XFX GeFORCE 8800GTS XXX 320MB Review

Author: Michael Nguyen
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, February 12th, 2007
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/xfx_8800_gts_320/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

XFX has been on a G80 tear of late. With the release of their forthcoming XFX 8800 GTS XXX 320MB, it will be their ninth rendition of the G80 core series which was unveiled in late 2006. XFX has 3 verisons (XXX, ExTreme, regular) for each of the 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 640MB and 8800 GTS 320MB.The XFX 8800 GTS XXX 320MB will make its debut in mid-February 2007, just before Valentines day.

There are few differences between this card and its GTS brethren with 640MB other than the obvious RAM adjustments. The most pleasant change being the price. The XFX 8800 GTS 320MB will cost half that of the GTX 768MB version at $299, while the XXX version will cost $349. For a better idea of the price differences:


When we reviewed the XFX 8800 GTX XXX 768MB , it was clearly the fastest card available at the time. However with a little price gouging, the GTX XXX wasn't very cost-effective and thus, left out a large proportion of the consumer market. The XFX 8800 GTS 320MB is intended to swallow up the medium-to-high end range at the $300 dollar mark and become the eventually sucessor to the 79xx series that dominated this price range for a year plus.

Since this card is essentially the same as the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX XXX with a few choice tweaks, this review is only meant to show the differences (which there aren't many of) in performance. Please refer back to our previous G80 reviews of the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX XXX and  BFG GeFORCE 8800 GTS.



Physically, the card is identical to the regular GTS verison. The GTX and GTX XXX verison have longer PBCs than the GTS' to house the extra bits it needs but the difference isn't significant. The heatsink used is the same one used on the other G80 cards as well and uses only one PCI-E power molex (400W PSU minimum, XFX suggests 600W or higher for SLI). Also, this version of the card only has one SLI connector where the GTX XXX has two. Still the 320MB XXX comes with the Double Lifetime Warranty so if there are any problems, you can be sure XFX will take care of it.

All of the I/O's and power connectors are standard; the 6 pin  PCI-e power connector (though our XFX 8800 GTX XXX has dual six pin PCI-e power connectors), dual DVI ports, and an S-Video port for running your PC on a TV.

Very standard for any modern video card. But during our inspection of this card, and the subsequent removal of its heatsink, a couple of little differences were noted.

The first thing we notice is the sheer mass of the GPU. Yes, it is big, and a chip that big needs to be cooled as best it can. On the cooler side we see the copper heat spreader smeered with thermal paste. This thermal past is an Arctic Silver type of paste. Note that it is not Arctic Silver, but some other type of paste with micronized metal particles suspended within it. It works quite wel, but any true hardware enthuasist will probablly apply their own coating of Acrtic Silver or other quality brand thermal paste.

As for those little white pads; they're a type of thermal interfacing material that we have started to call thermal gum. It is about the texture of chewed gum and helps to facalitate proper thermal transferance between hot parts and cold heat sinks. But if you'll notice, there seems to be a couple of spots when that white thermal gum is missing. Looking to the card, we can see there is an empty spot where some memory should be. Aside from that missing memory, the GTS doesn;t seem to be that much different from the GTS 640MB version. Hmmm, maybe a daring hardware hacker could get their hands on some of this Hynix RAM and solder it to this card. They'll probablly need to re-flash the cards BIOS, but it would be a challange.

So while the physical aspect of the card remains relatively the same as the other cards, there have been changes to the internals. Here is a quick breakdown.

Video Card Stream Processors Core Speed RAM (MB) RAM Speed (MHz)
XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX XXX 128 630 768 2000
XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX
128 575 768 1800
XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 640MB 96 550 640 1800
XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS 640MB
96 500 640 1600
XFX GeFORCE 8800  GTS XXX 320MB 96 580 320 1800
XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS 320MB 96 500 320 1600

One thing I'd like to note are some issues with the latest drivers. Currently the newest ForceWare drivers are the 97.92 which we tried in addition to the 97.44 drivers. When using ForceWare 97.92, we experienced a slightly higher power consumption by 1 to 2 watts and test gaming generally resulted in +-1 FPS on average. So for us at least, the ForceWare 97.92 drivers did little performance wise. The XXX 320MB could be a steal at the $349 price point, considering its core speed is 30MHz faster than the 640MB GTS XXX version and in general the savings over the price of an 8800 GTS 640MB edition might well make this one of the most desirable cards in the next 6 months.  Testing will show whether the deficiency of RAM will really effect performance.

Every card sold nowadays comes with some sort of bundle or other, and the XFX 8800 GTS XXX is no exception. But first, the box.

Bundle

The bundle for the GTS 320MB isn't as slim as the one that came with the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX XXX. XFX is being more generous with their cheapest XXX card by including Ghost Recon: Advanced War.  Ghost Recon: Advanced War is notorious for its RAM debilitating ways but we couldn't get it in for this round of testing. It would've been nice to see if the GTS 320MB could handle GR:AW at full resolution.

The wolfman returns as the box character, a full endorsor of $349 price for this card. It's a fantasic looking box if I do say myself, much more simplistic than the BFG and ASUS ones I've seen.

Setup

The system setup is the same as it has always been for the past couple months. The setup includes:

The games tested are:

And the cluster of cards we tested are:

On to the show!

 

3D Mark 06

Unfortunately, ATI cards do not as of yet properly support 3DMark 06's Shader Model 3.0 test, resulting in the weird scores above.

Far Cry

The Far Cry results below show how closely both 8800GTS cards follow in performance patterns.  Note however, that when AA/AF is turned on the 320MB 8800GTS drops dramatically at the 2048x1536 resolution compared to the 640MB edition.


Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

The GTS 320MB is clinging in there at second place in both benches. The GTX XXX keeps a very steady lead over the 320MB, ghosted by its simpler sibling.  You'll also notice the XXX edition of the 8800 GTS is beating the BFG 640MB 8800GTS quite consistently so the faster core and memory speeds are proving to result in a significant impact.  In Splinter Cell the 320MB GTS card appears to have no issues even at the highest resolutions.

One interesting note; when bench testing Far Cry at that ultra high resolution of 2048x1536 with filters on high, the time demo played like a slide show with all cards except for the XFX 8800 GTX XXX. Simply going to show that added memory can help to offload a GPU and boost some frame rates.

Doom 3


Doom 3 is another game where the 320MB 8800GTS shows no penalty against its 640MB variant.  The difference between the 320MB and 640MB GTS is minute but the faster core in the 320MB is paying off.  Note also that the 7950GT shows some real value against even the 8800GTS.  As for that slow start for the GTX XXX, we've seen this before. This would seem to be a factor of the GTX choosing not to use all of its 128 stream processors. It would rather save its steam for the higher resolutions.

Quake IV

The story QIV is also the same: the 320MB and 640MB are neck to neck even at the highest resolution, highest filter and quality settings.  The 7950GT however falters at the highest resolution.


F.E.A.R.

When looking at the FEAR charts please take careful note of the very small, but noticeable performance lead of the 640MB GTS over the 320MB version.  The same cannot be said for Prey, where the 320MB version holds its own at all resolutions.

Prey

The GTX XXX again has a somewhat comfortable lead in both benches but the 320MB and 640MB seem more evenly matched. In FEAR, the GTX XXX is the only real standout as everything is pretty clustered, while in Prey the scores are what you'd expect up until now. Again with the GTX XXX and F.E.A.R., we saw very smooth performance. All other cards played rather choppy, especially when the camera would turn. Quick turning in games will more often than not require high levels of AA and AF in order to maintain acceptable image quality.

X3



Company of Heroes

Due some restraints, we could only get the ATI Radeon X1950 XTX at 2xAA, 2xAF instead of 0xAA/0xAF due to the ATI Catalst drivers used. But since this is the lowest filtering quality we can force using the graphics drivers, we'll take it. It's always better to lock the filtering on or off using the video drivers rather than the in-game settings.

X3 has always been an ATI friendly game. The X1950 XTX edges out the GTS XXX 320MB by a few FPS. So for the ten people who actually play X3, that $600 XTX you bought at launch was worth it.

X3 shows a considerable drop for 320MB, at higher 2048x1536 compared to the 640MB version.

Power Consumption



The XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB uses roughly the same amount of power that ATI's high-end card does. While the XXX tops them both out at nearly 300W draw, you'll need a pretty hefty power supply if you want to use any of XFX's G80 cards.

Final Thoughts

The XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB spec sheet  indicated great promise for a card retailing for $349. With nearly identical specifications as the GTS 640MB with half the RAM, the GTS XXX 320MB trounced the Asus GeFORCE 7950GT in benchmarks. The Asus GeFORCE 7950GT (which retails for about $270) should quickly start to subside, as will all previous generation cards, when people start to notice the cheaper G80 cards.

When comparing the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB to the regular BFG GeFORCE 8800 GTS, the XFX card scored higher in most of the games we tested thanks to its higher clock and memory speeds. Really, I don't see any purpose of getting a regular GTS unless it has some extreme undocumented overclocking threshold and newer games really start to take advantage of practical Video RAM usage. In the more recent games in our benchmarking line-up, X3 and Company of Heroes, you can see the BFG card closing the gap where RAM dependancy is more crucial, and other reviews have shown that memory intensive games like Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter start larger performance gaps between the 640MB and 320MB variants of the 8800GTS cards.  In our case, we took the cards to the limit and pushed resolutions up to 2048x1536 to test NVIDIA's claims that the 320MB edition of the card can deliver a smooth gaming performance no different than the 640MB 8800GTS at anything up to 1920x1200.  In our case we don't actually have the 1920x1200 going, but you can sure bet that 2048x1536 is a LOT more pixels to process, and even under those conditions few of our test suite really showed the 320MB as lacking even with AA and AF turned up.  That's a heck of an achievement.

Now when comparing the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB to the XFX's G80 cards, there is the price to performance issue. While the 8800GTS 320MB version retails for $349, the GTX XXX cost nearly double at $649. What this means is that for now the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB is perhaps the best card to purchase price-to-performance wise. Concerning only existing games, the 320MB version doesn't experience many (if any at all) problems despite its RAM shortage. One game that comes to mind that might cause some problems is Obilivon where RAM caching for large texture models may tax the card more so than something with more dedicated memory. XFX's GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 640MB differs from the object of this review in three big ways. First, the 320MB core is actually clocked faster (580MHz) than the 640MB card, according to XFX's own specs. Second is the obvious RAM difference and third is the price, 320MB costing $349 and 640MB $449. That's $100 extra dollars for 320MB of RAM and a core that is 30 MHz slower.  The comparison is still around a $100 difference when comparing regular editions of both cards with the 320MB stock speed card coming in at $299 versus as low as $359-399 for the 640MB card.

In the final analysis the one thing many will ask is whether to save the extra $100 and get the 320MB version of the 8800GTS over the 640MB version .  In spite of much of the hoopla MANY gamers are still running 19" monitors with 1280x1024 resolutions, and at best 1600x1200 20" or 1680x1050 20-22" widescreen LCD's.   All of these resolutions show almost no difference between the 320MB and 640MB editions of the GTS cards in our tests.   And if you had spent the $500USD to get a 23-26" 1920x1200 monitor or even $1000+ on a 30" 2560x1600 monitor then you probably aren't looking for this class of card.   NVIDIA and XFX are quite confident that resolutions up to 1920x1200 will show negligeable differences of performance between both RAM sizes, though personally we'd recommend you consider that 1600x1200 be the resolution limit before you consider the more expensive 640MB version.



XFX seems to be binning its G80 cores and allocating the cream of the crop to their XXX classification. In our GTX XXX review, I didn't overwhelmingly recommend the XXX version over the regular since the differences weren't great enough to justify it. However, in this case I'd suggest getting the XXX version of 320MB over the regular. You'll pay $50 over for a 100MHz RAM  and 80MHz core boost. In the case of the core, that's a 16% speed increase.  That may not sound like a lot but our test results showed a significant performance boost, and there are plenty of worse ways of wasting $50 on pastes and fans to achieve the same %16 increase in speed. One thing I'd like to test is the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 320MB vs. the XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTS XXX 640MB in some games that are more RAM dependent. However, having only seen and testing the 320MB, my verdict goes with it. It has proved to dominate anything from the previous generation at the $300-$349 price range and is only a slight step behind the GTX XXX.  This is definitely an Editor's Choice winner.

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