The upper end of the graphics card market has become more interesting of late, with ATI introducing their dual-GPU Radeon HD 3870 X2 and NVIDIA is apparently working on a response in the form of a GeForce 9800 GX2. But most users will gravitate to a standard, single-GPU model that offers blazing performance, but without some of the physical and software issues that a multi-GPU solution entails. One very popular choice is the latest GeForce 8800 GTS (G92), which represents a die shrink and clock speed jump, all rolled into one.
The GeForce 8800 GTS (G92) core is a PCI Express 2.0 part that is built on a 65nm process, compared to the 90nm/PCI Express 1.x format of the first-generation GeForce 8 series. Other architectural specifications include a unified shader architecture with 128 Stream processors (the same as the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra), and a 256-bit bus to 512MB of onboard GDDR3 memory. Basic features include support for DirectX 10/SM4.0, PureVideo HD technology, HDCP, and NVIDIA SLI, among others.
This smaller die size has allowed the core speed to be increased to 650 MHz, faster than even the 612 MHz of the powerful GeForce 8800 Ultra, and allowing for an amazing fillrate of 41.6 GT/second. The 128 Stream processors run at a clock speed of 1.625 GHz, again faster than the GeForce 880 Ultra. The 256-bit memory interface is well behind the 384-bit link of the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra and even the 320-bit on the GeForce 8800 GTS, and with clock speeds of 1.94 GHz, the GeForce 8800 GTS (G92) drops back from the pack with a memory bandwidth of 62.1 GB/second.
The combination of ultra-high GPU speeds and limited memory bandwidth is a common method of differentiating NVIDIA-based video cards, as well as positioning these in the marketplace. Certainly, with the memory interface and speed of a GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra, the newer G92 variant would be the fastest single-GPU NVIDIA card, but would it would also push the price up considerably.
PNY has not gone overboard in adapting the GeForce 8800 GTS (G92) to its brand, and has essentially produced a rock solid card based on the reference design. Clock speeds are standard, and PNY has set these at 650 MHz core and 1.94 GHz memory, so there are no pre-overclocked surprises on that front. Other than the PNY XLR8 heatsink and fan branding, it follows the reference model closely.
The physical card design of the PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB sticks to the dual-slot format that NVIDIA outlined, and this means that the slot below the PNY card will be unusable. This second slot is not just for show, and the card includes an exhaust port that helps graphics and system airflow.
The card's backplate features two dual-link DVI outputs supporting up to dual 2560x1600 displays, and a TV-out port to be used with the bundled breakout cable. It's also a rather heavy card, weighing in at approximately 600 grams, and on par with any GeForce 8800 GTS/GTX/Ultra card.
The retail bundle includes a nice selection of items, but these are weighted firmly in the hardware area. Along with the graphics card, the retail package contains a quick installation guide, a Driver CD, two DVI-to-VGA dongles, a HDTV breakout box, an S-Video extension cable, and a Y adapter power cable. While this will certainly get new users up and running, we do like to see some type of game or software included, just to round out the package.
As the DirectX 10 graphics cards offer a new type of architecture, it's very difficult to compare the latest products in terms of "pipelines" and other common terms of the previous GPU generations. Instead, we have assembled a set of specifications and performance metrics that should illustrate exactly where the PNY XLR8 GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB fits in:
GeForce 7950 GT
Radeon HD 3850
Radeon HD 3870
GeForce 8800 GT
Radeon HD 2900
Of course, the best performance metric is real-world testing, and to that end, we've assembled a wide range of game benchmarks.