Summary: With 128 stream processors and clocks that are only slightly slower than the 9800 GTX, the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB is built to perform. And with street prices on cards often falling below $250, the GTS 512MB is also an extraordinary value. In this article we've rounded up seven different GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards. Read our top picks inside!
Both of these GPUs are based on the same G92 GPU used in the 9800 GTX and 9800 GX2, only they run at different clock speeds. In the case of the GeForce 8800 GT, it runs at the same core and shader speeds as the GeForce 9800 GX2 – 600MHz core/1500MHz stream processors – while the memory on the 9800 GX2 is just 30MHz faster than the 8800 GTS 512MB. In fact, the GeForce 9800 GX2 is so similar to the 8800 GTS 512MB, one FiringSquad reader, Labotomizer, ran into an issue where a 9800 GX2 system he was building for a customer ID’ed the GX2 board as a pair of GeForce 8800 GTS 512MBs!
On the single GPU front, the GeForce 9800 GTX runs just 25MHz higher than the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, while the GTX’s memory is 130MHz faster. In fact, the stock 9800 GTX actually runs slower than some factory overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards! This has actually prompted some board manufacturers to stop producing factory OC’ed GTS 512MB cards entirely: some 8800 GTS 512MB cards are so fast it’s actually confusing to some consumers because these OC’ed GTS cards are faster than the newer, supposedly faster, 9800 GTX.
Between the GeForce 8800 GT and 8800 GTS 512MB, the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB is the card we recommend the most for hardware enthusiasts on a budget, simply because it runs at higher clocks than the 8800 GT, and more importantly, it boasts 128 stream processors (compared to the 8800 GT which sports just 112), yet it often sells for just $20-$40 more than the GeForce 8800 GT. Don’t get us wrong, the GeForce 8800 GT is a great card, particularly if you’re on a strict $200 budget, but if you can afford to splurge $20 or so, the 8800 GTS 512MB is the board to get amongst the two.
With this in mind we’ve rounded up seven of the hottest GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards on the market right now. All of the boards included in today’s roundup run at different cock speeds and ship with different software bundles, but with the exception of the Palit card, all the boards included in today’s roundup are based on NVIDIA’s reference board design for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB.
We know that you’re probably disappointed by this, but unfortunately this is the reality you often have to deal with at the higher end of the graphics market. NVIDIA wants to ensure a consistent level of quality regardless of the board manufacturer, and the board partners themselves are often content to play along to keep their own R&D costs down.
Let’s check out the contenders!
The “TOP” in the ASUS EN8800 GTS TOP designation stands for “Top Overclocking Performance” and that’s exactly what ASUS has accomplished with this card: taking the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB to new levels is the primary mission of the ASUS EN8800 GTS TOP. ASUS clocks the graphics core on the EN8800 GTS TOP to 740MHz, while the stream processors run at 1.8GHz. This is an improvement of 90MHz on the GPU over the stock GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, while the shaders on the ASUS card run 175MHz faster than the stock NVIDIA specifications.
Finally, ASUS clocks the GDDR3 memory on the EN8800 GTS TOP at 1035MHz (2.07GHz effective), which is 65MHz higher than the stock GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB.
These GPU clocks are not only higher than the stock GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, they’re also 65MHz higher than the 9800 GTX. The GeForce 9800 GTX has a memory clock speed advantage, but it’s also 65MHz. This means at lower resolutions the ASUS EN8800 GTS TOP is actually faster than the stock GeForce 9800 GTX. You’d have to really crank up the screen resolution for the 9800 GTX’s memory advantage to play any dividends for the GTX over the ASUS card.
The other neat feature the EN8800 GTS TOP supports lies in the software. Bundled with the card is ASUS’ Smart Doctor software. Smart Doctor is a software utility that allows you to overclock the graphics card. In fact, Smart Doctor can be used to overclock the GPU, memory, and Stream Processors, just like RivaTuner. Even NVIDIA’s own nTune overclocking utility doesn’t support stream processor overclocking.
