The cards, specs, and prices
The flagship G80-based graphics card is the GeForce 8800 GTX. This card has all of the G80's features enabled, including 128 stream processors at 1.35GHz, a 575MHz "core" clock, and a 384-bit path to memory. That memory is 768MB of Samsung GDDR3 clocked at 900MHz, or 1800MHz effective.
The GTX features a dual-slot cooler that shovels hot air out of the rear of the case, much like the cooler on a Radeon X1950 XTX. However, at 10.5", the 8800 GTX is over an inch and a half longer than the X1950 XTXlong enough to create fit problems in some enclosures, I fear. In fact, the 8800 GTX is longer than our test system's motherboard, the ATX-sized Asus P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe.
Here's another detail that testifies to the audacity of the 8800 GTX: dual six-pin PCIe power connectors. Nvidia says this is a matter of necessity in order to fit into the PCI Express spec. The card's TDP is 185W, so it needs at least that much input power. The PCIe spec allows for 75W delivered through the PCIe x16 slot and 75W through each six-pin auxiliary connector. 150W wouldn't cut it, so another power plug was required. Incidentally, Nvidia also claims the 8800 GTX requires only about 5W more than the Radeon X1950 XTX, slyly raising the question of whether the top Radeon is technically in compliance with PCIe standards.
You may be breathing a sigh of relief at hearing of a 5W delta between the 8800 GTX and the Radeon X1950 XTX. Go ahead and exhale, because Nvidia's claims seem to be on target. We'll test power consumption and noise later in our review, but the 8800 GTX isn't beyond the bounds of reason, and the cooler is no Dustbuster like the one on the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra.
For the less extreme among us, here is BFG Tech's version of the GeForce 8800 GTS. Comfortingly, this card has only one auxiliary power plug and is the exact same length as a Radeon X1950 XTX or a GeForce 7900 GTX. The GTS features a 500MHz core clock, 1.2GHz stream processors, 640MB of GDDR3 memory at 800MHz, and the same set of output ports and capabilities as the GTX. The GTS uses a cut-down version of the G80 with some units disabled, so it has "only" 96 SPs, five ROP partitions, and a 320-bit memory path.
Both variants of the GeForce 8800 are due to begin selling at online retailers today. Nvidia says to expect the GTX to sell for $599 and the GTS for $449. We talked with a couple of Nvidia board partners, though, and got a slightly different story. XFX does plan to go with those prices, but expects to see a premium of $30 or so at launch. BFG Tech has set the MSRP for its 8800 GTX at $649 and for its GTS at $499. Given what we've seen out of the GeForce 8800, I would expect to see cards selling for these higher prices, at least initially.
Supplies of the GeForce 8800 GTX may be a little bit iffy at first, thanks to a manufacturing problem with some of those cards. Nvidia insists there's been no recall since the products weren't yet in the hands of consumers, but they had to pull back some of the boards for repair at the last minute due to an incorrect resistor value that could cause screen corruption in 3D applications. Nvidia and its partners intend to make sure none of these cards make their way into the hands of consumers, and they're saying GTX cards that work properly will still be available for sale immediately. GeForce 8800 GTS boards are not affected by this problem.
Interestingly, by the way, neither BFG nor XFX is offering "overclocked in the box" versions of the GeForce 8800 GTS and GTX. Their cards run at standard speeds. MSI's 8800 GTX doesn't come overclocked, but it does include "Dynamic Overclocking Technology" software. We haven't had the time to try it out yet, but for once, MSI looks to be the rebel among the group.