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eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT review: eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT

The jury is still out on the usefulness of ATI's and Nvidia's newest graphics technologies. But if current raw performance is any indicator, the eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT is the best deal on the market for high-end gamers. For $100 less than its top-tier competition, this card brings you almost equivalent speed in a much more compact package than its GeForce 6800 Ultra-based cousins. We're still curious to see how the card will perform with Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, but for the moment, the eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT is our 3D card of choice. After spending some time with the eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT card, we discovered a money-saving option that offers most of the pros of its more expensive GeForce 6800 Ultra-based big brothers, while simultaneously addressing most of the complaints we have about the higher end card, namely its form factor and the demanding power requirements. The eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT occupies only the space of its own AGP slot and requires just a single connection to your PC's power supply, unlike the larger, more power-hungry GeForce 6800 Ultra. In fact, sharing a 380W power supply with four hard drives, two optical drives, and an assortment of PCI expansion cards, the e-GeForce 6800 GT ran without problems in our test system.
With DVI, VGA, and S-Video outputs, as well as a VGA adapter for the DVI port, the e-GeForce 6800 GT is well equipped to handle multiple types of displays, although it can handle only a single digital LCD, as opposed to both GeForce 6800 Ultra-based cards and the Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition, which support two. Happily, Nvidia's Forceware drivers do a bang-up job supporting a pair CRT monitors, or one CRT and one LCD. Not only did we successfully use the card to extend our Windows desktop across a pair of monitors, we also took advantage of multimonitor gaming support in X2: The Threat and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004.
eVGA beefs up its package by including a full version of the game Far Cry, as well as a copy of the Nvidia NvDVD DVD player application. eVGA also offers a step-up program, which allows you to upgrade to a higher-level eVGA card for the difference in price anytime in the first 90 days after purchase. This means that you don't have to worry that you'll be left behind if the company releases something like a "6850 GT Pro" three weeks after you buy the e-GeForce 6800GT. You also get one year of limited warranty protection. Nvidia achieves a smaller form factor and lower power requirements with GeForce 6800 GT-based cards by running the graphics chip and memory at a slower clock speed than cards using the GeForce 6800 Ultra chip. This compromise affects the eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT's 3D performance in varying degrees, by game and by resolution. Our Unreal Tournament 2003 test showed a 14 to 17 percent performance reduction between the e-GeForce 6800 GT and the PNY Verto GeForce 6800 Ultra, while their performance remained statistically similar on our Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Splinter Cell tests. Compared to its direct competitor, ATI's Radeon X800 Pro, the e-GeForce 6800 GT puts up a good fight, beating the Radeon X800 Pro in more than half of our benchmark tests. (You should, however, take the Unreal Tournament 2003 scores with a grain of salt, as ATI has admitted to optimizing for that particular graphics engine.)
The circumstances behind the e-GeForce 6800 GT's most significant performance win in the Far Cry tests are even more complicated. Although we normally hate testing with beta software because of the potential for inconsistencies, we used early code almost across the board for the Far Cry tests. We have beta Nvidia drivers, we used a beta of Windows Service Pack 2 (at the time of testing the only way to get our hands on DirectX version 9.0c). Also, we tested Far Cry with an early version 1.2 patch, the public version of which was released and later recalled by Crytek, the game's developer, due to unspecified hardware conflicts. The reason for all this chicanery: Shader Model 3.0.
The new GeForce 6800-series cards are the first to support Shader Model 3.0 (SM 3.0), an advanced programming technique that's a component of Microsoft's now publicly available DirectX 9.0c multimedia software. You can expect ATI will also support this feature in future products, and when it's fully implemented by both card vendors and game developers, SM 3.0 will enable more complex image details without sacrificing game performance. After Crytek releases a series of patches to enable SM 3.0, Far Cry will be the first game that supports this new capability. The 1.2 Far Cry update introduced some of the underlying SM 3.0 code--version 1.3 will finish the deal, as well as lend support for 3Dc Texture Compression, ATI's own image-quality-enhancing feature. Thus, it's important for us to underline that, as is always the case with graphics card testing, today's winner could be tomorrow's runner-up, given the constant stream of new driver releases and related software updates. We should also note that both ATI and Nvidia signed off on our beta-heavy testing conditions.
Because the 1.2 Far Cry patch introduces only some of the Shader Model 3.0 instructions to the game, it's hard to attribute the e-GeForce 6800 GT's high scores on this test to any particular software package. But the fact that the card beats even the high-end ATI Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition on the 1,024x768 resolution test, even if it is by a statistically equal 3 percent, speaks extremely well of the eGeForce 6800 GT as a less expensive graphics that delivers top-tier performance. It offers most of the 3D speed of GeForce 6800 Ultra-based cards in a package half the size and proves its mettle against its direct competition by beating or comparing favorably with both of ATI's high-end cards.


eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Best bang for your 3D graphics buck; compact design; S-Video output; comes with Far Cry.

The Bad


The Bottom Line

Thanks to Nvidia's second fastest graphics chip, the eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT represents the current price-vs.-performance sweet spot for 3D gaming.
Review summary
Editor's note: This former Editors' Choice winner lost the award to the more recently reviewed ATI Radeon X800 XL. (4/19/05)
Unreal Tournament 2003 test: Flyby-Antalus (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT (ForceWare 61.45 driver)
PNY Verto GeForce 6800 Ultra (ForceWare 61.45 driver)

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell test (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with medium-quality settings  
1,024x768 with high-quality settings  
1,600x1,200 with medium-quality settings  
1,600x1,200 with high-quality settings  
ATI Radeon X800 Pro (Catalyst 4.7 driver)
eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT (ForceWare 61.45 driver)
PNY Verto GeForce 6800 Ultra (ForceWare 61.45 driver)

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT (ForceWare 61.45 driver)
PNY Verto GeForce 6800 Ultra (ForceWare 61.45 driver)

Far Cry (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
1,600x1,200 with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering  
eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT (ForceWare 61.45 driver)
PNY Verto GeForce 6800 Ultra (ForceWare 61.45 driver)

Find out more about how we test graphics cards.

System configuration
Graphics card test bed
Windows XP Professional SP1; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 (socket 939); 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Via K8T800 Pro chipset; (2) 74GB WDC WD740GD-00FLX0, Serial ATA, 10,000rpm; integrated Via SATA RAID controller; 250GB WDC WD2500JD-00GBB0, 7,200rpm Serial ATA


eVGA e-GeForce 6800 GT

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8