Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra

Most impressive graphics chip yet?


If by now you're as fed up as I am with all the techno babble and want to know how the GeForce 6800 Ultra performs, read on. Although this is only a preview, I managed to have a brief play with a pre-production board. There is one big drawback with the GeForce 6800 Ultra, if it can be called a drawback, which is the fact that there isn't a fast enough PC around to take full advantage of it. Even though we only tested the card in our somewhat outdated Pentium 4 2.4GHz reference system, it still managed to achieve some amazing numbers.

Nvidia 6800 3DMark 03 benchmark

With a score of over 11,000 in 3DMark03, the GeForce 6800 is more than twice as fast as anything else we've tested. Looking at the performance numbers in the remaining benchmarks, the two that stand out are Halo and Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, both running at about twice the usual speed using the GeForce 6800 Ultra, compared to current crop of high-end graphics cards. This shows the benefit of upgrading to a GeForce 6800 Ultra today, even though current games can barely take advantage of even half of the features of the new GPU. With numbers like these you might be amazed to learn that the GeForce 6800 Ultra GPU is clocked at a mere 400MHz. It is backed up by blisteringly fast 550MHz GDDR3 memory, which has an effective speed of 1100MHz.

Nvidia 6800 Halo benchmark

If you've saved up all your hard earned cash and planned to remortgage your house to get one of these new wonder cards, the good news is that as with recent top-end nVidia products, the GeForce 6800 Ultra will be launched at £399 inc VAT. And even if you don't have the fastest computer in the world, the GeForce 6800 Ultra will still do it justice as long as you're willing to play all your games at 1600 x 1200 resolution with 8x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering. Nvidia sadly doesn't supply high-resolution monitors with the GeForce 6800 Ultra, even though it would be very handy if it did.

Nvidia 6800 Aquamark benchmark

But what Nvidia should be supplying in the box is a discount voucher for a new power supply, as the GeForce 6800 Ultra needs two power lines to itself from the power supply. But worse than this is the fact that Nvidia recommends a minimum 480W power supply to make sure that the graphics card is supplied with enough juice. In return, you do get the most powerful graphics card on the market, which should convince enough users to fork out the extra money for a new power supply. Just don't expect to put one of these babies in small form factor box.

To sum it all up, the GeForce 6800 Ultra is the fastest and most impressive graphics card I have ever seen and I'm not easily impressed. On the down side, you do need a high-end PC and a small nuclear reactor, if you want to get the most out of it, but such is the lot of the early adopter. nVidia has snatched the performance crown back from ATi, but for how long, only time can tell. With ATI's next generation product just around the corner, this will be a very interesting summer for any hardcore gamers out there.

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