Smart Doctor can also be used to perform hardware monitoring tasks. The software can display info such as GPU temperature and voltages, as well as alert you if the card begins to overheat. Smart Doctor also includes ASUS HyperDrive, which can dynamically overclock the graphics card depending on usage, say for instance you boot up a 3D game. HyperDrive can be used to automatically OC the card without any intervention from the end user. Meanwhile, ASUS’ SmartCooling feature will dynamically adjust fan speed based on the GPU’s current temperature (although this is a feature supported by all GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards and is not exclusive to ASUS).
Besides Smart Doctor, ASUS continues to bundle their cards with their GamerOSD and Video Security Online programs. Like FRAPS, GamerOSD provides real-time frames per second monitoring, video capture, and screenshot capability. GamerOSD can also be used to overclock the GPU while you’re gaming.
ASUS bundles the card without a game bundle, instead you get a DVI adapter, component video cable, and power cable. ASUS also includes a leather CD wallet to round out the packaging.
As the first NVIDIA board partner to provide a lifetime warranty and factory overclocking on their graphics cards, BFG has earned a loyal following of enthusiasts who swear by their products, and as such, it’s practically a foregone conclusion that they’d provide the same for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB GPU. That’s precisely what they’ve done with their GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB OC.
The card is OC’ed to 675MHz core, 25MHz higher than the reference specifications for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. The card’s shaders run at 1675MHz, a figure which is 50MHz higher than stock. BFG sticks with the stock clocks for the board’s memory.
What will really excite BFG fans though is their new trade-in program. Effective as of February 21st, 2008, BFG’s new trade-in program allows all BFG card owners a one time opportunity to upgrade to a faster card as long as the original card purchase occurs within 100 days of the upgrade. The program is currently offered to all North American card owners, so Canadian’s can get in on the action as well.
BFG continues to back their cards up with their excellent customer service and support. BFG maintains 24/7 toll-free tech support, as well as free email support. And of course as we already mentioned, BFG is famous for their lifetime warranty: once you register your card with BFG, you’re covered for life if anything ever goes wrong with your graphics card. (Of course, ten years from now it’s highly doubtful you’ll still be running PCIe 2.0 graphics, but BFG’s warranty will still apply regardless.)
The 8800 GTS OC is the only 512MB SKU BFG provides. Unlike other BFG cards based on other GeForce GPUs which have OC2 and OCX SKUs, BFG has opted to stick with just the “OC” SKU for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. This is because the 8800 GTS 512MB already performs close to the 9800 GTX as it is (just check out the ASUS benchmarks for proof), so a board that’s OC’ed even higher would outperform the GeForce 9800 GTX in some cases, and thus potentially confuse consumers who would expect the 9800 card to run faster than the 8800 GTS.
Like many other BFG cards, BFG bundles their GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB OC without a game bundle, instead BFG includes two DVI adapters, a component video cable, and power adapter.
We’ve been told by EVGA that they’re focusing mainly on the stock e-GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card but EVGA also manufactured a 675MHz e-GeForce 8800 GTS KO board. We’re using past tense here because EVGA no longer produces these factory OC’ed GeForce 8800 GTS cards. Like the SSC card, we’ve been told that production of these cards was stopped in order to make room for the 9800 GTX.
So what sets the e-GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB apart from other GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB cards? Since the card is essentially a replica of NVIDIA’s reference board design, the card’s main selling points are the same characteristics that have made EVGA’s cards so popular for years now.
One of EVGA’s most popular selling points has been their trade-in program. Dubbed Step Up, the program allows EVGA card owners to trade in their existing graphics card to a faster model. With Step Up, you’ll get the full value of your original graphics card, so if you paid $300 for your old card and you want to upgrade to a $500 card, you merely pay the difference of $200.
With NVIDIA rumored to be debuting their upcoming GT200 GPU sometime next month, Step Up could conceivably be used to upgrade from one of today’s GeForce 8800 GT or GTS cards to GT200. The only rules to Step Up are that it can only be used once, and the upgrade must occur within 90 days of the original card purchase.
