GeForce 8800 Ultra – reference design:
Reference design hardware is normally pretty dull and boring, but Nvidia has actually managed to create something that steps away from the norm. The first thing to note is that we see the return of the black PCB, which disappeared and was replaced by the familiar green PCBs at some point after volume ramped up on retail GeForce 8800 GTX and 8800 GTS cards.
The colour of the PCB normally wouldn’t make a massive difference, but when a card is predominantly black anyway, it affects aesthetics a little when the PCB is reverted to a rather dull green. Of course, the colour of the dye used in the PCB isn’t going to make any difference to how this card performs and that’s going to be your primary concern on a high end graphics card.
If you were expecting GeForce 8800 Ultra to be cheap, you’re out of luck – it’s going to set you back almost five hundred pounds once it’s available. If partners choose to overclock GeForce 8800 Ultra (and based on the past, we’d certainly expect them to do so), we can expect the card to cost the wrong side of half a grand. Yow!
Before we suffer from too much shock though, let’s remember that this is Nvidia’s replacement for what was the fastest graphics card on the planet though, so you’re going to have to pay a premium for that privilege. Normally we wouldn’t proclaim something to be the fastest graphics card on the planet without first showing you the benchmarks, but this is an exceptional case because Nvidia hasn’t had any competition at the bleeding edge since it launched GeForce 8800 GTX
almost seven months ago.
Though performance is the primary concern at the bleeding edge of graphics technology, who said you weren’t allowed to make it look good in the process? Well, Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s CEO and founder, certainly didn’t listen to whoever said that when he conceived his latest baby – the geek inside me wants to say that GeForce 8800 Ultra is an incredibly good looking piece of kit.
Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 Ultra reference card is the same size as the GeForce 8800 GTX at just over 270mm long, meaning that it is not going to fit in every case without some hiccups along the line. It features a different heatsink to the GeForce 8800 GTX, which Nvidia says is an optimised design. Both this and the original GeForce 8800-series coolers are designed and manufactured to Nvidia’s specifications by Cooler Master.
The new design uses the same radial blower as the older GeForce 8800-series heatsinks, but the fan is slightly offset on the 8800 Ultra to allow for much cooler air to enter the heatsink assembly. On both GeForce 8800 GTX and 8800 GTS, the radial blower was actually directly above the PWM components, which meant that the card ran hot. Whilst the GeForce 8800 Ultra isn’t exactly a tamed beast, it’s able to run at higher clock speeds than the GeForce 8800 GTX, without compromising on either acoustics or heat output because of the new offset fan.
That’s not the only change to the heatsink design though, as Nvidia has extended the black plastic shroud along the entire length of the card and actually looks similar to EVGA’s ACS3 cooling solution, but it’s a bit more elegant in our opinion. The remainder of the heatsink is an almost carbon copy of the GeForce 8800 GTX heatsink, with one heatpipe extracting heat from the GPU core and moving it into the fins as quickly as possible.