eVGA GeForce 8800 Ultra

Overall Score

To further explore the performance potential of the 8800 Ultra, I applied a moderate overclock to my CPU, bringing the speed to 3.4 GHz, which is faster than any CPU currently on the market’s stock speed. The influence of the higher CPU speed was examined by re-running the Windows XP Oblivion benchmarks, as well as the DirectX 10 version of Lost Planet. In these tests, it was seen that some of the CPU-bound tests increased in performance, where the ones that were already limited by the GPU showed negligible improvement.

After overclocking the CPU, there was still another step possible – to overclock the graphics card itself. Due to some issues with RivaTuner under Vista, the nVidia control panel was used for overclocking the GPU in Vista, where RivaTuner was used in XP successfully. The 8800 Ultra was overclocked to a core frequency of 676 MHz and the memory frequency was increased to 1150 MHz (2300 MHz effective). After running the tests again, it oculd be seen that overclocking the 8800 Ultra unlocked even more performance in the sections of the games that were GPU limited. The attached graphs show the results.

In fact, the Lost Planet snow level tracked the 10% GPU overclock almost perfectly by responding with a 10% improvement in performance, but showed only an inconsequential 1 FPS improvement due to overclocking the CPU. It can be seen that the cave level is almost completely CPU-limited, as overclocking the CPU brought a substantial performance increase, where overclocking the GPU had little effect in this area. These results reinforce the belief that a balanced system is needed for all-around maximum performance, where a powerful GPU can be crippled by a weak CPU and also a strong CPU can do nothing in games without a powerful GPU.

Moving on to Oblivion performance, a nice performance boost was found by overclocking the CPU, especially at lower levels of antialiasing. It can be seen that with the CPU overclocked the MSAA is no longer free of performance impacts up to 8x as it was with the CPU at stock speed, but this is fine as it means that some of the (and I hesitate to even use this word) bottleneck from the CPU has been aleviated. With MSAA, even up to 16x the performance was better with the CPU overclocked, showing that the GPU was still not completely limiting performance in these areas. The CPU and GPU seemed to mostly be balanced at 16x MSAA, as the scores with the CPU stock and the overclocked scores were converging, showing that the two pieces (CPU and GPU) were pretty much keeping up with each other. With SSAA, the GPU becomes the limiting factor much more quickly and by 4x SSAA the performance was almost the same with the CPU overclocked or at stock. The notable exception was the performance of save 1, where the CPU activity required by the torch animations maintained a significant advantage for the overclocked CPU all the way through and including 16xQ antialiasing.

Basically we can see that for 3dMark01 and Aquamark3 the 8800Ultra is clearly CPU bound, by the dramatic increases in score from overclocking the CPU and the minimal increases from overclocking the graphics card. 3dMark03 and 3dMark05 both seem to respond well to CPU overclocks as well as to overclocking the GPU. In the Lost Planet demo, we can see that the cave level is also heavily CPU limited under both DX9 and DX10, where the snow level is almost completely GPU limited in either case. Oblivion also shows that some scenes are limited by the CPU, some by the GPU, and some by both. This shows again the importance of a balanced system.


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