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MSI NX8800GTX-2D3768E-HD Video Card MSI NX8800GTX-2D3768E-HD Video Card: MSI's flagship video card crashes into our labs and completely dominates the competition we had kicking around. It took a multi-GPU product to make it close, but was it enough?
Date: November 29, 2006
Manufacturer:
Written By: Hubert Wong
Price:

A few weeks ago, NVIDIA launched their newest enthusiast video card, the 8800 GTX. The 8800 GTS was also released for the more frugal crowd, but most of the fanfare was on the high-end part. As explained to us in press briefings, the 8800 series (G80) takes a real first step in graphics technology, including full support for DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.

Along with the new programming support, the G80 is designed with a fully unified shader core that will dynamically allocate processing power to either geometry, vertex, physics or pixel shading operations. Compared to the previous generation G71, NVIDIA claims the G80 will be up to two times faster in gaming performance.

Today we are going to be looking at a final, full retail version of . Early batches of the 8800GTX had some issues around the PCB components but that was taken care just prior to the official launch. The product we'll be looking at today should be the same as the one you'll find at B&M or E-Shelves.

MSI NX8800GTX-2D3768E-HD

The box cover features anime inspired artwork that relays a peaceful and serene message. Of course, inside lurks a bold and much more aggressive product.

The NX8800GTX was wrapped in an antistatic back and placed in it's own foam compartment. In the past, we questioned why MSI's video cards were never placed in antistatic bags, so we're happy this has changed this time around. In the lower compartment, all the extra cables and accessories are tucked away here.

The card itself is very similar physically to NVIDIA's reference sample with MSI's own custom artwork on the cooler. Measuring about nine inches in length, it is certainly one of the largest video cards we've worked with in quite some time. The MSI NX8800GTX had no problems fitting in our Cooler Master Stacker, but for more compact ATX cases, the hard drive tends to lie in the general area near the front, so it may have to be moved in order for the card to comfortably fit.

The GPU core is clocked at 575 MHz and the card is equipped with 768MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz. Most manufacturers will be following this reference specification, so expect performance to be fairly similar across all brands. The memory clock may seem "slower" than previous generations of GeForce cards, but thanks to improvements in the memory subsystem, it is actually much faster. The MSI NX8800GTX has a 384-bit memory interface capable of delivering up to 86GB per second of memory bandwidth.

As with all GeForce 8800 GTX GPUs, the MSI NX8800GTX has a massively parallel, unified shader design, consisting of 128 individual stream processors running at 1.35 GHz. Each stream processor is capable of being dynamically allocated to vertex, pixel, geometry, or physics operations for the utmost efficiency in GPU resource allocation, and maximum flexibility in load balancing shader programs. This breaks away from traditional design with separate shaders but is key to a smooth transition into DirectX 10 when it is released with Windows Vista.

New to the GeForce is NVIDIA's GigaThread technology which supports thousands of independent, simultaneously executing threads, maximizing GPU utilization. As explained in their press documents, High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting capability is in all GeForce 8800 Series GPUs and will support 128-bit precision (32-bit floating point values per component). This will obviously improve image quality and allow for more true-to-life lighting and shadows. Dark objects can appear very dark, and bright objects can be very bright, with visible details present at both extremes, in addition to rendering completely smooth gradients in between.

Another new item introduced with the G80 is Quantum Effects GPU-based Physics. Just as the name implies, physics calculations will be handled by the GPU creating a more realistic game environment. In case you're wondering, Aegia's physics engine is proprietary, so we'll have to see how things pan out in terms of standards.

As with most high-end products these days, the MSI NX8800GTX uses a double wide copper cooler. There is also heatpipe technology present, but despite the intimidating size, the NX8800GTX is surprisingly quiet. It did not seem to be much louder than our 7950GX2, but make no mistake... anyone looking into building a silent PC will not consider this product unless major modifications to the cooling apparatus is planned.

No doubt that power is something many of you are going to have to be aware of, especially if you are entertaining any thoughts of pairing up two of these. The 8800 GTX will consume about 125W of power, and NVIDIA recommends at least a 450W power supply and about double if you're going to setup SLI.

Other than the card, MSI tosses in the required cables, as well as two DVI-to-VGA adapters. There are also two PCI Express power dongles in case you're missing them on your power supply. For HTPC fans, there are cables included for that as the card supports VIVO. There are a few CDs containing drivers and software as well as the game Serious Sam II.

Those of you jumping onboard the HD bandwagon should know that the MSI NX8800GTX is HDCP compliant. Above, we can see the outputs for dual-link DVI and VIVO supporting resolutions of 2560x1600 if you're lucky enough to have an Extreme High Definition (XHD) digital display. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray media is also supported via NVIDIA's PureVideo HD technology. High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) is supported by the hardware, allowing the playback to supported screens of the aforementioned discs.

Test Setup

Intel X6800 Extreme
Abit AW9D-MAX
2x1024MB Corsair XMS2 8000
Seagate 400GB 7200.9

We'll be pitting the MSI NX8800GTX-2D3768E-HD directly against their own NX7950GX2-T2D1GE. We do not have ATI's latest to compare against, but the 7950GX2 falls under a similar price point and one of the best performing single slot solutions we've tested.

The games to be used for benchmarking are as follows:

Battlefield 2142 - Cerbere Landing

Half-Life 2 Episode 1, map C17_02a

Quake 4, Core2 Level

F.E.A.R.Combat

Tomb Raider Legend: Next Generation Features, Bolivia level

The driver settings were manually configured for AntiAliasing disabled and Anisotropic Filtering enabled (16xAF), and set to "Quality" via the video driver's control panel. All games were set to their highest allowable game settings, and patched to the latest versions (as of November 8, 2006). AntiAliasing was manually configured in the game menu and for all but BF2142 (we tested at 1152x864), we stuck with the one resolution of 1680x1050 on a Dell 2005FPW LCD.

FRAPS was used to capture the scores illustrated in the review.

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