nVidia has been sitting pretty at the top of the performance tree ever since the release of the G80 series of graphics cards back in November. While ATI had a great card, in the form of the X1950 XTX, once the DirectX 10 ready 8800 showed up it was a no-brainer which to go for â€“ if you had the money.
However, for most people the 8800 series is just overkill. Unless you own a 24in, or above, monitor then all that power is being wasted. So what most of us will be getting is a mid-range card to power our more modest (sensible?) systems. Of course there are plenty of options for a mid-range card at the moment but none of them give you the reassurance of DirectX 10 support for the future. So, to tide us over while it works on its dedicated mid-range cards, nVidia has released a further cutdown version of its 8800 range to try and fill that middle ground.
The 8800 GTS 320MB, then, is simply an 8800 GTS with half the usual memory. Standard clock speeds are the same as the full fat GTS with a core running at 500MHz and memory at 800MHz (1,600MHz effective). The core also retains its full complement of 96 stream processors and 20 output engines. You also get all the current buzzword additives like HDCP compliant DVI ports and component output so these cards are ready for HD.
There has been a lot of discussion about how much effect the drop in memory size will have on the card's performance, especially as new games become more and more demanding. However, with a suggested retail price of $299, you are still getting one heck of a lot of bang for your buck. Itâ€™s quite difficult to predict exactly how this drop in memory will affect performance but the obvious assumption is that youâ€™re only likely to be troubled when dealing with the absolute highest resolutions and AI settings.
Today Iâ€™m actually looking at two cards; an MSI card running standard clocks, and one from BFGTech that comes pre-overclocked. BFG has been producing its OC range of cards for some time now and you can generally rely on them providing the best-in-class performance out of the box. The only question for the consumer is whether that increase in performance justifies the increase in price.