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When the GeForce 8800 GT graphics card launched at the tail end of last year, the praise heaped upon it was largely due to one factor. The size of the transistors used to make up the G92 processor that powered it had shrunk from 80nm to 65nm. By basically copying the design of their highly successful cards from the year before, bolting on a few extras, and using smaller transistors, the new cards could be smaller, cooler, and cheaper for the same performance.
However, while relative performance was exceptional, the single slot design and general lightweight design of the 8800 GT hinted at there being more to G92 than nVidia was letting on - surely there would be a more powerful solution based on the same technology? Well, to cut a long story short, there is, and it's called the GeForce 8800 GTS 512 - and it looks like being another corker.
Now the first thing you'll probably notice about this new card is its all too familiar name. Of course, we're all used to graphics card manufacturers and their board partners using strange and often confusing naming conventions, but this time nVidia really has taken the biscuit. Not only has the name been recycled from a still active product but the existing product range already has two different SKUs to choose from - the 8800 GTS 320MB and the 8800 GTS 640MB.
The only logic I can see in the move is that uninformed customers will be familiar with the already successful 8800 GTS name and associate this new card with that pedigree. However, this logic can just as easily be turned on its head as using a year old name may lead people to think the card is getting long in the tooth. Moreover, as you'll soon see, the performance of the new card is significantly better than the old so why tar the new card with the same brush?
Whatever the reason, looking round a few shops, the old 8800GTSs are rapidly being phased out so the consumer will soon not have to make a decision - informed or not - and the product range will be reduced to the much more manageable quartet of 8800 GT, (new) 8800 GTS, 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra. So, without further ado, let's take a look at what's changed with the GeForce 8800 GTS 512 and see whether this confusingly named newcomer can repeat the success of its cheaper sibling.
I won't cover in detail the way nVidia's latest graphics cards go about rendering the wonderful 3D worlds we all love as it's something we've already covered in the original review of the GeForce 8800 GTX. However, to understand the differences between the old and new 8800 GTS cards we need to do more than just dip our toes in the murky waters of graphics card architecture - this one's for strong swimmers only. Snorkels at the ready? Let's go...