We've already taken a look at nVidia's G80 in a previous review of the 8800GTXand now it's the turn of it's little brother the 8800GTS. Heralded as the "best bang for buck" currently available with DX10 compatability, the 8800GTS looks to be a killer card at a half-reasonable price.
Today we're sizing up XFX's 8800GTS to see how it performs.
XFX have always had striking packaging and this time is no exception with it's mascot showing on the front of the box in quite a striking way contrasted against a white background. No actual pictures of the card on the front but turn over and you have some relatively useless info along with the 8800GTS in all it's glory.
Moving steadily on we see that the inside of the box is packaged very well with a fully foam-clad interior. XFX packaging is always excellent and this is no exception.
All nice and snug and the card won't even get near damaged unless the box gets run over by the delivery lorry.
Here's what you get when you purchase this high-end card: • S-Video > High Def Conponent Cable • S-Video > S-Video Cable • 2 x DVI > VGA Converters • Quick Install Guide • TV-out Quick Reference Guide • XFX "Play Hard" Tips and Techniques • X-Gear Mini-catalogue • Driver CD
The package XFX is giving out with the 8800GTS is slightly lacking in the software department. With only a driver CD in there you feel a bit lacking when you open the box. However upon speaking the the XFX rep about this he has said that they are encouraging their retail partners to include some sort of games bundle with the cards such as Splinter Cell. This seems to not be the case now, but it was at release.
There is plenty enough on the hardware side to satisfy anyone wanting to hook this up to a TV but once again an inclusion of some sort of DVD software would have boosted the bundle.
XFX 8800GTS Page: 2 The Card - XFX 8800GTS
The card itself is physically much more of a reasonable size than it's 8800GTX counterpart. This is an absolute bonus for those enthusiasts with smaller form factor machines or perhaps ATX cases that are a little on the diminutive size.
I stuck the card next to a 7900GTX for a comparison:
The card itself has a nice looking cooler that is the same as the cooler on the GTX variant. Another pleasing thing with the GTS is that it has only one power adapter meaning that those who don't have a Quad SLI ready PSU won't need one to run SLI.
I like the graphic work that XFX have put on their card, although it may not be to some people's tastes. It's worth noting that nVidia also only put one SLI connecter on the GTS variant of the card...so no plans for triple-SLI for the GTS then...
The capacitors on the card are clustered around the power connecter.
You may notice these are all high-quality solid-state capacitors.
Dual DVI and S-Video for TV/HDTV out with HDCP support is on show...along with a backplate that shows every finger mark!
Let's take a look at the back of the card:
Pretty standard fare on the back of the card although perhaps even more queezed in than it is on the GTX. RoHS compliancy is included for the Europeans.
Dual Link DVI - Supporting digital output up to 2560x1600
DUAL Memory Clock 1.6 GHz
Clock rate 500 MHz
Chipset GeForce 8800 GTS
Memory 640 MB
Bus Type PCI-E
Memory Type DDR3
Memory Bus 320 bit
Highlighted Features RoHS , Dual DVI Out , TV Out , HDTV ready , HDCP Ready , SLI ready
The cooler on the 8800GTS managed to keep the card running at a reasonable 59°C idle and 70°C load. During full load the coolers excellent ergonomic fan never got above a whisper and I was pleasently suprised when I ran the card on it's own without any othwer case fans on that it ran so very quietly. As stated before an impressive job by nVidia.
The heatpipe is seemingly an ever-present in the world of top-end graphics cards at the moment. nVidia decided that a copper contact with Aluminium heatpipe and cooler was ok for the card...seems to do the trick.
The fan on the 8800GTS does the trick and it will be barely audible in almost any high-end system.
