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Old December 2, 2007, 01:35 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
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Default Reviewer Tryouts: XFX 8800GT Extreme

XFX 8800GT Extreme Video Card Review


1. Specifications
2. Packaging
3. Layout
4. Cooling
5. Test setup
6. Overclocking
7. Testing methodology
8. Benchmarks
9. Temperatures
10. Conclusion

1. Specifications


XFX, a division of PINE Technology, has been in the hardware market for nearly 20 years now. They produce graphics card with nVidia Graphical Processing Units and they usually build cards based on the reference design although they do make custom coolers for some specific models. The card we will be looking at today is the XFX 8800GT Extreme. It is built around "G92", the latest GPU from nVidia built on a 65 nanometer process so we expect lower temperatures and better overclocking.

So what makes this card more "extreme" than the others? The core is clocked at 640Mhz, up from 600Mhz and the memory is set at 950Mhz (1.9Ghz DDR3), an extra 100Mhz above the reference frequency. We get 512MB of GDDR3 memory on a 256 bit bus, down from 320 and 384 on the other 8800 cards. It is also fully PCI-E2 compliant and features 2 dual link DVI outputs and a TV output as well. Finally, this feature may be important to some and alot less to others, the card supports HDCP, so if you plan to use this with your Home Theater Personal Computer it won't cause you any headaches.

2. Packaging

The box is quite nice looking, with it's... animal thing looking at the buyer. Nothing too special on the front side, but on the back side we can see part of the beast hiding in there!



Once you remove the main cover, the card is tightly packed in a solid box and the card is safely wrapped in foam and an anti static bag. Beneath hides the full Company of Heroes game, which is a nice touch. You will also get the usual outdated drivers. Digging further, we discover an S-Video to Component converter, an S-Video cable and 2 DVI to VGA adapters.



Now that we went through the boring stuff, let's take a look at the card. The first thing we can see : a single slot cooler, but just as long the the other 8800 series cards. The XFX is looks great and their logo is clearly printed so theres no doubt it's an XFX!



3. Layout

Since the whole card is covered with a cooler theres not much to say here other than the position of the 6 pin PCI-E power connector. I must say it's nice to have there, on the back side facing the front of the case, but it adds to the lenght of the card. Make sure it fits in your case, because it adds roughly 3 centimeters depending how flexible (or not) your cables are. With a 120mm installed on the hard drive cage of the Antec Sonata II case, it's a tight fit.

4. Cooling

This is the best part of this video card, thanks to the 65nm process, it features a single slot cooler. Since it's manufactured on a smaller process than it's big brother, the GTX, it consumes alot less power and, therefor, less heat. At 100% fan speed, I personally can't stand the annoying blower sound noise, but it does not need to rotate that fast to keep the card at reasonable temperatures. In fact, all the tests we're done at 40% fan speed so we couldn't hear it over my other 5V fans.

5. Test Setup

Processor : AMD Athlon X2 4200+
Motherboard : ASUS M2N-E
Memory : Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 5-5-5-15 2GB kit + OCZ Platinum PC2-6400 4-4-4-15 1GB kit
Video card : XFX 8800GT Extreme
Hard drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 SATA2 7200RPM 8MB Cache
Operating system : Windows Vista Ultimate
Cooling : Stock

6. Overclocking

Since the card is already factory overclocked, one may think that it doesn't have much room left, but this video card is really impressive here. It's quite unbeliveable that nVidia set the standard core clockspeed at 600Mhz and memory at 1.8Ghz. The settings below were thoroughly tested and are perfectly stable. Overclocking was done with RivaTuner and ATITool (20 minutes artifact test) was used to check initial stability then the card had to loop 3DMark06 twice. If those tests successfully passed, I played Crysis for atleast 2 hours to make sure those synthetic benchmarks didn't miss anything.

Here are the factory overclocked settings:



Now let's see if the card can do more!

