XFX have a reputation for making the fastest Nvidia cards on the market and the Ultra is currently the fastest card there is available. Branded with XFX's "Extreme" logo and sporting a 650MHz clock rate and some fast shader processors, we put this beast to the test.
XFX have branded their top range card with their usual CGI character. The Ultra's box is rather large so the card would look impressive on the shelf.
There's plenty of info on the box and XFX have made sure that the Extreme Editiom logo is there on the front of the box.
The inside of the box is as usual well packed and padded. The foam packaging in the XFX box more than adequately protects the expensive contents inside it.
The package in the XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" Edition is about what you would expect in a top end card. The hardware included in the box sets you up with everything you need as you should expect. Software-wise you get a driver disc and also included is Lost Planet. Whilst this title isn't the best, it's a DX10 game which will allow you to utilise the cards DX10 capabilities.
* Quick install guide * Quick reference manual * S-Video reference sheet * Driver CD * Lost Planet (DX10) - *not shown, but included in retail sample* * 1 x S-Video to component cable * 2 x DVI to VGA cables * 1 x S-Video to S-Video cable
A nice bundle when you take into account I had the review sample without Lost Planet.
From XFX's website:
Memory Interface 384 bit Memory Bandwidth 103.7 GB/sec Fill Rate 39.2 billion/sec Chipset GeForce™ 8800 Ultra RAMDACs 400 MHz Stream Processors 128 Dual Link DVI - Supporting digital output up to 2560x1600 Dual Shader Clock 1620 MHz Clock rate 650 MHz Memory Clock 2.2 GHz Game Bundle GRAW Chipset GeForce 8800 Ultra Memory 768 MB Bus Type PCI-E Memory Type DDR3 Memory Bus 384 bit Highlighted Features HDTV ready , HDCP Ready , SLI ready , RoHS , Dual DVI Out , Vista
XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" Edition Page: 2 XFX 8800 Ultra Extreme Edition, a close up
XFX has gone with the standard heatsink/fan combo seen on most of the 8800 Ultra's. The outer shell casing is made out of dark plastic and the only branding on the card is the XFX logo on the fan. The heatsink itself is copper base with aluminium heatpipe and certainly does the job on the 8800 series.
Being a rather large card, the 8800 Ultra is a striking beast and certainly looks good in a case with a window.
The card is well made as is usual by XFX and comes with the normal black PCB we've become accustomed to.
Input wise, XFX have gone with the HDCP enabled double Dual Link DVI out, plus an S-Video TV-out. The great thing about the TV-out is that XFX have supplied the hardware to really get going if you want to plug your TV into the card.
As usual the 8800 cooler does a very good job of keeping the card cool. The fan is quiet and efficient, barely getting above a whisper and temperatures are good, even for an 8 series. Running at 64°C idle and 79°C load in a fairly warm room (25°C), you would find it hard to fault it.
Now we've taken a look at the card, let's see what the figures look like.
XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" 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. The Test setup used for the cards is this:
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 8800GTS Fatal1ty Edition card used the nVidia 173.71 Forceware drivers.
The ATI card was installed with the Catalyst Control Center 7.9's.
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.
Taken that these are top-end cards, they should all do well here.
The XFX card just edges Call of Duty 2 above the Gainward Ultra, perhaps showing that the cards are performing about as well as the game engine can scale to at this resolution and detail level.
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. looked stunning at this level of detail and resolution, but what do our numbers say?
Here the XFX Ultra really steals the march on the other cards, although the XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty is still pretty close.
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:
And the figures say:
Again the powerful XFX 8800 Ultra Extreme Edition tops the charts. All of the games on this page played smoothly and were a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" 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 engine is where the XFX Ultra should really rip up some numbers, so lets check what happened.
The difference between the top end cards in this slightly older game engine is less pronounced, but as you can see, the XFX Extreme Edition Ultra does the job.
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.
Naturally in this less demanding game benchmark, the Ultra performs very well...but I don't think you'll be needing an Ultra to run CNC3!
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.
The Ultra shows it can handle this new, awesome looking game and indeed game engine. UT3 is going to be a big game so it's great that the current cards cope with it well, albeit in the DirectX 9.0c form.
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).
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.
The Ultra shows that it is one of the fastest cards out there with a great 3DMark03 result.
I ran 3dMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.
All of the top end cards show their performance in this benchmark, although the 2900XT is very fast in 3DMark05.
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.
Again in the more advanced 3DMark06 benchmark the Ultra shows it's quality by outperforming all of the fastest cards we've had through our labs.
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.
Here's what happened when I started tinkering with clock speeds...
The highly factory-overclocked XFX Extreme Edition 8800 Ultra didn't manage to get as high a clock as the other cards here. This is bound to be because XFX are already stretching this card to its limits.
A smallish improvement in 3DMark scores shows that the overclocking did have an effect, but not as large as we have seen previously.
Again, as previously stated in other reviews, the cooler hardly ramps up even during heavy overclocking which is always a good bonus.
The XFX 8800 Ultra "Extreme" Edition is a very fast card. If you're out to get one of the best performing cards on the market then it's certainly the card to take a look at. With a speedy 650MHz clock speed, fast 1620MHz stream processors and highly clocked 2200MHz memory, it's lightening fast out of the box.
Having said that: there is a price to pay for a card this fast. At £440 the card comes with a rather large pricetag. Considering the excellent XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty performs pretty darn well for under half the price, it's hard to recommend the card solely on price.
The actual gaming experience from having an Ultra is superb and by having a screamingly fast single card you're avoiding issues with SLI if you choose a solution with two cheaper 8800 GTS, so on that front it's a good choice.
The XFX 8800 Ultra gets a "Recommended" Award for being the fastest card to go through our labs to date...but with a proviso that there are other cards that you might be best spending your money on, as well as considering a certain something that may be coming to the shelves next week...
+ Excellent performance + Great cooler as standard + Overclocked out of the box