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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  • 413xram - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    They announced they where going to in there release anyway. Later on this summer. Why not now? Reply
  • jensend - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    #61- nuts. 512 mb ram will pull loads more power, put out a lot more heat, cost a great deal more (especially now, since ram prices are sky-high), and give negligible if any performance gains. Heck, even 256 mb is still primarily a marketing gimmick. Reply
  • 413xram - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    They (ATI) are using the same technology that their previous cards are using. They pretty much just added more transistors to perform more functions at a higher speed. I am willing to bet my paycheck that they spent no where close to 400 million dollars to run neck and neck with nvidia in performance. I guess "virtually nothing" is an overstatement. My apologies.
    Reply
  • Phiro - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    Where do you get your info that ATI spent "virtually nothing"? Reply
  • 413xram - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    Both cards perform brilliantly. They are truly a huge step in graphics processing. One problem I forsee though,is that Nvidia spent 400 million dollars into development of their new nv40 technology, while ATI spent virtually nothing to have the same performance gains. Economically that is a hard pill for Nvidia to swallow.

    It is true that Nvidia's card has the 3.0 pixel shading, unfortunatly though, they are banking on hardware that is not supported upon release of the card. In dealing with video cards from a consumers standpoint that is a hard sell. I have learned from the past that future possibilties of technology in hardware does nothing for me today. Not to mention the power supply issue that does not help neither.

    Nvidia must find a way to get better performance out of their new card, I can't believe I'am saying that after seeing the specs that it already performs at, or it may be a long, HOT, and expensive summer for them.

    P.S. Nvidia. A little advice. Speed up the release on your 512 mb card. That would definetly sell me. Overclocking your 6800 is something that 90% of us in this forum would do anyway.
    Reply
  • theIrish1 - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link


    heh, whatever.. whatever, and whatever. I love the fanboyisms....

    I admit I am a fan of ATI cards. I bought a 9700pro and a 9500pro(in my secondary gaming rig) when they first came out, and an 8500 "pro" before that...but now I want to upgrade again. I am keeping an open mind. After looking at benchmarks, it is clear the both cards have their wins and losses depending on the test. I don't think there is a clear cut winner. nVidia got there by new innovation/technology. ATI got there by optimizing "older" technology.

    At this point, with pricing being the same.. I think I still have to lean to the ATI cards. Main reasons being heat & power consumption. If the 6800U was $75 or $100 cheaper, I would probably go with that. It will be interesting to see where the 6850 falls benchmark wise, and also in pricing. If the 6850 takes the $500 pricepoint, where will that leave the 6800U? $450? Or with the 6850 be $550?

    Something else about the x800Pro (which by the way, alot of the readers/posters seem to be getting confused as to what they are talking about between the Pro and XT models). Anyway, there are a few online stores out there taking pre-orders still for the x800PRO.... for $500+. I thought the Pro was going to go at $400 and the XT at $500...?!?
    Reply
  • 413xram - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    On the fabrication o the two Gpus- the tech report:

    "Regardless, transistor counts are less important, in reality, than die size, and we can measure that. ATI's chips are manufactured by TSMC on a 0.13-micron, low-k "Black Diamond" process. The use of a low-capacitance dielectric can reduce crosstalk and allow a chip to run at higher speeds with less power consumption. NVIDIA's NV40, meanwhile, is manufactured by IBM on its 0.13-micron fab process, though without the benefit of a low-k dielectric."

    The extra transistors of the 6800U might be taken up with the cinematic encoding/rendering embedded chip. Although ATI claim encoding in their X800p/XT blurb, I havent seen much yet to distinguish it from the 9800p in this field. The Tech report checked power consumption at the wall for their test systems and the 6800s ramp up the power a lot quicker with gpu speed so I'm not too hopeful about the overclock to 520Mhz and 6800u extreme gpu yields. Still, maybe a new stepping or 90nm SOI shrink might help (I noticed both manufacturers shied away from 90nm).

    Anyway brilliant video cards from North America. Congratulations ATI and Nvidia!

    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - link

    If it was nice sarcasm I can laugh, if it was nasty sarcasm you can back off. I can see it would be simple for me to overlook the map used, however no indication to what Atech used. One could assume or someone could ask for the real answer and if they are really lucky they will get a smart ass remark.

    After checking through 10 different reviews I found similar results to Atech when they had 25 bots, THG had none.

    Next time save us both the hassle and just say THG didnt use bots, and Atech probably did.
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    #54 - Think about things for a minute. Gee... I wonder why THG and AT got such different scores on UT2K4.... Might it be something like the selection of map and the demo used? Nah, that would be too simple. /sarcasm

    From THG: "For our tests in UT2004 we used our own timedemo on the map Assault-Torlan (no bots). All quality options are set to maximum."

    No clear indication of what was used for the map or demo on AT, but I'm pretty sure that it was also a home-brewed demo, and likely on a different map and perhaps with a different number of players. Clearly, though, it was not the same demo as THG used... unless THG is in the habit of giving their benchmarking demos out? Didn't think so.

    I see questions like this all the time. Unless two sites use the exact same settings, it's almost impossible to directly compare their scores. There is no conspiracy, though. Both sites pretty much say the same thing: close match, with the edge going to ATI right now, especially in DX9, while NV still reigns supreme in OGL.
    Reply

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