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EVGA 8800GT 512MB Superclocked Edition Review

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SKYMTL

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EVGA 8800GT 512MB Superclocked Edition Review





Manufacturer Product Page: TBD
Product Number: 512-P3-N802-A1
Availability: Now
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: Click here to compare price




Intro

For the last two months there has been buzz in the industry and across the internet that both Nvidia and ATI were going to be releasing new cards in November. Both of these companies are trying extremely hard to target the lucrative market of consumers who are looking for great 3D performance at a sub-$300 price point. ATI launched the opening salvo with their HD2900Pro but supply shortages of this limited edition card dampened people’s enthusiasm towards it. Nvidia has now come into the fight with all guns blazing; today marks the official launch of their 8800GT 512MB and 256MB cards.

Many of us thought that Nvidia would release a minor refresh to one of their existing series in order to offer a good price to performance ratio. What we didn’t expect was an entirely new card and that is exactly what Nvidia has done with the 8800GT. Unfortunately, we hear that supply will be a bit tight within the first two weeks following the launch and initially only the 512MB version of the cards will be available with the 256MB version coming to us in mid to late November. One way or another, at a price of around $270CAD for a non-overclocked version of this card, the 8800GT has the potential to take the graphics world by storm if its specs can translate into real-world performance. Once again, this will be a hard launch since we know for a fact that quite a few Canadian retailers have already received stock (albeit limited for the first little while) and should be selling the card as you read this.

To give you an idea of how strained things are with supply, it was looking like we would not get one of these cards in time to release any kind of review. Then a mere three days ago we heard one of them was coming our way. Our review unit finally arrived…less than 48 hours before this review goes live. Unfortunately, after a mere 4 hours of sleep in the last two days there were still some things that have not been included here such as overclocking and some final game benchmarks. Expect full overclocking details as well as benchmarks for Stalker, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, R6:LV and Bioshock in our forum thread over the next few weeks.

Check here regularly for updates: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/video-cards/3072-comment-update-thread-evga-8800gt-review.html

Updates in thread linked above:

- Overclocking
- Overclocked benchmarks (incl. Crysis DX10)

Anyways, on to our review!!


EVGA_8800GT_Main.jpg
 
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Gav

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The new Nvidia landscape. where confusion reigns supreme

The new Nvidia landscape, where confusion reigns supreme


To say that the new Nvidia naming scheme is confusing is an understatement of titanic proportions. We have only focused on the mid to high end here but gone are the “old” 8800GTS 640MB and 320MB cards; Nvidia has replaced them with a “new” 8800GTS 640MB and the 8800GT-series.

While this fact has flown under many people's radar, November is supposed to mark the release of the new and improved 8800GTS 640MB as well. Yet, from the rumors we have heard, the new and improved 8800GTS may be launching in limited numbers today. Believe it or not, from the information we have seen, there is absolutely no way to determine the new “96+” stream processor 8800GTS from the older, now EOL one. So watch out which 8800GTS you pick up if you swing that way. The best thing to do is to refer to the manufacturer’s product page since this new GTS promises to perform very close to the 8800GTX.

There seems to be good reason why Nvidia decided to do away with the older 8800GTS 640MB and 320MB cards since the 8800GT’s paper specs look like an almost even match for the two G80-based cards. Aside from the lower 256-bit bus, Nvidia has equipped this card with 112 of the all-important stream processors and a shader clock running at a blistering 1500Mhz. Like most of the higher-end Nvidia products, the 8800GT is HDCP compliant but this one is unique as it is PCI-E 2.0 compliant as well. By looking at the specs, it looks like anyone buying this card will get phenomenal value for their money.

Something that should be noted is that for now the 8800GT works with a different driver set than the other cards in Nvidia’s lineup. It ships with the 167.26 drivers which do not seem to be compatible with G80 or G86-based cards.

The rest of the scene ends up looking pretty much the same aside from the inclusion of the 8800GT cards and the death of the 8800GTS 320MB.


The EVGA 8800GT 512MB Superclocked Edition



Today we are going to be looking at the EVGA 8800GT 512MB Superclocked Edition which is pre-overclocked and offered at about $270CAD. With this card you get a 50Mhz overclock on the core, an additional 100Mhz on the memory and the shader clock is bumped up 125Mhz. These are by no means trivial overclocks but EVGA will also be offering their additionally overclocked KO and brand new, insanely overclocked SSC edition in the very near future.

Like with most EVGA cards, you get a Lifetime Warranty and 90-day Step-Up program as well as top-notch tech and RMA support. EVGA’s warranty is modder friendly so it will not be voided by installing a different heatsink. The 90-day Step-Up program provides a very unique opportunity for you to trade in your graphics card within 90 days towards the purchase of a brand new EVGA graphics card. Since both the warranty and the Step-Up program have too many particulars to go into, I would invite you to visit.

