XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition Page: 1
Introduction

XFX have somewhat of a reputation to uphold in the video card market. As one of nVidia's biggest AIB's they supply some of the fastest clocked cards money can buy.

Today I am looking at a card they have teamed up with Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendell to make. Their "PROFESS1ONAL" series are a set of cards clocked even higher than the rest of their cards, straight out of the factory. With 320mb DDR3 onboard and clock very high, how will it match up to a 640mb card? Let's see...

Packaging

As usual with their Profess1onal series, XFX have gone for the bright red and black packaging on the box. This would definitely stand out on the shelves as it is a striking and interesting design. The flipside, of course, is that XFX insist on putting Fatal1ty's face on everything, which could be enough to put people off.

fatal1ty 320mb 8800 gts

box appearance

Something I always love is being able to see the product through the packaging and XFX have certainly enabled you to do just that.

box inside 1

box inside 2

The inside of the box is up to XFX's usual excellent standards and your card will be well wrapped up for it's journey to your door.

Package

XFX have put together a nice little software package for the 8800GTS Fatal1ty Edition card. In the box is Lost Planet, which although is not to my taste, is a DirectX 10 game and a fairly big release. I was a little disappointed with the lack of HDTV hardware included but then you have to bear in mind that this is a card aimed at gamers and not HTPC enthusiasts. Also an S-Video adapter is included so most people should be able to get by with this.

Included is:

* Manual and Instructions booklet
* Quick Install Guide
* S-Video guide sheet
* Driver CD
* XFX "Don't disturb me I'm gaming" door sign
* Lost Planet Full game
* 1 x S-Video to S-Video connector
* 1 x DVI to VGA connector

package

Not a bad bundle by anyone's books and it should please those who are wanting to buy the card anyway.

Specification

MFG Model Number: PVT80GG1D4

Product Name: GF 8800 GTS 650M 320MB DDR3 DUAL DVI TV

Package Contents: S-Video Cable, DVI Adaptor x 2, HDTV Component Adaptor

Main Description: GEFORCE 8800 GTS 650M 320MB / DUAL DVI

Supplemental Description: HDCP / HDTV / PCI-E / DDR3 / RoHS / Vista

UPC Number: 778656044326

Chipset: GF 8800 GTS
BUS Type: PCI-E
GPU Clock 650 MHz
Memory Bus 320 bit
Memory Type DDR3
Memory Size 320MB
Memory Speed 2.0 GHz
Shader clock 1500 MHz
Cooling Type FANSINK
TV OUT YES
VGA NO
DVI OUT YES (DUAL)
DUAL-LINK DVI YES (DUAL)
Max Supported Resolution 2560x1600
HDMI NO
RoHS YES
HDCP YES
NVIDIA-SLI READY YES
Windows Vista Ready YES
Low Profile Compatible NO

Specs are looking good, let's take a look at the card.


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition Page: 2
Meet the card - XFX 8800GTS Fatal1ty Edition 320mb

XFX have kept the standard cooler for the 8800GTS on the card but brightened it up with a ncie red and black sticker. I would have liked to see an impressive cooler added to the card but I assume this would drive up costs and XFX want this aimed at a certain price range.

XFX 8800GTS front

8800 gts rear

The good thing about the sticker is that you can ignore Fatal1ty's face on it and imagine it's a cool red and black sticker with a random pattern on it...almost.

card power


card top

XFX have missed a trick here I think. There's space for a cool bit of branding on the edge of the card so that people with windows can show off the "XFX inside".

dual HDCP DVI

Two Dual-Link HDCP capable DVI ports reside on the card as you'd expect with an additional TV-Out for those wanting to hook it up to an HDTV. Of course if your TV's got VGA in you can make use of the DVI to VGA connector for that purpose too, though you lose the HDCP with the analogue connection.

The cooler

As with most other 8800GTS cards, the cooler on the Fatal1ty 8800 GTS is the stock copper base/aluminium pipe-fin combo that we've seen before. This is a pretty good cooler and I'm not surprised XFX have used it again here in all honesty. Surprisingly when recording the temperatures the card was pretty cool, a nice 52°C idle and 74°C load, better than some of the others tested previously.

xfx 8800gts fatal1ty cooler

The fan is quiet and will be fine for all but the most discerning quiet-PC enthusiast.


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition 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. Please note I am using the numbers from a previous review on the 8800 GTS shootout.

The Test setup used for the 8800GTS Fatal1ty 320mb and the 2900XT is:

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

The setup for the nVidia 8800 card roundup was:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: abit IN9 32x max Motherboard
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:

Call of Duty 2
F.E.A.R.
Oblivion
Quake 4
Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (Sapphire HD2900XT and XFX fatal1ty 8800GTS only)
Bioshock (DX 9.0c path - XFX Fatal1ty 8800GTS Only)

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.

Both nVidia cards from the roundup were using the nVidia 97.92 Forceware drivers.

The 8800GTS Fatal1ty Edition card used the nVidia 173.71 Forceware drivers.

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

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

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.

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

XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition 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.

