Price (as reviewed): £539.91 (inc. VAT)
10 years (parts and labour) & EVGA 90-day Step-Up Program (in Europe)
To the surprise of many, Nvidia announced the GeForce 8800 Ultra at the start of this month, after already holding the graphics performance crown for seven months with thanks going to the company's simply excellent GeForce 8800 GTX. The formula was simple: you take the fastest graphics card in the world and give it some go faster stripes. The result is not surprisingly a new fastest graphics card in the world.
Performance wasn't the problem with the launch though; the problem was value for money, or perceived value for money, to better describe. The card was so much more expensive than both the standard and pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GTXs, yet its clock speeds weren't all that impressive. Sure, they resulted in a 10 percent increase in performance in round terms, but that doesn't amount to the 30 percent price increase that was demanded by Nvidia and its partners.
Over the past few weeks, we have been playing with a couple of retail GeForce 8800 Ultra cards, the first of which was EVGA's e-GeForce 8800 Ultra Superclocked edition. For this card, EVGA has applied the same logic that it normally does when it attempts to differentiate itself from the volatile graphics card market - it has taken Nvidia's reference clocks and literally thrown them out of the window.
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The core has been pushed from 612MHz up to 655MHz, while the shader clock has gone from 1500MHz to 1660MHz. Finally, the memory has been pushed up to 2250MHz - 90MHz higher than the reference frequency. That results is another 5GB/sec of memory bandwidth (or 108GB/sec for a full disclosure), not that the GeForce 8800 Ultra was exactly short of bandwidth.
What EVGA hasn't done though, is moved away from the reference cooling design. That's not to say the cooling solution is bad - we actually love the way it looks, and it also works pretty well too! Although the reference design's sleek look was superb, EVGA has ruined it with a sticker along the top of the card which, to be fair, is EVGA's attempt to brand the card as its own.
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The problem is not really the sticker though, it's the choice of material used for the plastic shroud on the cooler - it's just not got the right finish for sticking stickers to. Because the shroud has a textured finish, the clear sticker doesn't blend into the card's design and stands out like a sore thumb. Probably the best way around this would have been to use a black sticker instead of a clear one; at least then it wouldn't feel like it was so close, yet so far from being a "good looking" graphics card.
On the back of the card, EVGA has used the same heatsink that we found on its e-GeForce 8800 GTX KO Superclocked ACS³ edition. This is designed to help reduce PCB temperatures behind the core, as it can get pretty hot there when the card is churning out frame after frame during a heavy gaming session. Aside from that, everything else about the card shouts reference design, but then this isn't an ACS³ or Black Pearl edition card so we wouldn't expect anything more.
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The bundle is a familiar sight too and there is nothing that is unexpected based on what we've seen from previous EVGA graphics cards. You'll get a pair of six pin PCI-Express power adapters, two DVI-to-VGA converters, an S-Video cable and a component cable. In addition, there is also a generic user manual and a driver CD. It's worth noting here that the driver CD only has drivers for Windows 2000 and XP - you'll have to download drivers if you've got Windows Vista.
EVGA's box design hasn't changed with this card either, although unlike the company's GeForce 8800 GTX KO Superclocked ACS³ card, this pre-overclocked 8800 Ultra comes packed in a vacuum formed plastic clamshell. This prevents the card from moving around at all during shipping.
Warranty & Support:
In the UK, EVGA offers a 10 year warranty (equivalent to lifetime) and it follows the same terms as the US lifetime warranty. You can find full details of the warranty programme on the EVGA home page
. In addition, EVGA also has a lively message board
, where you can ask EVGA representatives about anything you'd like to know before or after purchasing an EVGA product.
One thing that sets EVGA above other NVIDIA partners is its support programme. When you purchase an EVGA video card, the company gives you the chance to step up to something better in the first 90 days after the initial purchase. In order to qualify for this, you must purchase your EVGA video card from an authorised reseller – purchasing a card from eBay or another auction site does not qualify you for the Step-Up programme. You can read the full terms and conditions on EVGA's website
Providing you meet EVGA's very reasonable terms and conditions, you will get the full amount you paid knocked off the cost of the card you're upgrading to. Obviously, you can't keep stepping up to something faster – EVGA allows you to complete one Step-up on each video card purchase; the Step-up doesn't count as a purchase.