Summary: What happens when you strap 1GB of memory to the GeForce 8800 GT? What about a dual-slot heatsink/fan unit? Find out in today's review!
Therefore it comes as no surprise that we apply this same bigger is better belief to our computers. When shopping for a new PC, many less knowledgeable consumers look for the ďfasterĒ processor with higher megahertz. As enthusiasts we all know by now that MHz isnít the only factor that affects performance, IPC is critical as well. This was demonstrated most notably during the Pentium 4 era, where P4 CPUs approaching 4GHz ran slower than Athlon 64 CPUs running at just 2.4GHz.
Video cards fall under this same trap as well, only here the feature that can get less knowledgeable consumers who arenít careful isnít clock speed, itís the amount of video memory present on the graphics card. A consumer who isnít intimately familiar with the graphics industry who is shopping for a $99 graphics card for instance will often pick the card with more memory, even though itís based on a slower GPU.
Now granted, weíre not necessarily saying more memory is a bad thing, just that the memory question is harder to answer. Do you really need a graphics card with 512MB of RAM? If youíre gaming at high resolutions like 1600x1200 or 1920x1200 with 4xAA and 16xAF, then yes, you may need the extra memory. Last month we took a look at a GeForce 8800 GT 256MB card from XFX and found that in cases without AA it performed similarly to the more expensive GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, but once you cranked up the AA, the 512MB card really began to pull away from the 256MB board.
But what if you find yourself playing older games based on less intensive game engines, or youíre saddling the extra memory up to a slower GPU that canít take advantage of the additional memory? In these types of cases, the extra memory it isnít worth it. Older games like Half-Life or Counter-Strike run great on most modern GPUs; the same applies for less-intensive games like The Sims. You just donít need a whole lot of GPU horsepower for these types of games.
Then again, there are cases where even powerful GPUs are outfitted with more memory than they really need. Case in point, the Radeon 2900 XT 1GB. We took a look at one of these cards from Diamond Multimedia back in July and found that the additional memory offered no performance improvement over the stock Radeon 2900 XT 512MB.
With the GeForce 8800 GT proving wildly popular with consumers, it was only a matter of time before the one-upmanship among card manufacturers spread to this GPU. First out of the gate was ASUS, announcing the worldís first GeForce 8800 GT card with 1GB of memory. In the days following ASUSí announcement, several other NVIDIA board partners announced their own 1GB GeForce 8800 GT SKUs, but to date none of these cards have made it to the shelves of US retailers.
Then, in the final days of 2007 just a week ahead of Christmas, we received word from Palit Multimedia that their GeForce 8800 GT 1GB cards had just arrived and would be shipping from their warehouse to retailers (As of this articleís publication, TigerDirect has the 1GB card in stock priced at $349, while NCIX carries it for $295.16).
We were lucky enough the secure one of these boards for review. Read on to find out more about the Palit card, and see if the boardís 1GB frame buffer really improves performance!
In comparing Palitís GeForce 8800 GT Super+1GB card to the stock GeForce 8800 GT 512MB we received back in November, we can see quite a few changes have been made to the reference GeForce 8800 GT 512MB board design. The most drastic difference however is the boardís cooling.
New Cooling Unit
Whereas the stock GeForce 8800 GT 512MB reference board design relies on a single-slot heatsink/fan unit, Palit has incorporated a dual-slot cooler for their Super+1GB card.
So why did Palit take the time and expense to come up with their own cooler? It turns out that some enthusiasts have been disappointed with the performance of the stock GeForce 8800 GT cooling unit. Letís just say that while it gets the job done, it isnít the most powerful cooler NVIDIA has devised. As a result, some enthusiasts have turned to aftermarket coolers for their own GeForce 8800 GT boards.
To address this issue, some of NVIDIAís board partners have come up with their own custom cooling solutions. XFX for instance uses a larger fan on newer GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog boards.
To test the effectiveness of the Palit cooler, we ran some tests between the original GeForce 8800 GT cooler and the revised cooling unit from XFX with larger fan, as well as the Palit GeForce 8800 GT Super+1GB. Hereís how the cards stacked up:
At idle, the original GeForce 8800 GT ran at a core temp of 55 degrees Celsius Ė 10 degrees higher than the Palit board and 7 degrees hotter than the revised XFX cooler. The Palit board turned in the lowest load temps as well 61 versus 63 degrees, and you can see that the original GeForce 8800 GT cooler turned in a GPU temp of 88 degrees.
Besides the unique cooling unit, Palit has incorporated a few changes to their board design in comparison to the stock GeForce 8800 GT 512MB reference board. Weíve heard rumors that NVIDIA has made a few tweaks to their original 8800 GT reference board design to make it cheaper to produce, so weíre unsure how many of the changes on the Super+1GB came from Palit versus the revised 8800 GT reference board design.
Besides the unique cooling and board layout, another area where Palit separates themselves from other 8800 GT manufacturers is with their bundle of hardware accessories.
You see, rather than including two DVI adapters, Palit has chosen instead to include a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, allowing you to hook the board up an HDTV. Audio is then passed via a SPDIF cable which is also included in the cardís packaging. If your HDTV doesnít have an HDMI input, Palit still provides a component video cable, and those of you with a VGA monitor will be pleased to hear that the card also ships with one DVI-to-VGA adapter. Palit then finishes the bundle off with a copy of Tomb Raider: Anniversary.
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard (for GeForce cards)
2GB Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4
GeForce 8800 GT 256MB
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
Palit GeForce 8800 GT Super+1GB
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
Company of Heroes 1.71 (running DX9)
To see how the various GeForce 8800 GT cards stack up against one another, weíve taken GeForce 8800 GT 256MB and 512MB boards running at the stock clock speeds and compared them to the Palit board. Wondering where the RV670 benchmarks are? Donít worry, weíre already working on an article that takes a look at the performance of newer RV670 boards running with the latest driver. That article should be up shortlyÖ
Crysis Ė Direct3D
Better cooling: While we havenít run into any stability issues or seen artifacts with any of our GeForce 8800 GT cards based on NVIDIAís original cooling unit, the temps these boards run at may concern some enthusiasts, particularly if you plan on housing the card in a small enclosure like an HTPC. As a result many 8800 GT card owners have turned to third-party coolers made by companies like Arctic Cooling and Zalman for better cooling performance.
Dual-slot cooling: One of the most attractive selling points of the GeForce 8800 GT Ė particularly for HTPC users Ė is the single-slot design. While enthusiasts usually leave the slot directly adjacent to the GPU empty anyway, thereís definitely a need for more single-slot high-end cards, as they are compatible with a wide range of cases. Unfortunately in order to deliver more effective GPU cooling, the heatsink on the Palit GeForce 8800 GT Super+1GB is tall; the card easily consumes two slots.
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