Image Quality - Summary
Compared to the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, the 6800 Ultra offers greatly improved image quality, both in FSAA and in anisotropic filtering. NV40 need not fear the competition from ATi either. Although ATi offers a higher sampling rate (6x), the 6800 Ultra can balance this out with its 8x mixed-mode. Also, let's not forget the 6800's excellent performance. It is still noticeably faster in UT2004 at 1600x1200 with 4xFSAA enabled than the Radeon 9800XT with 4x at 1280x1024!
The same holds true for anisotropic filtering. NVIDIA has taken the criticism it received over the past months seriously and now allows the trilinear optimizations to be turned off. In this mode, the GeForce 6800 Ultra offers superior filtering quality. We would still like to see an option to turn off the angle-based optimizations, for example in High-Quality mode. So far, this mode does not offer noticeable quality improvements compared to Quality mode. Also, performance only takes a minor hit when HQ mode is enabled.
We were disappointed by the new card where shader quality is concerned, at least in the game FarCry. Since we don't have any other modern game like this for comparison, it's hard to draw any conclusions right now. It seems reasonable to suppose that Crytek and NVIDIA weren't able to remove all of the shader optimizations for NV3x in time. In all likelihood, a new patch or a newer driver revision will iron out the remaining issues. As it stands, the current image quality in FarCry is simply unacceptable for the GeForce 6800 Ultra - especially in light of such superior performance.