EVGA’s website:
Lifetime Warranty: EVGA | EVGA Limited Lifetime Warranty
Step-Up Program: EVGA | Step-Up Program
 

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


As with all of EVGA’s cards, the box of this one is quite plain but I personally prefer it to having a gaudy package with comical characters plastered all over the place. The front does well in advertising the different features of the 8800GT as well as the 90-day Step-Up program but something that is lacking is an indication of exactly what speeds this card is overclocked to. You will also note that this box contains a full copy of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This game is only bundled with some of these cards depending on which retailer you buy them from.

The back of the box contains all of the other information such as what is contained in the packaging as well as more detailed features. Even with all this information, there is once again no indication of the speeds of the card itself.


The accessories and “extras” are quite complete but don’t expect to receive a whole library of games.

You get:

- 1 HDTV cable
- 1 S-Video cable
- 1 Molex to PCI-E adaptor
- 2 DVI to VGA adaptors
- Enemy Territory: Quake Wars game
- 1 Driver CD
- 2 EVGA stickers
 

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A closer look at the EVGA 8800GT Superclocked

A closer look at the EVGA 8800GT Superclocked


And here it is: the 8800GT in all its glory. The first thing that will probably strike you is the compact size of the heatsink; Nvidia has decided to go with a single slot copper and aluminum cooler instead of one of the dual slot monsters we have seen in the past. EVGA has decided to stick with the reference heatsink design and has added its own graphics for a bit of flair. The entire heatsink is used to disperse the heat generated by the GPU and memory so be cautious when removing it from your case right after intense usage.

The length of the card is exactly the same as the 8800GTS which is a fairly long 9” but you should add another inch to that because the PCI-E power connector is located on the back of the card.


The fan is a smallish 60mm affair that we are used to seeing on the 8600-series and it is used to push air over the GPU area and out through the end of the card. There are grilles located all over the heatsink in order to allow cool air to flow over the components on the PCB which are not actively cooled by the airflow generated by the fan.


Like we have already mentioned, the PCI-E power connector is located on the back of the card and it is lovingly surrounded by the extremely long heatsink. I am not too much of a fan of this placement since it means the card will have a hard time fitting in come cases due to the 1” projection of a PSU PCI-E connector. I would have much preferred to have seen a side mounting like we see on the 8800GTX / Ultra cards. But as the famous Rolling Stones song goes: you can't always get what you want.


There are numerous exhaust vents for the hot air to be expelled from the case but this provides a bit of a problem for me. While the use of a single slot cooler should be applauded, this design exhausts heat into your case which will raise interior temperatures quite a bit. As you will see later, the card does get quite hot even though it is based around a 65nm GPU.


The rear of the card holds a pair of DVI connectors as well as the HDTV-out connector. Since this card has a single slot cooler, there is really not much more to see here.


From what we see, this is a completely different card and PCB from the other 8800-series and even the 8600-series. The length of the PCB is akin to that of an 8800GTS but the offset of the screws around the core matches that of the 8600GTS. That is pretty much where the similarities stop since the traces and resistors we see here are completely different from anything we have seen previously. Indeed, if my (sometime foggy) memory serves me correct this looks more like an extended 7950GT PCB than one from an 8800-series.

One of the side of the heatsink carries a nice little touch with a small GeForce logo.


Under the heatsink

Before we go any further I would like to mention that with many manufacturers, by removing the heatsink you will void your warranty. Before attempting this, consult your manufacturer’s warranty terms and conditions.


By removing the heatsink we see that the copper contact plate for the GPU core as well as the thermal pads used for conducting the heat away from the ram modules. Speaking of the ram, it is set up in an 8X64MB pattern for a grand total of 512MB of DDR3 ram. The ram modules themselves are Qimonda HYB18H512321BF-10 modules which are rated at 1Ghz (2Ghz DDR) operation. This should give them quite a bit of overclocking headroom above and beyond what they are rated for.

The core is surrounded by a metal shim in order to prevent it from moving when the heatsink is removed and installed. We can also see that there are plenty of thermal pads for the VRM modules since they tend to heat up quite a bit during operation.


Here is the star of the show: the 65nm G92 core. You have probably already seen this but it bears mentioning that it is larger in surface area than the G86 but lacks the massive IHS of the G80 cards. The direct placement of the core right against the heatsink base does have the advantage of lowering temperatures over an IHS design but it does not afford the same amount of protection.
 

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Installing an aftermarket cooler

Installing an aftermarket cooler

Please don’t treat this section as gospel truth as no manufacturer has confirmed compatibility for their coolers with the 8800GT. I am just letting you follow along with a few preliminary tests I did….

You may be wondering about the compatibility of that expensive 8800-series water block or air cooler if you decide to buy the 8800GT. Well, it won’t fit.

