Today is the day NVIDIA will be launching their newest enthusiast video card, the GeForce 8800 GTX. A couple of related models for different SKUs will also be released, but expect most of the fanfare on the high-end part. As explained to us in press briefings, their latest 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 8800 series (G80) are 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, the G80 will be up to two times faster in gaming performance.
We actually had some hands on time for a couple days, but due to some issues with our test sample, we'll have to delay our full review for a while until we receive our replacement. In the meantime, NDAs are now lifted and we're free to share with you what we've learned about NVIDIA's latest.
One of the big stories today will be the NVIDIA's Unified, Massively Parallel Shader Design. Here's a quote direct from the source:
"The GeForce 8800 GTX GPU implements a massively parallel, unified shader design, consisting of 128 individual stream processors running at 1.35 GHz, and the GeForce 8800 GTS includes 96 stream processors clocked at 1.2GHz. 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."
The initial batch of cards will follow NVIDIA's specs. By default, the core will be clocked at 575 MHz and 768MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz. The memory clock may seem "slower" than before, but thanks to improvements in the memory subsystem, it is actually much faster. The 8800 GTX will have a 384-bit memory interface capable of delivering up to 86GB per second of memory bandwidth. As mentioned in the press blurb, the 8800 GTX graphics cards have 128 unified shaders clocked at 1.35GHz.
New to the GeForce is NVIDIA's GigaThread technology which supports thousands of independent, simultaneously executing threads, maximizing GPU utilization. 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. Below is a couple screenshots from Tomb Raider Legends that we took ourselves demonstrating the possibilities in improved image quality.
The first screenshot above was taken with the GeForce 8800 GTX at 1680x1050. The quality settings was 16X AF and 4X AA, with the Next Generation features (higher quality graphics and shadows) turned off. Looks pretty much like any other screenshot with other video cards, right? How do things look when we turn on Next Generation features?
We can see image quality improves by a great deal. You can turn on this feature with older hardware, but it doesn't look the same at all. Furthermore, compared to the 7950GX2, the 8800 GTX is much more playable at these settings.
Those of you jumping onboard the HD bandwagon should know that the 8800 GTX will be HDCP compliant. We would expect this to be the case for all of the launch products, but the sample we received had outputs for dual-link DVI and VIVO supporting resolutions of 2560x1600.
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.
That said, the latest 8th generation GPUs from NVIDIA is about efficiency as well. Despite going up from 82W (7900GTX) to 125W, their performance per Watt has jumped nearly 100% in synthetic testing. We're still in the process of benchmarking, but we can tell you that performance has increased dramatically.
We have not had a chance to look at the mainstream parts, but the other product of note is the GeForce 8800 GTS. The GTS will have a slightly slower core clock of 500 MHz and a little less memory of 640MB which will still be clocked at 900 MHz. Some of the features will be cut down, such as a 320-bit memory interface and 96 unified shaders clocked at 1.2GHz.
Once thing we wanted to touch upon before leaving is NVIDIA will be introducing 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. We'll go into more detail about this as well as some other new features once we have a final sample in our hands for further testing, so feel free to comeback in the near future.