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XFX 8800 GTS 320 MB: Another Fatal1ty

 

Today at Bjorn3D we have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the third card to be included in XFX’s Fatal1ty Professional series, the GeForce™ 8800 GTS. After the success of its predecessors, this card has some big shoes to fill. XFX claims that this is the fastest 8800 GTS based card currently boasting a 30% improvement over the standard 8800 GTS 320MB card. XFX further states we can expect an astounding 15% increase in speed over all other 8800 GTS versions. The statements by XFX would lend us to believe the performance of this card should be approaching the speed of approaching that of the standard 8800 GTX card, I guess we’ll soon see!

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INTRODUCTION

In December, 2006, XFX launched the first card in their new Fatal1ty Professional Series, the 7600 GT which was endorsed by the worlds #1 gamer, Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel. XFX stated the following in their press release of this product: “This card proves that teaming XFX technology with the hardcore gamer’s demands results in performance that buyers literally haven’t seen before”.

In July, 2007, XFX released the second card in their Fatal1ty Professional series which was based on the the NVIDIA® 8600GT GPU/VPU, which we had the pleasure of reviewing. These two cards followed XFX’s Fatl1ty Mission of: “Providing a performance overclocked product that features an affordable price that will appeal to all players”. Each of these cards diverted from the norm in that they both were passively cooled with XFX’s renowned “Silent But Deadly” (SBD) cooling solution.

Today at Bjorn3D we have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the third card to be included in XFX’s Fatal1ty Professional series, the GeForce™ 8800 GTS. After the success of its predecessors, this card has some big shoes to fill. XFX claims that this is the fastest 8800 GTS based card currently boasting a 30% improvement over the standard 8800 GTS 320MB card. XFX further states we can expect an astounding 15% increase in speed over all other 8800 GTS versions. The statements by XFX would lend us to believe the performance of this card should be approaching the speed of the standard 8800 GTX card, I guess we’ll soon see!

XFX: The Company

XFX®, a company that is very well know not only to the general computer consumer but to the Computer Enthusiast community as well operates on the following corporate philosophy:  “XFX® dares to go where the competition would like to, but can’t. That’s because, at XFX®, we don’t just create great digital video components–we build all-out, mind-blowing, performance crushing, competition-obliterating video cards and motherboards.” “Oh, and not only are they amazing, you don’t have to live on dry noodles and peanut butter to afford them.”

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS

Features

  • NVIDIA® unified architecture with GigaThread™ technology:  Massively multi-threaded architecture supports thousands of independent, simultaneous threads, providing
  • extreme processing efficiency in advanced, next generation shader programs.
  • NVIDIA® Lumenex™ Engine:   Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
  • Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10 Support:   World’s first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.
  • Dual 400MHz RAMDACs:  Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates–up to 2048 x 1536 @ 85Hz.
  • Dual Link DVI:  Capable of supporting digital output for high resolution monitors (up to 2560×1600).
  • NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology:  Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration for unparalleled gaming experiences by allowing two graphics cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI dramatically scales performance on over 60 top PC games.
  • PCI Express™ Support:  Designed to run perfectly with the next-generation PCI Express bus architecture. This new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.
  • 16x Anti-aliasing:  Lightning fast, high-quality anti-aliasing at up to 16x sample rates obliterates jagged edges.
  • NVIDIA® PureVideo™ Technology:  The combination of high-definition video processors and NVIDIA DVD decoder software delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high-end home theater. (Feature requires supported video software.)
  • OpenGL™ 2.0 Optimizations and Support:  Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for all OpenGL applications. NVIDIA® nView® Multi-display Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.
  • NVIDIA® nView® Multi-Display Technology:  Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.