EVGA is also famous for their lifetime warranty. EVGA warrants the card from defects for life, so if anything ever goes wrong with the card, EVGA promises to repair or replace the card. The really sweet part about EVGA’s lifetime warranty is that you can’t void the warranty by modding your card. Say for instance you decide to replace the stock EVGA cooler with an aftermarket cooler from Arctic Cooling or Zalman. Most manufacturers will void your warranty the moment you make any changes to the card, but with EVGA’s warranty policy you’re covered as long as you don’t physically damage the card or any of its components.
One important aspect to remember about EVGA’s warranty is that the card must be registered with EVGA before the warranty kicks in. If the card is never registered, EVGA’s warranty coverage is limited to just one year.
EVGA ships the card with two DVI adapters, a component video cable, power cable, and S-Video cable.
MSI, well known for their feature-packed Core 2 and Athlon 64/Phenom motherboards, is also one of the heavyweights among NVIDIA’s board partners. We’ve reviewed multiple MSI graphics cards in the past and found them to be highly compelling cards, awarding them multiple Editor’s Choice and Bull’s Eye awards over the years.
One of MSI’s claims to graphics fame has been their game bundles. Unlike many of the other Taiwanese graphics manufacturers who also bundle games with their graphics cards, MSI gets the importance of actually having a nice game bundle. Many of the other manufacturers will often include outdated games with their bundles, or no-name, obscure titles that no one has ever heard of. MSI on the other hand is usually very persistent about keeping their game bundles up to date, and on top of that, they go out of their way to try and bundle games with their cards that gamers actually want to play. The origins of this philosophy date back to their nBox GeForce FX 5900 Ultra card. The board shipped with three games: Unreal 2: The Awakening, Command and Conquer: Generals, and the AAA FPS Battlefield 1942. It was an eye-opening game bundle that was, and still is, unprecedented for its time and will probably never be matched.
Rather than shoot for the highest OC’ed clocks and thus charge a premium MSRP, for their GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card MSI has opted to price their board aggressively, yet they’ve still managed to uphold this tradition of providing a solid game bundle. How were they able to do this while still keeping board prices low? By partnering with select retailers to include one of the sleeper hits of 2007, the RPG The Witcher.
You see, rather than bundle every single NX8800 GTS 512M OC card that goes out the door with the game, MSI managed to get it included by working with a few of the more popular retailers. It’s a limited time offer that’s only good while supplies of the game last; this is an important part of how MSI is able to keep their game bundles they include with their cards fresh.
MSI has managed to overclock the card a bit though. As the “OC” in the card’s name implies, the NX8800 GTS 512M OC is clocked to run at higher than stock clock speeds. MSI clocks the board at 678MHz core/972MHz memory. We know what you’re probably thinking, it definitely is a slight OC over the stock GTS speeds, but something is better than nothing right?
Besides the game (which may or may not ship with the card depending on where you bought it from and availability), the rest of MSI’s bundle consists of a DVI adapter, power adapter, S-Video cable, and component video cable.
Let’s play the word association game. NVIDIA: Graphics. Intel: CPUs. PNY:???.
When you see the name “PNY” the first thing you probably think of is memory. PNY is known around the globe for their system memory, which can often be found inside OEM PCs or on the store shelf of your favorite local computer store. Their Attaché USB flash drives are highly popular and can be found practically everywhere (we have quite a few of them laying around the office), while they also make CompactFlash cards, mini and microSD cards, and are even moving into the solid-state drive market.
Another area PNY competes in is graphics. In fact, PNY has been in the graphics market longer than some of the other manufacturers included in this roundup. NVIDIA trusts PNY so much that they’ve granted PNY the exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute all Quadro cards in the North American region. No other board partner can produce Quadros for sale in the US. This is a distinction PNY has held for quite some time.
Besides Quadro and GeForce, PNY also manufactures Tesla servers and workstations for NVIDIA.
