Nvidia gears up for mainstream assault

Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GT was an instant hit when it launched last October. AMD was quick to counter with its Radeon HD 3800-series cards in mid-November, offering slightly lower performance at a more attractive price. Nvidia quietly retorted last month with its GeForce 8800 GT 256MB, but if recent rumors are to be believed, the firm has much more potent comebacks in store for this year.

During the holidays, the Far East rumor mill started spitting out news of a cheaper GeForce 8800-series card known as the GeForce 8800 GS. Today, Chinese site Expreview got hold of detailed specifications and performance data for this yet-unannounced product. According to Expreview, the 8800 GS is based on the same G92 graphics processor as the 8800 GT, but it has 96 stream processors, a 575MHz core clock speed, a 1438MHz shader speed, and 384MB of 850MHz GDDR3 RAM running off a 192-bit memory bus. For reference, the 8800 GT has 112 SPs and runs at 600MHz with a 1500MHz shader clock, 512MB of 900MHz RAM, and a 256-bit bus.

Expreview's performance numbers cover 3DMark06, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament 3, and BioShock, and they suggest the 8800 GT has a 27% performance advantage over its slower counterpart on average. In BioShock at 1680x1050 with detail turned up, for instance, the 8800 GS scores 51.7 FPS, while the 8800 GT leads with 65.7 FPS.

Supposedly, Nvidia will introduce two flavors of the 8800 GS in the near future: the aforementioned with 384MB of memory and a $165 price tag, and a variant with higher clock speeds and 768MB of RAM priced at $204. (The same site quoted prices of $149-179 last week, though.) Word is that only eVGA, XFX, Palit, and Asustek will manufacture the card.

In addition to the 8800 GS, Expreview says Nvidia has a "GeForce 9600 GT" scheduled for a launch on February 14. The Chinese site claims Nvidia plans to stray from the custom of introducing the high-end member of a new product line first by launching the GeForce 9600 GT before other GeForce 9-series cards. The 9600 GT is alleged to feature 64 stream processors, a 500MHz core clock speed, and 512MB of 1000MHz memory hooked up to a 256-bit memory bus.

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