Final Words

Often, when reviewing hardware, it is difficult to draw a hard line and state with total confidence that our conclusions are the only logical ones that can be drawn from the facts. We try very hard to eliminate personal opinion from our reviews and provide readers with enough information to form their own educated opinions. We try to point out the downsides of the best products out there, as well as the niche uses for which otherwise disappointing hardware might shine. So often our job is about balance and temperance.

But not this time: The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra is an utter waste of money.

Let's review the facts. First, our performance data shows the 8800 Ultra to perform on par with our EVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTX KO ACS3. Certainly the 8800 Ultra nudges the EVGA part out of the lead, but the performance difference is minimal at best. The price difference, however, is huge. We can easily find the EVGA card for its retail price of $650, while NVIDIA expects us to pay $180 more for what amounts to a repositioned cooling fan and updated silicon. Foxconn also offers an overclocked GTX for $550 that has essentially the same clocks as the EVGA KO ACS3 (Foxconn is 630/2000 versus 626/2000 for EVGA), making $830 even more unreasonable.

Add to that the fact that we've tested over a dozen 8800 GTX parts since their launch last year, and every single card we've tested has reached higher core clock speeds than the 8800 Ultra with overclocking. We know that increasing core clock speed using nTune causes shader clock speed to increase as well. Setting an 8800 GTX core clock to 621 would give us a shader clock of ~1450MHz, coming close to the 8800 Ultra level. The extra 50MHz increase in shader clock speed won't have a very large impact on performance as we have seen in our clock scaling tests.

All this leaves memory speed as the 8800 Ultra's only real advantage: none of the memory on 8800 GTX parts we've tested can reach 1080MHz from the base 900MHz. The only problem is that this doesn't give the part enough of a boost to matter in current real world performance tests.

With GPU revisions including layout changes, process tweaks, and an improved cooling solution, the least we would expect from the creation of a new price point in the consumer graphics market is a new level of performance. Price isn't the issue here: it's all about the value. It would be difficult even for a professional gamer to justify the purchase of an 8800 Ultra over the EVGA overclocked GTX. This incarnation of the G80 is even less justifiable than Intel's Extreme processors or AMD's FX line.

Certainly, placing some value in overclockability is fair. The problem here is that the stock speed at which the card runs offers no real added value over an already available overclocked 8800 GTX. If the overclockability of the G80 A3 silicon is its key point, why not simply offer the chips to add-in card builders at a premium and allow them to make custom overclocked boards at the speeds they choose? Let them call it an 8800 Ultra without defining a (rather low) stock speed for the new cards.

If user overclocking is where it's at, then standard 8800 GTX speeds are fine. Call it an 8800 Ultra because it features A3 silicon, market it towards overclockers, and sell it at a price premium. But don't try to sell us on 612/1500/1080 clock speeds.

With a push towards targeting overclockers we have to wonder: if there is so much headroom in the 8800 Ultra, why not offer us stock clock speeds that make a real performance difference?

We are all for higher performance, and we don't mind higher prices. But it is ridiculous to charge an exorbitant amount of money for something that doesn't offer any benefit over a product already on the market. $830 isn't the issue. In fact, we would love to see a graphics card worth $830. The 8800 Ultra just isn't it.

Supreme Commander Performance


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  • BloodAgent - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    It is worth it, that is all that needs to be said. If you wanna be cheap and get the lesser computer equipment that will fall short sooner then go with the GTX. I have a Intel Quad Core cpu and two EVGA-8800 Ultra's in SLI, and there is not a game out there that weakens my system. The price is a bit much, but you get what you pay for. My 8800 Ultra's are great. My buddy has a rig running two 8800 GTX's and we benchmarked them using the same version of 3DMARK and my system chewed up the benchmarks while his suffered and choked a bit across the finish line. Go with the Ultra 8800. Reply
  • derubermensch1 - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    The ONLY reason to step-up to this card is if you utilise EVERY one of your expansion slots. The reason being the EVGA card has a backplate which, in most cases, blocks the adjacent slot so it is essentially a 3 slot cooler for all intents and purposes.