 

XFX 8800GTS Comparative Specifications
Primary Differences are Highlighted in Yellow
  8800 GTS Fatal1ty 320MB Standard 8800 GTS 320MB
Memory BUS 320 bit 320 bit
RAMDACs Dual 400 MHz Dual 400 MHz
Memory Bandwidth 80 GB/sec 64 GB/sec
Graphics Core 650 MHz 500 MHz
Chipset GeForce™ 8800 GTS GeForce™ 8800 GTS
Memory Clock 2 GHz 1.6 GHz
Dual Link DVI Supporting digital output up to 2560×1600 on two LCD Monitors at the same time Supporting digital output up to 2560×1600 on two LCD Monitors at the same time
Stream Processors 96 96
Memory 320 MB 320 MB
Shader Clock 1500MHz 1188MHz
Bus Type PCI-E PCI-E
Memory Type DDR3 DDR3
Highlighted Features HDCP Ready
Dual DVI Out
RoHS
HDTV ready
SLI ready
TV Out
HDCP Ready
Dual DVI Out
RoHS
HDTV ready
SLI ready
TV Out

CLOSER LOOK

Given the fact that most of our readers have read quite a few reviews on the various 8800 GTS cards on the market we’re going to abbreviate this section of the review somewhat. Externally other than color scheme there are no apparent differences between the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty and and the standard NVIDIA® 8800 GTS reference card. We plan to put the vast majority of our time where it belongs in testing this product. Our “aesthetically minded” readers should have enough visual stimulation and feedback to significantly whet their appetites.

Packaging

The XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty uses the same packaging as the two other products in the Fatal1ty Professional Series. All bear the image of Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel on the front in red and black.


Exterior Packaging: Front View

 


Exterior Packaging: Rear View

 

The interior packaging follows in XFX’s long tradition of providing excellent protection for the valuable contents inside.


Interior Packaging & Protective Foam

 

CLOSER LOOK

The Card

As we stated earlier other than the color scheme and Fatal1ty’s picture in red and black, there are no substantive external modifications to this card as opposed to the standard NVIDIA® 8800 GTS reference card.


XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty

 


XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty: Rear View

 


XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty: Side View

 

Bundled Accessories

We are more impressed with the bundled accessories that XFX has chosen to offer with the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty. The package is considerably more impressive than that of recent graphics solutions we have reviewed. The accessories include:

  • 1 – Product Manual
  • 1 – Quick Install Guide
  • 1 – S-Video guide sheet
  • 1 – Driver CD
  • 1 – “I’M GAMING Do Not Disturb” door sign (The serial number for your card is also inscribed on the back of this door hanger in addition the card and the box) 
  • 1 – Capcom’s Lost Plant (Full Version)
  • 1 – S-Video connector
  • 1 – DVI to VGA adapter

 


Bundled Accessories

 

INSTALLATION

Installation of a graphics card is generally one of the simplest processes of any of your system’s components. You , remove your old drivers, kill the power to your system, remove your old graphics card, install the new graphics card, return the power, reboot the system, install the new drivers and away you go. Such was the case with our experience with the XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty except for one small niggle, which we would be remiss if we didn’t mention. We generally install the drivers on the CD included with the graphics card and give them a few quick tests to determine if we want to use these drivers in benchmarking for the review. All went well until we inserted the CD in the optical drive and received a message to the affect of: “Your Graphics Card does not appear to be an XFX product” and directed us to download drivers directly from NVIDIA.

I did exactly what the disk directed me to do and downloaded the latest Forceware drivers (163.69) from NVIDIA’s download center and never had another issue as they installed perfectly. I did immediately report the issue to XFX’s Technical Staff who assured me it would be resolved as quickly as possible. My guess is either something’s missing from the CD or it’s a video BIOS issue where the card is not correctly identified as being an XFX product. In either case it’s a very small issue that can most likely be corrected with a patch or a replacement CD. It in no way caused any issues with testing unless of course the included drivers were marginally faster than NVIDIA’s latest and greatest, which I seriously doubt.

UPDATE:   The technical staff from  XFX responded to this issue on the next business day after I submitted it. They could not replicate it using the same version of the driver disk and Vista 32-bit which I used for the review. After some discussion we decided that it might be some of the tweaks that I had performed to Vista to help improve its performance.  Upon completion of  the review I did a fresh install of Vista and the driver disk worked as it should, so the culprit was likely some of the tweaks that I performed to the OS.   