Here we tried to install an HR-03 Plus onto the EVGA 8800GT:


As you can see, the spacing between the mounting screws is not the same as the other 8800-series cards so it won’t fit. On the other hand, I mentioned that the spacing is identical to that of an 8600GTS and I happened to have one of those around. So I cannibalized it….


And the 8600GTS stock cooler installed perfectly on an 8800GT. The small dab of thermal compound I applied spread pretty evenly with the pressure applied with the stock 8600GTS heatsink. Therefore, I am reasonably sure that any cooler which is compatible with the 8600-series will also be compatible with the 8800GT. Just make sure not to use any 8600-series passive coolers since the G92 core on this card puts out a fair amount of heat.

Next test….something a little different


Here we have the Thermalright HR-11 backplate cooler which LOOKS like it installed perfectly on the EVGA 8800GT…but it didn’t. Unfortunately, the M5 screws which some with the cooler are about ¼” too long due to the minimal thickness of the GT’s cooler. If you choose to go this route, I suggest that you grind down the screws a bit so they fit….or wait until Thermalright adds compatible screws to the HR-11. Another alternative is to run out to a home improvement store and see if you can match the type and threading of the included screws.
 

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DX9 Performance Tests

Performance Tests

System Used

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3.5Ghz
Memory: 4GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 @ 1556Mhz (Thanks to Corsair)
Motherboard: Asus Blitz Extreme
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATAII
Fans: 5X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Monitor: LG Flatron L2000CN-BF (1600X1200)
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64

Graphics Cards:
EVGA 8800GT Superclocked (650/1900)
Gigabyte HD2900XT 512MB (stock)
EVGA 8800GTS 320MB (stock)

Drivers:
ATI Catalyst 7.10
Nvidia 163.69 (8800GTS)
Nvidia 167.26 (8800GT)

*Notes:
- All games tested have been patched to their latest version
- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed…minus one that destabilized the whole system. ;)
- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs


DX9 Tests


3DMark06 Professional




The EVGA 8800GT starts things off with some stunning scores in 3DMark06. It soundly beats both of the cards we put it up against by healthy margins at the default settings which is quite amazing considering the price difference. We aren’t going to dwell much on synthetic benchmarks so let’s get on to some games shall we?


Half Life 2: Lost Coast

While this benchmark may be a little dated, it is still relevant considering the number of people who are still playing Half Life 2 and the all the other games using the Source Engine. In this benchmark we maxed the details and jacked up the AA and AF so put as much stress on the graphics card as possible.



Unfortunately, even with the settings as high as they were, this game is still very much processor-bound at 1280X1024 but the 8800GT still has the lead by a fair margin. When the resolution is upped a bit more to 1600X1200 the 8800GT pulls further ahead.


Supreme Commander

Tons of units, fast-paced and extremely hard on your whole system…what more is there to say about Supreme Commander? In for this test, the built-in benchmarking tool was used to determine the average frames per second. 20fps is the absolute minimum you want to see here as an average frame rate.



While the speed of the overclocked processor goes a long way to help here as well, it is obvious that even at higher resolutions with the in-game AA setting maxed, the 8800GT still reigns supreme (pun intended).


Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes from Canadian developer Relic has been widely held as one of the greatest RTS games of all time while also being one of the most stressful games on the graphics card. There are very few instances in this game that will not make your graphics card beg for mercy and as such it makes a great benchmarking tool.



It seems like here as well, there is just no competition for the 8800GT. Right about now I was wishing I had an 8800GTS 640MB or 8800GTX to benchmark this card against because it was throwing out some very high performance figures. In this test in particular I believe that the one month old drivers are working against the 8800GTS 320MB as it is slapped around like nobody’s business.


Prey

While this is one of the “older” games in these tests, it is still quite graphically intensive when AA and AF are enabled. In this case we are looking for a minimum of 30 frames per second in order to play the game though 60fps is preferable. For this benchmark, a custom timedemo was run.



So far the 8800GT has taken no prisoners and it goes on doing the same in this test. By nearing 95FPS at 1600x1200 resolution it is showing some of the highest scores we have seen in this benchmark.


Medieval 2: Total War

This is a game that we see all too rarely in benchmark results even though it places a massive strain on both the graphics card with thousands of units on-screen at once and the processor which as to calculate the AI for all those units. This game is perfectly playable at 20fps but anything below that and gameplay gets thrown out the window and you are left without much control over your army.

In this test, the Battle of Hastings opening scene was run while Fraps was used to take measurements. This scene runs a few minutes and uses zooms and camera pans that must be used throughout gameplay so it gives a good overall look at what performance you will experience.



I have seen ATI cards perform miracles with this game in the past but this does not hold true here at all. Really, what more is there to say? The numbers truly speak for themselves even though we see the HD2900XT and the 8800GTS making a slight comeback at higher resolutions for some reason.