    The Ultra will undoubtedly overclock better but then you void that nice EVGA lifetime warranty :(

    So youre basically banking on some magic driver to come along that may take advantage of the new bios on the card, but that's a big "if"

    I was on the fence for awhile until I saw that my EVGA card does better in 1600x1200 (I use 1680x1050) so that cemented my decision to stay away. It would be cool to own such a card, just because I can, but then I realized that step-up cost would pay for an HD-DVD add-on for my 360 :)

  • derubermensch1 - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    I forgot to mention, don't get an Ultra or hold out on stepping up in the hopes you will be able to step-up to one of those pre-overclocked Ultras that seem to be around the corner. As anyone who tried to step-up to an ACS3 edition 8800 GTX knows, EVGA will not allow it, the program applies to reference spec'd cards ONLY, no exceptions. Reply
  • masa77 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    I have a pair of 8800 GTXs already and both can be overclocked to 650MHz on the core and 2.1GHz on the memory, but for a boost of three frames per second or so in 2560x1600 it's pointless.

    These cards are only ideal for those who don't have an 8800GTX and even then, you might consider the 8800 GTS because it can basically run anything in 1920x1200 and below quite well. I can often game in 2560x1600 with SLi disabled and all settings maxed. The 8800GTX is a very powerful card.
  • adaofer - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    There are 2 reasons why nvidia produced this card:
    1. Ati new flag ship - this card is supposed to keep the crown on nvidia side and give
    nvidia the upper hand VS Ati , it's the same story as 7800 GTX 512 it's a stepping
    stone in the road map between 8800 --> 8900
    2. price fixing between nvidia and ati : if nvidia ultra costs 830$ and Ati's new flag
    ship has the same performance why sould it cost less , this those company's are
    creating a new price level for ultra/premium cards
  • Stele - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Almost everything significant to be said about the 8800 Ultra has already be said; it looks very much like this card's more for the clueless but loaded folks who want it as much as they'd want a Bugatti Veyron to show off to their pals.

    Even with the supposedly enhanced overclocking headroom, it's unlikely that it'd be able to justify the massive premium - it can only reach 684 MHz core while remaining stable, which is certainly not $300's worth more than the Foxconn's 630 or EVA's 626. That it can reach even higher (702/1728 as Anandtech found) is not much use since, to maintain stability, one would have to spend even more on top of the large premium to replace the stock HSF with a better one - it would have been a little different if, for example, the extra money gives us a superb cooler that allows us to reach 700 (and stay there) out of the box.

    Right now there's the 8500, 8600 and 8800. There's a very conspicuous and inviting hole for an 8700 with 64 SPs, 12/16 ROPs and maybe 550/1190/1000 MHz clocks at the $250 mark. A pretty sweet spot, imho. Nvidia really ought to have something there... or perhaps that's an ace in the hole to be pulled out depending on how AMD's lineup performs. Besides that, hopefully Nvidia manages to iron out any kinks in the transition to 65nm fast, as these GPUs could sure use the lower TDPs. On the other side of the fence, hope AMD bucks up soon... they've dropped the ball quite a bit lately and R600's already a whole 6 months behind the 8800.
  • cornfedone - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Nvidia is no doubt just trolling to find gullible fools with more money than technical knowledge. Only a fool would cough up this kind of money for a video card. Don't be surprised if these outrageously over-priced cards become symbols of cluelessness for the well healed but technically challenged fanboys. There's a sucker born every second.

  • Mumrik - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    I don't get it... it's not April 1st... Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - link

    Why is everyone whining about this card? I mean, you realize that NVIDIA is in the business of making money, right? You also realize that no one from NVIDIA will come to your home and hold a gun to your head and make you buy it, right? Wow, a company that wants to make money is greedy! Too funny.

