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Nathan Edwards Jun 25, 2008

XFX 8800 Ultra XXX Edition

At A Glance

Dawn of the Dead

Runs fast. Very very fast.

House of the Dead

Hella expensive, damn loud.

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.

Nvidia’s 8800 GTX was already the fastest consumer GPU on the planet, so what does the 8800 Ultra get you? Virtually the same hardware running at higher clock speeds—insanely higher clock speeds in the case of XFX’s XXX Edition. Although Nvidia tells us this is new silicon—and not merely hand-selected parts that proved capable of running at higher clock speeds—the Ultra has 128 stream-processing units and a 384-bit interface to 768MB of memory, just like the older part. It also has a much larger fan to handle the resulting heat.

The core on a stock GTX runs at 575MHz (with its actual shader units clocked at 1.2GHz), and its memory hums along at 900MHz. A stock Ultra is spec’d to run at 612MHz (with a 1.5GHz shader clock), and its memory runs at 1.08GHz. XFX has goosed those rates even higher, cranking its Ultra XXX Edition up to blistering speeds with a 675MHz core, a 1.67GHz shader unit, and 1.15GHz memory clock speeds.

But that awesome speed comes at a cost: Until now, we’ve been pleased with the relative quiet at which Nvidia’s GPUs run. The Ultra changes all that—the fan on a single XFX card is loud enough to wake the dead. Put two of them inside a box and you can stir an entire cemetery.

We rarely complain about a component’s price if it delivers impressive performance, but we have to draw the line somewhere. The Ultra is spectacular, but then, so is the GTX. And while the average GTX cost about $585 at press time, the price for this particular Ultra hovered around $875. Can you say “diminishing returns”?

BENCHMARKS
  ASUS 8800 GTX (stock clocks) Single XFX 8800 Ultra XFX 8800 Ultra SLi
3DMark06 Game 1 (FPS) 25.8 33.1 58.0
3DMark06 Game 2 (FPS) 23.7 30.2 52.4
Quake 4 (FPS) 92.1 112.4 164
Fear (FPS) 69 95 145
Supreme Commander (FPS) 24.7 32.4 38.6
Best single-card performance scores are bolded. cards were installed in an EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard with a 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU and 2GB of Corsair DDR2 RAM.
THE VERDICT

XFX 8800 Ultra XXX Edition

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