Date: November 16th, 2004
Article by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner, Head Editor & Hardware Reviewer)
Product was donated by: Nvidia
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PRODUCT COMPOSITION, PICTORIAL & WALKTHROUGH
All 6800GTs with 256Megs of onboard memory go for the price of around US$380-$450 if you can find a PCI Express online. Seems that the PCI Express flavor is taking its' sweet time getting into retail channels and hopefully this will improve over the coming month with Christmas coming.
The Nvidia reference sample I will be reviewing today is loaded with 256Megs of actively cooled GDDR3 running at 500Mhz (1 Ghz DDR). It really doesn't matter what videocard manufacturer you purchase from because most of them are all based on this exact card with maybe slight changes in the cooling solution and monitor port configuration. Some manufacturers have stuck with the exact videocard as you are seeing here today right down to the fancy mermaid sticker on the cooler. Why mess with what works.
The 6800GT tested today is quite a large card with about an inch more added to the length when you are comparing it to the ATI equivalent X800 pro and is long enough to block the system memory dimm locking mechanism from disengaging with the card is installed. What does this mean? Well, you will have to remove the card to remove your memory from your motherboard. This is more the fault of the motherboard manufacturer rather than videocard company. Although it wouldn't hurt for Nvidia to take more advantage of the PCB they use and condense the card size a bit.
The active VPU and memory cooling solution although quite loud at startup will quite down considerably once you operating system loads up and the software kicks in and starts monitoring and controlling the fan speed. As a one slot cooling solution, this reference cooler does an excellent job cooling the memory and the core and thus allowing for stable gaming and a fun overclocking experience as you will see later on in the review. What I like about this cooler is that everything creating heat is cooled via heatsinks. No memory modules are lacking cooling whatsoever. Even the voltage regulators on the right side of the photo have heatsinks.
The turbine fan cooling the whole card is perfectly suited and balanced for everything from desktop work to stress testing and keeps the core temperature at a nice and cool at 59c while at idle and only a mere 65c when overclocked and thrashing out some decent frame rates while benchmarking. It is great that they removed the hair blower associated with older models. Crazy cooling is just not required for the NV40.
Seeing that this cooling solution is rather large and heavy, the back side of the card has a reinforcement bracket on the VPU core and six screws around the perimeter holding the heatsink in place insuring that the heatsink has excellent contact with the memory and core.
This particular sample came equipped with not only one, but two DVI ports for native digital dual monitor support. In my mind and experience, this is the only way videocards should come out of the box today. If they are worried about standard analog VGA monitor support, just throw two DVI to VGA convertors into the box. You can always go from DVI to VGA, but you cannot go from VGA to DVI. Get my point?
Beside the DVI ports is the lone Video-out port for attaching a TV or a projector as the monitor through a S-Video cable. Attach the cable and go to the Nvidia drivers to set it up.