XFX 8800GTS Page: 3 How we tested
With the pure speed of cards out on the market at the moment I tend to focus on gameplay in my reviews. I will play each of the test suite games on as high settings as I could possibly play them at while maintaining a frame rate that is enjoyable to play at. If the quality of the gaming looks the same at different settings then I will choose the setting with the best FPS. This differs from game to game and person to person but I play a lot of games and have played with a lot of graphics cards so I hope that I can impart a decent opinion. To offset this angle I also run a test suite of 3dMark03, 05 and 06. These will give you some numbers on what the cards perform like at stock speeds, for comparison. Overclocking on the nVidia 8800GTS was done using Rivatuner 16.2 beta and no volt mods (software or hardware) were performed on the card.
For this high-end card I am using an overclocked Core2Duo E6600 running at 3.33GHz. Hopefully this will rule out as much bottleneck caused by the processor as possible.
Intel Core2Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz Asus P5W Dh Deluxe Mushkin HP2 PC6400 running at SPD (CAS 5) due to motherboard restrictions HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0 Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS Power: OCZ Gamexstream 850w Case: Lian Li PC75b Project <<|Black3D|>> Custom Watercooling
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 X1950XTX is using the Cat 6.10's. For the 7950GX2 I am using nVidia's official Forceware drivers - 91.43. For the 8800GTX I am using 97.02's and for the 8800GTS I will use the 97.44's.
For reference I am using some figures from previously reviewed cards that used the same setup:
XFX 8800GTS Page: 4 Please note all game tests are at best playable settings, so use the graph and settings sheet in reference with one another. See our Test Setup page for details
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 played a fuly patched game with the latest updates. 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. Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for F.E.A.R. on a Dell 2405FPW display:
And the minimum, maximum and average FPS for those settings shown above:
Once again we see that the 8800 series really makes gaming on DirectX 9.0c their own. F.E.A.R. looks awesome with this level of detail. It's worth noting that putting QAA on with the GTS made it unplayable at 8 x AA, whereas the GTX managed this.
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. Will the 8800GTS compete with "Big Brother"?
Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Call of Duty on a Dell 2405FPW display:
And the minimum, maximum and average FPS for those settings shown above:
Here again the 8800GTS gets some very gorgeous looking results. It seems that at stock setting 8 x QAA isn't as achievable as it is on the GTX variant of the 8800. However 8 x AA with HQAF is pretty special isn't it?
XFX 8800GTS Page: 5 Please note all game tests are at best playable settings, so use the graph and settings sheet in reference with one another. See our Test Setup page for details
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that has not always ran so well on ATI hardware, 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 getting a little old now but still proves pretty challenging at higher resolution and detail levels.
Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Quake 4 on a Dell 2405FPW:
And the minimum, maximum and average FPS for the above settings:
Once again the GTS shows us what it can do in tough gaming situations on DirectX 9.0c. Quake looks great at these detail levels.
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. This benchmark really tests today's cards and ATI cards seem to do very well in this game, with older nVidia cards lagging behind slightly. Also note that I used the "Chuck" patch to enable AA and HDR for the ATI cards this was integrated in ATI's latest drivers. The nVidia cards allowed me to run the game with AA and HDR just using the driver settings to force AA.
Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Oblivion on a Dell 2405FPW display:
And the minimum, maximum and average FPS for the above settings:
Oblivion is the most challenging game out today and the 8800GTS coped excellently with the stunning levels of detail and draw distance available in the game. Just lagging behind the 8800GTX by missing of the "Q" on the 8 x AA, the 8800GTS made light work of this superbly detailed game. Oblivion played on the 8 series is something you really need to witness, especially if you're a fan of the game.
NB - Counter Strike Source and HL2-based Games
There is a slight problem with the rendering of fog in the HL2 engine. nVidia's cards are rendering the fog as it is supposed to be in the DirectX Specs, but the HL2 engine does not seem to render this in a standard way, producing some strange effects. See screenshot below:
Please note there is no smoke layed down by a player in this picture: it is merely the environmental dust on the map "Dust 2"
nVidia had this to say in their driver notes:
Issue Half-Life 2 Lost Coast: GeForce 8800 GTX fog looks different than GeForce 7900 GTX fog, and dynamic shadows look solid black.
