Author: Terren Tong
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, July 7th, 2004
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/bfg6800gtoc/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
It has been a few weeks since we did a preview of the 6800 series from Nvidia and it has been a few weeks more than that since the 6800 was officially introduced in April. 6800s have been about as prominent as Italian Hip Wader sightings outside of the fashion strip. However, it seems like Nvidia and its partners are finally going to be hitting the market in full force during the month of July, just in time for DOOM 3.
While a lot of manufacturers churn out both Nvidia and ATi cards there are only a handful of companies are stoically in one camp or the other. BFG Technologies is one of these companies. Something that is sort of quizzical is the way that some manufacturers can sell overlapping products from differing manufacturers; as a consumer it does not instill a lot of confidence in me because they are not standing behind a particular product because of performance or quality but they are just pumping differing cards out en masse. With a company like BFG this is simply not a choice because their target audience is the enthusiast market and selling a product that they do not believe in is simply suicide.
Today we take a look at BFG's 6800 GT OC. In their 6800 lineup, the OC takes a 3rd place in their high end lineup behind the Stock and Watercooled GeForce 6800 Ultra OC. Make no mistake about 3rd fastest in their lineup though as this is definitely a very fast video card.
|5950||6800||6800 GT||BFG 6800 GT OC||6800 Ultra||BFG 6800 OC||BFG 6800 OC W|
|Memory Bandwidth||30.4 GB/s||22.4 GB/s||32 GB/s||32 GB/s||35.2 GB/s||35.2 GB/s||35.2 GB/s|
A big advantage of the BFG 6800 GT OC is that it is overclocked out of the box pitting it almost squarely in between the stock GT and stock Ultras that most other manufacturers will produce with the Ultra having under a 10% clockspeed advantage. Memory is on par as well with the Ultra sporting about a 10% advantage in raw memory bandwidth. Something that should be noted is that memory bandwidth has not increased at the same rate as the processing power. Fancy compression techniques will alleviate the growing gap somewhat but it is clear that memory technology is not growing by the same leaps and bounds as GPU technology.
The BFG 6800 GT does not come with a lot of extras unfortunately. The standard Y adapter and DVI->VGA converter are included as well as a driver CD, Quick Install Guide and a demo disc. The demo disc does contain some newer games such as Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Silent Storm and Painkiller. No high profile pack in like Call of Duty this time around though let's keep our fingers crossed for a DOOM 3 pack in when it finally shows up on shelves.
What is included with every BFG card however is a Lifetime Warranty and 24/7 Technical Support. A Lifetime Warranty is really something nowadays seeing as how the trend has been to shorten the warranty period instead of lengthening it. Another big bonus is the free 24/7 technical support. Is it really 24 hours? All I know is I called during late December after a late night party and someone picked up and asked how they could help. Gamers will be able to appreciate this extra piece of mind and easy access to a live operator instead of having to wait for companies to reply to emails and all that jazz.
Instead of going through all the technical stuff behind the NV40 architecture and why it is a huge improvement over the NV3x series, we'll just refer back to our Tech Preview of the 6800 series which goes into some of the 6800 features in more detail. Also be sure to check out the David Kirk interview later on in the article. Suffice it to say, a lot of functionality is not yet exposed as Shader Model 3 is not supported until the release of Directx 9c and the 6800 series has more potential headroom to grow as it is not a mature architecture as the x800 series from ATi is.
The BFG GT OC seems to be based off of the A1 revision of the NV40 core. The memory chips are covered by the heatsink but according to the sticker they are 500mhz Samsung DDR modules
AMD Athlon 3400+
AOpen AK86-L (K8T800)
Corsair 2x256 (DDR3200)
Western Digital 120 GB HD
Windows XP SP1
ATi X800 XT Platinum Edition
ATi X800 Pro
Nvidia GeForce Fx 5950
BFG 6800 GT OC
We take the best from ATi and we see how the BFG 6800 GT OC stacks up against them and Nvidia's last generation high end part, the 5950. The X800s were benched using the Catalyst 4.5 drivers while the 5950 and 6800 used the 61.21 drivers provided by BFG.
Splinter Cell (tbilisi 1_1_1, 1_1_2)
Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness
X2 Rolling Demo
Call of Duty (brecourt)
Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Academy (rift sanctuary, taspir)
Unreal Tournament 2k4 (dm_metallurgy)
Far Cry (River Level)
Aquamark is our DirectX 9 synthetic benchmark of choice. It has been able to avoid the circus and inconsistencies that has plagued 3DMark03. Aquamark is also the same engine that powers Aquanox 2 and Spellforce so it can be a rough indication of how those games perform.
Without AA/AF, the BFG 6800 GT OC walks all over the competition especially the X800 Pro the 6800 GT series will be priced against. With AA/AF, the tables turn and the X800s are on top of the BFG.
OpenGL games were Nvidia's bread and butter for a long time and they still have consistently better performance than their ATi counterparts in OpenGL shooters. This is important as the Quake franchise has always been based off of OpenGL and the upcoming DOOM3 will also be OpenGL based. We will see if Nvidia continues its dominance here.
The GT OC is a fillrate monster being mainly CPU bound at all resolutions with AA/AF off. Notice the sharp drop off for the 5950 and the slower drop offs on the X800 series. On the BFG we are looking at roughly a 4 FPS difference from 1024 to 1600.