Let's see how the Fatal1ty 8800 does here:

call of duty 2

The XFX Fatal1ty GTS keeps up with the others cards here and indeed beats them out by a few FPS. Only the 2900XT manages to top it on Maximum FPS.

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.

F.E.A.R. looks great on the 8 series for sure, but how playable was it?

fear fatal1ty gts


F.E.A.R. was very smooth and looked gorgeous on the 8800GTS Fatal1ty. The 320MB less memory making no difference to the gameplay. Those 1500MHz clocked shader processors and stellar clock speeds made all the difference getting the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty to the top of the pile here.

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

And the results:

oblivion fps

Strange results here but the XFX Fatal1ty 8800 GTS kept a far more playable frame rate than it's 640MB brothers with only the awesome Oblivion performance of the ATI hardware beating it to the top of the charts.


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition 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. The Doom 3 engine is where nVidia cards really come out tops, let's see how the Fatal1ty card gets on here.

quake 4 fatal1ty card

The XFX 8800GTS Fatal1ty 320MB stood up to the test, playing Quake 4 smoothly. Again only the 2900XT does better here, the XFX Fatal1ty card being top of the nVidia pile.

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.

cnc 3 fatal1ty

Both cards are pretty much at the best you can get in Command & Conquer 3. The XFX pips it on minimum FPS, whilst the 2900XT gets the highest average FPS.


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition Page: 6
DirectX 9 vs DirectX 10 Performance in Bioshock

For a little addition to our usual suite of benchmarks I thought I'd throw this test in.

Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it follows the DirectX 10 path by default in Vista with DX10 hardware. Noticeable enhancements to the graphical experience are prevalent in the water effects and the smoke effects especially.

To capture this I loaded up Vista on the exact same hardware as the rest of the review had been performed on and played identical parts of the game, keeping as close to the same gameplay in each as possible. I focused on parts of the game that had smoke, lighting and water effects whilst using a wide range of weapons and plasmids to create explosions and mayhem and generally keep the GPU working away.

bioshock screenie 1

bioshock 2

bioshock 3

bioshock 4

bioshock 5

Note that I played through several parts of the game in both DX9 and DX10 to get a good all-round view of performance.

Results

The results may just surprise you a little they certainly did for me. Whilst the minimum frame rate suffered a little in Vista under DX10, generally performance was almost identical between XP and Vista: DX9 and DX10. The little differences become noticeable the more you play the game and DX10 is showing glimpses of what all the fuss is about.

bioshock frames per second comparison

As I said: the DX10 path doesn't look all that bad at all for performance.

Unfortunately at this time I no longer had the 2900XT for a card to card comparison, but we're working on a DX9 vs DX10 roundup for you :)


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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. 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 performance

Gaining the lead in 3DMark03, the XFX Fatal1ty card is looking good for benchmarking.

3dMark05

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

3dmark05 benchmark

Just losing out to the 2900XT for DirectX 9 general performance in 3DMark05, the XFX Fatal1ty 8800 GTS 320mb does very well when the resolution and AA gets added into the equation.

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

Showing it really is "king of the Hill" in DX9.0c performance, the XFX 8800GTS Fatal1ty 320mb rules the roost in 3DMark06.


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition Page: 8
Overclocking

Overclocking on the nVidia cards was performed using Rivatuner Release 2. Overclocking on the HD 2900 XT was performed using the AMD GPU Overclocking Tool.

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 happened:

overclock graph

Here we can tell XFX really are taking the GPU to it's limits with a slightly lower overclock than we are used to seeing on an XFX card. Having said that we still managed 701MHz core and 2150MHz memory, not too shabby!

3dmark06 overclocked

The run of 3DMark06 shows that although the overclock was fairly small, it still gave us a 662 raise in 3DMarks.

Note that the fan still hardly ramped up during overclocking (I didn't enable this feature in RivaTuner). With some aftermarket cooling like a water-block I think this card could push even more...of course this would void that rather nice XFX warranty!


XFX 8800 GTS 320mb Fatal1ty Edition Page: 9
Conclusion

The XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty 320mb is a very very fast card, performing faster than even it's top-line 640mb rivals. With steaming stream processors at 1500MHz and a generous clock speed of 650MHz GPU and 2000MHz memory the card is claimed by XFX to be the fastest 8800GTS you can buy, and I am inclined to believe them.

Costing a pretty decent £255 from Komplett, the card doesn't blow your wallet away either.

komplett fatal1ty 8800 GTS

The XFX Fatal1ty 8800 GTS 320mb is an all-round performer and a great choice for your home PC. Overclocked out of the box to proportions most overclockers would be happy with, the card keeps your warranty intact while delivering performance that should be voiding it.

I am giving the XFX Fatal1ty 8800 GTS 320mb a "Best in Class" Award for mid-high range performance cards.

Best In Class Award

The Good

+ Steaming performance
+ Good bundle
+ Outperforms the competition
+ Nice looks
+ Great DX9 and DX10 performance

The Mediocre

* Price a little high for a 320mb card

The Bad

- Fatal1ty's face plastered everywhere?

Thanks to XFX for the review sample