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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  • l3ored - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    only the 800xt was winning, the pro usually came after the 6800's Reply
  • Keeksy - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Yeah, it is funny how ATi excels in DirectX, yet loses in the OpenGL bechmarks. Looks like I'm going to have both an NVIDIA and an ATi card. The first to play Doom3, the other to play HL2. Reply
  • peroni - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    I wish there was some testing done with overclocking.

    There are quite a few spelling errors in there Derek.

    Did I miss something or I did not see any mention of prices for these 2 cards?
    Reply
  • Glitchny - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    #11 thats what everyone thought when Nvidia bought all the people from 3dFX and look what happened with that. Reply
  • araczynski - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    i agree with 5 and 10, still the same old stalemate as before, one is good at one thing, the other is good at another. i guess i'll let price dictate my next purchase.

    but ati sure did take the wind out of nvidia's sails with these numbers.

    i wish one of the two would buy the other one out and combine the technologies, one would think they would have a nice product in the end.
    Reply
  • eBauer - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    #8 - OpenGL still kicks butt on the nVidia boards. Think of all the Doom3 fans that will buy the 6800's....

    As for myself, I will wait and see how the prices pan out. For now leaning on the X800.
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    ...On the virge of ATI's R420 GPU launch...

    Derek, I'm so touched that you thought of me. ;)
    Reply
  • Tallon - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Ok, so let's review. with the x800XT having better image quality, better framerates, only taking up one slot for cooling and STILL being cooler, and only needing one molex connecter (uses less power than the 9800 XT, actually), who in their right mind would choose a 6800u over this x800XT? I mean, seriously, NVIDIA is scrambling to release a 6850u now which is exactly identical to a 6800u, it's just overclocked (which means more power and higher temperatures). This is ridiculous. ATI is king. Reply
  • noxipoo - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    ATi wins again. Reply
  • Akaz1976 - Tuesday, May 4, 2004 - link

    Dang! On one hand, I am saddened by the review. My recently purchased (last month) Radeon9800PRO would be at the bottom of the chart in most of the tests carried out in this review :(

    On the other hand this sure bode well for my next vid card upgrade. Even if it is a few months off! :)

    Akaz
    Reply

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