XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog Edition 256MB

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/xfx8800gtADE/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

This week we are going to take a look at the XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition video card. This is a overclocked 256MB 8800 GT with a G92 GPU pumping out raw game-power performance.

2008 has now begun, so it might be a good idea to take a broad look at the current video card landscape. Let's keep this brief. The last quarter of 2007 saw some big releases; arguably the most important being ATI/AMD's HD 3870, and NVIDIA's 8800 GT. Both of these 512MB cards were aimed at the largest segment of the gaming masses. Priced between $200 and $300 USD, performance only previously obtained with high-end cards, such as the 8800 GTX, was brought into the financial reach of many. Following up these big-splash cards, came the slightly less-powerful -- and little cheaper -- HD 3850 and a 256MB version of the 8800 GT.

While the HD 3870 was an excellent card, in many occasions it lost out to the similarly priced 8800 GT when anti-aliasing was cranked up. However, due to supply demands as consumers rushed to stores to pick up both new varieties of video cards, sometimes the HD 3870 came out ahead of the 8800 GT when it came to bang for the buck. In most cases however, it was the 8800 GT that out-performed.

Neoseeker has not tested very many HD 3850 cards, but the one we test, the PowerColor HD 3850 Xtreme PCS (512MB) was a very strong card for the price, easily earning our Value award. Today we will test out our XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition primarily against this contender.

A little later, NVIDIA followed up the 8800 GT with a revision of the 8800 GTS. The new GTS had the same GPU core as the 8800 GT. In comparison with the first 8800 GTS, the new GTS had a cut-back to the memory interface, but a increase in stream processors. The new 8800 GTS 512MB ended up out-performing the 8800 GTX most of time, in all but the higher resolutions (1600x1200+). It was priced at around $350.

On the horizon, both NVIDIA and ATI/AMD plan to release two powerhouse, dual-GPU cards: the 9800 GX2, and the HD 3870 X2. Like a tasty graphic processor sandwich, both of these 2-in-1 cards (a double HD 3870 x 2, and what appears to be a double 8800 GTS 512)  will take the current performance crowns, but will probably be priced out of reach of many. Also coming up is NVIDIA's 8800 GS, which will presumably offer a good bang for the buck, in order to try to capture the $100-$200 price-point. ATI/AMD's answer to this will be the mid-range HD 3670, rumored to be coming out around the same time as the 8800 GS, in early February. Around March, NVIDIA also has a 9600 GT rumored to be in wraps, with performance less than the 8800 GT, but far greater than the 8600 GT/GTS line.

Another interesting piece of news on the graphics front was the introduction of CrossFireX by ATI/AMD, which allows for up to 4 video cards to run in CrossFire mode on a Spider platform, and NVIDIA's introduction of 3-Way SLI, which offers extreme performance for the 8800 GTX and Ultra line.

So, now that your up to speed on the current landscape, lets take a look-see at how the this XFX 8800 GT 256MB stacks up to the competition.

Brace yourself for a big surprise: the XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog Edition 256MB looks very similar to the other 8800 GT 512MB video cards we have reviewed: about 9 inches long, and fairly thin. (Okay, maybe it wasn't that much of a surprise.)

But there are a few differences with this sleek monster -- a few nice touches that separate this XFX 8800 GT from the others I've seen. Probably the most notable is the plastic stabilizing bar, that runs along the top of the card. Additionally, following XFX's color combinations, this 8800 GT's PCB is black (as opposed to the regular green), and the DVI ports are green. Beyond these cosmetic changes, the XFX 8800 GT also has a superior fan: while it is not a very far departure from the single-slot, reference board design, the XFX fan has more vanes (15  compared to the standard 13), and a wider hub (about 3 centimeters compared to the standard 2 and half) which suggests a more powerful electric motor, which would result in a higher RPM to cool the card.

This faster fan does have a downside though: it seems little bit louder than the other 8800 GT fans that I've heard -- maybe making this video card less attractive for any possible HTPC's.

XFX introduced their new  'Alpha Dog Edition' branding with the 8800 series of cards. Furthermore, you can purchase a 'standard' Alpha Dog Edition, or get a even further overclocked 'XXX' edition of this card -- which is the one we will be testing here today. The reference clocks for the 65nm GPU GeForce 8800 GT 256MB are 600 MHz for the core clock, 1.5 GHz for the shader clock, and 1.4 GHz for the memory clock. According to the program RivaTuner, the XXX edition of the XFX 8800 GT 256MB has been overclocked to 648 MHz for the GPU, 1.620 GHz for the shader clock, and 1.6 GHz for the memory clock. These are some pretty nice overclocks -- the XFX 'XXX' defintely is not just a sticker that they throw on the box.

Same as the 8800 GT 512MB cards, the GDDR3 256MB version has 112 stream processors, a 256-bit memory interface, PCI Express version 2.00 compatible, SLI capable, supports Direct 10 (but not 10.1!) and Shader Model 4.0, can support resolutions up to 2560x1600 and 16x anti-aliasing, and has NVIDIA's VP2 PureVideo technology, which improves high-def playback, offloading most of the digital decoding from the shoulders of your CPU, and instead, onto your video card's capable GPU.

Box

The XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog Edition 256MB XXX comes in a smaller-than-average box (about the length of a football, and as thick as a phonebook), which is a nice change over the unnecessarily massive boxes you usually find hardware store shelves.

On the front, you have the ferocious-looking Alpha Dog, and the XXX edition sticker (which is a plus, as before, you had to check the serial code sticker to see if it was a 'XXX' edition.)

On the back, there is a see-through panel, which shows you the gaming power that is almost within your grasp, and a standard list of key features of the 8800 GT.

Bundle

Best thing you'll probably enjoy here is a copy of the game Lost Planet. While not the game of the year, Lost Planet is a fun console port of science-fiction themed action game, where you play a guy with a large arsenal of weapons, who likes to shoot aliens. The game should provide at least a few hours of solid fun for someone, and is a great addition to this package, especially at this price-point. Also unique, as bundles go, is the "I'm Gaming Do Not Disturb" placard that can be hung on your door-knob at home -- for those long gaming sessions.

Besides these items, we also have a driver CD, some quick-start instructions, a pair of DVD to VGA adapters, a molex-to-PCIE power adapter, a s-video cable, and a HDTV adapter.

Additionally --and this seems like as good of a place to mention it as any -- as for all XFX cards, this possible purchase of yours is supported by a 'Double Lifetime' warranty. If you register the purchase of this video card in 30 days, XFX covers you, and will replace your card if it dies prematurely. This warranty can also be transferred to a second owner of the card (say, if you sold it on eBay to someone, for example). It's always good to be covered, so this warranty is a nice thing to see.

 

Benchmark Setup

For this we review, we used the following testing platform:

We decided on the following other cards to bench the XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX edition against, roughly arranged from the quickest, to the slowest:  an Asus EN8800 GTX, a NVIDIA 8800 GT 512MB, an Asus HD 3870 T.O.P, an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, a PowerColor HD 3850 Xtreme PCS (512 MB), a XFX 8800 GTS XXX Edition (320MB), and a MSI  RX 2600  XT Diamond Plus.

 

We used Vista to run all of our benchmarks. Although performance in most of these games would be superior in XP, Vista has the advantage of supporting DX10, which we wanted to try out, so we went with it.

As for drivers, our HD 3850 and HD 2900 XT used Catalyst 7.11 drivers. For the NVIDIA cards, we used Forceware 169.12.

Here are the games we benched, with some information on our chosen settings:

Bioshock: For this benchmark, all of the Detail settings were set to 'High'. All of the graphic option switches were set to 'On', with the exception of the following three settings: Vsync, Windowed mode, and Force Global Lighting. We used FRAPS to measure framerate performance. The FRAPS run was 138 seconds, triggered from pulling the switch in the sub at game's beginning. The sub's dive involves many big models moving around, which should strain the GPU's and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Call of Juarez: We used the stand-alone Call of Juarez DX10 benchmarking program for these results. For our AA testing, we used a setting of 2x.

Crysis: These benchmarks were performed using 'fly-by' GPU test found within the single-player pre-release demo version of the game. All graphic settings were on 'Medium.' For AA, we used a setting of 4x. DX10 mode was used.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: This is the first time we used this id FPS shooter as a benchmark. The following settings were used: medium texture qualities, normal lighting quality, high shader effects, high terrian and foliage quality, ultra shader level, and shadows were on.

