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GeForce 6800 SLI review w/ benchmarks

Nov 29, 2004 — For those interested, TechReport has an excellent review on running dual GeForce 6800 Ultras in SLI mode. Bottom line seems to be you get double the speed running at high resolutions with antialiasing. But they also appear to suck up double the power, and generate twice the heat - resulting in stability problems. Course, you can always hook a radiator from a Mustang up to your box...

Wirehead says:

Hehehe. Yeah, you can do that. I'm running 96F @ full load, 1.85v @ 2.35Ghz right now, dead silent. W00t.

Anyway, don't bother with SLI at all right now. The only benefit is at ultrahigh resolutions and even there, a single 6800Ultra will get the job done nicely.

The thing is, the technology is great, but you have to buy:

1. PCI express motherboard with dual 16x PCIe slots ($200).

2. A VERY fast CPU (AthlonFX-55 or P4 3.43EE) - as otherwise the CPU is the bottleneck and you'll never see the framerates that the video subsystem is really capable of generating. $900+

3. Two SLI-capable video cards - at a MINIMUM this means 6600GT's, which come in around $225 each.

You'll most likely need to buy loads of RAM, and, if you buy Intel, it'll have to be DDR2 which is more expensive at the moment - add in another $300 or so for a gig of DDR2 533.

So, for about $1600 you can... get exactly the same enjoyment at 1600x1200 that you could have gotten at 1280x1024 with only a $200 video card upgrade (GeForce 6600GT, AGP8X version which will work with your existing motherboard).

The drool-factor is definitely there, but at least with this generation of games, it's just not worth it. There's no game out there right now that you can't get insane (100+) framerates with a simple 6600GT.

That said, I'm going to get a 6800 (non-GT) and mod it to a 6800 Ultra, then watercool it and overclock the thing to within an inch of its life. This will run me about $250, total, or if I can wheedle it out of someone for Christmas, nothing at all.

lyrical warfare says:

True enough. I'm running HL2 @ 1600x1200 with 2x AA and getting nice framerates with a vanilla eVGA GeForce 6800 running @ 400Mhz. The game looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL at those settings, on my Dell 2001FP 20.1" LCD.

Dylan says:

I'm wondering how my laptop will handle it. It's a P4-3.06Ghz w/HT, with 512MB RAM, and a GeForce-FX5600 w/128MB.

lyrical warfare says:

I noticed it eats up like ALL my 1GB of ram while running. It seems to cache a lot of stuff.

My bottleneck seems to be the generic Dell 7200RPM hard drive. Load times are a bitch.

But I would think your 128MB card would run it fine at a lower res with no AA. My friend runs it at good framerates with a 9800 Pro @ 1280x1024.

Wirehead says:

Yeah - you should be in good shape. It just depends on what level of eye candy you want. Plan on no AA, no AF, and 800x600 or POSSIBLY 1024x768, tops.

My laptop, which is an Athlon64 3000+, Radeon 9600Pro 128MB, can run Doom3 at High Quality 1024x768 at a playable framerate (it's not glassy smooth by any means, but you stop noticing the momentary framerate drops after playing for a few minutes). The Geforce 5xxx cards are weak in DX9, so ValvE actually created an entirely separate codepath that uses DX8.1 for that class of cards to get acceptable performance. You won't get any DX9 eye candy, but the game should run fine.

People who are concerned about their hardware handling Doom3 or HL2 generally don't need to worry too much - realize these games were both supposed to have come out over a year ago, and were actually originally designed to have the Geforce Ti4xxx and Radeon 95xx & 96xx class cards as the "mid range" setup, with GeForce FX 58xx, 59xx and Radeon 97xx, 98xx cards as the "high end" setup. Any CURRENT graphics card blows them away - when was the last time you remember a new game coming out that could be run at absolutely maximum possible settings by hardware available on the day of release?

Obviously the older hardware won't run it as WELL as the new stuff, but Joe and I are both running Ti4xxx class cards and neither of us will be upgrading any time soon (unless Santa is kind).

lyrical warfare: check out the Western Digital Raptor. I've been running the 36gb variant for about six months and couldn't be happier. It's far cheaper than a SCSI setup with better performance in a desktop environment (as distinct from, say, a webserver where i/o's/sec is paramount). When Joe and I play Desert Combat, he gets into the game about fifteen seconds later than me (my average load time per level is under twenty seconds). He's running an U320 SCSI 15GB Seagate Cheetah vs. my Raptor. I also have a gig of ram vs. his 512mb, which helps - but when I play on my laptop (7200RPM Hitachi Travelstar, 512MB DDR400), he beats me into the game by a significant margin, which I assign to the SCSI drive in his system.

lyrical warfare says:

Thanks for the tip on the drives. Actually I'll probably end up buying 2 matching SATA drives for like $80 each and setting up a Raid-0. That should more than take care of my HDD latency woes.

Regarding the new graphics cards... honestly, I don't know what the big deal is dropping 200 bucks for a low-end 6800. The difference in speed over the prev gen cards is gargantuan. Practically 2x. I mean, when was the last time a new graphics card revision so outperformed the previous?

jpwain says:

This article would have you believe that RAID 0 won't do much for the average desktop, but I can't really weigh in on that since I've never worked with RAID anything.

My $.02: just get a single 10kRPM WD Raptor, or be a man about it and get some proper SCSI gear. I found a high-end Adaptec Ultra160 adapter for $70 used and paired with a 15kRPM SCSI drive, it's mighty responsive.

lyrical warfare says:

Hmm after reading your article and another on Ars... it looks like you're right. I found this review of the 10K RPM Raptor, and it looks pretty sweet - on par with the SCSI drives. Looks like I can get one for $150 after rebate. Definitely a better value for more performance.

Thanks!

Wirehead says:

Raptor rules. And I had two WD400BB's in RAID-0 for quite a while - never really noticed much in the way of improved performance. Did notice more noise, power consumption, and unreliability, though.

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