Without a doubt, ATI has a decent graphics card lineup, but it is unfortunately playing second fiddle to NVIDIA's salvos for two years straight. While the GeForce 6 series was NVIDIA's ticket to get back into the game and redeem itself, the GeForce 7 series was surely the leader, be it price or performance and even price-performance as we've explicitly shown in our articles of those days. That's not to say ATI has been taking it down as they were in fact aggressively countering the green team's move with new SKUs, but as quickly as those were announced, NVIDIA had something else in store. It wasn't till the Radeon X1950 XTX and its derivatives when ATI finally arrived at the right formula, but that was just too late as usual. November 2006 once again saw NVIDIA leapfrog ATI with the world's first DirectX 10 GPU and one that even runs circles around anything else in DirectX 9 performance.
Half a year has passed since and the state of the market hasn't changed one bit - ATI still has yet to deliver a DirectX 10 solution for the PC market and NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 series is still spinning circles around them. The situation looks too uncannily familiar when ATI once had the DirectX 9 leadership while NVIDIA slipped with their GeForce FX latecomer. However if our sources and news on the Internet are right, ATI will launch their competitive DirectX 10 lineup on May 14th. Of course you might want to factor in the usual supply lag associated with ATI products for a good measure - and that could mean up to several more weeks delay before there is sufficient supply. Then of course we have the probable initial hiccups associated with any new product and the fact that the new entrants have yet to achieve a 'tried and tested' status. All this could potentially work up against ATI penetrating this graphics segment quickly and sure enough NVIDIA has another card ready to play with today's debut of the GeForce 8800 Ultra.
Drenched completely in black from the PCB to its cooler shroud, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is NVIDIA's ultimate enthusiast gaming graphics card targeted at folks who would go to any lengths to obtain the very best in performance. With this mindset, the GeForce 8800 Ultra will sell at a staggering US$829 upwards. Factor in the lack of competition at its inception and the probable limited availability, word has it that the GeForce 8800 Ultra may sell at up to US$999.
So what does the Ultra actually have to command the ultra premium? Bluntly put, the GeForce 8800 Ultra is an overclocked GTX. Every single hardware specification is identical to that of the current 8800 GTX SKU. Only three technical specifications have been changed:- the GPU runs at 612MHz, shader processors at 1500MHz and memory at 2160MHz DDR (up from 575MHz, 1350MHz and 1800MHz DDR respectively on the GTX SKU). Overall, the numbers don't seem impressive, as there are already overclocked GTX cards that closely rival the Ultra's specifications but NVIDIA begs to differ. More on that on the following page, but first the tech specs of the GeForce 8800 Ultra and how it stacks up with the rest of the cards:-
|Model||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB||NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB||ATI Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB|
|Transistor Count||681 million||681 million||681 million||384 million|
|Manufacturing Process (microns)||0.09||0.09||0.09||0.09|
|Vertex Shaders||128 Stream Processors (operating at 1500MHz)||128 Stream Processors (operating at 1350MHz)||96 Stream Processors (operating at 1200MHz)||8|
|Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines||16|
|Pixel Shader Processors||48|
|Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units||64||64||48||16|
|Raster Operator units (ROP)||24||24||20||16|
|Memory Clock||2160MHz DDR3||1800MHz DDR3||1600MHz DDR3||2000MHz DDR4|
|DDR Memory Bus||384-bit||384-bit||320-bit||256-bit|
|Ring Bus Memory Controller||NIL||NIL||NIL||512-bit (for memory reads only)|
|PCI Express Interface||x16||x16||x16||x16|
|Molex Power Connectors||Yes (dual)||Yes (dual)||Yes (dual)||Yes|
|Multi GPU Technology||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (SLI)||Yes (CrossFire)|
|DVI Output Support||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link||2 x Dual-Link|
|HDCP Output Cable?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Street Price||~ US$830 - US$999 (SRP)||~ US$550 - US$650||US$399 (SRP)||~ US$400|