Incredibly high priced and high powered graphics cards are exciting. For geeks like us, learning about the newest and best hardware out there is like watching a street race between a Lambo and a Ferrari. We are able to see what the highest achievable performance really offers when put to the test. Standing on the bleeding edge of technology and looking out at what is currently possible towards the next great advancement inspires us. The volume and depth of knowledge required to build a GPU humbles us while physically demonstrating the potential of the human race.

Unfortunately, this hardware, while attainable for a price, is often out of reach for most of its admirers. Sometimes it isn't owning the thing which we set apart that gives us joy, but knowing of its existence and relishing the fact that some time, in the not too distant future, that kind of performance will be available for a reasonable price as a mainstream staple.

While the performance of the 8800 GTX is still a ways off from making it to the mainstream, we finally have the feature set (and then some) of the GeForce 8 series in a very affordable package. While we only have the fastest of the new parts from NVIDIA today, the announcement today includes these new additions to the lineup:

GeForce 8600 GTS
GeForce 8600 GT
GeForce 8500 GT
GeForce 8400 (OEM only)
GeForce 8300 (OEM only)

The OEM only parts will not be available as add-in cards but will only be included in pre-built boxes by various system builders. While the 8600 GTS should be available immediately, we are seeing a little lag time between now and when the 8600 GT and 8500 GT will be available (though we are assured both will be on shelves before May 1). While NVIDIA has been very good about sticking to a hard launch strategy for quite a while now, we were recently informed that this policy would be changing.

Rather than coordinate hardware availability with their announcement, NVIDIA will move to announcing a product with availability to follow. Our understanding is that availability will happen within a couple weeks of announcements. There are reasons NVIDIA would prefer to do things this way, and they shared a few with us. It's difficult for all the various card manufacturers to meet the same schedule for availability, and giving them more time to get their hardware ready for shipment will even the playing field. It's hard to keep information from leaking when parts are already moving into the channel for distribution. With some sites able to get their hands on this information without talking to NVIDIA (and thus can avoid abiding by embargo dates on publication), taking measures to slow or stop leaks helps NVIDIA control information flow to the public and appease publishers who don't like getting scooped.

The bottom line, as we understand it, is that hard launches are difficult. It is our stance that anything worth doing right justifies the trouble it takes. NVIDIA stated that, as long as the information is accurate, there is no issue with delayed launches (or early announcements depending on how we look at things). On the surface this is true, but the necessity of a hard launch has reared its ugly head time and time again. We wouldn't need hard launches if we had infinite trust in hardware makers. The most blatant example in recent memory is the X700 XT from ATI. This product was announced, tested, reviewed (quite positively), but never saw the light of day. This type of misinformation can lead people to put off upgrading while waiting for the hardware or, even worse, trick people into buying hardware that does not match the performance of products we review.

So many people get confused by the fact that we still love hard launches even if only a handful of parts are available from a couple retailers. Sure, high availability at launch is a nice pipe dream, but the real meat of a hard launch is in the simple fact that we know the hardware is available, we know the hardware has the specs a company says it will, and we know the street price of the product. Trust is terrific, but this is business. NVIDIA, AMD, Intel, and everyone else are fighting an information war. On top of that, the pace of our industry is incredible and can cause plans to change at the drop of a hat. Even if a company is completely trustworthy, no one can predict the future and sometimes the plug needs to be pulled at the very last second.

In spite of all this, NVIDIA will do what they will do and we will continue to publish information on hardware as soon as we have it and are able. Just expect us to be very unforgiving when hardware specs don't match up exactly with what we are given to review.

For now, we have new hardware at hand, some available now and some not. While the basic architecture is the same as the 8800, there have been some tweaks and modifications. Before we get to performance testing, let's take a look at what we're working with.

