NVIDIA's Last Minute Effort

On the verge of ATI's R420 GPU launch, NVIDIA brought out a new card called the GeForce 6850 Ultra. This new card is to be sold as an OEM overclocked part (ala the "Golden Sample" and other such beasts), and will be able to run at 450MHz+ core and 1.1GHz+ memory clock speeds. It is very clear to us getting this board out here right now was a bit of a rush for NVIDIA, and it would seem that they didn't expect to see the kind of performance ATI's X800 series can deliver. We were unable to get drivers installed and running on our 6850 Ultra card until about two hours ago, but we will be following this article up with an update to the data as soon as we are able to benchmark the card. The 6850 Ultra looks exactly the same as the 6800 Ultra (it really is the same card with an overclock), so we'll forego the pictures.

The other part NVIDIA is launching today is their $399 price point card, the GeForce 6800 GT. This card won't be shipping for a while (mid June), and NVIDIA cites the fact that they didn't want to announce the card too far ahead of availability as the reason for the timing of this announcement.

The 6800 GT is a 16x1 architecture card that runs at 350MHz core and 1GHz memory clocks. As we can see from the beautiful picture, NVIDIA is bringing out a single slot card with one molex power connector based on NV40. Even if its not the fastest thing we'll see today, it is still good news. We will definitely be trying our hand at a little overclocking in the future. Power requirements are much less than the 6800 Ultra part, with something like a 300W PSU being perfectly fine to run this card.

Along with this new card release, NVIDIA have pushed out new beta drivers (61.11), of which we are still evaluating the image quality. We haven't seen any filtering differences, but we currently exploring some shader based image quality tests.

The Test

The key factor in the ongoing battle is DirectX 9 performance. We will be taking the hardest look at games that exploit PS 2.0, but that's not all people play (and there aren't very many on the market yet), we have included some past favorites as well.

Our test system is:

FIC K8T800 Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3400+
1GB OCZ PC3400 RAM
Segate 120GB PATA HDD
510W PC Power & Cooling PSU

The drivers we used in testing are:

NVIDIA Beta ForceWare 60.72
NVIDIA Beta ForceWare 61.11
ATI CATALYST BETA (version unknown)
ATI CATALYST 4.4

We didn't observe any performance difference when moving to the Beta CATAYLST from 4.4 on 9800 XT, so we chose to forgo retesting everything on the new drivers. Also, the 61.11 driver does show a slight increase in performance on NVIDIA cards, so we retested previously benchmarked hardware with the 61.11 drivers. Old numbers will be left in the benchmarks for completeness sake.

As mentioned earlier, we will be updating our tests later today with number collected from the GeForce 6850 Ultra (and we'll throw in a few other surprises as well).

The Cards Pixel Shader Performance Tests
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  • NullSubroutine - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    Trog I agree with you for the most part, but there are some people who can use upgrades. I myself have bought expensive video cards in the past. I got the Geforce3 right when it came out (in top of the line alienware system for 1400 bucks), and it lasted me for 2-3 years. Now if someone spends 400-500 bucks on a video card that lasts them that long (2-3 years) its no different than if someone buys a 200 buck video card every year. I am one of those people who likes to buy new compoents when computing speed doubles and if I have the money I'll get what I can that will last me the longest. If I cant afford top of the line Ill get something that will get me by (9500pro last card I bought for 170 over a year ago).

    However I do agree with you that people who upgrade to the best every generation is silly.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    I'm sorry, but I simply have to laugh at anyone going on and on about how they're going to run out and buy the latest graphics cards from ATI or Nvidia right now. $400 to $500 for a graphics card is simply too much (and it's too much for a CPU as well). Besides, unless you have some dementia that requires you to run all games at 1600x1200 with 4xAA and 8xAF, there's very little need for either the 6800 Ultra or the X800 XT right now. Relax, take a deep breath, save some money, and forget about the pissing contest.

    So, is it just me, or is there an inverse relationship between a person's cost of computer hardware and their actual knowledge of computers? I have a coworker that is always spending money on upgrading his PC, and he really has no idea what he's doing. He went from an Athlon XP 2800+ (OC'ed to 2.4 GHz) to a P4 2.8 OC'ed to 3.7 GHz. He also went from a 9800 Pro 256 to a 9800 XT. In the past, he also had a GeForce FX 5900 Ultra. He tries to overclock all of his systems, they sound like a jet engine, and none of them are actually fully stable. In the last year, he has spent roughly $5000 on computer parts (although he has sold off some of the "old" parts like the 5900 Ultra). Performance of his system has probably improved by about 25% over the course of the year.

    Sorry for the rant, but behavior like that from *anybody* is just plain stupid. He's gone from 120 FPS in some games up to 150 FPS. Anyone here actually think he can tell the difference? I suppose it goes without saying that he's constantly crowing about his 3DMark scores. Now he's all hot to go out and buy the X800 XT cards, and he's been asking me when they'll be in stores. Like I care. They're nice cards, I'm sure, but why buy them before you actually have a game that needs the added performance?

