Introduction

For three months now, NVIDIA's 8800 series has enjoyed the distinction of being the only DX10 graphics hardware on the market and the GTX is absolutely the fastest option out there enabling gamers to achieve huge resolutions and framerates with all the eye candy enabled. The downside is that the features and performance come with a price: the top of the line runs at least $550. Even the 8800 GTS weighs in at about $400.

While we would love to have a top to bottom line up from NVIDIA based on their new architecture, we will have to be content with a gradual introduction of parts. It does make sense to introduce the high end parts first, keeping the high profit margin cards on the market for as long as possible helps recoup development expenses. Also, lower performing chips can be binned and saved for later use in lower end parts. When the rest of the lineup is eventually introduced, the combination of low performance G80 silicon with models specifically designed for a cheaper product will provide high enough volumes to meet the increased demand the market places on less expensive hardware.

Today, NVIDIA is introducing the next part in its GeForce 8 Series lineup, the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB. As the name implies, this is a lower memory part, and thus also less expensive than the current 640MB GTS. NVIDIA expects the new GTS to sell for between $300 and $330. We certainly hope the $300 mark will stick, and we will try to track this as we start to see cards for sale. The $300 price point is particularly interesting, as more than just the hardcore gamers will start to take a look at the new 8800 GTS 320MB as a good fit for their rig.

There are other very important factors at play here as well. The first half of this year should be very exciting in terms of the competition NVIDIA will have to face. While we don't know any of the specifics of AMD's next part, we are very excited to see what it have in store to compete with NVIDIA in the first round of DX10 class hardware. In the meantime, NVIDIA will certainly want to ship as many 8 series parts as possible before it has a true competitor in terms of feature set out there.

The games scheduled to come out over the next few months look quite impressive as well, which should inspire more people to upgrade their hardware for that must have title. Among the most anticipated software, Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 will be headed our way. Both of these games are from developers who have produced ground breaking titles in the past, and the screenshots and videos on the web have us drooling. And it is almost certain that, in order to experience the incredible graphics that go along with the (hopefully) amazing gameplay, graphics hardware will need to pack a punch.

While we can't test the next generation of games yet, we are very interested in how the new GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB stacks up against the competition in currently available games. First, we'll take a look at the hardware and just how much cutting down the memory on the new GTS will affect performance.

The 8800 GTS 320MB and The Test
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  • anandtech02148 - Sunday, February 18, 2007 - link

    what is the power consumption idle/load for this card?
    less memory matters right? 30buxs cooler, 200-300 buxs cpu, and an overheat graphic card more money for cooling.
    Reply
  • Maroth - Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - link

    Article is very fine, but can additional benchmark make ? Between 8800GTS 640MB and 320MB (in Q4 or BF2):
    1) in different PCI-Express mode (x16, x4, x1, PCI-Ex Disabled)
    2) in different "PCI-Ex Texture Memory" setting (256MB, 128, 0MB)
    (default used in test was 256MB ?)
    3) in different "Texture Quality" in-game setting


    What about "Frames Render Ahead" driver setting ? Default value (3) used in test was ?
    Is these option performance-impact (on 8800GTS 320MB) ?
    Reply
  • Webgod - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    Isn't it pointlessly taxing the video card with pixels so small?

    It's been a while since I've tried anything at 1600x1200 on my 19" CRT, now I use a 26" LCD TV at 1360x768. Obviously AA is my friend at that rez, but higher on up, why not just crank the anisotropic filtering to 16x or 32x and run with it??

    Isn't SLI becoming seriously less relevant once you've got a great framerate at 1600x1200 and above?

    Who's going to run anything higher than 1900x1200, much less with forcing 4xAA??
    Reply
  • MadAd - Thursday, February 15, 2007 - link

    I took some comparison screenshots in battlefield 2 the other week and 4x AA is definately worthwhile in 1600x1200 and 1920x1200 (full ansio, everything on high), 8x is better but not at the expense of the big performance hit- hopefully the next card I go to will get me 8x.