Unreal Tournament 3:  We tested the game using a fly-through of the vechicle capture-the-flag map 'Suspense.'angriLa (map) running for 90 seconds. Details were set to 'High', and a AF setting of 4x was used.

World In Conflict: We used the built-in benchmark of the demo version of this game. We ran the benchmark in DX9 rendering mode, with a 'High' level of quality. For the AA testing, we used a setting of 4x, and a setting of 16x for AF.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.

The XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition 256MB gets off to a nice start in our Unreal bench, comparing well against the competition.

Probably the most noteworthy result from the Quake Wars test is that the 256MB 8800 GT lags about 20 FPS behind the 512MB 8800 GT at 1600x1200 with high detail settings. Besides that resoultion though, it performs in a similar class as the competition -- and stacks up well against the HD 3850 and HD 3870.

Typical for Call of Juarez, the ATI cards turn in better results than the NVIDIA cards for this benchmark. However, the XFX GeForce 8800 GT doesn't really do all that well here, coming in almost last on the list here.

This almost certainly due to amount of memory on the card. It seems like 256MB is not enough for the texture requirements of this DX10 game, as the 256MB 8800 GT comes significantly behind the 512MB XFX 8800 GT. This is most notable at 1280x1024, where the 256MB 8800 GT delivers about half the performance of the 512MB 8800 GT.

Let's see if this lower amount of memory hinders the XFX 8800 GT in any of the other games.

The 256MB of memory is not an issue for Bioshock anyways -- here the XFX 8800 GT performs very well, it shows significant gains over the HD 3850 and HD 3870.

The XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog stacks up well against the competition once again, in the World of Conflict benchmark.

Crysis is a demanding bench for any video card yet released. In all hoensty, I did not expect the 256MB XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog Edition to do perform as well as it did in the Crysis benchmark. It really turned in some great numbers here -- enough to convince any doubters that this card is very capable indeed.

Reiterating my experiences with past XFX cards, the Alpha Dog once again shows that it does have bite.

Power

The XFX 8800 GT saps a bit more power than the NVIDIA 8800 GT. Nonetheless, thanks to the efficiencies of the new G92 65nm GPU, this power drain probably isn't sufficient enough to warrant worrying about having to upgrade your power supply any time soon.

Conclusion

I have to admit I'm pleasantly surprised with the performance the XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog can deliver. I was expecting the comparably low amount of memory to hold the card back further then it did. But besides one game -- Call of Juarez -- the 256MB XFX 8800 GT compared favorably to the competition.

So it comes down to price. For price-to-performance ratio, from the testing that Neoseeker has done, it looks like the XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX Edition 256MB card is definitely one of the strongest in the class -- comparing quite well against the 512MB versions of the card, as well as 8800 GTS 512MB, as far as bang-for-buck is concerned.

Retailing between $200 and $250 dollars, as of mid January, '08, the most serious competition that this mean machine faces in the sub-$250 category comes from the HD 3870. Prices on this ATI offering have been dropping recently, and are now being offered around the same price range as the XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog Edition, at many online retailers. In our benches today, we used a Asus HD 3870 T.O.P (overclocked) edition card, which often retails for over $250, and as for price-to-performance goes, the XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog held its own there. But against less expensive HD 3870 video cards, the competition would be a little more fierce.

Perhaps a year from now or so, once prices invariably fall further, getting a second Alpha Dog for a two card SLI solution might also be an attractive upgrade path.

That being said, the XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX edition, at a low $200 price-point, is unarguably a fine deal, and a good purchase. It really held its own against the 512MB 8800 GT in our tests, and the 256MB of memory does seem like enough GDDR3 to deliver smooth gaming experiences. However, if you have a higher resolution monitor (let's say above 1440x960), and generally keep video cards for two years or more, than maybe a 512MB card might be a better choice for you -- but for most, the XFX 8800 GT Alpha Dog XXX really delivers for the price, and has enough snap to it to keep you from lagging in any monster-laden dungeons, terrorist stand-offs, or intense interstellar space-battles that you might come across.

This XFX video card surprise delivers, and is recommended.

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