TESTING

Prior to beginning our benchmarking for this review we ran a few tests comparing the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty to a standard clocked Foxconn 8800 GTX, these tests showed the two to be on almost an even par. For that reason we decided that the Fatl1ty needed a bit more competition, we will be testing the XFX Geforce™ 8800 GTS Fatal1ty on a comparative basis versus the XFX Geforce™ 8800 GTX XXX. We will run our captioned benchmarks on all systems with each graphics card set at default speed. Our synthetic benchmarks 3DMark06 and PCMark05 will be run in default mode only with a resolutions of 1280 x 1024 with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering used. All other gaming tests will be run at the 1280 x 1024, 1600 x 1200, and 1920 x 1200 both without AA and AF then repeated with anti-aliasing set to 4X and anisotropic filtering set to 8X. Each of the tests will be run individually and in succession three times and an average of the three results calculated and reported. F.E.A.R. benchmarks were also run with soft shadows disabled.

Test Platform

Processor

Intel E6850 Core 2 Duo at 3.0GHz

Motherboard

ASUS Blitz Formula SE BIOS 1102

Memory

4GB of Mushkin XP-2 6400 DDR-2

Drive(s)

2 – Seagate 750GB Barracuda ES SATA Drives

Graphics

Test Card #1:   XFX GeForce® 8800GTS Fatal1ty, ForceWare 163.69
Test Card #2:  XFX GeForce® 8800GTX XXX, ForceWare 163.69

Cooling

Noctua NH-U12F

Power Supply

PC Power & Cooling 1KWSR PSU

Display

Dell 2407 FPW

Case

Lian Li G70 (highly customized)

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit

 

 

 

Synthetic Benchmarks & Games

3DMark06 v. 1.10

PCMark 2005 v. 1.20

Call of Heroes v. 1.71

F.E.A.R. v 1.08

Serious Sam 2 v. 2.068

Far Cry v 1.40

 

TEST RESULTS

3DMark06 v. 1.1.0

3DMark06, developed by Futuremark, is a synthetic benchmark used for universal testing of all graphics solutions. 3DMark06 features HDR rendering, complex HDR post processing, dynamic soft shadows for all objects, water shader with HDR refraction, HDR reflection, depth fog and Gerstner wave functions, realistic sky model with cloud blending, and approximately 5.4 million triangles and 8.8 million vertices; to name just a few. The measurement unit “3DMark” is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different GPU/VPUs. It has been accepted as both a standard and a mandatory benchmark throughout the gaming world for measuring performance.

 

 

PCMark05

PCMark®05, also developed by Futuremark, is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. While PCMark®05 is aimed at testing all of your computer’s various facets, we opted to only use the Graphics Suite for this product as the rest of the statistics would be irrelevant.

 

 

Far Cry

Far Cry is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Crytek Studios and published by Ubisoft in March, 2004. The game is still considered by most to be an excellent test and benchmark of a graphics cards capabilities. Crytek Studios developed their CryEngine which uses “polybump” technology which increases the detail of low-polygon models through the use of normal maps. Far Cry comes with several standard benchmarks built in they must be manually run from the game’s console. We automate this process using benchmarking software from HardwareOC.

 

 

 

F.E.A.R

F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a first-person shooter game developed by Monolith Productions and released in October, 2005 for Windows. F.E.A.R. is one of the most resource intensive games in the FPS genre of games ever to be released. The game contains an integrated performance test that can be run to determine your system’s performance based on the graphical options you have chosen. The beauty of the performance test is that it gives maximum, average, and minimum frames per second rates and also the percentage of each of those categorical rates your system performed. F.E.A.R. rocks both as a game and as a benchmark!

 

 

 

Serious Sam 2

Serious Sam 2 is a first-person shooter released in 2005 and is the sequel to the 2002 computer game Serious Sam. It was developed by Croteam using an updated version of their Serious Engine known as “Serious Engine 2″. We feel this game serves as an excellent benchmark which provides a variety of challenges for the the GPU/VPU you are testing. We once again automate the benchmarking process by using benchmarking software from HardwareOC to automate and refine the process.

 

 

 

Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes(COH) is a Real Time Strategy(RTS) game for the PC, announced on April, 2005. It is developed by the Canadian based company, Relic Entertainment, and published by THQ. We gladly changed from the first-person shooter based genres of the rest of our gaming benchmarks to this game which is RTS. Why? COH is an excellent game that is incredibly demanding on system resources thus making it an excellent benchmark. Like F.E.A.R. the game contains an integrated performance test that can be run to determine your system’s performance based on the graphical options you have chosen. It uses the same multi-staged performance ratings as does the F.E.A.R. test. We salute you Relic Entertainment!

