Performance Leap: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra

The Hardware

The NV40 graphics processor. It's not hard to tell that our review card still used an engineering sample.

Weighing in at a transistor count of 222 million, the GeForce 6800 Ultra GPU easily breaks the record for the biggest consumer graphics chip to date. Today's high-end graphics such as the NV38 and R360 only comprise about half as many transistors. And as a comparison, consider that the Pentium 4 EE processor is made up of "only" 178 million transistors - and 149 million of those make up the 2 MB Level 2 cache! The processor core itself consists of only 29 million transistors! This behemoth of a chip is produced for NVIDIA by IBM on a 0.13µ process.

The GeForce 6800 Ultra is of the same length as the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. Even the weight of the cards is practically identical (~460 grams). Despite its massive look, the heatsink is lighter than one might think.

The back of the GeForce 6800 Ultra. All of the eight 256 Mbit GDDR3 memory modules sit on the front of the card, which still leaves enough space on the back for another 256 MB! If you take a very close look, you'll see that this card was revised by hand just to the right of the AGP connector (the coil and the green cable). The reason is a last-minute change to the fan's voltage. It seems NVIDIA wasn't satisfied with the standard speed and noise level of the fan.