XFX GeForce 6800 Ultra
Nvidia's top-end chip hits retail
Review It's finally here, the first retail GeForce 6800 Ultra card and it hasn't come from one of the usual board partner suspects. That said, supplier XFX isn't a new company. It's backed by the Pine group which has been around for a good few years, but never really made a big noise. The card itself is based entirely on the Nvidia reference design and the only change is a different fan plate with an XFX logo on it, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
The card that XFX sent in for review was clocked higher than the reference board we looked at - the GPU runs at 450MHz and the memory at 1100MHz, which is about as fast as you're likely to find any 6800 Ultra card. Trying to push the GPU a mere 10MHz further made it fall over in the benchmarks; although it was still possible to push the memory a bit further than its default speed. To verify the speed of the XFX 6800 Ultra I contacted XFX and the reply was that all cards will be clocked at a minimum of 425MHz, but the 450MHz core speed can't be guaranteed. So it's worth checking before you buy.
With the clock speed in mind, our benchmark scores may be a little high due to the fact that our card was 25MHz faster than the retail cards could be. XFX is aiming to have its cards running at 450MHz at a later date when the yield of the 6800 Ultra chipset has improved. This is little comfort to anyone looking at buying a card now though, but Nvidia never promised to have the cards running faster than 400MHz so XFX has at least managed to improve upon that.
The XFX packaging is easily recognised by its unusual X shape. Apart from the card itself you get a DVI adapter, a ViVo dongle that is a Y-splitter that separates the video in and video out signals, two S-Video cables and a copies of Commandos 3, X2: The threat and Moto GT 2. This is a reasonable games bundle, but none of the titles will really show the card off in its best light. However, it's good to see that both Commandos 3 and X2: The threat come with paper manuals, which is unusual when it comes to bundled software.
The ViVo dongles gives away the built in video editing capabilities, but sadly we didn't have time to have a look at all the new features Nvidia claims that the 6800 series is capable of, but we will bring you some more information on this in a later review.
As with the reference card that we reviewed here the XFX 6800 Ultra is a 16-pipeline part - this is the only 16-pipeline card you can currently purchase, at least until ATI finally gets its X800 XT into the shops. Neither company managed to keep their promises in terms of retail release dates, but at least Nvidia got its high-end part out first and hopefully we'll see the lower-end version in the next month or two.
But let's put flashy packaging and bundled games to one side and look at how well the final GeForce 6800 Ultra stands up against ATI's Radeon X800 cards. We tested all the cards in the Evesham Evolution Extreme PC, as it was the fastest PC we could get our hands on at the time. With a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and 1GB of RAM on an Intel 875P board you'd be hard pushed to find a faster platform to test a high-end gaming graphics card on.