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EVGA 8800GTS 640MB (w/112SPs) SSC Edition Review

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SKYMTL

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EVGA 8800GTS 640MB (w/112SPs) SSC Edition Review





Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA | e-Geforce 8800 SSC Edition
Product Number: 640-P2-N829-A1
Availability: Now
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: Click here to compare price



Intro

Just last week the entire graphics card market was shaken to its core with the release of the 8800GT. With glowing reviews and a price / performance ratio which proved to be through the roof, the card promptly sold out across the world. With increasing demand and virtually nonexistent stock replenishment, many potential customers of the 8800GT have been left high and dry with seemingly no alternative in sight. Unfortunately, with stock shortages the prices of the 8800GT have skyrocketed to over $300 at some online retailers in the US and Canada. So, where are potential customers supposed to turn? Luckily EVGA has provided somewhat of an answer: the 8800GTS 640MB SSC Edition.

With all the hoopla flying around the 8800GT, the release of EVGA’s new SSC Edition has gone almost completely under the radar. This is a shame because at about $375CAD it could present a potential alternative to customers left out in the cold by the lack of 8800GT stock. With it, you get EVGA’s legendary Lifetime Warranty, Step-Up program and second-to-none customer service. Yet, if this card fails to perform up to the standards of the 8800GT it will be doomed to infamy as an “also ran” in the graphics card performance wars.



EVGA_8800GT_Main.jpg
 
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Gav

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The Stage is Set...sort of

The Stage is Set…sort of


Like I mentioned in the EVGA 8800GT review about a week ago, the current lineup of Nvidia graphics cards is about as clear as muddy water. While the EVGA 8800GTS SSC is one of the new kids on the block, it looks very much like the older (now discontinued) 8800GTS 640MB. Just to confuse you a little bit more, Nvidia and their board partners are calling this “refreshed” card the same thing as the card it replaces which is….you guessed it!! The 8800GTS. Buyer beware at retailers because it can be very easy to mix up the older 96-shader processor equipped 8800GTS with the new 112 shader processor (which we will call “SP”) 8800GTS. Here are the three products which we know to currently use the 112SP G80 core:

EVGA 8800GTS 640MB SSC Edition
XFX 8800GTS 640MB Alpha Dog
BFG 8800GTS 640MB Extreme Edition

There may be others but they haven’t made it to retail yet or they are not coming at all.

The 112 shader processors put this 8800GTS in-line with the count on the new G92-equipped 8800GT yet on paper the less expensive GT has faster clocks across the board and a core that generates less heat and ultimately consumes less power. The new 8800GTS on the other hand has the edge in the amount of memory and in the bus width as well. This should benefit it quite a bit at higher resolutions.


The EVGA 8800GTS 640MB SSC Edition


Compared to one of the EOL 8800GTS 640MB cards, the EVGA SSC Edition reigns supreme in every category. The additional stream processors and increase in clock speeds should allow it to perform nearly on-par with an 8800GTX in a few categories. This means it may also be direct competition for the 8800GT as well. Since this is the (I kid you not) Super Super Clocked Edition, it may already be running near redline so it will also be interesting to see how far it will overclock.

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


G80…..NOT G92


Since our first teaser post was put live, the forums have been afire with speculation that this is the new G92-based 8800GTS and it will be on sale “in a few weeks time”. Nothing could be further from the truth since this is a G80-based card with a few unlocked Stream Processors and it is already being sold by various online retailers. The 112 SPs do put it neck and neck with the 8800GT in this department but it is still the “older” G80-A2 GPU core powering this card.
 

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Packaging, Accessories and a Closer Look

Packaging and Accessories


This is the same basic packaging we have seen from EVGA in the past so the same comments apply now as they did then; there is plenty of information but no indication of clock speeds or number of Stream Processors. There is however a little extra perk included with this card: a full copy of the game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.


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


A closer look at the EVGA 8800GTS SSC Edition


It looks like this section will be pretty short since everything about this card is an exact clone of all of the 8800GTS cards that have come before it. It is about 9” long and equipped with Nvidia’s titanic stock cooler which has a large heatpipe (seen here on the side of the cooler) that leads away from a copper contact plate which touches the GPU’s IHS. Also, PLEASE remember that these cards come with a clear protective film over the heatsink which should be removed right before installation.

Here we also see that there is virtually no difference between the revamped 8800GTS and the “older” 8800GTS 320MB cards. Can you see the difference? The top card is an EVGA 8800GTS 320MB card while the lower one is the EVGA 8800GTS SSC Edition.


Once again we see the typical 8800GTS layout with the 6-pin power connector on the back of the card which will add about an inch onto the overall length once the connector from the power supply is attached. The rear of the card holds a pair of DVI connectors as well as an HDTV-out connector. All (or most) of the heat produced from the G80 core is exhausted through the vents at the back of the card.