Maximum Core Clock:



We gained another 73Mhz on the core! Basically, that's 113Mhz over nVidia reference speed, they were highly conservative when they set those default settings. As en enthusiast, it's nice to be able to overclock that much, if it was set at 700Mhz by default, it would be boring ;)

Maximum Memory Clock:



What can I say... Wow. Overclocking the memory turned out to be more than impressive. We are 208Mhz above "Extreme" speed and 308Mhz over reference design! Please note that there were rumors that running the memory over 2Ghz over long periods of time may damage the card and since we don't want to prove the theory to be right or wrong all the benchmarks were run at 2142Mhz, but we don't suggest running so high on a daily basis.

Maximum Shader Clock:



Although shaders normally run synchronously with the core, they were overclocked separatly so one doesn't limit the overclock on the other. Since we couldn't go any higher than 1751Mhz, it would have slowed down the core quite a bit if we linked the clocks. When the core is set at 713Mhz it would set the shaders at 1838 which was proved to be impossible to reach on our card.

7. Testing Methodology

We have done this a bit differently that what we usally see. Instead of testing stock and overclocked video card settings, what we did is set the card at the highest stable settings and vary CPU speed instead. This was done because it was quite interesting to see how the AMD CPU bottlenecked this video card and since quite a bit of people use those processors we thought it would be interesting. Basically, the tests were ran twice and then averaged at clockspeeds of 2.3, 2.5 and 2.7Ghz. Memory clock speed was always set around 800Mhz and timings kept at 5-5-5-15 so it doesn't effect the scores.

Here's a screenshot showing the settings:



8. Benchmarks

Futuremark's (in)famous 3DMark06 :

Total Score


We drew the trend line, which was linear so you can see that the AMD Athlon X2 processors clearly bottleneck the 8800GT video card. Our score increases linearly with clock speed. We still end up with a score nearing 10 000 which isn't bad at all!

Separate scores


Here we can confirm what was observed above : all the tests increase linearly with clock speed. We can't tell how far the card will scale with processor clock speed, but it would most likely scale well up to 3.2Ghz, the highest clocked X2.

*Due to time contraints, that's all the benchmarks for today. Expect to see more in the next few days! There will be Crysis, Hellgate London tested in both DirectX 9 & 10 and more!

9. Temperatures

Idle temperatures were taken 20 minutes after the system has been setting on the desktop with Aero enabled. The video card was loaded by running the ATITool artifact test.



Even though they seem high, they are normal for GPU temperatures, especially when you consider that it is cooled by a single slot cooler at 40% fan speed. Our test system is sitting a closed Antec Sonata II case with both 120mm fan installed running on 5V. Airflow is correct, but not extreme so if you have fans running at full speed or simply more fans, you can expect to temperatures to drop. It took about 4 minutes for the load temperatures to reach their maximum.

If you can stand the noise, here is the same test done with the fan at full speed:



As expected, idle temperature didn't change much since there are limits to air cooling. The temperature did drop by 12C under load, but the increased noise is simply not worth it to me. The insane blower noise drives me insane.

10. Conclusion

Finally, XFX's claim of "the perfect combination of power, price and performance" is completly true. Although prices are inflated at this time, they are reasonable for the performance we get. We couldn't test this ourselves, but power consomption must be quite a bit lower since the G92 GPU is built on a smaller process compared to G80 (320 and 640MB 8800GTS, 8800GTX and 8800 Ultra). With nearly an extra 70Mhz on the core, which is already overclocked by 40Mhz on this version, the overclocking of this card is very impressive, it is quite rare to get an 110Mhz boost on video cards core clock.

Performance is almost up to GTX level for nearly half the price! Once availability issues are fixed and prices settle down, theres no doubt that this card will attract even more buyers. Owners of AMD system will certainly slow the card down, but not to a point where it is not worth it.

Pros:
Awesome performance:Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price ratio
Single slot cooler
True mid-end video card
Quiet

Cons:
Inflated price
Limited availability
Phisically long

Last edited by Zertz; December 2, 2007 at 11:31 AM.
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