 

 

 

Power Consumption

We decided to measure both the power consumption and temperatures of each of these cards. To measure power we used our Seasonic Power Angel a nifty little tool that measures a variety of electrical values. We used a high-end UPS as our power source to eliminate any power spikes and to condition the current being supplied to the test systems. The Seasonic Power Angel was placed in line between the UPS and the test system to measure the power utilization in Watts. We measured the idle load after 15 minutes of totally idle activity on the desktop with no processes running that mandated additional power demand. Load was measured after running 3DMark06 for 15 minutes at maximum settings.

 

As we would expect, the power consumption of the 8800 GTX XXX should be higher, linearly speaking, than that of the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty. We did not expect the difference to be 50 Watts given the degree of the factory overclock the 8800 GTS Fatal1ty. Again excellent results!

Temperatures

The temperatures of the cards tested were measured with ATI Tool v. 0.27 to assure consistency and remove any bias that might be interjected with the respective card’s utilities. The temperature measurements used the same process for measuring “idle” and “load” capabilities as did the power consumption measurements.

 

To say that we were amazed by how cool this card runs would be a vast understatement! The temperature differences are 6 degrees Celsius cooler at idle and 11 degrees Celsius cooler at load.

Overclocking

One can only question the logic of attempting to further overclock and already factory overclocked graphics card. We decided to pursue this endeavor to primarily find out how much headroom this card actually has. We realized that our results would be somewhat limited primarily due to the fact that we are using Vista Ultimate 32-bit as our operating system of choice. We have had reasonably good luck with Vista in most regards when it comes to testing products, but we will be the first to admit that overclocking any component on your system is not nearly as well supported by Vista as it is with Windows XP. That being said were able to reach a Core clock of 690MHz and a memory clock of 2080MHz.

 

 

The XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty does in fact have a moderate amount of headroom as demonstrated by our results. We feel this card has more headroom than our tests actually represent and again state that we feel the OS used to test the card was the primary culprit. This hypothesis is further supported largely by the facts the fan on the GPU’s cooling unit never increased its RPMs throughout our overclocking trials and the GPU Diode temperature only rose 3 degrees Celsius over the factory overclocked temperatures at both idle and load.

CONCLUSION

Factory overclocked graphics solutions are nothing new to the computer enthusiast. Factory overclocked cards that perform as well as the XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty are indeed rare! Let us give you a complete overview of our impressions:

  • For just a few dollars more than the standard 8800 GTS you get a graphics card that literally blows all the 8800 GTS products I’ve seen out of the water … the XFX 8800 GTS Fatal1ty’s MSRP is $339.99 USD
  • For around $200 less you get a product that has a faster core clock, memory clock, and Shader clock than the standard 8800 GTX.
  • The only substantive difference is the GTX has a 384 bit memory bus as opposed to a 320 bit bus for the GTS; and the GTX has a slightly faster memory bandwidth at 86.4GB/sec as opposed to 80GB/sec for the GTS.
  • The 8800 GTS Fatal1ty performs almost on par with the standard 8800 GTX and is only about 8-10% slower than the 8800 GTX XXX
  • The 8800 GTS Fatal1ty is 10-11 degrees Celsius cooler at full load than the 8800 GTX XXX and draws around 50 Watts less power
  • We’re not dreaming, this is real!

In short this is the best bang for the buck card we’ve ever tested and we can only hope XFX brought boatloads into the US, because supplies will probably dwindle quickly. I think it goes without saying we recommend this card to anyone that wants the best currently available at an extremely reasonable price!

 

Pros:

+  Vibrant and very life-like image rendering
+  1500MHz Shader clock speed
+  80GB/sec memory bandwidth
+  650MHz core clock
+  2GHz memory clock
+  SLI™ certified
+  NVIDIA® unified architecture with GigaThread™ technology
+  NVIDIA® Lumenex™ Engine
+  Runs extremely cool and quiet even under heavy load
+  A quality product
+  Double lifetime warranty

 

Cons:

-  We would have liked 640MB of memory in lieu of the 320MB on the card

 

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 and the prestigious Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.

 

 

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