    In actuality, they are probably just looking for an identity and want to go more upscale. Is it worth it? Maybe to someone, and now they have the choice. High end CPUs have always been a bargain for some uses, even though they cost a lot more and offer only a few percentages more performance. The reason is simple, for some companies the cost for employees is so much higher than the cost of equipment, even a $1000 is trivial if it makes people more productive or gets answers faster. I have been in these situations before, and they aren't willing to overclock so they buy the best and don't really care about the cost. I'm just not sure if a video card applies to many of these situations, since shooting space aliens isn't a viable business strategy. But there are probably some pursuits that benefit from this besides kiddies and their games. For them, this might make sense.

    Comparing an overclocked card with a stock, pre-production card is kind of silly too. I mean, it's fine for the review, but when people extrapolate from this that they should get other card and overclock it, they ignore that this new card might overclock better, so again, it's not a matter of getting the same thing for less, but of getting less performance for less.

    AMD probably realizes the kiddie market is too small like Intel has and prefer to go with better mainstream products. They don't need to be in that business anymore, since it's a much bigger company and they can expand in different, more meaningful ways (like Fusion). NVIDIA has big problems, the merger between AMD and ATI has made their life a whole lot more difficult in that chipset market, and I don't know anyone with an IQ over 70 that buys a chipset from a penny-ante company like NVIDIA when they can buy a real Intel chipset for their Intel processors. Intel chipsets have always been the best, if not in performance then in reliability and support.

    So, NVIDIA is looking like the odd man out, especially with IGPs slowly creeping up. Maybe they need to reinvent themselves as a high end company, as ATI goes a bit more mainstream. Good luck to them, I'll be surprised if they're not belly up in a few years, or really bought by another company, especially if processors continue to gain GPU functions as seems the current path.

    Does anyone else think it's a little funny how everything goes back to the way things were? I mean, there are math coprocessors again! Now, it seems like all the graphical stuff will be done by the processor again pretty soonb (as in the days of the dumb frame buffer video cards). I wonder when the DOS prompt will be the interface for the next generation operating system. Google isn't that far from it, although it's not an OS.
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, May 05, 2007 - link

    Just one issue with what you said.

    Comparing an overclocked card with a stock, pre-production card is kind of silly too. I mean, it's fine for the review, but when people extrapolate from this that they should get other card and overclock it, they ignore that this new card might overclock better, so again, it's not a matter of getting the same thing for less, but of getting less performance for less.
    You can look at it like an overclocked card, but the fact is that the EVGA card we tested and stock 8800 Ultra cards compete on the same level. This isn't a card we bought and then overclocked, this is a retail product that EVGA sells at higher performance than stock 8800 GTX hardware. It's got a lifetime warranty at the clock speeds they set at the factory. As will their stock 8800 Ultra card which won't perform any better.

    I understand the argument that comparing the 8800 Ultra to an 8800 GTX that we overclocked ourselves is silly. But people that don't want to overclock their hardware who are in the market for a high end graphics card will only see a negligible performance difference with a huge price gap between EVGA's 8800 GTX KO ACS3 and any stock 8800 Ultra. It absolutely is a matter of getting the same thing for less.

    Overclockers may see some value in the 8800 Ultra, but even the businesses you mentioned should look at the EVGA 8800 GTX KO ACS3 and the 8800 Ultra as competitors on equal ground. Sure a company might not mind paying more money for more performance, but it is hard to understand why a company would needlessly pay more money for somethign that offers the same performance as a competing part.

    I do agree that a lot of people are making a bigger deal out of this than they need to. The market is still driven by supply and demand afterall. If people are smart enough to realize that NVIDIA has priced their hardware too high, the price will come down. We certainly won't pass up the opportunity to educate people about the fact that the 8800 Ultra is an incredibly bad value with other retail graphics cards performing the same and costing much less.


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