The winds of change are blowing and blowing hard. Windows Vista is due to launch on January 30th and with it brings a whole host of “features” that I'm sure will increase our productivity no end. Or perhaps not, we'll have to wait and see. What is clear is that Vista will bring with it DirectX 10, which will not be ported to Windows XP.
That means, in order to run DirectX 10 games at their very best, you will need a DirectX 10 capable graphics card and a licensed copy of Windows Vista. There is also no guarantee that games will have backwards compatibility with DirectX 9, but the chances are high.
DirectX 10 alters a lot of things, but the biggest change is the introduction of a geometry shader. This means that geometry is no longer processed on the CPU, but instead created directly on the GPU where it can then be manipulated or destroyed. This is a natural progression and lends itself easily to having physics processed on the GPU as well. With this in place, a lot less data is being inefficiently transferred across the PCI Express bus.
With more and more load being taken off the processor, Intel's vision of us all running quad-core processors might be badly thought out. In reality, we might end up buying the cheapest Celerons we can get our hands on in order to afford a better graphics card. Perhaps AMD has demonstrated greater prescience by buying ATI.
Bearing all this in mind, I take a look at nVidia's first DirectX 10 part and indeed the first in the world – the GeForce 8800 GTX. The card I was provided with for review was courtesy of Leadtek.
As you can see, the card looks identical to our reference card, but is a little prettier. This is the case for all board partners at the moment, but expect to see some different solutions over the coming months.
As this is a retail card, it also comes with two Molex to PCI Express converters and a Component/S-Video output cable. It comes with a copy of SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars, TrackMania Nations and PowerDVD 6.
Cooler Master also went out of its way to provide us with the RealPower 850W. This is quite a new venture for Cooler Master to go this high on the power front. It has six 12V rails, all capable of 20A, but obviously not simultaneously. Importantly, it has four PCI Express connectors, each coming off a different rail. It will be priced at around £170.
If you hadn't noticed above, G80, or 8800 GTX as it's better known, requires two PCI Express connectors. The power draw on these cards is not significantly higher than previous generations, but as part of the PCI Express specification, above a certain power draw, a second connector is required.
In actuality, ATI's X1900 series should have had two connectors as well. That is why finding a power supply that would work in CrossFire was next to impossible. Only the units that didn't automatically switch off when more than 20A was drawn would work, which ironically was often the cheapest units – as this is a mandatory safety feature of the ATX specification.