The 256MB 8800 GT Shakes the Lineup

The XFX 8800 GT 256MB Alpha Dog Edition is the first we have reviewed of the 256MB 8800 GTs — and we aren’t that impressed. Sorry XFX, it looks like NVIDIA dropped a stinker in the wake of the 8800 GTS 512MB…

The GeForce 8800 GT graphics card was received with probably the most wide-ranging acceptance of any GPU in a several years offering both performance and value.  Of course, it hasn’t panned out quite as well as we’d have hoped it would since the prices of the 8800 GT 512MB cards have been significantly higher than NVIDIA promised during the pre-launch period.  We have news now that NVIDIA is looking to fix that issue, but it’s been long enough that in our mind stock should have been worked out and orders for second and third waves SHOULD have dropped prices. 

NVIDIA did come up with another answer though: a lower priced model in the form of the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB. 

The 8800 GT 256MB

As you might be able to guess, the main difference between this new GPU and the previous one is the move to 256MB of memory instead of 512MB.

XFX GeForce 8800 GT 256MB Graphics Card Review - Graphics Cards 66
Previous 8800 GT 512MB Reference Specs

XFX GeForce 8800 GT 256MB Graphics Card Review - Graphics Cards 67
New 8800 GT 256MB Reference Specs

These two slides show the changes in the new card in more detail with the new 256MB model on the bottom.  They have the same number of stream processors as well as the same core and shader clock speeds.  The memory system is still a 256-bit memory bus, though the new 256MB model obviously has half the memory and a range of frequencies from 700 MHz to 900 MHz depending on the board vendors’ preferences.  The speed of the memory will also affect the price of the card as you can get 800 MHz modules much cheaper than 900 MHz, etc.

There is another change that came with the new 256MB 8800 GT card: a new cooler.  It’s still a single-slot cooler and looks nearly the same, but the card has a bigger fan and a new speed-up table in the BIOS that affects when the fan actually turns on to higher speeds.  We’ll look at that more on the next page, as it is pretty interesting to see what kind of performance changes that offers in terms of temperatures. 

Current Competitions

NVIDIA’s 8800 GT 256MB card was released and pushed as the competition to AMD’s Radeon HD 3850 graphics card, a new 55nm part that got a lot of attention for being a great option for a sub-$200 GPU.  NVIDIA was hoping to see the prices of the 8800 GT 256MB cards to be at $199 or so, but let’s see how it panned out:
Even though NVIDIA might have wanted to see the prices closer than this, the AMD HD 3850 still has a distinct pricing advantage over the 256MB version of the 8800 GT.  We’ll have to see how the performance comparison looks as well before we make any more judgments though.

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