8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 1
Introduction

Many of Nvidia's partners have decided to bump the clock speed on the 8800 parts quite recently. This is a great way that customers can get their hands on some overclocked parts that still have a warranty intact. With this in mind we got in a couple of rather speedy 8800GTS to thrash through our tests.

Let's see how they got on...

8800gts both cards

GeForce 8800

nVidia released the G80 series of GPU's back in November last year and took the market by storm, totally outgunning everything out there. With full (and well implemented it has to be said) DirectX 10 support and steaming DirectX 9.0c support the enthusiast market has lapped these blazingly fast GPU's up like hot-cakes.

Having previously reviewed both the 8800GTX (click) and the 8800GTS (click) , I am approaching this review in a slightly different manner to usual, as you will see later on.

In the meantime let's take a look at the basic specs of the 8800 series.

8800 specs

Specification

We've seen a run-through of what is underneath the skin of the G80, let's see how it specs up on paper:

NVIDIA® Unified Architecture

* Unified shader architecture
* GigaThreadTM technology
* Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10
o Geometry shaders
o Geometry instancing
o Streamed output
o Shader Model 4.0
* Full 128-bit floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline
NVIDIA LumenexTM Engine
* 16x full screen anti-aliasing
* Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling
* 16x angle independent anisotropic filtering
* 128-bit floating point high dynamic-range (HDR) lighting with anti-aliasing
o 32-bit per component floating point texture filtering and blending
* Advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data
* Support for normal map compression
* Z-cull
* Early-Z
NVIDIA Quantum EffectsTM Technology
* Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation
* Simulate and render physics effects on the graphics processor
NVIDIA SLITM Technology1
* Patented hardware and software technology allows two GeForce-based graphics cards to run in parallel.Scaling performance and enhance image quality on today's top titles.
NVIDIA PureVideoTM HD Technology2
* Dedicated on-chip video processor
* High-definition H.264, VC-1, MPEG2 and WMV9 decode acceleration
* Advanced spatial-temporal de-interlacing
* HDCP capable3
* Spatial-Temporal De-Interlacing
* Noise Reduction
* Edge Enhancement
* Bad Edit Correction
* Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
* High-quality scaling
* Video color correction
* Microsoft® Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) support Advanced Display Functionality* Two dual-link DVI outputs for digital flat panel display resolutions up to 2560x1600
* Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for analog display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536 at 85Hz
* Integrated HDTV encoder provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution
* NVIDIA nView® multi-display technology capability
* 10-bit display processing
Built for Microsoft® Windows VistaTM
* Full DirectX 10 support
* Dedicated graphics processor powers the new Windows Vista Aero 3D user interface
* VMR-based video architecture
High Speed Interfaces
* Designed for PCI Express® x16
* Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory
Operating Systems
* Built for Microsoft Windows Vista
* Windows XP/Windows XP 64
* Linux
API Support
* Complete DirectX support, including Microsoft DirectX 10 Shader Model 4.0
* Full OpenGL® support, including OpenGL 2.0

Overclocked

Now XFX and Gainward have gone a few MHz better than these stock speeds of 500/1600 going up to 550/1760 for the Gainward Bliss "Golden Sample" Edition and 550/1800 for the XFX "XXX" Edition. It's also worth noting that XFX have overclocked the stream processors on their XXX Edition to 1500MHz, as compared to 1200 at stock. The gainward card is running at the stock 1200MHz (according to RivaTuner ).

The stream processors in the GTS were cut down from 128 to 96 and as such we've seen more clock speed increases throughout the GTS range as they seem to have that little bit extra to squeeze out of them. This also means that the overclocked GTS are getting close to the performance of the GTX.

Let's take a look at the cards.

8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 2
Gainward Bliss 8800 GTS "Golden Sample" 640mb

Packaging

As is usual with Gainward there's a CGI female character on the front of the box and the packaging and protection is very good with some details on features and the name clearly printed on the box. The little golden emblem of the "Golden Sample" let's potential buyers that this is Gainward's signature range.

gainward bliss golden sample box gainward bliss golden sample 8800GTS box

Internally the packaging is very robust with compartments for everything and plenty of padding for the precious cargo.

The Card

Both of the cards have been loaded up with the stock 8800GTS cooler that all of the early 8800GTS cards were provided with. This is an excellent, solid and reliable cooler that keeps these hot GPU's fairly cool whilst maintaining relative silence.

