NVIDIA owns the high end graphics market. For the past six months, there has been no challenge to the performance leadership of the GeForce 8800 GTX. Since the emergence of Windows Vista, NVIDIA hardware has been the only platform to support DX10. And now, before AMD has come to market with any competing solution whatsoever, NVIDIA is releasing a refresh of its top of the line part.

The GeForce 8800 Ultra debuting today doesn't have any new features over the original 8800 GTX. The GPU is still manufactured using a 90nm process, and the transistor count hasn't changed. This is different silicon (A3 revision), but the GPU has only really been tweaked rather than redesigned.

Not only will NVIDIA's new part offer higher performance than the current leader, but it will introduce a new price point in the consumer graphics market moving well beyond the current $600 - $650 set by the 8800 GTX, skipping over the $700 mark to a new high of $830. That's right, this new high end graphics card will be priced $230 higher than the current performance leader. With such a big leap in price, we had hoped to see a proportional leap in performance. Unfortunately, for the 38% increase in price, we only get a ~10% increase in core and shader clock speeds, and a 20% increase in memory clock.

Here's a chart breaking down NVIDIA's current DX10 lineup:

NVIDIA G8x Hardware
SPs ROPs Core Clock Shader Clock Memory Data Rate Memory Bus Width Memory Size Price
8800 Ultra 128 24 612MHz 1.5GHz 2.16GHz 384bit 768MB $830+
8800 GTX 128 24 576MHz 1.35GHz 1.8GHz 384bit 768MB $600-$650
8800 GTS 96 20 513MHz 1.19GHz 1.6GHz 320bit 640MB $400-$450
8800 GTS 320MB 96 20 513MHz 1.19GHz 1.6GHz 320bit 320MB $300-$350
8600 GTS 32 8 675MHz 1.45GHz 2GHz 128bit 256MB $200-$230
8600 GT 32 8 540MHz 1.19GHz 1.4GHz 128bit 256MB $150-$160
8500 GT 16 4 450MHz 900MHz 800MHz 128bit 256MB/512MB $89-$129

We do know NVIDIA has wanted to push up towards the $1000 graphics card segment for a while. Offering the top of the line for what almost amounts to a performance tax would give NVIDIA the ability to sell a card and treat it like a Ferrari. It would turn high end graphics into a status symbol rather than a commodity. That and having a huge margin part in the mix can easily generate additional profits.

Price gaps larger than performance increases are not unprecedented. In the CPU world, we see prices rise much faster than performance, especially at the high end. It makes sense that NVIDIA would want to capitalize on this sort of model and charge an additional premium for their highest performing part. This way, they also get to introduce a new high end part without pushing down the price of the rest of their lineup.

Unfortunately, the stats on the hardware look fairly similar to an overclocked 8800 GTX priced at $650: the EVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTX KO ACS3. With core/shader/memory clock speeds at 626/1450/1000, this EVGA overclocked part poses some stiff competition both in terms of performance and especially price. NVIDIA's G80 silicon revision might need to be sprinkled with magic fairy dust to offer any sort of competition to the EVGA card.

We should also note that this part won't be available until around the 15th of May, and this marks the first launch to totally balk on the hard launch with product announcement standard. While we hate to see the hard launch die from a consumer standpoint, we know those in the graphics industry are thrilled to see some time reappear between announcement and launch. While hard launches may be difficult, going this direction leaves hardware designers with enough rope to hang themselves. We would love to believe AMD and NVIDIA would be more responsible now, but there is no real reason to think history won't repeat itself.

But now, let's take a look at what we are working with today.

The GeForce 8800 Ultra


View All Comments

  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    Since you always seem to think good graphics cards are for shooting aliens, are you aware that there are cards that sell for over $5000 for business applications? Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Well I was excited when I woke up this morning to find reviews on the 8800 Ultra but after reading this I'm very disappointed. All Nvidia did was overclock a 8800 GTX and are now calling it a 8800 Ultra while trying to sell it for $200-$300 more. It performs a few percent better but not enough to be noticeable in a game.

    I guess they decided a few people would buy it and it's not like Nvidia is losing money making them, the 8800 Ultras are the same as the 8800GTX just factory clocked a little higher. I guess as a business move it makes sense, make a little extra money while not having to change your product around at all except for a clock increase.

    8800GTS 320MB is still the best deal, come on AMD/ATI I hope their benchmarks for the R600 won't be as disappointing as this, what I've seen from DailyTech on the R600 it looks like Nvidia could be holding the crown for quite some time.
  • Zefram0911 - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    guess what though... there are still going to be people who buy two of theses bad boys for Sli...... my goodness. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Yeah, well... "A fool and his money are soon parted". Reply
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Foxconn's 8800GTX OC runs at 630/2000 and is only $550 at NewEgg:">

    This new GeForce 8800 Ultra really seems pointless, when almost identical performance can be had for $550. It just doesn't seem Ultra enough for an extra $300.
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    No kidding. Nearly $300 less than the 8800 Ultra. No wonder Nvidia wasn't too keen on letting their board partners overclock the 8800 GTX.... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    I'll make a note of this in the article, as the Foxconn should perform equal to the EVGA card. Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    Theres also a similar spec'd BFG card at a lower price than the quoted eVGA. I'm all for reccomending eVGA in a buyers guide, but this article actually appears biased by leaving out other (cheaper) cards in favor of a single eVGA. Reply
  • munky - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Nice job on the review, including an overclocked gtx really shows just what a joke the 8800u is. However, I suggest that in your future articles you keep the colors consistent between the cards in your resolution scaling graph. It's confusing if a card is shown in yellow on one graph, and then the same card is blue in the next graph. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    sorry, it ended up that way because we had trouble enabling 4xAA on r6v with the ati x1950xtx. excel automatically picked the colors -- everything else is consistent though. Reply

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