The test rig consisted of a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and two 512MB sticks of RAM running in dual-channel configuration.
To compare we have scores for an XFX 6800 Ultra. However, this was tested on a slightly different system. This was an Evesham Evolution Extreme machine, equipped with a 3.4GHz P4 Extreme Edition, a fast 875 chipset motherboard and two Western Digital 10,000rpm Raptor drives, which should give the XFX an advantage. But can the Gainward make up the ground?
Starting with the base test of 3DMark03 at 1,024 x 768 with no image quality (IQ) enhancements such as FSAA and AF, the Gainward scored 14,448, while in the same system the AOpen only scored 12,466. In the Evesham system, the XFX 6800 Ultra scored 12,875 - 15 per cent slower than the Gainward’s score. The water cooling and the high clocks immediately show their worth and the story continues throughout most of the tests.
In the AquaMark3 benchmarks the Gainward was 3fps faster than the XFX at 1,024 x 768 with IQ on, and 5fps faster at 1,600 x 1,200. In X2 however, the XFX was a little closer. In fact, at 1,024 x 768 the XFX outperformed the Gainward, where the Gainward only reached 96.1fps. It was faster once the IQ was enabled but only by a couple of FPS.
The results for Halo proved to be something of an oddity as the scores actually dropped with the card clocked at 485/1400 compared to 450/1200. We monitored the temperature using the driver and there seemed to be no problem, with the card not exceeding 50 degrees. Unfortunately, Far Cry wasn’t run with the XFX GeForce 6800 Ultra but we did have time to run it on the test system with the AOpen GeForce 6800 Ultra. At 1,600 x 1,200 with all IQ on, the Gainward reached a nice round 50fps, while the AOpen managed a mere 39fps.
From the scores it’s clear that the Gainward can claim to be the fastest card around right now - but at what price. The Gainward is 15 per cent faster than the AOpen in 3DMark03 and 28 per cent faster in Far Cry. But as we mentioned, the Gainward is a staggering 58 per cent more expensive than the AOpen.
The near silent running is a bonus but if you’re going to make the effort of installing this card you might as well go for an all encompassing solution that silently cools your CPU as well. If you are looking for an entirely water cooled PC it might make more sense to buy one pre-built from a specialist such as Holly Computers or Alienware with its water cooled dual card Video Array solution.
And while the Gainward might be supreme now it could be a pretty short reign. Once motherboards with dual PCI Express x16 slots appear the party will be over. You’ll be able to pick up two GeForce 6800 GTs for not much more than the Gainward and get a significant performance boost.
The Gainward PowerPack! CoolFX Ultra/2600 is unquestionably the fastest card you can buy right now, and it’s near silent too. For that it deserves recognition. However, the effort of installation and the cost of the card pretty much, (if you’ll excuse the pun), pour water on its achievement.
Clearly, while the Gainward has the performance advantage, in terms of value for money it’s left out in the cold. The CoolFX is aimed at those who have time and money in abundance, but for the rest of us, it’s just not worth it.