NVIDIA may have put one over ATI by being the first to market with DirectX 10 compliant graphics cards. But that accolade by itself does not necessarily lead to actual sales. With both the DirectX 10 API itself and most importantly, the much-hyped games still missing in action, demand for these GeForce 8 cards has been limited to the usual early adopters and enthusiasts. Exacerbating this situation has been the industry's practice of launching the high-end flagship products first, meaning the minimum price of admission to the DirectX 10 club is more than US$400 for the less powerful GeForce 8800 GTS. That, together with the all-time low prices of older DirectX 9 cards, probably led to the muted demand.
Nothing has changed until now. The catalyst is the recent release of Microsoft's Windows Vista so the DirectX 10 API will be present on systems installed with the new operating system. Already, some PC vendors no longer offer the older Windows XP operating system for new computers. For consumers holding off their system upgrades, this could be the sign they have been waiting for. Hence it is not too much of a coincidence that NVIDIA too has prepared a surprise to tempt prospective Windows Vista buyers - a new, lower end version of the GeForce 8800 GTS featuring 320MB of onboard memory, half that of the existing model. This fresh SKU is targeted at the US$299 to US$349 price bracket and we are certain this will put a lot of pressure on ATI's existing product lineup like the Radeon X1950 XT and Radeon X1950 XTX.
This new 320MB version of the GeForce 8800 GTS uses the same G80 core found on all current GeForce 8 cards now. The unified shader architecture remains intact and the number of stream processors and their clock speeds (96 running at 1200MHz) are the same as the 640MB version. Some may wonder at the unconventional 320MB of memory on this card but this number is a natural consequence of NVIDIA's decision to go for a 320-bit memory bus, meaning that instead of the typical 256MB and 512MB of memory sizes associated with a 256-bit pathway, we have 320MB and 640MB frame buffer sizes for the GeForce 8800 GTS. The top GeForce 8800 GTX equipped with a 384-bit memory bus has a total of 768MB memory.
With reduced amount of memory, one can expect a slight performance hit, especially when rendering games with excessively large textures or running at high resolutions. But exactly how much of a difference is there? To answer that question and more, we have the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB from Foxconn.