With that quick PNY intro out of the way, let’s get back to the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. So as we’ve discussed, there are two basic strategies being employed by most GeForce 8800 GTS board partners today: you can integrate a carbon copy of the NVIDIA reference design for your own 8800 GTS 512MB card in order to bring it to market as quickly as possible, and also with a lower price; or you can take the reference design and simply overclock the board a bit. This particular strategy is also popular because it allows board partners to bring their boards to market quickly, although the downside is that the board has to be guaranteed (and backed by a full warranty) to run at the OC’ed speeds you run the board at.
For their GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB XLR8 Performance Edition, PNY has elected to take the first strategy, sticking with the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB reference board design and pricing their card to move: a quick check of PriceGrabber reveals that other than ECS, the PNY GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB XLR8 Performance Edition is the lowest-priced GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card on the market right now.
Despite its name (Performance Edition, which in our eyes suggests overclocking) the card is clocked at the stock GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB clock speeds of 650MHz core/970MHz memory. In order to keep the board price as low as possible, PNY makes no tweaks to their 8800 GTS XLR8 card, and it ships with no game bundle or other extras. Instead PNY focuses on the basics, bundling two DVI adapters, a power adapter, S-Video cable, and component video output.
Palit, as we realize that many of you may not be familiar with the company.
Founded in 1988, Palit manufactures cards based on GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA. Palit is actually a large conglomerate with a variety of different brands, each focusing on different markets throughout the world. Besides USA, the Palit brand is also used in Asia, where Palit is actually fairly popular. In Europe, Palit’s most well known subsidiary among our readers is probably Gainward. Gainward’s Golden Sample cards are highly sought after among enthusiasts thanks to their higher than stock clock speeds, and they can often be found with custom cooling. Long time FiringSquad readers will no doubt remember our admiration for Golden Sample cards we reviewed many years ago, which were awarded multiple Editor’s Choice Awards. The Palit 8800 GTS card we’re reviewing today is actually sold as a Golden Sample card over in Europe.
Now Palit is trying to become a major player in the North American market. Our market is huge, but also highly competitive and very brand-aware. Palit’s goal is to become the #1 graphics provider in North America. In order to accomplish this, they’re focusing on delivering very high quality, non-reference board designs when they can while still providing competitive prices, in a similar fashion to the strategy Gainward currently employs in Europe. At this time, their cards can be found at online retailers like NCIX, Newegg, and TigerDirect.
So does their GeForce 8800 GTS card stand out? Definitely.
For starters, as its name implies, Palit’s GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition ships with 1GB of memory. That’s nearly as much memory as many PCs.
Unfortunately for Palit, finding an app that will take advantage of the extra memory is next to impossible. We’ve run benchmarks on 1GB cards in the past and we ran more for this article and we still haven’t found a single game that takes advantage of the extra memory.
But all is not lost for Palit’s GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition. Besides its 1GB frame buffer, it also ships with unique cooling. Palit outfits the board with a dual-slot cooler that’s built around dual copper heat pipes. Surrounding the heat pipes is a large aluminum heatsink which is responsible for keeping the heat pipes cool. The cooler is then finished off with a large, low-RPM fan.
The fan draws in the air from within your case. This air then helps to keep the heat pipes and aluminum heatsink cool. Air from the fan is then pushed out the vents located on the left and right sides of the card.
The final addition Palit adds to the cooling of their GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition is a long aluminum plate which rests on the bottom of the card. This plate cools the components on the bottom of the card (as well as the area directly underneath the GPU, which can also get pretty toasty), as well as the board’s memory.
Besides the added memory and unique cooling, Palit’s card is also overclocked from the factory, running at speeds of 730MHz core/1050MHz memory.
Another area where Palit stands out in comparison to other board manufacturers is in their hardware bundle. The GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition is the only card featured in this roundup which supports HDMI output out-of-the-box.
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 card’s packaging. If your HDTV doesn’t 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.
Last but certainly not least is XFX. XFX is another company that has quickly caught on with enthusiasts. Their cards are known for delivering high levels of performance, and like BFG and EVGA XFX backs their cards up with an excellent warranty program as well as 24/7 toll-free tech support for North American users.
