What NVIDIA has achieved with the GeForce 6800 Ultra makes even experienced graphics cards editors shake their head in amazement and wonder. The performance this card offers will sweep graphics cards enthusiasts (the author included) off their feet and carry them off into a state of ecstasy in which they can only gape in awe at the sight of these simply amazing benchmark results - Freezinassin! Compared to the GeForce 6800 Ultra, the former high-end models Radeon 9800XT and FX 5950 Ultra often seem like nothing more than cheap mainstream cards...
Once you step back and start breathing normally again, you'll also see that, in addition to the outstanding performance, the new card finally offers very good FSAA quality as well as outstanding texture filtering, which will satisfy even quality purists, thanks to its ability to turn off the trilinear optimizations. Technologically, NVIDIA also takes the lead, owing to a full DirectX 9.0c and ShaderModel 3.0 implementation with unrestricted 32 bit floating point performance.
To those of you ready to camp out in front of your store to get your hands on one of these cards - be warned! The first barrier on your way to graphics ecstasy is the power requirement calling for a PSU with at least 480Watts. In effect, its not so much the power rating that may prove problematic - it may turn out harder to find a power supply with enough ATX power cables for use with the graphics card! Of course, true enthusiasts won't be deterred, and case modders will welcome the new challenge.
But we have some grievances as well. For one thing, there's the disappointing shader quality in FarCry. NVIDIA should get this problem ironed out as soon as possible, as it leaves a bitter aftertaste in our mouths despite (or because of) the otherwise excellent benchmark results. The new video processor also requires some more work through drivers - the GeForce 5950 Ultra with no video processor onboard offers a lower CPU utilization than the GeForce 6800 Ultra with video processor. Still, neither of these points spoil the fun, and NVIDIA should have ample time to resolve these issues before the retail boards launch. Small details like the last-minute change to the fan voltage on our review card leave us with the impression that this may be a little while off anyway. But who knows - let's just wait and see.
With the NV40 alias GeForce 6800 Ultra, NVIDIA has produced an excellent product that will serve as the basis for an entire family. After the impressive performance we saw today, we have great expectations for the other cards as well. Now that NVIDIA has raised the standard in such a breathtaking way, we are all waiting with bated breath for ATi's answer in the shape of the R420, which will launch with either 12 or 16 pixel pipelines later this month.
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