For all the talk of frames per second, pixel pipelines and transparency Anti Aliasing, nVidia’s biggest achievement with the launch of the GeForce 7800 GTX was that it was widely available to retailers on the day of release. Offering stupendous performance and wide availability together was something of a triumph and inevitably the pressure is now on ATI to deliver with CrossFire and its next generation card.
We’ve already looked at a pair of retail boards from XFX and now we’ve got another pair from AOpen. The XFX 7800 GTX cards were notable for their plush packaging, VIVO support and slightly higher CPU and memory clocks. With the cheaper price and more modest box I was expecting the AOpen cards to be essentially identical to the reference boards. Indeed the AOpen card certainly looks that way, and doesn’t feature VIVO. However, as it turned out, with our review sample AOpen has matched XFX with the core and memory hitting 450 and 1,250MHz respectively – up from 430/1200 on the reference nVidia boards. Clearly there’s some headroom in the design and while the lower clocked version of the GTX is due to arrive very soon it does further suggest that an ‘Ultra’ version of the chip won’t be too much of an effort for nVidia if it feels threatened by ATI’s next move.
As you can see from the pictures, the board looks very much like the reference card. Indeed as these are early samples AOpen hadn’t even got round to switching the labelling with the stock nvidia logoed fan –though personally I think it looks rather cool that way. The early nature of the samples also probably explains why the supplied install disc referred to the 6800 series. As has been mentioned many times, the heatsink and fan on the 7800GTX is an efficient single slot solution, that’s not too noisy either. Admittedly the card is slightly longer than previous generation cards, which means that despite its svelteness it’s not suitable for small form factor systems. But the thought of being able to slot in a quiet, single card, that offers more performance than a 6800 Ultra SLI set-up is simply mouth watering.
A quick look at the box revealed something I must admit I didn’t realise, namely that the GTX has a dual-link TMDS transmitter, enabling you to drive a screen of up to 3,840 x 2,400 resolution – that’s nine megapixels of display to play with. Alternatively, you could have two 24in screens attached to the card - one hanging off each DVI port, such as this very impressive Dell display.