    The change from none to 4 has more impact than 4 to 8 but its definately not pointless and the more the better IMO, who needs 999 fps when you can spend some of it ratcheting up the AA to look good.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    As one of those in the ideal target audience of 22" widescreen displays (and I would have loved to see some 1680x1050 tests, since you guys say that's the ideal resolution) and on a reasonable budget, this card does seem interesting. (For now, I'll buy Jarred's explanation of driver issues with AA). One thing I would love to see are numbers comparing overclocked performance between max OC'd 8800GTXs and both GTS parts. Not only am I interested in general with seeing how close the GTSs can get to the GTX, but I'd also love to see whether or not the difference in memory affects the memory overclock on this new model. Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - link

    While I agree that NEW systems will probably be pairing the 8800GTS 320MB with a 22" 1680x1050, there is a still a large % of people very happy with their 19" 1280x1024 displays. There are also people that might save a little on the display and get a 19" WS 1440x900 in favor of more RAM or better video.

    The large screen segment is also interested in 1280x1024. There are plenty of people running Large 27"-32" LCD TVs as gaming monitors. these have usable 1280x720 or 1280x768 wide screen modes for most games. Also the 30" LCD crowd likes to see 1280x1024 to get an idea of how a nicely scaled 1280x800 will run. On a 30" LCD, I want World of Warcraft to run smooth at 2560x1600 with some AF and light AA, but am happy to get smooth Oblivion at 1280x768.

    The bottom line is there are too many people looking for 1280x1024 to ignore it. ESPECIALLY with any video card products focused on price. Ignoring 1280x1024 in an 8800GTX SLI review ... I don't think anyone would fault you much there.

    I really think you need to go back and run 1280x1024.

    Also what is up with Quake4 "ULTRA", from what I remember with Doom3 and Quake4 ULTRA mode was specifically for cards with 512MB or more of video RAM due to the uncompressed textures. Is there any difference on Non-Ultra?

    Any video card review dealing with memory size needs a mention of MMOs. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people think they need to spend more $$ on a card with more video RAM for an MMO. Until I ran some benches of my own I had also convinced myself that 512MB video RAM would be better for MMOs.
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Derek, great review as usual. Noticed you said you were going to take a closer look at the 320MB's poor performance at high resolutions, especially considering how the 256MB X1900 parts performed better with AA in some instances.

    Earlier today a Polish review was linked on AT http://www.in4.pl/recenzje.htm?rec_id=388&rect...">here. What's interesting to note is they used some utility (someone said RivaTuner) to track memory usage at each resolution. If you go through the benchmarks, they all tell the same story. System memory/page file is getting slammed on the 320MB GTS at higher resolutions/AA settings.

    I'm no video card/driver expert but I'm thinking a simple driver optimization could improve the 320 GTS performance dramatically. It looks like the 8-series driver isn't correctly handling the 320 GTS' lower local memory limitations and handling its memory like a 640 or 768 GTS/GTX, so the additional requirements are being dumped into system memory, drastically decreasing performance. Considering the 256MB parts are handling high resolution/AA settings better, maybe an optimization limiting memory to local and faster caching/clearing of the local frame buffer would be the fix?

    Just a thought and maybe something to pass along to nVidia.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Again, NVidia accomplishes a genuine hard launch..........Seems as if AMD/Ati will have a lot to live up to with their Dx10 graphics-card releases.

    See:-

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?DEPA...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi...GTS&...

    And comparison-sampling from the above list:-

    The EVGA Superclocked 576/1700 8800GTS/640 is $379.99 ( with Dark Messiah and after a $30 rebate thru 3/31)

    and for comparison the
    EVGA (superclocked) 576/1700 8800GTS/320 is $319.99 with same bundle but no $30 rebate.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    At the same time, the inconsistency in G80 driver quality is something to be noted when buying a G80 (note: I own an 8800GTS, and can speak to this).

    This inconsistency is something that seems to have been largely glossed over by hardware review sites, so a number of purchasers have had some disappointments from games with texture corruption or that weren't/aren't well supported. nVidia's slowness in making their cards as "Vista Ready" as they advertised them to be is something to consider too.

    Don't get me wrong, I like my card. I just think that when looking at ATI vs. nVidia, one needs to look objectively. I've owned 7 ATI-GPU cards and 7 nVidia-GPU cards (not including all the other ones) since 1992, and both have had their ups and their downs.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Monday, February 12, 2007 - link

    Remember that the 8800 is a brand-new architecture. Like to exchange your 8800 for my 7800GTX ? You are suffering the pain of being an early-adopter. ATi/AMD still has to go through the same pain with the R600, including having to handle the new driver interfaces in Vista, plus juggle the actual drivers themselves for both DX10 and DX9. Reply

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