ATI had no sooner shipped its top-of-the-line X1800 XT—hyper-clocked and stuffed to the gills with 512MB of memory—than nVidia threw down its trump card: a hyper-clocked GeForce 7800 GTX stuffed to the gills with 512MB of memory.
One look at this card’s dual-slot cooler, with its mondo fan and octopus-like heat pipes, tells you eVGA’s implementation doesn’t stray far from nVidia’s reference design. eVGA didn’t find it necessary to goose clock speeds, either: The GPU hums along at 550MHz, while the DDR3 memory trips the light fantastic at a whopping 850MHz.
We attribute this card’s improved benchmark scores, which are about six percent higher than those of the nVidia design we examined in our January 2006 issue, to improved drivers. Comparing the performance of eVGA’s card to an X1800 XT implementation from one of ATI’s biggest third-party manufacturers—namely, Sapphire—throws nVidia’s accomplishment into even bolder relief: eVGA’s card wracked up a 3DMark05 score of 10,958, compared with the Sapphire X1800 XT’s 9,208 3DMarks. And while Sapphire’s card delivered a respectable 60.1 frames per second in Doom 3, eVGA’s card clubbed it over the head by muscling out 76.8fps.
If you can raid your trust fund, running a pair of these monsters in SLI is an unabashedly decadent experience—we’re talking Doom 3 at nearly 100fps (with a link connector—you can run these cards in SLI without a link connector, but we experienced a significant performance penalty). With numbers like these, it’s evident that eVGA didn’t really need to move much beyond what nVidia had wrought. In fact, eVGA’s biggest problem is that nVidia can’t supply enough GPUs to meet demand.
One area in which ATI has caught up to—and surpassed—nVidia is video performance. Turn to our review of ATI’s X1800 XT CrossFire Edition on page 60 for more on that note.