XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 1
Introduction

Whenever a new graphics card comes out there's always people asking if "this one's worth buying". My job is to take the newest, latest and greatest and to test them as thoroughly as I can so I can hopefully answer that question for those who simply must know.

With that in mind, today I'll be looking at the talked about and anticipated 8800GT. With 112 shader processors and clocked at a stonking 670MHz, the XFX 8800 GT XXX Edition looks pretty great on paper. I'll be taking you through what exactly you can expect from this new card.

Brief Techie Bit

8800 gt naked

OK so we have to have some form of explanation of what's changed between the previous iteration G80 chips and the 8800 GT G92 chip.

First off, Nvidia have moved to a 65nm process, but still with more transistors than G80 (754Million versus a measly 681Million to be correct). This is mainly due to Nvidia adding to the video processing power of the actual chip. In G80, Nvidia used an external chip to process video (VP2), now it resides in the G92's silicon.

Nvidia have also added some features to keep the frames pumping along smoothly at higher resolutions. This should certainly help those wanting to run big res displays. In addition to these two...additions (sorry ran out of words in that one), Nvidia has increased the amount of texture address units to texture filtering units. This should mean that memory bandwidth performance is improved as is performance.

Nvidia have also settled for a "middle ground" in the GT as far as memory is concerned, using a 512mb memory size, on a 256mb memory bus.

Packaging

XFX have again used the familiar cybernetic dog on their packaging. The 8800 GT XXX Edition has been christened the "Alpha Dog" Edition and the packaging again reflects this.

XFX 8800 gt alpha dog edition

xfx 8800 gt packaging 2

As usual, XFX have done a good job with the packaging for the card. Any gamer worth their salt should know that this card can "do the bizz".

xfx 8800 gt alpha dog

Packaged up tightly with foam and a few layers of cardboard, your baby won't be getting hurt unless the delivery driver decides to play hit and run with it.

Package

XFX have gone and put together a superb bundle with the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog edition. Consisting of:

* 2 x DVI to VGA connectors
* 1 x S-Video to S-Video connector
* 1 x S-Video to Component connector
* 1 x Dual molex power to PCI-e power connector
* 1 x Instruction manual
* 1 x Quick install guide
* 1 x "I'm Gaming: Do not disturb" Door sign
* 1 x S-Video connector sheet
* 1 x Driver Disc
* 1 x Full Game Company of Heroes

xfx 8800 gt xxx edition bundle

By anyone's standards that's a pretty good deal of bundle to be included in a graphics card package. Of course, Company of Heroes has a DirectX 10 patch so you can play a DirectX 10 game right out of the box. Impressive stuff indeed, especially as CoH is a great game and an AAA title.

Specification

Taken from information provided by XFX:

MFG Model Number:    PVT88PYDD4            
Product Name:    XFX GEFORCE 8800 GT 512MB PCI-E XXX EDITION
Package Contents:    Driver CD, Installation Guide, S-Video Cable, DVI Adapter, Company of Heroes DVD CD
Main Description:    GEFORCE 8800 GT 512MB / ALPHA DOG XXX EDITION / PCI-E 2.0
Supplemental Description:    DDR3 / DUAL DVI / HDTV / HDCP / RoHS / Vista Ready / Company of Heroes Game Bundle
Chipset:    GF 8800 GT            
BUS Type:    PCI-E 2.0            
GPU Clock    670 MHz            
Memory Bus    256-bit            
Memory Type    DDR3            
Memory Size    512MB            
Memory Speed    1.95 GHz            
Shader clock    1650            
Cooling Type    FANSINK            
HDTV OUT    YES            
VGA    NO            
DVI OUT    YES (DUAL)            
DUAL-LINK DVI    YES (DUAL)            
Max Supported Resolution    2560 X 1600            
HDMI    NO            
RoHS    YES            
HDCP    YES            
NVIDIA-SLI READY    YES            
Windows Vista Ready    YES            
Low Profile Compatible    NO

As I said earlier: the cards looks to be pretty nice for your money, so let's get going!

XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 2
Close Up - XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition

The first thing you notice about the card is that the 8800 series has suddenly lost a lot of weight. No longer the dual slot girth of the GTS/GTX/Ultra, the 8800 GT has lost a few inches. This is seriously good news for those who want those adjoining PCI slots for useful things like sound cards and RAID controllers.

8800 gt side on

A nice touch is the "GeForce" logo on the side of the card. Now people will know you've got an Nvidia card nestling in your case.

8800 gt xfx card front 8800 gt xfx card rear

The heatsink covers the whole card and Nvidia have included a rather piddly looking fan...more on that later. XFX have branded the card again with their Alpha dog character, which doesn't intrude too much on the aesthetics of the card too much. The funny thing about this card is that it feels somehow less powerful with a single slot cooler, just from looks alone (I'll admit: I'm a bit strange). E-Penises aside, it's not a bad looking card, apart from missing the usual XFX sexy black PCB.

xfx 8800 gt xxx edition cooler xfx 8800 gt xxx edition cooler 2

Another good thing about the 8800 GT is that it doesn't need extra power for those few extra shader processors, or additional features that G92 has packed in there.
8800gt xfx xxx edition power

Here again we see just how thin the card really is. It's 100% a single slot card with a nice single power inlet. Now let's see how big it looks when we stick the beastly 8800 U next to it...

8800 gt size comparison 8800 gt size

It's almost as if Nvidia said "right lads, we've run out of materials, start making small cards now". Of course, 65nm will certainly help this along...

8800 gt outputs

As usual with the latest cards, Nvidia have produced a card with two Dual-link DVI outputs as well as a TV out. The card is again HDCP-ready for those with spangly HDTV's with HDCP.

The Cooler

The cooler is somewhat of an enigma to me. Whilst it keeps the 65nm G92 at 53°C idle, it loads the card up at 78°C load. Whilst this is still decent for a current gen chip it does make me wonder just how good the cooler is.

xfx 8800 gt cooler 8800 gt paste

8800 gt naked

As you can see, the cooler is made of a copper base with aluminium fins and memory contact area. XFX have applied a liberal spread of thermal paste, perhaps a little too much, but overall the cooler does OK.

Noise

Right now I don't have any type of scientific sound recording equipment so you will have to rely on my ears for now.

8800 gt fan 8800 gt fan 2

Which would quite frankly be bleeding if the cards fan was set to 100% all of the time. Luckily it never breaks a sweat in games (obviously Nvidia realised this would be a sticking point), and so you simply do not hear it. However, open up nTune and put that coolers fan on 100% and you will start crying. The noise is basically unbearable, so beware if this is something you do to keep your card that much cooler when overclocking.

Gratuitious pictures:

8800 gt vs ultra 8800 gt xxx edition


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 3
Test Setup and notes

To test these high-end cards I set a PC that gives as little of a bottleneck as possible. The Test setup used for the cards is this:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: XFX 650i Ultra
RAM: 2gb 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

Games Tested:

DX9.0c

Call of Duty 2
F.E.A.R.
Oblivion
Quake 4
Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Bioshock DX 9.0c path

I am 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.

The 8800GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition card used the nVidia 169.02 Forceware drivers.

Note that the two Ultra cards were tested earlier using 173.71 drivers

The ATI card was installed with the Catalyst Control Center 7.9's.

DX10 Comparison Setup

UT3 Beta
Crysis
Bioshock

Testing was performed on a clean install of Vista, with the 169.02 drivers.

Cards

XFX 8800 GT. Core Speed: 670. Memory Speed: 1950 (975). Stream Processor Clock: 1650MHz.

XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" Edition. Core Speed: 650. Memory speeds: 2200 (1100). Stream processor clock: 1650MHz.

XFX 8800GTS 320mb "Fatal1ty" Edition. Core Speed: 650. Memory speeds: 2000 (1000). Stream processor clock: 1500MHz.

Gainward 8800 Ultra. Core Speed: 612. Memory Speed 900 (1800). Stream processor clock 1500MHz

MSI 8800 GTX. Core Speed: 575. Memory speeds: 2200 (1100). Stream processor clock: 1350MHz.

Sapphire HD 2900 XT. Core Speed 740. memory speed 1650 (825). Stream processor clock 320MHz.

