PNY – XLR8 GeForce 8800GTS review

DirectX 10 G80 graphics card
Photo of PNY – XLR8 GeForce 8800GTS
£229.99

PNY might not be a familiar name to some, but it has been around since 1985 and is one of Nvidia’s authorised board partners. As well as offering consumer Nvidia cards it also produces cards for the professional market. With the launch of Nvidia’s latest G80 GPU comes a new product family for PNY, namely the XLR8 performance series, and all its G80 products are sold under this banner.

The G80 core, now know as the GeForce 8800 series, is the first graphics core to support DirectX 10, but Nvidia’s latest blockbuster is about so much more than that. Having a unified graphics architecture that merges both vertex and pixel shaders into a floating point processor has long been the holy grail for graphics core designers, and naturally everybody thought ATI would be the first to the party, since it has the design already for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. But no, Nvidia surprised us all with the G80 and its stream processors, and as yet ATI – or AMD, as we should now call it – hasn’t responded.

Still based on a 90nm process, the G80 is a huge chip, dwarfing ATI’s R580 in both size and the number of transistors; a staggering 681 million for the G80. The flagship card of the GeForce 8800 series is the GTX, having 128 stream processors with their own clock running at 1.35GHz, with the core clocked at 575MHz and 768MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 900MHz (1.8GHz effective), running through a 384-bit memory bus.

The GTS version of the G80 has some of the GTX’s features disabled and runs at slower clock speeds. Instead of the 128 stream processors of the GTX, the GTS has just 96, running at 1.2GHz and the 640MB of memory runs via a 320-bit bus. The core has been pegged back to 500MHz while the memory clock runs at 800MHz (1.6GHz).

Despite the performance label, PNY’s 8800GTS uses speeds close to these reference values, with a core clock of 513MHz and the memory clocked at 1.56GHz, which still makes the XLR8 GeForce 8800GTS a very quick card. But if you want to void the warranty there is some scope for overclocking this card.

Performance-wise you are looking at a frame rate score of around 160fps in FarCry at a 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution, dropping to 100fps at a 1,600 x 1,200 resolution with 4x Anti-Aliasing and 4x Aniscopic Filtering switched on. F.E.A.R, one of the most demanding games around, gives a frame rate score of 120fps at 1,024 x 768 and a just-about-playable 40fps at 1,600 x 1,200fps with the same level of filtering turned on. Note that these tests are run with all the in-game details set to maximum.

By not having overclocked core or memory speeds, and with a hardware and software bundle that seems lightweight in comparison with some of its rivals, PNY has another trick up its sleeve, namely cost: what you save on the card you could use to buy the games you really want.

As standard the XLR8 GeForce 8800GTS comes with a three-year warranty, but if you register your card with PNY you get an additional two years on top of that.

Company: PNY

Contact: 0800 038 8880


Verdict
A stunningly fast graphics card, ideal for those of us who don't have deep enough pockets to fork out for the GTS's big brother, the GTX.