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MSI NX8800GT Review - Page 1 of 12

INTRODUCTION

It's been exactly a year since we looked at NVIDIA's high-end GeForce 8800 GTX Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which continues to be a top performer in today's PC games. While the performance crown currently belongs to the GeForce 8800 Ultra, graphics cards based on the GeForce 8800 Series of GPUs have retained much of their original value.

Reference GeForce 8800 GT
Click to enlarge

Based on their history of GPU launches, one might expect to be reading about a preview of NVIDIA's high-end successor to the GeForce 8 Series. That is not the case today as key market events during the past year may have affected NVIDIA's launch strategy. However, with the launch of the GeForce 8800 GT, NVIDIA brings the high-end performance of the GeForce 8800 GTS and GTX down to midrange prices.

KEY MARKET EVENTS

ATI Acquisition

First and foremost are the lingering effects of AMD's acquisition of ATI for $5.6 billion in October of 2006. In their latest quarterly report, AMD incurred a $120 million charge for the acquisition, which contributed to a majority of the company's $396 million loss. Overall revenue increased to $1.6 billion while the graphics segment accounted for $252 million - an increase of 29% over the previous quarter.

With mainstream OEM design wins for the R600 and the scheduled launch of the 55 nanometer-based RV 670 in the fourth quarter, financial analysts expect AMD to rebound in graphics. Unfortunately, the graphics segment alone cannot rescue AMD, which lost over $1.2 billion in the first six months of 2007 and has over $5 billion in debt.

Windows Vista

The early adopters of Windows Vista have first-hand experience with the uphill battle that NVIDIA has been through to deliver graphics drivers for Microsoft's latest operating system. At one point, visitors became so distraught with the lack of Vista support, that NVIDIA responded by publishing a Quality Assurance Page. The Quality Assurance Page was a positive step as it increased consumer awareness and confidence in NVIDIA's ability to deliver fully functional drivers for Windows Vista.

MSI's NX8800GT
Click to enlarge

NVIDIA remains committed to developing quality drivers for Windows Vista although they have more to accomplish. With Windows XP, NVIDIA was able to exploit the operating system and develop features that are still being developed for Windows Vista. There are some features that NVIDIA will be unable to implement in Windows Vista as a result of the operating systems new Window Display Driver Model (WDDM). All of this information is fully disclosed in their ForceWare driver release notes.

The statistics below reveal that many of our visitors have made the transition to Windows Vista although they are in the minority. Also noteworthy is that the transition rate to Windows Vista has been decreasing during the past few months and started to level off.

Windows Usage
Windows XP vs. Windows Vista Usage

Unlike typical consumers who purchase a computer system with an OEM version of Windows Vista pre-loaded, most of our visitors have assembled their systems and purchased retail copies of Windows Vista. As Microsoft continues to announce the rapid adoption of Windows Vista, a slightly different picture is being painted in the enthusiast sector.

The slower adoption of Windows Vista among enthusiasts could be an indication that there is no compelling reason to abandon Windows XP just yet. DirectX 10 has not made a substantial impact although Crysis is one of the most important titles to be released and is important to the success of DirectX 10.

It's too early to tell how NVIDIA will respond at the high-end based on to ATI's current situation. The GeForce 8 Series continues to be exceptionally strong with the 8800 GTS/GTX/Ultra, but the mid-range 8600 was under powered. The 8600 was a step forward in that it was a DirectX 10 capable GPU, but it was also a step backward from the previous generation when it was outfitted with a bandwidth-limiting 128-bit memory bus.

GeForce 8800 GTX vs. 8800 GT Specs

Those of us familiar with NVIDIA's product cycles have come to expect new innovation between their annual GPU launches. In the past, the features and performance of a new generations mainstream GPU would typically meet or exceed that of the previous generations high-end GPU. The launch of the GeForce 8800 GT breaks the cycle since the GPU was primarily derived from the current generations GeForce 8 architecture.

Performance-wise, the overclocked GeForce 8800 GT, is close to matching the performance of the stock GeForce 8800 GTX while using less power. The transition to a 65nm fabrication process is the key innovation at work here, which likely infleuenced the decision to revert back to a 256-bit memory bus.

Similar Performance with Less Power

With the GeForce 8800 GT now in production, NVIDIA will be able to maximize the benefits that a die-shrink to 65nm will bring to their next generation high-end GPU. It also gives TSMC and UMC the opportunity to achieve economies of scale in manufacturing them, which could result in lower priced graphics cards.

Today we will see how NVIDIA looks to redefine the capabilities of the mainstream GPU by examining MSI's NX8800GT graphics card.

Next Page: About MSI, The NX8800GT and Driver Enhancements

Last Updated on November 15, 2007


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