Overclocking on the nVidia cards was performed using RivaTuner, and the Nvidia control panel using nTune for the 8800GT.

Overclocking on the ATI card was performed using AMD GPU Overclocking Tool.

XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 4
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.

G80 breezed through CoD 2, will the 8800 GT do the same?

cod 2 fps

Only just behind the two Ultra cards, the 8800GT beats out the 8800GTX in Call of Duty 2. It seems the new additions to G92 chip have improved speed pretty nicely.

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 used a fully patched version of 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.

We know F.E.A.R. will look stunning at this resolution and no doubt that the 8800 GT will play the game well, but will it play it better than G80?
 
fear fps

Here the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition again does well, coming close and to one of the Ultra's and beating out the excellent Fatal1ty GTS.
 
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.

Settings used are below:

oblivion settings
 
Here is the FPS graph

oblivion fps

Again the 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition does very well. Oblivion is a tough game to crack but it's certainly one that the 8800 GT does well with.


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 5
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.

Historically, Nvidia have done very well in the Doom 3 engine and the 8800 GT should be no different.

quake 4 fps

Again the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition does very well against the competition. The GTX does have a higher FPS over the min-max-average in the game, but only by a small margin.

Command and Conquer 3

C&C3 is the much awaited RTS from EA. Hugely popular and with some pretty nice visuals almost every modern PC should be able to play it. I tested a skirmish right at the end when I had a screen full of mechs to defeat the enemy. AA was set to the highest level it could be in-game.

There shouldn't be much difference to the performance of all of the top cards here, but let's take a look.

cnc3 fps

Funnily enough, the 8800 GT performed a little under the rest of the top-end cards, but nothing that you would actually notice in-game.

Bioshock

Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. As I am hoping to do a DirectX 10 comparison once we have a few games out to test, I used the DirectX 9.0c path in Windows XP to test the game in this part of the review.

bioshock fps

Bioshock uses the UT3 engine and it has to be said that the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition performs very well. The UT3 engine obviously utilises more advanced features, taxing the card more than the other games.


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 6
DirectX 10 Performance

DirectX 10 is currently in it's infancy. Using more advanced features and some pretty cool techniques (details here), DirectX 10 is the future of gaming. For all benchmarks I've included the associated numbers for DirectX 9.0c and the DirectX 10 numbers for the 8800 GTX for reference.

The trouble is, there are few titles out that are currently available that use DX10. What do we do?

Bioshock is based on the UT3 engine and there is currently a Multiplayer beta out of the same name. I am using both Bioshock and the UT3 Beta to try out DirectX 10. Another game that some people are rather excited about is Crysis...so we'd better include the current beta of that too hadn't we?

Remembering that these two are beta's, let's take a look.

Bioshock

Bioshock was played at 1920 x 1200 with full in-game settings.

How does the 8800 GT match up to Bioshock?

bioshock screenshot bioshock screenshot

Features specifically associated with DirectX10 in Bioshock are smoke/dust effects and water ripple effects.

bioshock directx 10

Here the 8800 GT does exceedingly well and indeed outperforms the 8800 GTX in DirectX 10 performance.

UT3 Beta

Remembering that UT3 is currently in the beta stage and so figures will not be final, let's see what the performance is like for UT3. UT3 was played at 1920 x 1200 with full settings in-game.

DirectX 9.0c screenshots

ut3 beta dx9.0c ut3 beta rocket

ut3 beta dx9.0c

DirectX 10 screenshots

ut3 beta dx10 ut3 beta screenshot

ut3 beta

ut3 beta fps

In UT3 the 8800 GTX seems to give slightly higher framerates and copes with the advanced engine a little better than the 8800 GT. Having said that, framerates are still high and more than acceptable.

The DirectX 10 version of the game looks a little more "cinematic" and gives a few more post processing effects. I think this makes the game look that little bit more polished on DX10 than DX9.0c.

Crysis Beta

Crysis is also currently in beta stage so please be aware of this as you read the numbers. It is looking to be the game that really takes graphics forward and the only game coming out soon that fully utilises DirectX 10. DirectX 10 really looks like it is going to be taken to the next level with Crysis.

