Gainward GeForce™ 6800 Ultra / 2100 Golden Sample

by John Reynolds

 

Introduction

Earlier this summer SimHQ examined the GeForce 6800 GT from NVIDIA. Today we’ll be taking a look atGainward’s GeForce Ultra/2100 product, a graphics board based on the vanilla 6800 chip, and seeing how well it fares with the latest simulation gaming software. The Ultra/2100 board is a Gainward “Golden Sample” product, which the company guarantees will outperform the reference design the card is based on. This boast stems from Gainward’s claim of hand-picking the graphics processors and using only high-quality memory chips for their Golden Sample boards.

A single-slot solution, the GeForce 6800 Ultra/2100 is a AGP board with 128 MB of 2.5ns DDR memory clocked at 350 Mhz. The graphics processor is a 6800 chip clocked at 325 Mhz and containing 12 pixel pipelines and five vertex units (compared to the GT and Ultra’s 16 pipes and six vertex).. Roughly 8.5” long, the same length as the 6800 GT, the Ultra/2100 has one molex connector for power and offers video I/O options for DVI, S-video, and standard VGA. The board’s cooling solution is a copper heatsink and fan that covers both the graphics chip and RAM modules. In addition to the graphics board, Gainward also bundles a Y-split molex power cable and DVI-VGA and S-composite converters in the retail box, along with software such as WinDVD 4, Muvee 3 (a video editing program), their EXPERTool utility, and the slightly aged (a la 2002) role-playing game, Arx Fatalis.

6800 Architecture Overview

As a member of NVIDIA’s 6800 chip lineup, Gainward’s Ultra/2100 shares the same feature-set as its faster GT and Ultra versions:

CineFX 3.0 Shading Architecture

  • Full DirectX 9.0 support
  • Shader Model 3.0 support
  • Infinite Shader lengths
  • MRT (multiple render targets) support
  • 12 textures per rendering pass
  • 32-bit and 16-bit floating point format support

High-Precision Dynamic-Range

  • Full floating point support through entire pipeline
  • 16-bit floating point frame buffer blending

Intellisample 3.0

  • Rotated-grid, multisampling anti-aliasing
  • 16x anisotropic filtering
  • Lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data
  • Fast Z clear

UltraShadow II

  • Stencil shadow performance acceleration

Advanced Video and Display

  • Dedicated on-chip video processor
  • MPEG video encode and decode
  • Digital Vibrance 3.0 control

SimHQ discussed the 6800 architecture at greater length here. Worth noting again is that the vanilla 6800 processor the Ultra/2100 uses is a 12-pipe chip compared to the 16 pipes the 6800 GT and Ultra sport, and combined with its lower clock speeds has significantly less pixel fill rate than that of the fast parts. We’ll therefore see how the Ultra/2100 fares at higher resolutions.

Test System Setup

  • AMD Athlon 64 3800+ processor
  • ASUS A8V 939-pin motherboard (BIOS 1006, VIA 4-in-1 v4.51)
  • 1 GB (2 x 512 MB) Corsair XMS PC3200 DDR RAM
  • Gainward 6800 Ultra/2100 128 MB (NVIDIA ForceWare v61.77 drivers)
  • Adaptec 19160 SCSI controller
  • 36 GB Seagate Cheetah 15,000 RPM HD (NTFS)
  • Windows XP Professional (SP2)
  • DirectX 9.0c

The benchmark suite that was used to evaluate the Ultra/2100 is listed here. Again, unless specified otherwise all games are configured to their highest settings, and 32-bit color and trilinear texture filtering were the default baseline during testing. Also, Windows XP was configured to have Automatic Update, System Restore, and all unnecessary startup services disabled. Fraps 2.3.2 was used to record performance scores unless otherwise noted.

Last, the ForceWare 61.77 driver set was used and manually configured for high quality settings, with both trilinear and anisotropic filtering optimizations disabled. SimHQ debated leaving the filtering optimizations enabled, which is the default setting when the ForceWare drivers are installed, but decided that the Ultra/2100’s suggested retail price of $300 removes it from the mainstream category where such settings would be more appropriate for expected performance.

 

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