Although Nvidia already held the performance crown with the GeForce 8800 GTS and GTX, the manufacturer followed up with the GeForce 8800 Ultra (test). The goal was to counter ATi’s upcoming R600 GPU before it even appeared. In the test, the 8800 Ultra showed unbeatable performance for a disproportionate premium.
More tact for more money
Nvidia placed the GeForce 8800 Ultra above the previous top model, the GeForce 8800 GTX. To achieve this, Nvidia relied on tighter clock rates. The higher clock (chip/shader: 612/1512 MHz) compared to the 8800 GTX (chip/shader: 575/1350 MHz) resulted in floating point performance that was about 12 percent higher at 581 GFLOPS . Pixel and texel fill rates increased by about 6 percent. Memory bandwidth saw the biggest jump, improving by 20 percent to more than 103 GB/s.
Nvidia charged almost 200 euros more for the GeForce 8800 Ultra with an RRP of 699 euros than the GeForce 8800 GTX cost at the counter.
A well-known new cooler
Nvidia equipped the GeForce 8800 Ultra with a new cooler, most of which was already known from the GeForce 8800 GTX. Innovations included a plastic cover that covered the entire graphics card. Also, the 70mm radial fan migrated to the top edge of the board. The cooling system was designed in such a way that cold air was drawn in from inside the computer and heated exhaust air was discharged outside through the slot panel.
points of reference
In the test from 15 years ago, the GeForce 8800 Ultra competed against an Asus Striker Extreme with an Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 and 2 GB of RAM. In benchmarks, the GeForce 8800 Ultra was able to put all the competitors in their place, regardless of resolution and gameplay. Compared to the already very fast GeForce 8800 GTX, the performance increased by an average of 7 to 11 percent. The advantage over the next fastest graphics card, the GeForce 8800 GTS, was 38 to 73 percent. The faster Radeon X1950 XTX as ATi’s top model played in a completely different league and sometimes only reached half the speed of the GeForce 8800 Ultra.
For the performance offered, the GeForce 8800 Ultra was comparatively quiet and cool both at idle and under load. The situation was different in terms of power consumption, where the GeForce 8800 Ultra led the test field from behind. If that doesn’t bother you, you could further increase the card’s performance and power consumption by overclocking it. In the test, the achieved clock rates of 648/1620/1134 MHz (chip/shader/memory) resulted in 6 to 9 percent more frames per second.
Although Nvidia already had by far the fastest graphics card on offer with the GeForce 8800 GTX, the manufacturer was better off with the GeForce 8800 Ultra. This means that the 8800 Ultra 15 years ago was not only almost unnecessarily fast, but also unrivaled. The manufacturer’s plan was to lure users who were expecting ATi’s R600 GPU with the GeForce 8800 Ultra. With a performance boost of almost 100 percent compared to the fastest ATi graphics card, at least it wasn’t a competitor.
The high performance, but also the overall consistent package of good and quiet cooling, as well as the now iconic design, have given the GeForce 8800 Ultra something of a legendary status, landing it in the collections of many retro fans.
In the “On Test 15 Years Ago” category, the editors have been taking a look at the test archive every Saturday since July 2017. The last 20 articles that appeared in this series are listed below:
More such content and many other reports and anecdotes can be found in the retro corner of the ComputerBase forum.
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