World in Conflict

This is one stunning game. World in Conflict has provided me with some of my most memorable gaming experiences since the first Homeworld game was released and it has not stopped wowing me. This is a brand new benchmark for us and with all of the bangs and whistles turned on, this is a great benchmark for any graphics card out there.



Not only does this test show how well the EVGA 8800GT performs but it also highlights how the 320MB 8800GTS simply chokes itself with AA turned on. But how about that GT, eh folks?
 

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DX10 Performance Tests

DX10 Benchmarks


Company of Heroes DX10



Think about this: as I write this the 8800GTS is retailing for around $270 before rebates while the HD2900XT is going for around (ouch) $450 and more if you can find stock. The performance figures in DX10 show that the EVGA 8800GT Superclocked is as much of a beast in DX10 games as it is in DX9.


World in Conflict DX10



This game seriously stresses graphics cards and in DX10 mode it renders itself nearly unplayable with the 2900XT and even more so with the 8800GTS 320MB. The 8800GT can hold its head high since it simply flew through this test without as much as a whimper.


Crysis Single Player Demo DX10

This is the big one….the mack-daddy, big kohoona and 1000lb gorilla of the gaming industry all rolled into one game. For this benchmark, I used the in-game GPU benchmarking tool coupled with a few hours playing the game while recording frame rates with FRAPS. Note that these are average frames per second.



This is the game we have all been waiting for…and in its current form, it eats graphics cards for breakfast. Not one of the cards tested was able to provide an enjoyable playing experience at 1600x1200 and the demo turned into a slideshow if any form of AA was implemented. Granted, the 8800GT held up better than the other two cards but let’s all hope that this game has a few more performance enhancements before it is released.


10- Power Consumption

Please note that these figures below are indicating power consumption for the WHOLE SYSTEM and not only for the graphics cards.


Overall, power consumption wasn’t that bad for the EVGA 8800GT Superclocked Edition even though it is clocked a good 10% over stock speeds. On the other hand, I would have like to have seen a bit more power savings with the move to a 65nm manufacturing process. For this card I would not recommend anything under a good 500W power supply.
 

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Temperatures and Acoustical Characteristics

Temperatures and Acoustical Characteristics


After a full hour of playing Crysis in DX10 mode things got a bit toasty for the 8800GT. While the temperatures it displayed were above that of an 8800GTS 320MB we have to take into account that the GTS is cooled by a giant of a heatsink which dwarfs that of the 8800GT. While we will go into overclocking a little later, I would suggest finding another heatsink if you want to try any large overclocks with the GT.

As for the noise output by the small fan, it was noticeable after about 15 minutes of playing Crysis. At that point the fan kicked it up a notch and I could hear it over the 5 Yate Loons I was using for case cooling. That being said, not once did its volume become extreme like that of the HD2900XT but it is something to take into account if you are going for near silence.
 

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Conclusion

Conclusion

I may as well just come out and say it: what we have here is the pinnacle of modern graphics card design and ingenuity. Nvidia has released a product that is absolutely stunning in every meaning of the word and with the 8800GT Superclocked Edition, EVGA has done nothing but improve on it every step of the way. What they have done is made an excellent graphics card even better by overclocking it while maintaining their Lifetime Warranty and adding a pretty good software package to boot. The frame rates this card put out are like nothing I have ever seen in at this price point and to make matters even better for Nvidia, ATI is still weeks away from releasing their own renewed assault on the enthusiast market. Nvidia has really hit the nail on the head with this one. If their board partners like EVGA can keep the retail channel stocked with parts, this is the start of a money-making bonanza for everyone involved because the consumers will but these cards in droves. Even as I write this, forums are ablaze with people who want to buy this card so this is a good start.

I can’t say that I am completely happy with this card though. It isn’t because of a lack of performance but rather I despair for everyone who bought an 8800GTS 320MB card within the last few weeks. Unfortunately, the 8800GT utterly destroys it in every game and benchmark we ran. Perhaps the situation will improve a bit once new drivers are released for the earlier 8800-series cards but even then, the 8800GT will be head and shoulders above anything else in its price range.

So, here we are in the conclusion of this marathon-like review and I have to say that it was worth every sleepless second. EVGA has a hell of a card here and their price for a pre-overclocked 8800GT beats the prices set by many of their competitors for stock-speed cards. Add to that their Lifetime Warranty (yes, it is so good it bears mentioning again) and their very unique Step-Up program and their card truly is a diamond in the rough. Bravo EVGA and bravo Nvidia for showing us the way!

Pros:

- Incredible price
- Performance is through the roof
- Pre-overclocked
- Lifetime Warranty
- Step-Up program
- Good bundle

Cons:

- Runs a bit warm
- Possible limited availability at launch (TBD)




A special thanks goes out to NCIX.com for sponsoring this review
 
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