GeForce 8800 GTX blows away graphics card rivals

We’ve been warning against buying a top-end graphics for a few months now, and the GeForce 8800 GTX is the reason why. In the latest issue of PC Pro, on sale 16 November, we test it against the previous holder of the performance crown – the GeForce 7950 GX2 – and see frame rate increases of up to 250%.

GeForce 8800 GTX blows away graphics card rivals

The breakneck speed comes from a totally new GPU architecture, based around the capabilities of Microsoft’s forthcoming DirectX 10, and the new Shader Model 4. The key is the new unified shader architecture (USA), where each processing unit is capable of manipulating any data thrown at it, including geometry or physics data that previously couldn’t be run on a GPU.

The benefits are clear: no matter what data is being sent, every part of the GPU can be used to process it. And with a 128 of these new “stream processors” running at a whopping 1.35GHz, the GeForce 8800 GTX has raw processing power in abundance.

DirectX 10 performance testing is currently impossible, as that will only come with final retail copies of Windows Vista (excluding the Home Basic version).

However, we witnessed astronomical scores in our DirectX 9 performance tests, using a Mesh PC fitted with Intel’s new Core 2 Quad QX6700 CPU (which we also review in-depth in the forthcoming issue). Compared to the GeForce 7950 GX2 we saw anything up to two-and-a-half times the performance. Frame rates in Company of Heroes leapt from a jerky 34fps to a super-fast 90fps, for example.

We were also treated to demonstrations at a recent GeForce 8800 GTX briefing that knocked our socks off. One particularly stunning Nvidia sequence shows a waterfall (pictured), pouring over a rock formation. The GPU was not only responsible for creating the rock itself, but also the remarkably lifelike look of the water and the physics calculations that determine how the water flows over the rock.

Some of the effects on show “were possible under DirectX 9, but not in real-time,” said an Nvidia spokesperson. “But a lot of what you’ll see in DirectX 10 games just isn’t possible with DirectX 9 hardware.”

With no sign of an ATi reply until Vista hits the shelves in January 2007, it looks like Nvidia is sitting pretty with the most powerful, future-proof product on the market. And the RRP of $559 (around £314) isn’t too extravagant either. Just beware that Nvidia recommends a 450W PSU to run this monster.

For more on the 8800 GTX and DirectX 10, see the next issue of PC Pro, out on the newsstands on 16 November.

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