Power Consumption and Final Thoughts
Testing power consumption was done by testing idle power at the desktop and testing load while running 3DMark06 at 2560×1600.
As expected, the 8800 GTX SLI setup uses the most power by far, as we ard doubling up on an already power hungry GPU. Moving to the nForce 680i motherboard also increases power consumption, with a peak power draw of 462 watts! That’s enough to start scaring your power company, especially if you paired it with an AMD Quad FX CPU setup! Those with a need for cool and quiet systems probably need not apply here.
The GeForce 8800 GTX is already the top performing single graphics card on the market, so it made a lot of sense that plugging two of them into the same system for some SLI action would again produce a fantastic result. But I didn’t expect the experience to be so stable and for performance scaling to be this high.
In our gaming tests, including games like Company of Heroes, Flight Simulator X and Oblivion that weren’t benchmarked but were play tested, I was constantly impressed by the performance the 8800 GTX SLI system was able to produce. The single 8800 GTX had already set the bar very high as it was able to best the single card performance of NVIDIA’s own 7950 GX2 and 7900 GTX as well as AMD/ATI’s X1950 XTX without breaking a sweat. Plugging into two cards showed impressive scaling, despite the fact that these cards were already above the level of anything else on the market. FEAR and Call of Duty 2 saw some particularly impressive results, with scaling in the 90% range, and even the aging Battlefield 2 and Lost Coast tests saw impressive increases in gaming performance.
Of course, the bigger gains were seen in the higher resolutions, like the 2560×1600 that is available on the still popular Dell 30″ LCD (which has come down to the $1400 range). Running FEAR at this resolution with all the eye candy turned up is an awe-inspiring game experience and most other games will see a dramatic level of detail when run at that resolution as well. Seeing my friends actually have to move their heads from side to side to get the whole picture on the screen while playing Day of Defeat: Source kept the smiles flowing too.
One thing for sure, if you are looking to put down the cash for a pair of these cards, make sure you have the CPU to back it up! I used the Core 2 Extreme X6800 running at 2.93 GHz, probably the fastest CPU for gaming available, but I would imagine the cheaper E6700 and even the new quad-core QX6700 processors would be more than happy to push the pixels necessary for gaming at this level. You simply must get as much of the bottleneck off of the processor in order to get the best possible frame rates, and thus the most scaling and value, out of your pair of 8800 GTX graphics cards.
The GeForce 8800 GTX Core
You’ll also need a hefty power supply for an 8800 GTX SLI system. The PC Power and Cooling 1 KW PSU is a great choice, but for half the price, the Silverstone Zeus 850 watt unit is another good option.
Coupling all of that with an nForce 680i motherboard, maybe like the EVGA model we reviewed recently, and you’ll be gaming on, without a doubt, the world’s ultimate gaming platform. Xbox 360 and Playstation 3; eat your heart out!
Pricing and Availability
Again, when it comes to availability, NVIDIA has been nearly flawless in their execution of hard product launches. By having the cards ready when the reviews hit the web and the press releases hit the wire, users can get that instant-gratification that we all love!
The availability of 8800 GTX cards has not dwindled either; you can easily find cards from BFG Tech, EVGA, XFX, PNY, MSI, Asus and more in our pricing engine for as low as $600 — about where NVIDIA said they would be priced! 8800 GTS cards, which run at slower clock speeds and having fewer shader units, can be found for as low as $450.
Yes, these cards are not cheap by anyone’s standard for a graphics card; but they are widely available at the prices we expected to see them at. Always a positive in our book here at PC Perspective.
If you are on the hunt for the ultimate gaming platform, your journey should start with a pair of GeForce 8800 GTX cards. Just be prepared to pump up the credit card balance a bit as you add a $250 nForce 680i motherboard, a CPU and some memory on to your $1200 video card purchase. An SLI setup using the latest NVIDIA flagship graphics cards is not for the weak, but the gaming performance on our test system was simply outstanding with superb multi-GPU scaling and gaming experiences we haven’t seen anywhere else before.
If you have any questions or comments on this article, please head into this thread in our video card forum to discuss!
Be sure to use our price checking engine to find the best prices on the NVIDIA 8800 GTX and GTS, and anything else you may want to buy!