForce 8800 GTX and GTS OC
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  • chizow - Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - link

    Curious why you guys didn't do physical card/chip/memory kit inspections to see if there was any *real* difference between OC and non-OC'd cards besides stock BIOS settings and some new cooler stickers. Would've been nice to see some core revision #s, mfg. dates and memory IC pics.

    The real test is whether the OC'd version parts have significantly more headroom than the vanilla versions that for the most part, can OC as high as these OC versions with ease.

    The only factor left which you touched on but didn't see you follow up on was the clock speed of the shader core. Initially I was under the impression the shader core could only be adjusted by altering the BIOS but a few others have mentioned the shader core scales proportionately with core OCs.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - link

    both your assertions on shader core are true to a degree. the shader core can only be adjusted on its own through the bios. but increasing core clock through the driver will increase the shader clock speed as well. Reply
  • Palamedes - Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - link

    I'm missing the Gainward card (Bliss 8800GTS Golden Sample). I bought it four weeks ago, so it definetely IS available. It is running at 550/880/1350, so it theoretically fits the gap between the BFG and the EVGA... Reply
  • Some1ne - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    Seems to me like the article should have also investigated the potential of the cards to overclock beyond their factory overclocked settings. Then maybe it would have had to say "in spite of the fact that this card offers the best cooling it doesn't come with the highest clock speeds, which is a bit of a disappointment especially for the most expensive card of this roundup" about the Sparkle card, because maybe it would have turned out to have the most headroom out of all of the cards.

    Given that nearly every CPU and video card review published on this site includes an overclocking section, it seems odd that this article did not.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    You do have a point about the Sparkle card -- but we already tested a card with this cooler back when the 8800 GTX launched. Overclocking wasn't significantly better than stock cooled cards.

    Generally, we would not recommend buying factory overclocked cards with the intention of manually overclocking them. You'll save a lot of money and get good results by going with stock cards and manually setting fan speed to 100%. Alternately, the savings can be used to invest in exotic cooling.

    The value in these cards is in their factory settings and users not interested in this should avoid them in my opinion.
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    There's not much worth testing on overclocking high-end cards, IMHO. They're all built using the reference design, they're not going to overclock significantly differently with just different cooling. Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    I was somewhat surprised to notice that in many of the benchmarks, the performance advantage of the GTX cards over the GTS cards scaled pretty consistantly with their price premium. For example the EVGA GTX often performed about 25% better than the EVGA GTS card with costs about 25% less.

    It seems that in the past, the performance difference was much smaller than the price diference between the top two ultra high end models.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    SUCKER! Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    There is one angle we weren't able to cover -- the difference between oc'd and stock GTX cards might have a higher impact in future games ... Certainly we can only recommend cards based on the tests we have available. And while you put it a little more bluntly, our recommendation reflects the fact that spending more money on highly overclocked GTX parts does not net a proportionate return. Reply
  • guptasa1 - Monday, March 12, 2007 - link

    I noticed there's an OC2 of the BFG offering that's overclocked further than the OC. It'd be interesting to see how it compares to these cards as I'm leaning towards this one for my new system. Reply

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