Note that Crysis was played at 1368 x 768 with details on "Very High" with 2 x AA, which was only very barely playable in DX10. DirectX 9.0c was set to 1680 x 1050 with 2 x AA and settings on "High", which is the maximum you can set it to without DirectX 10.

DirectX 9.0c Screenshots

crysis dx9 csysis beta

crysis beta screenshots

DirectX 10 Screenshots

crysis beta dx10 crysis beta dx10

crysis beta dx10 3
crysis beta fps

Crysis has a far more major hit on FPS when you start playing in DirectX 10. It also looks far superior in quality and in-game effects, in my opinion. It has to be said that whilst 1368 x 768 was barely playable on the 8800 GTX, it was not playable on the 8800 GT. I set the settings to the same for consistency.

Crysis under DirectX 9.0c was easily playable on the 8800 GT at 1680 x 1050, 2 x AA...but it doesn't quite have that touch of magic and realism that the DX10 path does. Of course, the game is only in beta so it's a little early to judge performance solely on this.

DirectX10 Thoughts

It seems flexible engines such as the UT3 engine that have been designed with DX9.0c in mind will be fine for the 8800 GT to handle. However, I believe titles like Crysis will need significantly more firepower as they really show off what the API can do.


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 7
Benchmarking - 3DMark

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all of the cards. I used 3dMark 03, 05 and 06. 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 benchmark

Falling just behind the other cards (apart from the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty) in 3DMark03, the 8800 GT puts up a good fight in the earlier benchmark.

3DMark05

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

3dmark05 benchmark

In the stock resolution benchmark the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition card holds its own. However in the slightly higher resolution situations the better endowed cards start to step up a little.

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. This is the latest Futuremark benchmark and so carries a bit more weight for modern games than the previous two.

3dmark06 benchmark

The same pattern occurs in 3DMark06, with the XFX 8800 GT falling off a little at the higher resolution. There's no doubting, however, that the Alpha Dog Edition GT can beat out the fastest 8800 GTS we've tested in our labs.


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 8
Overclocking

Overclocking on the earlier nVidia cards was performed using Rivatuner Release 2. Overclocking on the HD 2900 XT was performed using the AMD GPU Overclocking Tool. For the XFX 8800 GT, I used nTune's GPU overclocking facility as RivaTuner's release client does not yet support the 8800 GT as far as I am aware.

A test run of 3DMark06 was performed after the overclock to verify stability and also if the OC was worth the time.

Note that no hard or soft mods were performed on the card apart from setting the higher clocks.

Results

Here's what I saw:

overclock graph

A none too shabby 57MHz on the core clock and a fairly standard 50MHz clock on the memory saw the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition shoot up to 732/2000. Not a huge overclock, but bear in mind that the card is clocked very high out of the factory anyway.

3dmark06 overclocked

Achieving a quite superb 3DMark06 score of 13126, the overclocking seems to be fairly worth your while. However, please note that this may void the excellent XFX warranty.

Again, I think an aftermarket cooler could put this card right up there in terms of core clocks.


XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition - G92 Performance Page: 9
Conclusion

The 8800 GT is a very good move by Nvidia. Closing up the mid- to high-range market by introducing the 8800 GT means that there is currently next to no choice at all when choosing a card in this price bracket...it has to be the 8800 GT.

XFX have put together a very nice package to go with their XXX Alpha Dog Edition 8800 GT. Containing an excellent AAA title, a very nice hardware bundle, and a very fast card means that you're onto a winner.

At £210 you simply cannot complain at the price and our recommended retailor Komplett should have them in stock for you soon! XFX have said that there is good stock on the way to e-tailers right now.

komplett rr

It is worth thinking about your card choice if what you really want to do is play Crysis at full detail and a very high resolution. It doesn't look like any single card in this generation is going to handle the DirectX 10 path right now in this title. Having said that, you can still get a decent experience at lower settings and all of the other games were more than playable at 1920 x 1200.

For a pretty much faultless performance in our benchmark suite, a cracking bundle and a speedy card, the XFX 8800 GT XXX Alpha Dog Edition gets Overclock3D's "Gamers Choice" Award, as well as the highly sought after "Editors Choice" Award.

gamers choice editors choice 

Thanks to XFX for the review sample!

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