XFX’s claim to fame is their double lifetime warranty program. Unlike lifetime warranties offered by BFG and EVGA which only cover the original owner of the graphics card, XFX’s double lifetime warranty provides warranty coverage for the second card owner as well. With end users increasingly turning to forums and sites like eBay and craigslist to sell their old hardware, this double lifetime policy has proven popular with consumers. In addition, XFX recently revised their warranty policy to cover cards that have been modified with aftermarket coolers. Previously XFX voided the warranty if the card was modded in any way. With this new warranty policy, XFX card owners are free to swap out cooling without losing their warranty. As long as the card isn’t physically damaged, the card will remain under warranty.
For the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, XFX produces two SKUs. A basic GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB Alpha Dog Edition card and a factory OC’ed “XXX Edition” board. Both cards are built on NVIDIA’s reference design and cooling unit, with the only exception being the clock speeds. The standard Alpha Dog card runs at the stock GTS clocks, while the XXX card is OC’ed to 678MHz core/986MHz memory: these are certainly mild clocks in comparison to previous XXX cards we’ve tested; obviously XFX didn’t want to push their GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB XXX card too far so it wouldn’t compete with the 9800 GTX.
If you’re into first-person shooters, XFX definitely has the best game bundle of any of the cards featured in this roundup, if not the entire GeForce 8800/9800 range. This is because XFX bundles all of their high-end cards with a copy of Infinity Ward’s hit FPS Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (older cards like ours came bundled with XFX’s previous pack-in game, Lost Planet, but XFX has been shipping CoD 4 with their cards for a few months now). The card also comes with a DVI adapter and S-Video cable.
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
EVGA nForce 780i SLI motherboard
2GB Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB Reference
GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB Reference
ASUS EN8800 GTS 512MB TOP
BFG GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB OC
EVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB
MSI NX8800 GTS 512MB OC
PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB Performance Edition
Palit GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition
XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB XXX
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista 64-bit Ultimate w/Service Pack 1
Company of Heroes 1.71
In comparison to the more expensive 9800 GTX, the 8800 GTS 512MB is just 25MHz slower on the GPU, and 130MHz on the memory. Both GPUs are based on the exact same G92 chip with 128 stream processors and 512MB of memory, the only real difference is the clock speeds.
If you can afford it, the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB just can’t be beat in terms of bang for the buck.
So how do the cards in today’s roundup stack up against one another? Well, quite honestly with the majority of these cards all using NVIDIA’s reference board design and cooling, there’s very little separating the various cards from one another: other than factory OC’ing, the cards are all basically the same hardware-wise. But two cards do stand out.
Due to its extraordinarily low price, MSI’s NX8800 GTS 512MB OC is a tremendous value. The card sells for just $210 on Newegg right now. This is the lowest price for a GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card without mail-in rebate that we’ve found.
Because of MSI’s aggressive pricing, this is the card we’d suggest if you’re looking to get into a GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB card on the cheap, and as such we’re awarding it with our Bull’s Eye Award. If you can find an NX8800 GTS 512MB OC that ships with a copy of The Witcher, it becomes an even better value.
If you’re willing to splurge a little more, the other GeForce 8800 GTS card that stands out is obviously Palit’s GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition. This card ships with a custom dual-slot cooler that we found runs two degrees Celsius cooler at idle, and nine degrees cooler at load. Palit also outfits the board with 1GB of memory, but as you saw in the benchmarks the extra memory doesn’t significantly improve performance. The Palit card gets most of its extra performance from its higher clocks instead. We also give Palit extra kudos for including everything you need inside the box to get HDMI up and running.
Because of its unique combination of features, we’re awarding the Palit GeForce 8800 GTS 1GB Sonic Limited Edition our Editor’s Choice Award. In a sea of GeForce 8800
GTS reference board designs, Palit’s card definitely stands out and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future. With their unique designs and aggressive pricing, they could give other board partners a run for their money in the near future.
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