Previous generations of Nvidia GPUs (AMD’s, too) presented buyers with a difficult choice: You could get great 3D performance for gaming or you could offload high-definition video decoding from the host CPU, but you couldn’t have both. Nvidia’s 8800 GT not only changes that situation, it does so at a competitive price.
AMD’s decision not to compete with Nvidia’s best GPU left us puzzled, but the decision its manufacturing partners have made—to pair AMD’s second-tier GPU with a full gigabyte of GDDR4 memory—has us totally stumped.
ATI and Nvidia have long entertained us with their game of GPU one-upmanship. Each time ATI thought it had a part that could beat Nvidia, Nvidia moved the goalposts. But now that ATI has been reduced to an AMD brand, it seems its engineers no longer want to play.
Having designed the graphics architecture for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, ATI’s management had boasted for months ahead of its acquisition by AMD that its engineers were experts at designing the type of unified shader architecture envisioned by DirectX 10. Imagine our surprise when the R600 not only hit the market several months after Nvidia’s take on unified architecture but that the company’s best offering can’t compete with Nvidia’s top two GPUs.
We thought DirectX 10 was going to be a crucial factor by now, but Vista is so screwed up from a gaming perspective we can’t recommend installing it. And then there’s the issue of high-def video playback to consider. Oy vey!
Rumors were swirling at press time that Nvidia was poised to introduce an even lower-cost version of its powerful 8800 GPU, but the least-expensive 8800s we can review today are like this PNY model, which couples the 96 pixel-shader 8800 GTS with a puny 320MB frame buffer.
New toys arrive in the Lab as frequently as political scandals erupt in Washington, D.C., a phenomenon that renders the Maximum PC staff a fickle, jaded bunch. But in the absence of any competition from AT—er, AMD—we remain intrigued by videocards based on Nvidia’s 8800 series GPUs. And so this month, we take a close look at EVGA’s e-GeForce 8800 GTS.