Gainward have gone for their signature red on the card and added their unique logo onto it as well:

gainward golden sample 8800gts front gainward bliss golden sample 8800gts rear

The card is certainly very striking with the imposing cooler and the red colour. Also a nice touch is a Gainward logo on the top of the card or those of you with a case window to show off your hardware.

gainward bliss golden sample 8800gts side

Package

In the box you get:

* Gainward Quick Start manual
* Gainward Drivers, Utilities and Manuals disc
* Power DVD Player Software
* CyberLink DVD Solution Software
* 2 x DVI to VGA adaptors
* 1 x S-Video out to Composite and Component
* 1 x Dual molex to 6 Pin PCI-e power adaptor

gainward bliss 8800gts golden sample package

As usual Gainward provide a full package from a software perspective. With PowerDVD and a Gainward branded CyberLink DVD Solution as well as a drivers disc, Gainward have catered for those who want to have everything there for them upon opening the box. I did notice the lack of the usual "Free2Choose" voucher in the pack, which is unusual as this is usually something Gainward include this to fill out the package completely, and the choices are usually rather good.

The hardware package is also pretty decent with almost everything you need in the box. I did notice that an S-Video>S-Video cable was not included but seeing as most enthusiasts will not use this I don't think it's a great tragedy.

Overall a decent package as I have come to expect from Gainward.

Clock Speeds

Gainward have chosen to go for 550/1760 for the clock speeds of the card, along with 1200MHz on the stream processor clock. This should certainly help when pushing those pixels, although it is slightly lower than the XFX "XXX" Edition on the memory and certainly quite a bit lower on the stream processor clock.


8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 3
XFX "XXX" Edition 8800GTS 640mb

Packaging

XFX's new style packaging looks really simple and has a great visual impact when you first see it. The white contrasts well with the CGI character on the box. The rear of the box has some of the normal nVidia product blurb and the side has some key features listed.

xfx xfx xxx edition 8800gtx box

The inside of the box sees a lot of foam padding for your graphics card, providing a nice buffer against those careless delivery drivers.

The Card

Once again XFX have gone with the excellent stock nVidia cooler on the XFX 8800GTS "XXX" edition. There is nothing wrong with the cooler so you cannot fault both companies for providing the cards with this.

I do feel that it would have been nice to see some aftermarket cooling to help the cards really "stand out" from the crowd.

xfx xx edition 8800gts card xfx xx edition 8800gts card rear

Having said the above I very much prefer the black PCB that XFX have used for their card as it adds just that little bit of "cool" to the package. Once again the branding is pretty striking and the GTS definitely looks good clothed in white.

Package

In the box you get:

* XFX pictoral quick install guide
* XFX Important Tips and Information sheet
* S-Video adaptor guide sheet
* Drivers CD
* 2 x DVI to VGA adaptors
* 1 x S-Video to component cable
* 1 x S-Video to S-Video cable

xfx xxx edition package

And that's it. Pretty spruce on the software front if you ask me with no bundled games and no DVD sofware.

On the hardware side there is no composite cable supplied at all and no PCI-e power adaptor such as Gainward provide. An S-Video to S-Video cable is, however, provided.

Clock Speeds

XFX ramp up the clock speeds on their "XXX" overclocked edition card to 550/1800 giving a slight increase in memory speed. Also overclocked are the stream processors that are running at an impressive 1500Mhz, 300MHz quicker than the Gainward card and therefore naturally 300MHz more than stock. This is a pretty impressive out-of-the-box overclock from XFX.


8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 4
overclocked 8800gts shootout

Test Setup

To test these high-end nVidia cards I set a PC that gives as little of a bottleneck as possible.

The setup is:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: abit IN9 32x max Motherboard
RAM: Mushkin XP2-6400 4-4-4-12
Sound: Creative Labs X-Fi fatal1ty FPS
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0
Power: Silverstone Zeus 560w
Case: Silverstone TJ09
Cooling: Scythe Infinity


As I have previously tested both the stock 8800GTX (click) and the 8800GTS (click) I am going to do this review slightly differently from normal. Usually the reviews focus on Image Quality and game-play playable settings but instead I am going to focus on Frames Per Second at set resolutions.

I am still using a manual run-through of the games listed, exactly the same as in previous reviews, but doing it slightly differently to get some consistant numbers. Notice that for all games I ran through with 4 x AA and 8 x AF @ 1920 x 1200. For all of the 3Dmark benchmarks I did two runs. One run was with the stock settings that the free version of the benchmark comes with and one was with 4 x AA @ 1920 x 1200.

For installation I have installed the card as usual with the normal PCI-E power dongle. Checked that the card is seated correctly and powered on.

I am using a clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 with all the latest patches.

Both cards are using the latest nVidia 97.92 Forceware drivers.

Overclocking was performed using Rivatuner on both cards.

Cards tested:

8800gts shootout


Gainward Bliss 8800GTS "Golden Sample". Core Speed: 550. Memory Speeds: 1760 (880). Stream processor clock 1200MHz.

XFX 8800GTS "XXX" Edition
. Core Speed 550. Memory speed 1800 (900). Stream processor clock 1500MHz.



8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 5
Counter Strike: Source

Counter Strike: Source is a hugely popular online FPS game based on the Source engine by Valve. This will show what a typical gamer will play on their PC and is a great indication of real-world gaming performance as the engine is so scalable.

counter strike source

The XFX card was clearly ahead in Counter Strike: Source showing that pure clock speed isn't everything.

Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing at these high resolutions. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow.

Let's see how the cards fared here:

call of duty 2

The XFX is clearly ahead in the Call of Duty benchmarks despite the similar main clock speed. The gameplay was still incredibly playable on both cards.




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F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's top of the line GPU's. I fully patched version the game with the latest patch. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

fear fps 8800gts


Once again F.E.A.R. is a pretty even match for both cards, without the large lead shown by the XFX in Counter Strike: Source.

Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that nVidia traditionally did well on being an OpenGL game. Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.

quake 4 fps 8800gts

The XFX had a slight edge in Quake 4, those faster stream processors giving the speed boost. I actually thought that the gameplay was slightly affected by the extra speed, but certainly not to a huge jump in gameplay.

Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the high-end cards here. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card.

I enforced 4 x AA onto the game as nVidia cards now support AA and HDR in Oblivion.

oblivion fps 8800gts

Oblivion again shows a slight lead for the XFX card although this did not particularly affect the gameplay, once again.


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Benchmarking - 3DMark

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all of the cards. I used 3dMark 03, 05 and 06. All benches were performed at stock speeds for this section. I ran all benchmarks from the stock settings as well as at 1920 x 1200 (4 x AA).

3dMark 03

First we start with 3dMark03. This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the card will run on games that rely on DX 8.

3dmark03 8800gts

The XFX card really takes the benchmarks by storm here. Those extra 300MHz on the stream processors really counting in the benchmarks.

3dMark05

I ran 3dMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.

3dmark05 8800gts

Again the XFX card dominates in this benchmark despite the clock frequencies being the same.

3dMark06

3dMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0. This benchmark is very taxing for the cards and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark. Seeing as this was run with the exact same CPU this was not an issue.

3dmark06 8800gts

Once again a pretty big jump in 3DMarks for the XFX card in '06. It seems that those stream processors running faster really makes a difference in heavy benchmarking.


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Overclocking

To overclock both of these top-end GPU's I used Rivatuner 2 final release. No voltage tweaking or modding was done to the cards either to give them an extra edge.

I then ran a benchmark of 3DMark06 to ensure stability and give you an idea of what sort of an increase you are looking at.

Here are the results:

8800gts shootout overclocks

As you can see the Gainward card overclocked a hell of a lot more than the XFX card, managing a 19% increase in core clock speeds and 14% memory speed increase. That means that each card got:

Gainward overclocked speeds: 656/1007
XFX overclocked speeds: 620/1007

XFX performed pretty well on the memory side but the core really wouldn't stretch any further. However let's see what this really adds up to in a benchmark situation:

3DMark06 overclocked performance

Here's what the cards got:

3dmark06 overclocked 8800gts shootout

The XFX card still managed to outgun the Gainward card, even after having a lot higher clock speeds. The clocking up of the stream processors by XFX is really showing as the difference in performance between the cards.


8800GTS shootout - XFX 8800GTS XXX vs Gainward 8800GTS "Golden Sample" Page: 9
Conclusion

Comparing the cards against each other sees XFX winning straight out on every benchmark. clocking those stream processors up to 1500MHz over the stock speed of 1200MHz really makes a difference.

The only downfall of this is that this seems to inhibit overclocking, but seeing as how the XFX card still beats out the Gainward Golden sample with 34Mhz lower core clock speed I don't think this is a huge issue.

Where can you get the cards from?

Tekheads stock the "XXX" Edition for £299
Dabs stock the "XXX" Edition for £329

Update
Aria UK stock the Gainward card for £293 the Golden sample

The XFX "XXX" Edition card seems to be a pretty good bet for your money if you are looking for a blazingly fast 8800GTS and cannot stretch to a GTX. XFX offer a "Double Lifetime" warranty in the US, but disappointingly, do not offer this in Europe.

At this point it's worth mentioning the 320mb cards that are available, which seem exceptional value for money with only a small performance hit. For around £200 you can grab one of these cards (XFX Gainward) and you have yourself a great performing card at an even better price. Certainly something to add into consideration when looking at the 8800 series. Also note XFX are bundling G.R.A.W. with these cards.

The XFX "XXX" edition gets "Editors Choice" and also "Recommended" for being a blazingly fast 8800GTS with looks to match.

Editors Choice Award Recommended Award

Pro's

+ Extremely fast
+ Good looks
+ Solid Hardware bundle
+ Decent Overclocking

Con's

- Bad software bundle
- Slightly expensive compared to normal 8800GTS

The Gainward card gets out-gunned by the XFX but it is still a solid card and produces a very nice overclock. It gets a "Recommended" Award.

Recommended Award

Pro's

+ Fast
+ Excellent software bundle
+ Solid hardware bundle
+ Very good overclocking

Con's

- Again slightly expensive compared to the normal 8800GTS
- Beaten out by XFX "XXX" Edition card
- Stock stream processors

Thanks to Gainward and XFX for Supplying the review sample

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