The Good Strong performance on 3D resolutions up to 1,920x1,280; accessible $300 price tag; HDCP compliance and flawless HD video output; next-gen graphics support.
The Bad Windows Vista software drivers are not fully cooked; the combination of a double-wide card and a lower price might be a rude surprise for some buyers; AMD's forthcoming next-gen ATI cards remain an unknown quantity.
The Bottom Line No other 3D graphics card comes close to this bang for the buck, making the 320MB XFX GeForce 8800 GTS mostly an easy decision if you need a midrange upgrade. Nvidia still has to polish off its Vista software, and the sooner-or-later arrival of competing cards muddies the waters a bit, but if you need a midprice graphics card today, this should be your pick.
GeForce 8800 GTS
We know that AMD's next-gen ATI Radeon graphics cards are on the way this year, but until they make their debut, Nvidia's GeForce 8000-series cards continue to offer far-and-away the best 3D graphics performance. XFX's new 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS card is no exception, and its $300 price tag means you'll have to suffer less of a financial blow to get ready for the dawn of next-gen PC graphics. Nvidia is still plagued by the absence of a full Windows Vista driver, but even if the software was ready today, with no true next-gen games to play with, we can't say much about these cards' next-gen performance. What is clear is that for current 3D games, if the 320MB GeForce 8800 GTS isn't quite as fast as its higher-end GeForce counterparts, it's still miles beyond anything currently available in its price range. It's also a better deal than anything from ATI--at least, for now.
The XFX GeForce 8800 GTS is actually one of three new 3D graphics cards unleashed today by Nvidia. In addition to that model, you'll also find the $350 GeForce 8800 GTS XXX and the $330 GeForce 8800 GTS Extreme on the market from Nvidia's various board partners. Nvidia also offers three flavors of its 640MB GeForce 8800 GTS, which debuted back in November 2006. The 640MB models start at roughly $400 and scale up similarly to the 320MB cards.
The difference between the 320MB cards, though, lies mostly in clock speeds. The default 8800 GTS has a 500MHz core clock and a 1.6GHz memory clock. The XXX goes up to a 580MHz core and 1.8GHz on the memory, and the middle Extreme model goes down to a 560MHz core and 1.7GHz on the RAM. The 640MB cards have similar clock speeds, but the high-end and middle models have slightly slower cores. Our colleague Sarju Shah over at GameSpot put a wide selection of the cards through a battery of 3D benchmarks, and he found that the GeForce 8000-series continues to dominate the older Radeon X1900's, if not on raw performance, then in value.