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Test notes
Sizing up the closet competition for the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB is a little bit tricky. Its predecessor at the $299-ish price point is the GeForce 7950 GT, and thus we've included it in our comparison. But AMD's entry at this price point isn't entirely clear.

Until recently, ATI offered the Radeon X1900 XT in a 256MB configuration, but those have been replaced by the Radeon X1950 XT 256MB, a card that sells for roughly between $259 and $289. The X1950 XT 256MB has the same 625MHz core GPU clock as the X1900 XT, but it has a faster 900MHz (1.8GHz effective) memory clock. We made arrangements to procure one of these cards for inclusion in this review, but it didn't arrive here in time. In its stead, we've tested the older Radeon X1900 XT 256MB with its slower 725MHz memory clock, to give us some basis for comparison.

The more relevant comparison for XFX's pricier XXX-edition card may be the Radeon X1950 XTX, which can be had for as little as $349-359, if you shop around.

You'll see in the table below that the Radeon X1950 XTX was tested on a different motherboard than the rest of the cards. That's an artifact of the fact that some of these results came from our article on GeForce 8800 SLI. However, we did test the Radeon X1950 XTX for power and noise on the same motherboard as the rest of the cards, and in fact, we tested the X1950 XTX in Oblivion and Rainbow Six: Vegas on the Asus P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe, as well.

Our lone GTS 320MB review unit is a XFX GeForce 8800 GTS XXX Edition card, so we've tested it at its default 580MHz/900MHz core and memory clocks. We also underclocked this card to the bone-stock 500MHz/800MHz frequencies that the cheaper $299 cards will have. The, err, porno edition card's results are marked XXX, while the 500/800MHz config is simply labeled "GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB."

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

ProcessorCore 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHzCore 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz
System bus1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
MotherboardAsus P5N32-SLI SE DeluxeAsus P5W DH Deluxe
BIOS revision03050801
North bridgenForce4 SLI X16 Intel Edition975X MCH
South bridgenForce4 MCPICH7R
Chipset driversForceWare 6.86INF Update 7.2.2.1007
Intel Matrix Storage Manager 5.5.0.1035
Memory size2GB (2 DIMMs)2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory typeCorsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL)44
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)44
RAS precharge (tRP)44
Cycle time (tRAS)1515
Hard driveMaxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA 150Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA 150
AudioIntegrated nForce4/ALC850
with Realtek 5.10.0.6200 drivers
Integrated ICH7R/ALC882M
with Realtek 5.10.00.5345 drivers
GraphicsRadeon X1900 XT 256MB PCIe
with Catalyst 7.1 drivers
Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 7.1 drivers
BFG Tech GeForce 7950 GT OC 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 93.71 drivers
 
GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 93.71 drivers
 
XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB XXX Edition PCIe
with ForceWare 97.92 drivers
 
GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB PCIe
with ForceWare 97.92 drivers
 
GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 97.92 drivers
 
OSWindows XP Professional (32-bit)
OS updatesService Pack 2, DirectX 9.0c update (December 2006)

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their quality, service, and support are easily superior to no-name DIMMs.

Our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults.

The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1280x960 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.