All in all, there is nothing to differentiate this revised 8800GTS card from any other GTS card produced in the last few months.
 

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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 8800GTS 640MB SSC Edition w/112 SPs
Asus 8800GTX 768MB (stock)
Nvidia 8800GT 512MB (stock)
Gigabyte HD2900XT 512MB (stock)
EVGA 8800GTS 320MB (stock)

Drivers:

ATI Catalyst 7.10
Nvidia 169.04

*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
- It is VERY important to note that we are using updated drivers. Thus, some scores may be different from our last reviews.


DX9 Tests

3DMark06 Professional




Unfortunately, things don’t start off too well for the EVGA 8800GTS even with its additional shader processors unlocked. Overall it is edged out by the HD2900XT and even the stock 8800GT wins over it by a fair margin. Yet, this card’s real wild card lies with its additional ram over some of the other cards here and unfortunately that will not show in a benchmark like 3DMark06 which was run at the default 1280x1024 resolution.


Half Life 2: Episode 2

Half Life 2: Episode 2 is the newest installment in Valve’s long running Half Life series and this is without a doubt the best looking game in the series. For this benchmark a typical 10 minute exterior gameplay sequence was prerecorded and then played back using the in-game timedemo feature. The results were recorded with FRAPS.



At 1280X1024 resolution the extra memory of the GTS 640MB has very little impact when playing this game but as the resolution increases, its performance takes less of a hit than the other cards. Even though it is still eclipsed by the top-dog 8800GTX, the EVGA SSC Edition puts on a very good show.


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. Instead of using a typical mission (which seems to have given odd results more often than not when used with FRAPS) we are now using the in-game benchmarking tool which seems to give MUCH more consistent results.



In Company of Heroes we see basically the same results as Half Life 2 but this time the EVGA 8800GTS SSC plays second fiddle to the 8800GT in both tested resolutions. Both the minimum and maximum frame rates of the GTS surpass that of the GT but in the end, EVGA’s 112 Stream Processor card is not enough to overcome the average frame rate of the cheaper 8800GT.


Prey

Even though Prey may be a bit older game compared against many of the other ones we are testing, it still provides a workout of even the best graphics cards on the market. This time we have enabled its Graphics Boost feature (Gboost in the charts) and run through a custom timedemo.



In these large texture tests, the new 8800GTS is really able to shine. While it can’t match the raw horsepower of the 8800GTX, this EVGA card sits solidly in second place in these tests.


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.



While WiC is stressful for any graphics card out there, the EVGA 8800GTS SSC was able to handle anything we could throw at it. Even with the AA turned up to 4x and the AF maxed out, it provided a relatively smooth gameplay experience at 1600x1200. On the other hand, when playing at 1280x1024, it very narrowly edged out the stock 8800GT which is a good $75 less expensive than EVGA’s new GTS. We can also see how much the cards with lower amounts of memory struggle in games with very detailed textures since the 8800GTS 320MB gets creamed in both of these tests.


Lost Planet Extreme Condition

This game was one of the first to jump into the DX10 pool. It provides some pretty good visuals while being very fun to play. In this test we ran through the retail version’s in-game benchmark 4 times and averaged out the scores we received in each area.



Once again we see this card excel in conditions with high resolutions but this time it edges out the 8800GT for a very convincing lead at 1280x1024 as well. You may have noticed (or at least I hope you did) that there is no benchmark result for the 8800GTS 320MB at 1600x1200. This may be the result of the drivers we used but after repeated attempts to get the benchmark running, it was the only card that would immediately lock up at the beginning of the test. This happened with two different 320MB cards.


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.



The results in Medieval 2 reflect exactly what we were expecting with the 8800GTS: it performs well at lower resolutions but when all the eye candy is turned on at higher resolutions, it really comes in to its own.


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.



Even with anti aliasing to the in-game maximum, it is pretty clear that we are experiencing a bit of frame rate capping due to processor limitation at 1280x1024 resolution. Yet, even at the higher 1600x1200 resolution, the EVGA 8800GTS SSC barely edged out the 8800GT 512MB by 1FPS in each of the tests.
 

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DX10 Performance Tests

DX10 Testing


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Russian developer Akella has released a nifty little DX10 benchmark centered around their upcoming game PT Boats: Knights of the Sea. I have to be honest with you and say that I have some reservations about including this benchmark here. Due to a bug in the software, the demo refuses to run on any graphics card with under 512MB of ram if AA is turned on. Yet, we were able to generate some numbers for the higher-end cards in our review and these numbers looked in-line with the performance I was expecting. I think this is a good exercise in showing the community the troubles some developers seem to be having with the implementation of DX10 into their games. Nonetheless, when it is running properly, this demo is nothing short of a visual masterpiece.



I have to say that I am very impressed with the performance for the EVGA 8800GTS SSC in this test. Where some cards fell flat on their faces with either low framerates (especially in the 1600x1200 test) or refused to run at all, this new 8800GTS is blazing a bright path with good performance throughout the tests.


