It's obvious that NVIDIA has come through with a very impressive product line in
the NV40 family. As gamers, we all expect this and as hardcore gamers we want
the best of the best, period. The BFG 6800 Ultra OC offers everything a hardcore
gamer would want in build quality, performance, stability and headroom to
overclock even more. The 6800GT is a very viable option for all but the most
serious of gamers in that most GT owners are coming close to reaching 6800 Ultra
reference design speeds or better. BFG gives their 6800 Ultra a bit of a core
boost but the memory is where a serious gamer has some nice headroom to get even
more bandwidth. The dual DVI outputs are exclusive to the 6800 Ultra as well.
Noise was an issue with NVIDIA's last generation and
I'm happy to report that it no longer is, to me. Ah yes, another subjective
issue. The vast majority of users are, however, sharing my sentiment as the 6800
Ultra can barely be heard over a typical system's PSU and case fans. The
X800XT PE is quieter, but the difference is not substantial as it was in the
Power requirements were very much a topic at one
time. NVIDIA recently lowered their official requirements to a 350W PSU but BFG
still maintains a 480W PSU requirement. As with any component in your system,
you get what you pay for so if you have a generic power supply you should
consider that. You should look for ~18A or more on the 12V rail. Of course, if
you're buying a $500 video card then what business would you have owning a
feeble, generic PSU in the first place?
My overall impression of the BFG 6800 Ultra OC
is that it is what gamers would expect it to be. It is as fast (or faster) than
the ATI X800XT PE but usually by thin margins. In some cases the 6800 Ultra's
core limits its performance at 1600x1200 4xAA/16xAF with the ATI X800XT PE
pulling ahead, for now at least. The two cards are essentially in a dead heat.
Something to consider, however, is that ATI's Catalyst 4.7 drivers are official
and NVIDIA's last official drivers are still version 56.72 dated April 1, 2004.
So, we're likely working with drivers that have yet to even fully expose the
full potential of the 6800 product line. With
Doom 3 having officially now gone gold, one might start putting two and two
together early next month.
SHADER MODEL 3.0
I didn't comment a great deal on Shader Model 3.0
(SM3.0) support that NVIDIA embraced with the NV40 family. I do think it is
worth emphasizing that SM3.0 support is proving itself. We're still very
early in the grand scheme of things but seeing framerate improvements
approaching 30% in a game like Far Cry is enough to quiet the naysayers from a
few months back. Keep in mind that Far Cry was not designed from the ground up
to be a SM3.0 supporting title. This is a patch we're talking about here. One
can only imagine how a game that has SM3.0 support from day one will perform.
ATI will eventually move to SM3.0 supporting
hardware with their next generation. In the meantime they're doing
their best to come up with
methods to achieve what SM3.0 already offers. What I find to be rather
exciting is the potential that the NV40 series still contains while the ATI R420
is basically a refresh of the R300.
Here is a list of just some of the games coming out
soon (or already are) that will support SM3.0 either natively or with a patch:
Lord of the Rings, Battle For Middle-earth
STALKER: Shadows of Chernobyl
Splinter Cell X
Tiger Woods 2005
And we haven't even seen the next patch (1.3) for Far Cry
that will tap into the vast improvements in lighting, displacement mapping, etc.
Although the BFG 6800 Ultra OC is the NVIDIA reference design at heart, it
stands out from the crowd when it comes to BFG's true lifetime warranty, 24/7
phone support and highly praised customer service department. All are very nice
things to have on your side with a piece of equipment that costs $500USD.
Speaking of nice things to have, this card will be very nice to have around
August 3rd, 2004.
Good headroom for additional overclocking
Dual DVI :)
True lifetime warranty
24/7 free technical support
Quieter than previous generation
PSU requirements aren't "sky is falling" per some early claims
Excellent build quality
Excellent stability even at higher overclocks
Size, it's big and heavy ;)
Comes with high quality thermal compound applied to core (brand not yet
Runs cooler than expected thanks to quality thermal compound on core.
Slightly louder than an ATI X800XT PE
No video in
Size, it's big and heavy
Some minor bandwidth limitations at 1600x1200 and 4xAA
A big thanks goes out to BFG
Technologies for giving us the opportunity to review the GeForce 6800 Ultra
OC. I'd also like to thank ChrisRay for his insights and also to forum member
Riptide for his time in helping me test a few things. Oh, I and I can't forget
MUYA because well, he's MUYA and he's always a big help. :)
July 15, 2004 - Added link to thread in our forums for any further
questions/discussion regarding this review.
July 15, 2004 - Corrected a dead link (second "dock" IQ full size image link) on
July 16, 2004 - Rephrased temperature statement on this page to be more
specific and link to examples of mini-investigation I made in our forums.
July 16, 2004 - Added section header formatting to this page
July 16, 2004 - Updated "PROS" list with mention of card running cooler