Comparing the cards
Since the focus today is on GeForce 6800-series implementations, here's how the cards we'll be looking at today stack up in a number of generally more manufacturer-determined categories:
|GeForce...||Core clock (MHz)||Memory clock (MHz)||Memory type||Memory size (MB)||Video outputs||Warranty period||Street price|
|BFG GeForce 6800 GT OC||6800 GT||370||1000||GDDR3||256||DVI, VGA, S-Video||Lifetime||$399|
|Chaintech Apogee AA6800||6800||358||770||DDR||128||DVI, VGA, S-Video||2 years||$306|
|eVGA e-GeForce 6800 Ultra||6800 Ultra||400||1100||GDDR3||256||DVI (2), S-Video||1 year||$499|
|inno3D GeForce 6800||6800||325||700||DDR||128||DVI, VGA, S-Video||1 year||$299 (MSRP)|
|PNY GeForce 6800 GT||6800 GT||350||1000||GDDR3||256||DVI, VGA, S-Video||Product lifetime||$389|
We have two vanilla 6800 cards, two GTs, and one Ultra to look at today, but the 6800s and GTs aren't necessarily created equal. Two of the cards we've rounded up, BFG's GeForce 6800 GT OC and Chaintech's Apogee AA6800, are overclocked by default. The higher clock speeds gives these cards an immediate performance advantage over their stock-clocked counterparts, although that performance advantage comes with a slightly higher price tag.
While we have all the clock speeds out on display, I should reiterate that the purpose of this comparison is to highlight differences in manufacturer implementations, not differences between the 6800, 6800 GT, and 6800 Ultra. BFG, Chaintech, eVGA, inno3D, and PNY all offer vanilla, GT, and Ultra flavors of the GeForce 6800.
All right, back to the comparison chart.
In addition to having lower clock speeds than their GT and Ultra siblings, our GeForce 6800 cards come with only 128MB of memory. As we saw with mid-range GeForce FX products, manufacturers have a penchant for adding 256MB of memory to lower-end products in an attempt to differentiate them from the competition. That's not the case with the cards we have lined up today, though.
While we're talking memory, notice that the 6800s use plain old DDR while the GT and Ultra cards are decked out with GDDR3. In addition to being able to run at higher clock speeds, GDDR3 also consumes less power than traditional DDR memory.
Because this wouldn't be a TR graphics article without me banging the dual DVI drum, I have to highlight the fact that eVGA's e-GeForce 6800 Ultra is the only card in this comparison with dual DVI output ports. Dual DVI seems to be standard for Ultra cards, but it's disappointing that manufacturers aren't releasing GT and 6800 cards with an extra DVI output.
Product warranties are probably the least sexy metric we'll be looking at today, but coverage actually varies quite a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer. BFG leads the way in the warranty department with lifetime coverage. PNY's warranty also offers lifetime coverage, but only for as long as the card is available on the common market. Depending on how long the GeForce 6800 GT is available for sale, PNY's product lifetime warranty may be better or worse than Chaintech's two-year warranty, which offers twice the coverage of inno3D and eVGA's single-year coverage.
Finally, we come to price, and the cards stack up like you'd expect: 6800s are cheaper than GTs, which are cheaper than Ultras. Cards that are overclocked in the box carry a small price premium, too.