With AA/AF on, the BFG still manages to hold onto the lead admirably. The slope of the graph going from 1280 to 1600 shows a greater hit on the GT OC as compared to the ATi cards which seem to scale linearly on both the X800 Pro and Ultra. We also noticed a sharper drop off in Aquamark.
Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Academy
The same trend seems to hold true on Jedi Academy. The GT OC holds a comfortable lead on both demos. Notice the speed of the 5950 in the first graph; it manages to keep up with the X800 Pro. Again at 1600x1200, the 6800 seems to take a bigger hit than the X800 XT PE counterpart.
UT2k4 is one of the AAA titles that have been released in recent months. UT2k4 is not particularly shader intensive but has vast open areas and a lot of textures. All the next generation cards, the X800s and the BFG GT OC are CPU bound without AA/AF. It is interesting to note that Nvidia seems to have the more efficient drivers; even the 5950 manages to pull in better framerates at 1024.
With the inclusion of AA/AF, the XT PE manages to take the lead at 1280 and 1600. The BFG GT OC is faster than the X800 Pro still. The 5950 fades from the rest of the group like it did at higher resolutions without AA/AF
Halo was another one of our favorites shooters from this year. The BFG GT OC is not able to keep up with the X800 XT PE at 1024 but manages to pull within a hair at 1600x1200. At 1024, we're looking at roughly a 70% increase in performance over the 5950 Ultra. The GT OC keeps the X800 Pro at bay with ease.
The biggest shooter of 2004 must be Far Cry and for good reason. It looks gorgeous but also requires massive system performance to drive it. Being Pixel Shader heavy also helps it showcase the processing power of the newer video cards.
We see a strange reversal of fortune with Far Cry. We have the BFG GT OC coming in behind both the Pro and XE PE without AA/AF but closing the gap at 1600x1200 with AA/AF
One of the thorns in the side of the NV3x series was the poor performance in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Nvidia has remedied these problems with the 6800 as we can see
The XT PE is still undoubtably the fastest solution in Tomb Raider but the BFG GT OC manages to stay neck and neck with the Pro.
Benchmarks from Splinter Cell were done using Buffer Mode which is supported by both Nvidia and ATi cards unlike projection mode which is Nvidia only. Projection Mode is actually significantly slower for the Nvidia cards coming in at roughly 30% slower.
The X800 XT PE is slightly faster overall compared to the BFG GT OC and they both leave the Pro in the dust. We're looking at over a doubling of the framerate between the 5950 and the GT OC in the first benchmark while the second one is close to a 100% difference.
The XT PE manages to stay ahead of the GT OC without AA/AF but the tables are turned with AA/AF on in X2. Again as we move to 1280 and 1600 with AA/AF, we see the gap between the XT PE and GT OC nearly disappear. The trend of the XT PE taking less of a hit at higher resolutions with AA/AF seems to hold true here also.
There are a couple new things on the Nvidia control panel with regards to overclocking. Under the manual option, they have a "Detect Optimal Frequencies" button. Using this resulted in several tests that took around two minutes in total before the sliders adjusted themselves to a whopping 428 Mhz core and a 1.11 Ghz memory clock. The headroom on the GT seems pretty amazing if this sample is any indication of the ability of the retail cards. Not only are we past 6800 Ultra speeds but we are also surpass BFG's 6800 Ultra OC specs (425 Mhz). Something else to ponder is that the GT is a single slot, single molex solution compared to Ultra which utilize dual slots and dual molex connectors. The BFG 6800 GT OC stayed stable and artifact free for over an hour looping in 3DMark03. Attempts to push the core a few extra megahertz beyond the Optimal Frequency setting resulted in a lockup in 3DMark so the limit is very close to the 428 detected by the driver software.
Early versions of the GT OC may not come with the fancy box
There is a lot to like about the BFG 6800 GT OC. It is hard to go wrong with BFG as a company; they have one of the best, if not the best support in the industry. I mean who else mans their phones 24/7? A lifetime warranty is not a bad thing either. One of the only gripes is the lack of a pack-in game as the BFG 6800 GT OC only comes with a demo disc containing Pandora Tomorrow, Silent Storm and Painkiller. Nonetheless this is not necessarily a bad thing as it helps keep costs down and may save the end user the dismay of getting a second copy of a game they already own.
As far as the card itself goes, the BFG 6800 GT OC is nearly perfect- single slot solution, single molex connector and 6800 Ultra level performance (and beyond if overclocked). Unlike the Ultra based cards, the GT series seem to be going with the single DVI single D-Sub connectors for the video out. This might be an issue for those with dual LCDs. Again, the BFG solution is faster than the stock solutions offered by other vendors being overclocked out of the box at 370 Mhz. Our particular unit was an overclocking beast managing to stay stable at 428/1.11
The price of the BFG 6800 GT OC is agreeable also - with a MSRP of 399$, it is 100$ less than the Ultra and the X800 XT PE. The price is on part with the X800 Pro and in our benchmarking, the GT OC is right up there with the XT PE in most cases. Performance is still being eeked out by the Nvidia driver team with fairly big gains from the initial debut in April till now and more expected in the short term. In my opinion, the 6800 GT OC is the most attractive next generation card to get. Faster than stock, 100$ less than the Ultra/PE XT, Shader Model 3 support, and the potential to get even faster. What more can you ask for?
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