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Mid-Range Graphics Card Round-Up

Around three weeks ago, we took our first look at nVidia’s GeForce 6800 GS, a direct replacement for its very successful 6800 GT. Despite it having four fewer pipelines than the 6800 GT, the GS is able to keep up thanks to its significantly higher clock speeds. These increases are possible thanks to the move to a newer micron process, which brings with it the added benefits of increased yields and lower prices.

nVidia’s motive to introduce this part was that it was facing stiff competition from ATI in the sub £200 area. ATI’s GTO cards, essentially X800 parts that failed to make the grade as X800 and X850s, have been doing well and nVidia needed to respond.

With the arrival in our offices of a retail GeForce 6800 GS, from Leadtek, we thought that the time was ripe to take a look at what you can get for around the £150 mark. ATI might prefer to see its X800 XL as a more direct competitor for the 6800 GS but that’s a 16-pipleine card and at around £190, it’s more expensive than the 12-pipeline 6800 GS. Similarly, the X800 GTO is a 12-pipeline part.

However, the real killer bargain that’s around right now for those in the know is the GTO2 (as in GTO ‘Squared'). Exclusive to Sapphire, it’s known to be a full X850 with one quad of pipelines disabled. A quick BIOS flash and an overclock later, and you’re looking at a full 16-pipeline X850 XT card for exactly the same price as an GeForce 6800GS. Though there’s no mention of it on or in the box though and there’s no support or comeback should anything go wrong.

However, when I flashed ours we were presented with no picture at all in our graphics test platform, whereas it worked fine before the flash. This meant we were unable to test the card against the GS. However, the card does work in our new graphics test rig motherboard, so we hope to bring you a review of the card soon when we shortly move to the new platform. Such is the rocky road of hardware testing.

The price range of the three cards we’re looking at is varied. At the top is the Leadtek 6800 GS at £160. The cheapest is a standard X800 GTO from Connect 3D while in the middle is a GTO from Sapphire. The reason that’s its more expensive than the Connect3D is that it features a passive cooler, which means that the card produces no noise at all, which is of course, great.

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