Good gosh Ultra, I can't believe the 8800 GTS is already six months old. It's been adored and respected ever since the launch. These young rascals grow up so quick don't they? Now before you're saying "699 (or more) USD for that Ultra? ...oh hell no bitch!" (if you found that text to be shocking please replace bitch with Hilbert) Please think along with me. History teaches us that all products have become cheaper merely after a few weeks. Usually when volume shipment is low we see higher prices and when volume is high the competition among re- and e-tailers will get stiff and this margins drop. I think it's save to say the product will drop even further; eventually below the 600 USD mark as with the R600 release I believe that NVIDIA is going to drop prices in the lower high-end level (8800 GTS 320MB) shortly followed by everything above that product.
The MSRP from NVIDIA for this product is set at 829 USD. However after talking to NVIDIA they expect the price to level at 699; which sounds much better yet is still a massive price. Now then there's no way I'm even justifying a 699 USD purchase for a card so that you can play games with. There's no way that this is bang for your bucks. Yet realistically there's always a market for products like these. Cards with an X-factor, the ooh-factor, filling a gap in your social life, bragging rights, e-peen (such a cool word to use don't you think?) this is the category called enthusiast product and each year it's getting more expensive and each year more people are buying high-end product. How weird is that?
The 8800 Ultra is a respin product. It resulted in a slightly optimized Revision A3 core of the GPU build as TSMC (still 90nm) and comes with faster clocks. Realistically you are looking at a 10-15% overall increase of performance in the more stringent situations and resolutions.
Now from the basic specs you might even say an overclocked 8800 GTX can do these clocks as well. Very true. If you have proper cooling and a little luck with your 8800 GTX chances are that you can achieve core clock frequencies like shown today. But the performance increase of the Ultra over the GTX is without a doubt noticeable. The increased Shader frequency and the move to faster memory generated more computational power with the bandwidth to work it; a golden combo really. And I have to admit, this is a card for a select audience. The guys that adore high IQ settings and most of all the highest resolutions. It's exactly in such situations where you need to seek differences in performance. Now for those of you that say, hey I can easily clock my GTX at this speed, that's true as well. But the Ultra can clock up to nearly 690 MHz on the core, but we reached near 2500 MHz on the memory and had 1728 MHz on the shader domain. That's not something you can achieve easily with the GTX. Face it, it's the endless evolution of the technology sector; the everlasting paradox.
With the raw horsepower you get to do a lot of tricks though. 16xAA, high-range HDR with AA, improved IQ, decode 1080P HD streams and yeah even calculate physics or other generic purpose functions on the GPU (NVIDIA - where's Folding@Home support?). You start playing your games with a monitor that supports 1600x1200 or better and then enable 4xAA or 16 CSAA and 16xAF. The best of the best, nothing less. On the CSAA topic, we didn't include results but to get a generic idea please read our 8800 GTX reference review for comprehensive results.
There's only one thing left, it's May and we have not been able to test any DirectX 10 gaming title and that's really what cards like these are all about. Nonetheless the Ultra and basically any 8800 card rides DX9 like a cowboy on his proud steed; dedicated, persistent and fast. But for now I can only assume that it's going to rock at DX10. And until it's fully supported and games are actually being released I still owe you a grand update with DX10 titles and all DX10 compatible cards.
What the GeForce 8800 Ultra is is simple: it's the fastest high-quality, high-performance, DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 ready graphics card on the market. Currently there's nothing out there that can beat it unless pre-overclocked or tweaked at home. Once I read the specs I figured, hmm this is merely a slightly overclocked product. The results however do not disappoint as the overall framerate is significantly higher compared to the 8800 GTX given the right circumstances.
Expensive, yes really it's so expensive that you'll get goose bumps once you are picking one up in the store. But it's the best your money can get you. You can game at 2560x1600 and still use complex AA and AF settings. Framerates will fly sky-high over your screen at any resolution while the Ultra in your PC is shouting at you "dude... you're not even tickling me". So yes, the 8800 Ultra is a very lovely card to own.
So I can only end like this: the GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB is a tremendously sexy product; and not a soul on this earth can deny that.
Thanks go out to NVIDIA for making this article possible. Expect mass availability in two weeks say, May 14th, 2007.
Arnold Schwarzenegger "the GeForce 8800 Oeltra ist gut, pure muscle powah".
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