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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  • adntaylor - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    I wish they'd also tested with an nForce3 motherboard. nVidia have managed some very interesting performance enhancements on the AGP to HT tunnel that only works with the nVidia graphics cards. That might have pushed the 6800 in front - who knows! Reply
  • UlricT - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Hey... Though the review rocks, you guys desperately need an editor for spelling and grammar! Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    This pretty much settles it. With the excellent comparision between architectures, and the benchmark scores to prove the advantages and disadvantages of the architecture... my next card will be made by ATI.
    NV40 sure has a lot of potential, one might say it's ahead of it's time, supporting SM 3.0 and being so programmable. However, with a product cycle of 6 months to a year, being ahead of it's time is more of a disadvantage in this case. People don't care what it COULD do... people care what it DOES do... and the R420 seems to do it better. I just hope my venture into the world of ATI doesn't turn into driver hell.
    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Im fan boy for neither company and objectively I can say the cards are equal. Some games the ATI cards are faster other games the Nvidia cards are faster. So it all depends on the game you play to which one is better and the price of the card you are looking for. (Hmm, maybe motherboard companies could make 2 AGP slots...)

    About the arguement of the PS 2.0/3.0...

    2.0 Cards will be able to play games with 3.0, they may not have full functionality or they may run it slower. This will remain to be seen till games begin to use 3.0. However...

    The one thing bad for Nvidia in my eyes is the pixel shader quality that can be seen in Farcry, whether this is a game or driver glitch it is still unknown.

    I forgot to add I like that the ATI cards use less power, I dont want to have to pay for another PSU ontop of already high prices of video cards. I would also like to see a review again a month from now when newer drivers come out to see how much things have changed.
    Reply
  • l3ored - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    pschhh, did you see the unreal 3 demo? in the video i saw, it looked like it ran at about 5fps imagine running halo on a gfx 5200. however you could run it if you were to turn of halo's PS 2 effects. i think thats how it's going to be with unreal 3 Reply
  • Slaanesh - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Since PS 3.0 is not supported by the X800 hardware, does this mean that those extremely impressive graphical features showed in the Unreal 3 tech demo (NV40 launch) and the near-to-be-released goodlooking PS 3.0 Far Cry update are both NOT playable on the X800?? This would be a huge disadvantage for ATi since alot of the upcoming topgames will support PS3.0! Reply
  • l3ored - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    i agree phiro, personally i think im gonna get the one that hits $200 first (may be a while) Reply
  • Phiro - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Hearing about the 6850 and the other Emergency-Extreme-Whatever 6800 variants that are floating about irritates me greatly. Nvidia, you are losing your way!

    Instead of spending all that time, effort and $$ just to try to take the "speed champ" title, make your shit that much cheaper instead! If your 6800 Ultra was $425 instead of $500, that would give you a hell of alot more market share and $$ than a stupid Emergency Edition of your top end cards... We laugh at Intel for doing it, and now you're doing it too, come fricking on...
    Reply
  • gordon151 - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    #14, I think it has more to do with the fact those OpenGL benchmarks are based on a single engine that was never fast on ATI hardware to begin with. Reply
  • araczynski - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    12: personally i think the TNT line was better then the Voodoo line. I think they bought them out only to get rid of the competition, which was rather stupid because i think they would have died out sooner or later anyway because nvidia was just better. I would guess that perhaps they bought them out cuz that gave them patent rights and they woudln't have to worry about being sued for probably copying some of the technology :) Reply

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