World in Conflict



It is extremely impressive to see a sub-$400 graphics card achieving playable frame rates in World in Conflict DX10 with AA and AF turned on. While things do get a bit choppy once in a while at 1600x1200 resolution, the experience is a sensory overload with the amazing looking graphics in this game. Personally, what impressed me the most is the difference in the minimum frame rate between the 640MB GTS and everyone’s new darling; the 8800GT.


Company of Heroes



In the Company of Heroes DX10 test we see a bit of a roll reversal with the EVGA 8800GTS SSC switching places with the 8800GT 512MB when compared to the DX9 test. The scores are very close to one another but in the end, the 8800GTX stays on top and the EVGA SSC Edition comes in a close second.


Lost Planet: Extreme Condition



We are beginning to see that the extra 128MB of ram the EVGA 8800GTS has over its competitors is most certainly paying dividends. In this test the EVGA cards’ scores are very close to those of the 8800GTX which is very impressive. A little side note should be made about the slideshow the 8800GTS 320MB card presented us at 1600x1200 resolution; it was a massive disappointment.


Crysis Demo

Up until this point, I have avoided using game demos to test graphics cards. Personally, I am dead-set against it since a demo does not usually reflect the actual performance of a game once it is released. On the other hand, Crysis has so much hype swirling around it that it would be crazy for me NOT to include some benchmark numbers. In this test, the in-game benchmarking tool was used.



At Very High detail levels, the only card that presented a remotely playable experience was the 8800GTX at 1280x1024 resolution. This is by no means a fault of the graphics card architecture but rather (I hope) the lack of optimizations in the demo itself.
 

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Power Consumption and Overclocking

Power Consumption

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


The power consumption of this card seems to be right in line with a normal overclocked 8800GTS 640MB card. That means it consumes quite a bit of power compared to some of its competitors. Fortunately, nothing here can touch the HD2900XT in terms of power usage.


Overclocking

Due to the time constraints of this review, I have not yet found a stable overclock that I am happy with. As it stands right now, the highest I have had this card is 670Mhz on the core and 1970Mhz (DDR) on the memory but it would not complete the 3DMark06 Deep Freeze test though it would play CoH without a problem. Stay tuned to the Question, Comment and Update Thread for more details about whichever stable overclock I end up reaching.
 

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Conclusion

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the EVGA 8800GTS SSC Edition with 112 Stream Processors has found its niche in the market. If you are one of the many people looking to purchase a 22” or larger widescreen monitor and play games with high details and IQ settings, this card should be at the very top of your list. This card has shown itself to be superior to the extremely popular 8800GT 512MB when playing DX10 games with large textures. Indeed, EVGA has fitted this card perfectly into vacuum created by the discontinuation of the older 8800GTS 640MB.

Was I impressed with the EVGA 8800GTS SSC? Yes, I was but I have my reservations about recommending it outright. Let’s be honest; most customers don’t play at ultra high resolutions with high levels of AA and AF enabled and it is here where parallels between the new 8800GT and this card will be called into question. The SSC carries a nearly 30% price premium but it performs on-par with the GT at lower resolutions. On the other hand this new 112 Stream Processor equipped GTS is able in most cases to manhandle the stock 8800GT at higher resolutions and in games with larger textures or more detail. Another unfortunate occurrence is the complete lack of 8800GT cards on the market today; there are long backorder lists at popular retailers and consumers may be looking for an alternative. If you are willing to pay the extra $75 (or thereabouts) for the 8800GTS with 112 Stream Processors, you will not regret your decision.

Nvidia’s partners are walking a very thin line here because they needed to fill the gap between the 8800GT and the 8800GTX without overtaking Nvidia’s flagship card. I believe that they have succeeded very well since this 8800GTS SSC does not perform any better than the GTX yet it happily walks all over the 8800GT at higher resolutions and especially in DX10 games. Throughout our testing one thing became painfully apparent: even the 512MB of memory on the 8800GT is very much the bare minimum for most DX10 applications. Luckily for those of you playing at high resolutions with AA and AF enabled, the 8800GTS with 112 shader processors and 640MB of memory presents a great option if you are hesitant about spilling $500 and more for an 8800GTX.

Simply put; the EVGA 8800GTS SSC Edition is geared towards consumers who want to play at high resolutions with as much eye candy turned on as possible. If you play at 1280X1024 or even 1600x1200 with lower modes of AA and AF turned on then this is simply not the card for you. Are you looking into buying a 22” or larger widescreen monitor? If so then the EVGA 8800GTS SSC presents you with a great option for high resolution, high IQ-settings gaming.


Pros:

- Amazing performance in DX10 games and higher resolutions
- Good price for performance
- Lifetime warranty
- Quiet

Cons:

- Performance at lower resolutions is tied or below the 8800GT
- Consumes quite a bit of power


 
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