Introduction

Incredibly high priced and high powered graphics cards are exciting. For geeks like us, learning about the newest and best hardware out there is like watching a street race between a Lambo and a Ferrari. We are able to see what the highest achievable performance really offers when put to the test. Standing on the bleeding edge of technology and looking out at what is currently possible towards the next great advancement inspires us. The volume and depth of knowledge required to build a GPU humbles us while physically demonstrating the potential of the human race.

Unfortunately, this hardware, while attainable for a price, is often out of reach for most of its admirers. Sometimes it isn't owning the thing which we set apart that gives us joy, but knowing of its existence and relishing the fact that some time, in the not too distant future, that kind of performance will be available for a reasonable price as a mainstream staple.

While the performance of the 8800 GTX is still a ways off from making it to the mainstream, we finally have the feature set (and then some) of the GeForce 8 series in a very affordable package. While we only have the fastest of the new parts from NVIDIA today, the announcement today includes these new additions to the lineup:

GeForce 8600 GTS
GeForce 8600 GT
GeForce 8500 GT
GeForce 8400 (OEM only)
GeForce 8300 (OEM only)

The OEM only parts will not be available as add-in cards but will only be included in pre-built boxes by various system builders. While the 8600 GTS should be available immediately, we are seeing a little lag time between now and when the 8600 GT and 8500 GT will be available (though we are assured both will be on shelves before May 1). While NVIDIA has been very good about sticking to a hard launch strategy for quite a while now, we were recently informed that this policy would be changing.

Rather than coordinate hardware availability with their announcement, NVIDIA will move to announcing a product with availability to follow. Our understanding is that availability will happen within a couple weeks of announcements. There are reasons NVIDIA would prefer to do things this way, and they shared a few with us. It's difficult for all the various card manufacturers to meet the same schedule for availability, and giving them more time to get their hardware ready for shipment will even the playing field. It's hard to keep information from leaking when parts are already moving into the channel for distribution. With some sites able to get their hands on this information without talking to NVIDIA (and thus can avoid abiding by embargo dates on publication), taking measures to slow or stop leaks helps NVIDIA control information flow to the public and appease publishers who don't like getting scooped.

The bottom line, as we understand it, is that hard launches are difficult. It is our stance that anything worth doing right justifies the trouble it takes. NVIDIA stated that, as long as the information is accurate, there is no issue with delayed launches (or early announcements depending on how we look at things). On the surface this is true, but the necessity of a hard launch has reared its ugly head time and time again. We wouldn't need hard launches if we had infinite trust in hardware makers. The most blatant example in recent memory is the X700 XT from ATI. This product was announced, tested, reviewed (quite positively), but never saw the light of day. This type of misinformation can lead people to put off upgrading while waiting for the hardware or, even worse, trick people into buying hardware that does not match the performance of products we review.

So many people get confused by the fact that we still love hard launches even if only a handful of parts are available from a couple retailers. Sure, high availability at launch is a nice pipe dream, but the real meat of a hard launch is in the simple fact that we know the hardware is available, we know the hardware has the specs a company says it will, and we know the street price of the product. Trust is terrific, but this is business. NVIDIA, AMD, Intel, and everyone else are fighting an information war. On top of that, the pace of our industry is incredible and can cause plans to change at the drop of a hat. Even if a company is completely trustworthy, no one can predict the future and sometimes the plug needs to be pulled at the very last second.

In spite of all this, NVIDIA will do what they will do and we will continue to publish information on hardware as soon as we have it and are able. Just expect us to be very unforgiving when hardware specs don't match up exactly with what we are given to review.

For now, we have new hardware at hand, some available now and some not. While the basic architecture is the same as the 8800, there have been some tweaks and modifications. Before we get to performance testing, let's take a look at what we're working with.

Under the Hood of G84
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  • deathwalker - Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - link

    So, whats the word on the Ultra version of the 8600? Has that fallen to the wayside? Reply
  • crystal clear - Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - link

    Interview: NVIDIA's Keita Iida
    The future of Direct X, Crysis and PS3 under the spotlight.

    Keita Iida, Director of Content Management at NVIDIA sat down with IGN AU to discuss all things Direct X 10 and the evolution of their Geforce graphics cards. Iida goes into detail on the differences between developing for the PS3's RSX graphics processor, and the latest development tools to hit the scene.


    quote:
    Selected portions of the interview-


    IGN AU: What are your thoughts on Microsoft effectively forcing gamers to upgrade to Vista in order to run Direct X 10 - when there's no real reason why it can't run on Windows XP?