Comment "The GeForce 8800 GTX image quality matches the Microsoft Reference Rasterizer. This issue may affect other Half-Life 2 based engines such as Counter-Strike Source and Half-Life Episode 1. NVIDIA is working with the application developer to try to patch their application."
XFX 8800GTS Page: 6 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 just like the free versions to give you a good comparison of scores. Whilst the older benchmarks won't test these high-end cards now, it's nice to have some reference numbers. The Results were as follows:
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 shows that the 8800GTS lags slightly behind it's GTX partner, but the score is reasonable.
I ran 3dMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.
Once again we see that the GTX is ahead in 3DMark05, but the 8800GTS has caught up with the slightly older (but dual-GPU) 7950GX2.
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.
Here we see the GTS holding the same sort of position as before. This is pretty impressive as the 7950GX2 is dual-GPU and seems to do very well in synthetic benchmarks. The GTS could be a good card to get to get some numbers...as we will see on the next page: it overclocks shall we say...well
XFX 8800GTS Page: 7 Overclocking
To overclock the 8800GTS I had to use Rivatuner version 16.2 beta. Whereas before I would use the coolbits reg tweak for a "quick OC" nVidia have disabled this in the control panel and even using nTune this does not seem to want to work. Still: I got some nice results from Rivatuner! Stability was made sure of by RTHDRIBL and a couple of 3DMark06 runs.
Let's see what was achieved over the stock clocks of 500/1600:
A stonking 658/868 (1736Mhz effective). That's an impressive 158MHz on the core and 136MHz on the memory. After achieving this easy overclock with no volt mods I took a look to see how this would affect a 3DMark06 run.
How did it do?
An improvement of 889 3DMarks over the stock settings is very healthy indeed. Put the card under some good watercooling or phase change and we have an awesome card. XFX are well known for their very overclockable cards and it looks like this is no exception!
EDIT: Please read
Upod discussion with a few people I decided to try clocking the card a bit higher. I managed a higher and still bench/game stable: 658/1003 (2006Mhz effective)
I have no idea why this didn't quite get this far in the first try, but as you can see an effective memory clock of over 2000MHz was managed. The core was the same and the 3DMark score only differed by an extra 50 marks.
The 8800GTS seems to be set at a great entry price point for those of us wanting to get into a DirectX 10 compatibility as an early adopter. Not only that but the results it gets in DirectX 9.0c are pretty superb. If you're looking to the high end you cannot really go wrong investing in one of these babies.
The bundle XFX have put with the card is pretty minimal although some online suppliers have been known to bundle a game with it which helps. XFX have always been known for great hardware, however, and they have not disappointed with an extremely overclockable card. I have checked a few people with the retail unit and most are getting similar overclocks so it's looking good. At £319 @ Specialtech the card hits a nice pricepoint, although there are some out there cheaper.
The only thing that holds me back from giving this some more fancy awards is the lack of DirectX 10 as of yet, but with Vista on it's way soon it got to be fairly soon (hopefully).
The XFX 8800GTS gets OC3D "Gamers Choice" and is highly recommended by us here at Overclock3D.
+ Great Cooler + Awesome performance + Very overclockable + future-proof
- Lack of DirectX 10 right now - Bundle somewhat lacking
XFX have also released a pre-overclocked (and therefore fully warranted) version of this card:
A choice of the top-of-the-line 8800 GTX XXX Edition, overclocked from the standard 575Mhz Core/1.8Mhz Memory Clock speed to a red-lined 630 Mhz Core/2.0 Ghz Memory clock and a super-high-performance 8800 GTS XXX Edition dialed up from a standard 500 Mhz Core/1.6 Memory clock speed to 550 Mhz Core/1.8 Ghz Memory clock speed.