DirectX 10 is finally upon us and in order to power it, NVIDIA has given consumers the most powerful cards they have ever engineered. Codenamed G80, the GeForce 8800 Series is the most remarkable card in NVIDIA's long and storied history. Currently available in two flavors, the GeForce 8800 GTX and its little and only slightly-less-powerful brother, the GeForce 8800 GTS. For this review, EVGA was kind enough to send me one of their GeForce 8800 GTS cards to complete my SLI pair and see just how well the latest architecture stacked up in SLI.
EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS
The GeForce 8800 GTS features 640MB of GDDR3 memory running on a 320-bit data bus, which is feeding a GPU designed around a unified shader architecture. And what better way to test these monsters than with a monitor than can only be called "ridiculous" and/or "overkill" - the Dell 3007WFP 30" widescreen LCD. Its astronomical resolution of 2560x1600 pixels is the current highest resolution available on a desktop monitor and would be the most stressful on the GeForce 8800 GTS SLI.
It is this new hardware, along with an Enermax Galaxy 1000W power supply to ensure the cards are well-fed with the energy they require, that made it almost impossible to sleep for a week while I waited for all of the packages to arrive.
The monitor is enormous...far larger than I could have possibly imagined. The power supply was not only huge, but it weighs a ton, and these 8800s are deceptively large. The boxes they came in were much smaller than the 7900 GT and GS card boxes from previous reviews, but the cards are so much larger and heavier. There's an old saying that weight means quality and it definitely gave me hope when handling all this new hardware.
The promise of free copies of Dark Messiah only sweetened the deal: a graphically intense game to really push these cards at the highest resolution posssible to man. Plus, the advertised "HDCP-enabled" got me very excited to watch HD DVDs on this massive monitor via my Xbox 360 HD DVD addon drive. More on that later, though. Along with Dark Messiah, the requisite DVI-to-VGA adapters were included, a manual and installation guide and driver disc were all included in a very nice folder. An S-Video cable and component-out cables were included along with a PCIe power converter for two molex plugs.
INSTALLATION AND TEST SYSTEM
All in all, installation went smoothly, it just took quite a while and resulted in some "creative" rearranging of my case innards. Because the PSU is so enormous, both of my DVD burners are sticking about an inch and a half out of the front of my case in order to accomodate the snaking cables. And I have a full-sized Chieftech server case. The picture below illustrates the first few minutes after putting in the power supply...before I knew the full extent of its space needs.
Click Image to Enlarge - 1280x960 (274KB)
The length of the 8800s required that I move my three hard drives around to give them room. And because of questionable board design on ASUS' part, my X-Fi Elite Pro ended up in the middle of the two 8800s. I was quite frustrated when I read the manual and found that the middle of the three PCIe x16 slots was actually only x16 in size but x8 in performance and was, in fact, not for the second card in SLI configuration.
Instead, the bottom-most PCIe x16 slot was the true "second" slot and the massive heatsink on the 8800 GTS blocked the PCI slot in which the X-Fi was previously residing. I was nervous about having the soundcard in between these two big heaters, but so far there have been no problems at all. The below picture illustrates the graphics/soundcard configuration.
Click Image to Enlarge - 1280x960 (310KB)
It took some creative positioning (I almost had one of my hard drives just laying on the floor of the case because I didn't think I would have enough room to get everything in) but luckily, I made everything fit. The test system used is as follows:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 2.40GHz
2GB (2x1GB) Super Talent T800UX2GC4 DDR2/800 PC2 6400 RAM
There is a lot of power packed into a (relatively) small area with these cards and EVGA has got a very solid construction. It felt like the cards' construction was a throwback to the days when cars were made out of solid steel: incredibly sturdy...a comforting sturdy that gave the impression the cards are built to last and then some.
But enough talking...let's see some scores!
Up until receiving these cards, I had never broken 5000 3DMarks in the 2006 version of the program. Well, that is the case no more!
With a score that high, I could not wait to see how these were going to perform in real-world applications! The games used to benchmark these cards include: