NVIDIA's new numbers
ATI waited for NVIDIA to release its GeForce 6 series before setting the final specifications for its Radeon X800 line. In doing so, ATI was able to ensure, with some certitude, that its new cards would be able to outperform NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 and GeForce 6800 Ultra. However, NVIDIA didn't play all of its, erm, cards when it introduced the GeForce 6800 Ultra, it seems. To counter ATI, NVIDIA delivered to us late last week a pair of new cards representing two new GeForce 6800 models, plus a new driver for these cards.
To face off against the X800 Pro, NVIDIA will be releasing its own $399 card, the GeForce 6800 GT. Like the X800 Pro, the GT has a single-slot cooling solution and requires only one auxiliary power connector. NVIDIA says the GeForce 6800 GT's power supply requirements will be similar to those of the Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, so a fairly "normal" PSU ought to suffice for it.
The GT will feature a full sixteen pixel pipes running at 350MHz, but its real ace in the hole will be its 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 1GHz, or 100MHz more than the X800 Pro. The GT should be a tough competitor for the Radeon X800 Pro in the $399 price range, once it arrives. Expect to see 6800 GT cards on store shelves in "mid June," according to NVIDIA.
Then we have the big momma, the GeForce 6800 Ultra "Extreme" card. Apparently aware that the 16-pipe, 400MHz GeForce 6800 Ultra might have its hands full with the 16-pipe, 520MHz Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition, NVIDIA has decided to release a limited run of GeForce 6800 Ultra cards clocked at 450MHz. These beasts have dual-slot coolers, dual auxiliary power connectors, and require a 480W power supply, just like the regular GeForce 6800 Ultra.
The "Extreme" cards will be sold in systems made by select high-end PC builders like VoodooPC and Falcon Northwest, and through card makers like Gainward and XFX. I don't have an official list of those partners just yet, but NVIDIA says to expect announcements at E3. Perhaps then we'll learn more about what these puppies will cost, as well. These cards should be available in June in whatever quantities NVIDIA and its partners can muster.
I must note, by the way, that NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra reference designs have dual DVI ports, while ATI's Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition has only one DVI port plus a VGA connector. Personally, I think any card that costs over 300 bucks or so should come with a pair of DVI ports, so that LCD owners can double up on digital goodness. Let's hope NVIDIA's board partners follow NVIDIA's lead and include both DVI ports. Heck, let's hope ATI's board partners follow NVIDIA's lead, as well.