It’s going to be an interesting Spring 2007 in the domain of graphic cards. Nvidia starts things off with the first of its mid level line in GeForce 8 architecture. This test gives us the occasion to take a look at the GeForce 8600 GTS, which was announced as having the best 3D performances in this domain.
GeForce 8 architecture
You may remember that GeForce 8 architecture is the first to completely support DirectX 10. Based on unified scalar architecture, it’s efficiency is particularly impressive because of flexible processing units, which function dynamically according to the task at hand. The term, « scalar » isn’t too clear in this case, because a GPU, of course, has vectorial units, without which it would not have such large calculation power. For the GeForce 8, “scalar” means that vectorial processing units will work on only one component of each element instead of working on less elements but on their four components at the same time. This approach allows the maximization of resources.
The GeForce 8 has a an architecture better adapted to quality rendering notably thanks to double texture filtering units, which are capable of carrying out two bilinear filtering per cycle. This filtering power means less optimization, which are detrimental to quality.
For more information on GeForce 8 architecture, take a look at our previous article on the GeForce 8800
5 new GeForce 8s
Recently, Nvidia announced the release of no less than five new graphic cards: the GeForce 8600 GTS, 8600 GT, 8500 GT, 8400 GS and 8300 GS. The specifications of these last two have not been disclosed yet.
The GeForce 8600 GTS are announced at a price ranging from 200 to 230 €, versus 150-160 € for the 8600 GT and 90 to 130 € (!) for the 8500 GT. To put this into perspective, you can currently find the 7600 GT for 100-120 €, versus 140-160 € for a 7900 GS. For AMD, the X1650 XT is 110-120, the X1950 GT at 140-150 €, an X1950 Pro for 170 €, and you will end up paying 200 € for the X1950 XT. In short, the 8600 arrives on a market that is already saturated.
The GeForce 8500 GT, 8600 GT and 8600 GTS
The first thing we would like to point out is the enormous difference with the GeForce 8800. A GeForce 8600 has four times less calculation units than a GeForce 8800, while a GeForce 8500 has eight times less! This is a gap that we aren’t used to seeing with Nvidia. Once again, the difference between high end and entry level increases, as well as between mid-level and high end versions. As a reminder, 32 scalar processors correspond roughly to eight classic pipelines. Compared to a GeForce 7600 GT, which has 12 pixel shading pipelines and 5 vertex shading pipelines, calculation power at equivalent frequencies is largely inferior. Fortunately, GeForce 8 architecture enables calculation units to function at a double frequency and more efficiently. However, we can’t expect to see the same revolution for performance that we saw with the arrival of the GeForce 8800. To illustrate this point, here are Nvidia’s last three mid-level cards compared to the current high end: