XFX GeFORCE 8800GTX XXX Review

Author: Michael Nguyen, J. Micah Grunert
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, January 25th, 2007
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/xfx_8800_gtx/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

In the early part of November 2006, NVIDIA released its long awaited G80 centric 8800 series. Now in the new year 2007, after garnering stellar reviews, the 8800 series has been championed as the new computer graphics king with some drawing comparisons of it being equal to the like of a SLI 7950 GX2 setup. XFX has released four different G80 cards, the GeFORCE 8800GTX, 8800GTS and their XXX variants. This review will deal solely on the top of the line XFX GeFORCE 8800GTX XXX.

The XXX should be a familiar branding to those who have been following XFX. XFX has been branding its premium cards that are overclocked out of the box with the "XXX" name and selling them for about half a benjamin more. With the $50 premium over a vanilla 8800GTX, it's a worthy cause to see whether the extra cost is justified. If you do decide to get a XFX card, whether it be the GTS or GTX, there is no need to fret over the card overheating or breaking on you as it comes with XFX's patented double lifetime warranty.

In spite of the card's name, the only thing sexual about the XFX GeFORCE 8800GTX XXX is its performance.  So for those who have money to burn, the card can be bought for an MSPR of $649. XFX has come out most recently as one of the most inventive and capable graphics manufacturers and they haven't disappointed with XXX.  So let's move on and see what this puppy's got!

I for one can't help but be a little disappointed with the physical appearance of the card. XFX reverted back to the classic acid wash green PCB. Being partial to the black PBC that XFX used with their 7950GT and even the non-XXX 8800 GTX, it's unexpected and disheartening to see the retro look with this card. The PBC color change was probably a move by XFX to differentiate its 8800 GTX from the 8800 GTX XXX series. The other physical aspects of the card are similar to what you'd see from a 7950 GX2. The card is long and fat, a dual slotter with a bit of heft to it. The heatsink is massive but nothing that hasn't been seen before from the previous generation.

Regular 8800 GTXs are usually clocked at 575 MHz core and 1.8 GHz RAM speeds. With the XXX, XFX has buffed up the core to 630 MHz and the RAM to 2.0 GHz speeds. Just as with the GTX version, the XXX has 768MB of GDDR3 RAM over a 384 bit memory bus. A last note with the GPU is that XXX has 128 stream processors (same as GTX) as opposed to the GTS' 96 processors. As you might know, new with G80 are the additions of stream processors which have completely replaced the concept of vertex and pixel shaders.  The benefit?  Stream processors can be dynamically allocated to whatever operation is needed more, thus maximizing the available horsepower on the GPU rather than having one of either the vertex or pixel shaders be overtaxed while the other is waiting for something to do.

Rather than risk being redundant, readers who are not fully familiar with the G80 should refer to our previous review of the BFG GeFORCE 8800 GTS  which has a very indepth and critical overview of the G80 architecture. The former article has expanded coverage of the unified architecture, shader processing and memory arrangement with some detailed diagrams that should be checked out.

Now on to the card pics under the hood. With the heatsink removed, the core looks nothing short of massive.

Looking at these two pictures above, you can match the corresponding thermal patches to the places in which they cool. To the right of the GPU and RAM chips are the 6 RAM voltage filters that clean the voltage signals coming in. Those chips get hot while augmenting the power and sending it through to the GPU and RAM. The compositor chip on left side also gets it own cooling from the heatsink. Other than that, it's business as usual with the GPU and RAM getting their own little sheets of thermal gum. This gum is somewhat the consistency of semi-desiccated play dough, with a bit of spring to it. In tear gently at one piece of this thermal pad material, it seems seems to be held together by fibre glass strands for added re-enforcement.

 

As with all new G80 cards, the XFX 8800 GTX XXX has DirectX 10 support and is fully compliant with Shader Model 4.0. Remember though that you'll need Windows Vista to include DirectX 10, so if you're still on Windows XP you'll be using DirectX 9.0C. Another new feature of the G80 series is the Lumenex Engine which was designed by NVIDIA to improve image quality. Perhaps for the first time with a single card, the 8800 GTX XXX has support for 16x multi-sampled antialiasing. HDR (high dynamic range) imaging has also been enhanced via the Lumenex Engine which make it possible to use HDR and AA in tandem. So I think ATI fans can finally lay to rest the argument that NVIDIA cannot render HDR and AA together.

Although not featured prominently on the box, the card does come equipped to handle HDCP feeds which is becoming standard among high-end cards. And to further enhance the image quality on supposed HDTVs, the G80 comes ready for XHD (Extreme High Definition)gaming and PureVideo (HD). Both features are just meant to ensure that the multimedia experiences using HD resolutions are utilizing the hardware to the fullest. Nvidia claims they have improved XHD functionality so that resolutions such as 2560x1600 and 1920x1200 are possible with one GeFORCE 8800 card. Nvidia's PureVideo ensures HD-DVD and BLU-RAY support over several different software players.

If you're seeing double, you aren't being fooled. You'll need two PCI-E power connectors for the XFX GeFORCE GTX XXX. XFX included a pamplet which discourages the usage of Y-cables and molex converters to power the card so if your power supply only has one PCI-E, you might be out of luck. On the other end of the card, you'll see dual DVI ports (and a single S-Video port). And up top on the card are dual SLI connectors. Why two? For a triple SLI setup using a third video card specifically dedicated to physics computations. Currently the NVIDIA 680i chipset is only chipset to support 3x SLI and the cost of a whole package with 3 video cards should be topping over the $2000 mark.