Under the Hood of G84
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  • poohbear - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    sweet review on new tech! thanks for the bar graphs this time! good to know my 512mb x1900xtx still kicks mainstream butt.:)
  • tuteja1986 - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    Total disapointment :( ... Could even beat up a X1950pro. They really need to sell at $150 otherwise you would be better off buying a X1950GT or 7900GS for $150 to $160. At the current $200 to $230 price you could get a X1950XT 256MB which could destroy it but that GPU needs a good powersupply. Only thing going for a 7600GT is the DX10 support and Full H.264 , VLC , Mepg 4 support but that can be found on even other cards.
  • Staples - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    I have been waiting several months for these cards and boy and I disappointed. I figured this month I would get a new PC since April 22 the prices of C2D also drop. My idea was to get a C2D600 and an 8600GTS but after their lack luster performance, my only option is an 8800GTS which is $50+ more. Not a huge difference but I am very compelled to wait until the refresh comes out and then maybe I can get a better deal. I really hate this senario where ATI is down, AMD is down and no competition is leading to high prices and crappy performance.

    Hopefully in another 6 months, AMD will be up to par on both their processors and CPUs. I will be holding on to my current system until then. I found it disappointing that these cards do not come with 512MB of memory but their performance is actually even more disappointing.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    Well, the R6xx stuff from AMD should be out soon, so that's going to be the real determining factor. Hopefully the drivers do well (in Vista as well as XP), and as the conclusion states NVIDIA has certainly left the door open for AMD to take the lead. Preliminary reports surfacing around the 'net show that R600 looks very promising on the high end, and features and specs on the midrange parts look promising as well. GDDR4 could offer more bandwidth making the 128-bit bus feasible on the upper midrange parts as well. Should be interesting, so let's see if AMD can capitalize on NVIDIA's current shortcomings....
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    It might be a good idea to read more reviews before writing off the 8600 range.

    Over at , they found the 8600GTS easily beats the X1950Pro and even though the models they tested were factory overclocked, one of them had only a 5% core overclock and no memory overclock and was still well ahead of the X1950Pro. At worst the two cards were roughly even but in many tests the 8600GTS (with just 5% core o/c) was considerably faster. As say in the article link

    New GeForce 8600 GTS Shines
    If you have been waiting for a DX10 video card capable of playing today's games, your wait is over. The GeForce 8600 GTS series GPU destroys ATI's current X1950 series for right around $220.

    So who do you believe? I guess I'll need to read several more reviews to see what's really going on.
  • Spanki - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    I agree that that review it paints a different picture, but I have no reason to disbelieve it. I mean, they do their testing differently (try to find the best playable settings for each card), but it is what it is... I mean, the tables show the differences in the cards, at those (varrying settings) and so they therefore draw the conclusions they draw, based on that (with card X, I can enable option Y at these frame rates, but not on card Z - at least at the same resolutions). It's not like they tried to hide the settings they used or the frame-rates they got with each set-up. I found it an interesting perspective. ~shrug~

    Anyway, my personal opinion is that they neutered this chipset too much. There looks to be a substantial gap between 7900/8600 and 8800 level performance and the sweet-spot for this price-point would have been right in the middle of that gap... maybe they're planning a 8700 series chipset?
  • Griswold - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    Thats a funny review. I'll stick to the other 90% that say this fish smells.
  • GoatMonkey - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

  • yacoub - Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - link

    HardOCP's review disagrees with almost everyone else's results and also reads like a marketing advertisement for the product. I wouldn't give their review the time of day.
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - link

    They're normally very good which after reading HardOCP's review immediately after AT (whose I read first), I thought I should mention that not everyone found the 8600GTS to be slower than the X1950Pro.

    However, after reading several more reviews on other usually reliable websites, the consensus seems to be that the 8600GTS is well behind the X1950Pro, which does make HardOCP's finding seem very odd.

    I get the feeling that we're going to have to wait until nVidia get their drivers for this card sorted out as I suspect they are not all they could be, which they will hopefully have done by the time the HD2xxx series are launched, then the 8600/8500 cards can be retested and compared with their true competition.

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