Final Words

Back when Sony announced the specifications of the PlayStation 3, everyone asked if it meant the end of PC gaming. After all Cell looked very strong and NVIDIA's RSX GPU had tremendous power. We asked NVIDIA how long it would take until we saw a GPU faster than the RSX. Their answer: by the time the PS3 ships. So congratulations to NVIDIA for making the PS3 obsolete before it ever shipped, as G80 is truly a beast.

A single GeForce 8800 GTX is more powerful overall than a 7900 GTX SLI configuration and even NVIDIA's mammoth Quad SLI. Although it's no longer a surprise to see a new generation of GPU outperform the previous generation in SLI, the sheer performance we're able to attain because of G80 is still breathtaking. Being able to run modern day games at 2560x1600 at the highest in-game detail settings completely changes the PC gaming experience. It's an expensive proposition, sure, but it's like no other; games just look so much better on a 30" display at 2560x1600 that it makes playing titles at 1600x1200 seem just "ok". We were less impressed by the hardware itself than by gaming at 2560x1600 with all the quality settings cranked all the way up in every game we tried, and that is saying quite a lot. And in reality, that's what it's all about anyway: delivering quality and performance at levels never before thought possible.

Architecturally, G80 is a gigantic leap from the previous generation of GPUs. It's the type of leap in performance that's akin to what we saw with the Radeon 9700 Pro, and given the number of 9700 Pro-like launches we've seen, they are rare. Like 9700 Pro, we are able to enable features that improve image quality well beyond the previous generation, and we are able to run games smoothly at resolutions higher than we could hope for. And, like 9700 Pro, the best is yet to come.

With developers much more acclimated to programmable shader hardware, we expect to see a faster ramp in the availability of advanced features enabled by DirectX 10 class hardware. This is more because of the performance improvements of DX10 than anything else: game developers can create just about the same effects in SM3.0 that they can with SM4.0. The difference is that DX9 performance would be so low that features won't be worth implementing. This is different from the DX8 to DX9 transition where fully programmable shaders enabled a new class of effects. This time, DX10 simply removes the speed limit and straps on afterburners. The only fly in the ointment for DirectX 10 is the requirement that users run Windows Vista. Unfortunately, that means developers are going to be stuck with supporting both DX9 and DX10 hardware in their titles for some time, unless they simply want to eliminate Windows XP users as a potential market.

Much of the feature set for G80 can be taken advantage of through OpenGL on Windows XP today. Unfortunately, OpenGL has fallen out of use in games these days, but there are still a few who cling to its clean interface and extensibility. The ability to make use of DX10 class features is here today for those who wish to do so.

That's not to say that DX9 games won't see benefits from NVIDIA's new powerhouse. Everything we've tested here today shows incredible scaling on G80 and proves that a unified architecture is the way to go forward in graphics. More complex SM3.0 code will be capable of running on G80 faster than we've been able to see on G70 and R580, and we certainly hope developers will take advantage of that and start releasing games with the option to enable unheard of detail.

The bottom line is that we've got an excellent new GPU that enables incredible levels of performance and quality. And NVIDIA is able to do this while using a reasonable amount of power for the performance gained (despite requiring two PCIe power connectors per 8800 GTX). The chip is huge in terms of transistor count, and in terms of die area. Our estimates based on the wafer shots NVIDIA provided us with indicate that the 681 million transistor G80 die is somewhere between 480 and 530 mm^2 at 90nm. This leaves NVIDIA with the possibility of a spring refresh part based on TSMC's 80nm half-node process that could enable not only better prices, but higher performance and lower power as well.

While we weren't able to overclock the shader core of our G80 parts, NVIDIA has stated that shader core overclocking is coming. While playing around with the new nTune, overclocking the core clock does impact performance, but we'll talk more about this in our retail product review to be posted in the coming days.

With G80, NVIDIA is solidly in a leadership position and now we play the waiting game for ATI's R600 to arrive. One thing is for sure, if you were thinking about building a high end gaming system this holiday season, you only need to consider one card.

Performance with AA Disabled
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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Page 17:

    "The dual SLI connectors are for future applications, such as daisy chaining three G80 based GPUs, much like ATI's latest CrossFire offerings."

    Using a third GPU for physics processing is another possibility, once NVIDIA begins accelerating physics on their GPUs (something that has apparently been in the works for a year or so now).
    Reply
  • Missing Ghost - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    So it seems like by substracting the highest 8800gtx sli power usage result with the one for the 8800gtx single card we can conclude that the card can use as much as 205W. Does anybody knows if this number could increase when the card is used in DX10 mode? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Without DX10 games and an OS, we can't test it yet. Sorry. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Incidentally, I would expect the added power draw in SLI comes from more than just the GPU. The CPU, RAM, and other components are likely pushed to a higher demand with SLI/CF than when running a single card. Look at FEAR as an example, and here's the power differences for the various cards. (Oblivion doesn't have X1950 CF numbers, unfortunately.)

    X1950 XTX: 91.3W
    7900 GTX: 102.7W
    7950 GX2: 121.0W
    8800 GTX: 164.8W

    Notice how in this case, X1950 XTX appears to use less power than the other cards, but that's clearly not the case in single GPU configurations, as it requires more than everything besides the 8800 GTX. Here's the Prey results as well:

    X1950 XTX: 111.4W
    7900 GTX: 115.6W
    7950 GX2: 70.9W
    8800 GTX: 192.4W

    So there, GX2 looks like it is more power efficient, mostly because QSLI isn't doing any good. Anyway, simple subtraction relative to dual GPUs isn't enough to determine the actual power draw of any card. That's why we presented the power data without a lot of commentary - we need to do further research before we come to any final conclusions.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    It looks like putting SLI uses +170W more power. You can see how significant video card is in terms of power consumption. It blows the Pentium D away by couple of times. Reply
  • JoKeRr - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    well, keep in mind the inefficiency of PSU, generally around 80%, so as overall power draw increases, the marginal loss of power increases a lot as well. If u actually multiply by 0.8, it gives about 136W. I suppose the power draw is from the wall. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    max TDP of G80 is at most 185W -- NVIDIA revised this to something in the 170W range, but we know it won't get over 185 in any case.

    But games generally don't enable a card to draw max power ... 3dmark on the other hand ...
    Reply
  • photoguy99 - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Isn't 1920x1440 a resolution that almost no one uses in real life?

    Wouldn't 1920x1200 apply many more people?

    It seems almost all 23", 24", and many high end laptops have 1900x1200.

    Yes we could interpolate benchmarks, but why when no one uses 1440 vertical?

    Reply
  • Frallan - Saturday, November 11, 2006 - link

    Well i have one more suggestion for a resolution. Full HD is 1920*1080 - that is sure to be found in a lot of homes in the future (after X-mas any1 ;0) ) on large LCDs - I believe it would be a good idea to throw that in there as well. Especially right now since loads of people will have to decide how to spend their money. The 37" Full HD is a given but on what system will I be gaming PS-3/X-Box/PC... Pls advice. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    This should be the last time we use that resolution. We're moving to LCD resolutions, but Derek still did a lot of testing (all the lower resolutions) on his trusty old CRT. LOL Reply

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