    His current games du joir? Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam. Yeah... those really need a high performance DX9 card. The 80+ FPS of the 9800 XT he has just isn't cutting it.

    So, if you read my description of this guy and think I'm way off base, go get your head examined. Save your money, because some day down the road you will be glad that you didn't spend everything you earned on computer parts. Enjoy life, sure, but having a faster car, faster computer, bigger house, etc. than someone else is worth pretty much jack and shit when it all comes down to it.

    /Rant. :D
    Reply
  • a2y - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    If a card is going to come up every few weeks then how do you guys choose which to buy?

    ATI have the trade-up section for old cards, is that any good?
    Reply
  • gxshockwav - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    Um...what happened to the posting of new Ge6 6850 benchmark numbers? Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    Trog, its good to hear you were being nice, but I wasnt bashing THG, I love that site (besides this one) and I get alot of my tech info from there.

    What I normally do though is I take benchmarks from different sites then put them in Excel, make a little graph and see the % point differences between the tests. If you plan on buying a new vid card its important to find out if the Nvida or ATi card is faster on your type of system.

    And from what I found is that the AMD system from Atech performed better with Nvidia, and Intel system peformed better with ATi from THG (for Farcry and Unreal2004 only ones to be somewhat similar tests).

    #61 How much money did ATi spend when developing the R3xx line? I would venture to say a decent amount...somtimes companies invest more money in a design then refine it several times (at less cost) before starting from scratch again. ATi and Nvidia has done this for quite awhile. Also from what Ive heard the r3xx had the possibilty of 16 pipes to begin with..this true anyone?

    Texture memory about 256 doesnt really matter now b/c of the insane bandwidth the 8x apg has to offer, however one might see that 512 may come in handy after Doom3 comes out since they use shitloads of high res textures instead of high polygons for alot of detail. I dont see 512 coming out for a little while, espescially with ram prices.
    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    Trog, its good to hear you were being nice, but I wasnt bashing THG, I love that site (besides this one) and I get alot of my tech info from there.

    What I normally do though is I take benchmarks from different sites then put them in Excel, make a little graph and see the % point differences between the tests. If you plan on buying a new vid card its important to find out if the Nvida or ATi card is faster on your type of system.

    And from what I found is that the AMD system from Atech performed better with Nvidia, and Intel system peformed better with ATi from THG (for Farcry and Unreal2004 only ones to be somewhat similar tests).

    #61 How much money did ATi spend when developing the R3xx line? I would venture to say a decent amount...somtimes companies invest more money in a design then refine it several times (at less cost) before starting from scratch again. ATi and Nvidia has done this for quite awhile. Also from what Ive heard the r3xx had the possibilty of 16 pipes to begin with..this true anyone?

    Texture memory about 256 doesnt really matter now b/c of the insane bandwidth the 8x apg has to offer, however one might see that 512 may come in handy after Doom3 comes out since they use shitloads of high res textures instead of high polygons for alot of detail. I dont see 512 coming out for a little while, espescially with ram prices.
    Reply
  • deathwalker - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    Well...once again..someone is lying thru there teeth. What happen to the $399 entry price of the Pro model? Cheapest price on pricewatch it $478. Someone trying to cash in on the new buyer hysteria? I am impressed though with ATI's ability to step up to the plate and steal Nvidia's thunder. Reply
  • a2y - Thursday, May 6, 2004 - link

    OMG OMG!! I almost gone to buy and build a new system with latest specs and graphics card! and was going for the nVidia 6800Ultra ! until just now i decided to see any news from ATI and discovered their new card!

    Man if ATI and nVidia are going to bring up a card every 2/3 weeks then i'll never be able to build this system!!!

    Being a (Pre)fan of half-life 2, I guess im going to wait until its released to buy a graphics card (meaning when we all die and go to hell).
    Reply
  • remy - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    For the OpenGL vs D3D performance argument don't forget to take a look at Homeworld2 as it is an OpenGL game. ATI's hardware certainly seems to have come a long way since the 9700 Pro in that game! Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    NullSubroutine - It was meant as nice sarcasm, more or less. No offense intended. (I was also trying to head off this thread becoming a "THG sucks blah blah blah" tangent, as many in the past have done when someone mentions their reviews.)

    My basic point (without doing a ton of research) is that pretty much every hardware site has their own demos that they use for benchmarking. Given that the performance difference between the ATI and Nvidia cards was relatively constant (I think), it's generally safe to assume that the levels, setup, bots, etc. are not the same when you see differing scores. Now if you see to places using the same demo and the same system setup, and there's a big difference, then you can worry. I usually don't bother comparing benchmark numbers from two different sites since they are almost never the same configuration.
    Reply

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