While on the topic of physics, the G80 GPU supports physics computations. NVIDIA’s Quantum Effects technology works with DirectX 10 to add more water, hair and explosional realism into your life. Ageia won't be pleased with their less than inpressive game support as NVIDIA has taken a step to do all the necessary physics calculations straight from their own card.

The bundle with the 8800GTX XXX isn't as exciting as one would hope. However, in honor of cutting costs and passing it on to the consumer, the bundle is as sparse as it gets. The usual suspects are included: two DVI to AGP port converters, an S-Video cable and a nS-Video to HD Composite Converter. Other than that, you'll get a Driver CD and a couple instructional pamplets about how you'll need two PCI-E power connectors for each card you'll use.

Hey look, a Wolfman!

The system setup used to test the cards consists of:

The games tested are:

And the cluster of cards we tested:

Quite the competition. Let's begin!

3DMark 06

Note: ATI X1950 XTX is incapable of running the particle shaders (SM3.0) test.

Far Cry

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

All the cards seem to kill Far Cry but even with AA/AF, the XXX is unrelenting whereas the other cards start to tail off more. The GX2 was a surprise during Splinter Cell testing but can't quite match the XXX.

Doom 3

Quake IV

 

No surprise winner again with both iD games. While the Doom 3 numbers are perfectly logical, Quake 4 seems a bit disproportioned. With AA/AF on though, the XXX will take victory.

Prey

 F.E.A.R

Prey was the most consistant test that we ran. All the scores stagger quite evenly, with the XXX on top. F.E.A.R. was a bit more chaotic but  the XXX manages again to take another win with AA/AF on. 

X3

Company of Heroes

With the two newest games in our benchmarking line-up, there were a few problems. The XXX seemed to be scaling down it performance at the lowest possible settings for X3. X3 also happens to be the game the ATI X1950 XTX performs the best in.

With Company of Heroes, we decided not to include scores with AA/AF off. We are currently reviewing our benchmarking scheme and are likely to change it to include higher resolution testing with AA/AF on. But for now,  these scores clearly indicate that the extra stream processors the GTX has over the GTS are extremely beneficial.

Power Consumption

The XFX GeFORCE 8800 GTX XXX power consumption is the highest of any Nvidia card I've seen -- it even overcomes ATI's notorious video card power consumption. The BFG GeFORCE 8800 GTS runs with significantly less power so make sure you have a efficient power supply if you plan on getting a XXX (or three).  NVIDIA's minimum requirements state a 450W PSU for a single 8800 GTX but right on the box XFX recommends at least a 625W for a single XXX and 800W or greater (!) for SLI GTX XXX cards.  So those of you scoffing at 850W PSU's like the OCZ GameXStream and Cooler Master Real Power 850W might want to reconsider your position on the issue.

Final Thoughts

The XFX GeFORCE GTX XXX doesn't disappoint with its superior performance over the competition. During the course of testing, there were some hiccups with X3 possibly due to some game designs and driver issues but the XFX comes out on top for the most part. With some games such as Counter Strike Source, we didn't include the test scores because we were getting max FPS (constant 255FPS) on all resolutions. And in newer games such as Company of Heroes, a G80 is absolutely necessary if you want to play at the highest possible settings with decent framerates. The 79XX series can hardly run COH at all. The difference between the XXX and GTS at 1600x1200 high res were substantial in some game testing cases (Prey, Quake 4, etc.) but the GTS remained competitive.

Aside from the card's stellar gaming performance, the G80 core series boasts quite a bit of new features that make it a good buy over the previous generation -- even with its higher price. XHD, PureVideo etc. are all part of the G80 package with this card and should be a quintessential component of any new system with extreme HD functionality in mind. In addtion to the new features, the redesign of the unified shader architecture with stream processors in place of vertex and pixel shaders has really taken the G80 two steps forward.

The only kink in the G80's future is the eminent release of the ATI-AMD R600 core. Although it was first reported to have arrived even before this article was published, the powers that be have decided to delay the R600 in ordered to make more competitive with the G80. Right now the tentative release date for the R600 is March of 2007. If you are willing to roll on whether the R600 is better than the G80, you have a lot of patience and faith in ATI designers to match Nvidia's incredible feat with the G80. Currently (January 2007), with speculation of R600 at its peak and suggested X2800 XT(X) specs of 750MHz-1.0GHz core speeds with 512-1024MB GDDR4 RAM, DX10 compliance and "ATI's HyperMemory technology to tap into system RAM", it maybe a good idea to hold off an video card purchase until the R600 release.

In all honesty, there is going to be little fluctuation between performance from different card manufacturers. Between XFX, ASUS, BFG, PNY and whatever other acronym you can think of, when buying an 8800 GTX from any one of these companies you'll get performance that is relatively the same. In most cases, you should be more concerned with build quality and warrenties. However I can say, without a doubt, that XFX's XXX version of the 8800 GTX is the fastest card that I've ever seen. How much faster than the rest? Minimal in most cases. I'll highly recommend this card and the vanilla GTX version but it's upto the consumer to decide whether the $50 premium (MSRP $649) is worth knowing that they had the fastest card available for a month or so until other "deluxe" 8800 GTXs start showing up on retail shelves.  All in all, XFX have put together an excellent product backed by one of the best "no hassle" warranties in the business, and the 8800GTX XXX edition is definitely worth putting on your "check it out" list.

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