    Keita Iida: It's a business and marketing decision.

    IGN AU: Can you comment on what happened with NVIDIA's Vista drivers? You guys have had access to Vista for years to build drivers and at the launch of Vista there were no drivers. The ones that are out now are still basically crippled. Why did this happen?

    Keita Iida: On a high level, we had to prioritise. In our case, we have DX9, DX10, multiple APIs, Vista and XP - the driver models are completely different, and the DX9 and 10 drivers are completely different. Then you have single- and multi-card SLI - there are many variables to consider. Given that we were so far ahead with DX10 hardware, we've had to make sure that the drivers, although not necessarily available to a wide degree, or not stable, were good enough from a development standpoint.

    If you compare our situation to our competitor's, we have double the variables to consider when we write the drivers; they have much more time to optimise and make sure their drivers work well on their DX10 hardware when it comes out. We've had to balance our priorities between making sure we have proper DX10 feature-supported drivers to facilitate development of DX10 content, but also make sure that the end user will have a good experience on Vista. To some degree, I think that we may have underestimated how many resources were necessary to have a stable Vista driver off the bat. I can assure you and your readers that our first priority right now is not performance, not anything else; it's stability and all the features supported on Vista.

    IGN AU: So what kind of timeline are we looking at until the end user can be comfortable with Vista drivers? With DX9 drivers that work as stably and quickly as they do with XP?

    Keita Iida: We're ramping up the frequency of our Vista driver releases. Users will probably understand that we release a number of beta drivers on our site, so we're making incremental progress. We believe that, in a very short time we will have addressed the vast majority, if not all of the issues. We've had teams who were working on other projects who have mobilised to make sure that as quickly as possible we have the drivers fixed. I'm not going to give you an exact timeframe, but it's going to be very soon. We're disappointed that we couldn't do it right off the bat, but we hear what everyone is saying and we're willing to fix it.

    http://pc.ign.com/articles/780/780314p1.html">http://pc.ign.com/articles/780/780314p1.html
    Reply
  • xpose - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    This next gen purevideo stuff sounds amazing. I thought I was gonna have to get a new motherboard and dual core cpu to play some HD-DVD content smoothly. Please, do try and rush testing the purevideo stuff ASAP. Blu-ray and hd-dvd is growing. . . Reply
  • shabby - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    128bit/256meg for $200 bucks? Gimme a break. Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    Unless these cards are majically fast under DX10 (and we all know they won't be, they will play Crysis, but not quickly) they offer less performance than even midrange parts from the last get.

    Anyone remember how a 6600GT offreed 9800pro beating performance, and how nVidia sold millions of them. I don't see that happening here. What I do see is a wait-and-see attitude. Does anyone else think it's VERY suspicious that there are no 64 shader cards? Here is what may happen: nVidia waits for the midrange AMD cards to emerge. If they offer better performance, nVidia slashes prices of these and releases a 8800GS with 64 shaders for $200. I won't be surprised at all if that's what we have in 3 months.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    We've got 128 SP on the GTX, 96 on the GTS... and then 32 on the G84. I'd say there's definitely room for 64 SP from NVIDIA, and possibly 48 SP as well. Will they go that route, though? Unless they've already been working on it, doing a new chip will cost quite a bit of time and effort. I was expecting 8600 to be 64 SP and 8300 to be 32 SP before we had any details, but then the 8600 probably would have been too close to the 8800. Reply
  • kilkennycat - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    Er, wait (not too long) for nVidia's re-roll of the 8xxx-series on 65nm... You might just get your wish. I believe that nV is copying Intel's 'tic-toc' process strategy - architecture and go to production on a mature process (80nm half-node), then transfer and refine the implementation on the new process. Note the interesting and important tweaks in the implementation of the 8600 vs 8800... which gives a glimpse of the future 65nm 9xxx(??)-family architecture but with higher numbers of stream-processors and high-precision math processing for the expected GPGPU applications.

    nVidia has already hinted that the successor to the 8800 will be available before the end of 2007, and no doubt will be on 65nm for the obvious cost and yield reasons. If the R600 turns out to be a true contender for the 8800 "crown" in the same price-range, then I fully expect nV to accelerate the appearance of the 8800 successor. No doubt the design was started long before the 8800 itself was production-available.
    Reply
  • Toebot - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    No, nothing to sneeze at, just something to blow my nose on! Utter wretch. This card is NVidia's attempt to milk the Vista market, nothing more. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    We should at least wait and see what DX10 performance looks like first. Reply
  • AdamK47 - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    With what software? Reply

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