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NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra Preview - Page 1 of 9

INTRODUCTION

On April 9th I received an overnight delivery from NVIDIA. I opened the package and pulled out the attractive metallic briefcase that bore the NVIDIA logo. After wrestling with the combination lock, I opened the briefcase and was looking at a reference graphics card powered by NVIDIA's next-generation NV40 graphics processing unit (GPU). The preview unit was tagged as NV40-A1 and will be branded as the GeForce 6800 Ultra when it hits retail in late May. Revision A1 was outfitted with a 400MHz graphics processor and 256MB of Samsung Graphics Dual Data Rate (GDDR3) memory operating at 550MHz.

A Special Delivery

Samsung markets GDDR3 memory as a hyper-synchronous double-data-rate DRAM. The high-end 1.2ns rated part can achieve clock speeds up to 800MHz, while lower rated modules consist of 1.429ns (700MHz), 1.667ns (600MHz), and 2.0ns (500MHz). GDDR3 memory requires less power to operate than traditional DDR memory and is capable of processing data at speeds up to 1.6GB/per second with a peak bandwidth of 6.4GB/per second. The 1.667ns GDDR3 memory modules were used on the NV40 reference board.

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is manufactured using IBM's 0.13-micron process technology and contains some 222 million transistors. The GeForce 6800 Ultra is based on a newly designed 16-pipeline superscalar architecture with support for DirectX 9 and Shader Model 3.0. Other notable features of the GeForce 6800 Ultra include High-Precision Dynamic-Range (HPDR) technology and the debut of the industry's first on-chip video processing engine. Image quality improvements have also been achieved by incorporating a rotated-grid antialiasing scheme and increasing the maximum level of anisotropic texture filtering from 8X to 16X.

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is a record-breaking product as it provides NVIDIA with its largest ever performance increase over a previous generation GPU. Factors that led to this unprecedented increase over the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra consist of significant improvements in floating-point shader and vertex operations, shadow processing, and occlusion culling efficiency. The net effect of the numerous enhancements leads to approximately two times the frame buffer bandwith. The GeForce 6800 Ultra boasts six vertex shader processing units and and each of its 16 pipelines features a single texture processor and two pixel shader processors.

GeForce 6800 Ultra vs. GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

As the reference board contains two DVI outputs, I had to connect a DVI-to-CRT adapter to the cable on the Sony CRT monitor I use. The NV40 reference board is a one-and-a-half slot solution and has a lower profile than the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. Although the master PCI slot on the motherboard is visible with the GeForce 6800 Ultra seated in the AGP slot as shown in the image below, there is not enough clearance from the cooling system to make it usable.

Make note of the two power connectors located on the right edge of the graphics card. The GeForce 6800 Ultra is power-hungry and is capable of consuming up to 110W under a peak load. The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra topped out at 80W.

GeForce 6800 Ultra Installed

The GeForce 6800 Ultra has a new cooling system design, although it generates a similar amount of fan noise as the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. A notable exception is that the fan on the review board spins at a very high rate when the system boots up or restarts. However, the fan returns to its normal speed once Windows starts and even remains at that speed during gaming sessions. This is probably a result of the 2D and 3D clock speeds being the same, which is reported by clock frequency applet in the driver control panel.

GeForce 6800 Ultra vs. GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is outfitted with two molex connectors. NVIDIA recommends that a system be equipped with a high-quality 480-watt power supply when using a GeForce 6800 Ultra. NVIDIA provided us with a list of recommended power supplies that consisted of Antec's True550, True480, or NEO480 and Enermax's EG475P-VE SFMA. However, other reviewers have successfully used the GeForce 6800 Ultra with high quality 350W and 300W power supplies. Since NVIDIA plans to transition the GeForce 6 series to PCI-Express, a single molex connector may suffice as PCI-Express delivers more power to the graphics card compared to the AGP bus. Fortunately, the power requirements will be less stringent for the GeForce 6800 GT and GeForce 6800, which will both have a single molex connector.

Dual Molex Connectors

My system used a 350W Enermax power supply when the reference board arrived. I checked the local CompUSA and the most powerful brand name power supply they had in stock was Antec's True430. Knowing that I would be testing the GeForce 6800 Ultra over the weekend, I took a chance and purchased the 430W Antec. Fortunately, this power supply has been powering my system and the GeForce 6800 Ultra without incident.

Power Supply Leads

Antec's True430 has five peripheral power connectors that connect to devices such as a HDD or CD/DVD. Two of the power supply leads have a 12-volt connector on each lead, which are both connected directly to the GeForce 6800 Ultra. Neither one is shared with another device, which is important. A second lead has two connectors, both of which are connected to hard drives. The dilemma I faced was that the third lead only had one connector and I needed to get power to two DVD's. A power 'Y' splitter cable solved that problem.

FEATURES

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is a feature-rich, high-performance GPU, which consists of the following features and specifications:

  • 0.13 Micron Process Technology
  • 256-Bit Graphics Processing Unit
  • 256-Bit Memory Interface w/GDDR3 Memory
  • Memory Bandwidth - 35.2GB per Second
  • Fill Rate - 6.4 Billion Texels per Second
  • Vertex Processing - 600 Million Vertices per Second
  • Superscalar 16-Pipeline Architecture
  • CineFX 3.0 Engine - Shader Model 3.0
  • On-Chip Video Processor
  • UltraShadow II Technology
  • High-Precision Dynamic-Range Technology
  • Full-Speed 32-Bit Color Precision
  • Intellisample 3.0 Technology
  • Full MPEG Support
  • Advanced Adaptive De-Interlacing
  • Video Scaling and Filtering
  • Integrated TV Encoder
  • AGP 8X Interface
  • PCI Express Support
  • Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
  • Dual Single-Link DVI Support
  • Unified Driver Architecture
  • nView Multi-Display Technology
  • Digital Vibrance Control 3.0
  • DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 1.5 Support

The following information in regards to the availability and price of the GeForce 6800 product line was furnished by NVIDIA on April 30th:

  • GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme - ~450MHz Core, ~550MHz GDDR3 Memory (256MB), 16 Pipelines, June, Price TBD
  • GeForce 6800 Ultra - 400MHz Core, 550MHz GDDR3 Memory (256MB), 16 Pipelines. late May, $499 MSRP
  • GeForce 6800 GT - 350MHz Core, 500MHz GDDR3 Memory (256MB), 16 Pipelines, mid June, $399 MSRP
  • GeForce 6800 - 325MHz Core, 350MHz DDR1 Memory (128MB), 12 Pipelines, late May, $299 MSRP

The GeForce 6800 GT and GeForce 6800 will be single-slot solutions with a single molex connector and relaxed power supply requirments.

Next Page: About This Preview and Test System Configuration

Last Updated on May 8, 2004


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