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GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card
versus others

Originally posted October 12th 2004, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated October 13th, 2004 with Quake3 results
Updated October 15th, 2004, with Motion results
Special thanks to "remote mad scientist," hackintosh,
for his help in making this article happen

The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL is the new top end 8X AGP graphics card for the G5 Power Mac. It's the only card that will drive the new 30" Apple Cinema Display. But you don't have to have that display to take advantage of the card's speed. You can use it with any display. Though our test unit hasn't arrived yet, with the help of a "remote mad scientist," we have some performance data for you. This page has results running on a 17" LCD display at 1280x1024. For results at 1920x1200, see our OTHER GeForce 6800 PAGE.

The Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004) test was done using SantaDuck LCDBench for at Maximum Settings. We chose the FLYBY posted above because it's one of the best ways to measure the contribution of the GPU over the CPU. In the graph below, we show the BOTMATCH using the same tool and settings. It is a CPU "bound" test, so it makes little or no difference what card you use.

Halo tends to use a combination of CPU and GPU to do its thing. We either turned on or set "high" every feature to stress the GPU. The exceptions were Lens Flare, Sound Quality, and Sound Variety which we set to low since those are CPU functions.

In consultation with the Halo developers, we came up with these settings to stress the graphics cards:
HW Shaders = ATI Pixel and Vertex Shaders*, FSAA = 4X,
Lens Flare = low, Model Quality = high
VIDEO: Resolution 1280x1024, Refresh = 0, Framerate Throttle = no vsync
Specular = on, Shadows = on, Decals = on,
Particles = high, Texture Quality = high
SOUND: Sound = on, Sound Quality = low, Sound Variety = low

(* At the suggestion of the Halo developers, we made two kinds of runs with the GeForce 6800 -- one using NVIDIA NV and Vertex Shaders and one using ATI Pixel and Vertex Shaders. Note that ATI shaders produced the higher frame rate.)

Quake 3 Arena fans will be happy to know that it ROCKS on the GeForce 6800:

Motion is the newest test of graphic cards. As you can see below, how fast you can render a project for preview depends on your graphics card's speed as much as it does on your cpu speed. A G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with a GeForce 6800 renders the 300 frame "Fire - Mortise 2" template 38% faster than the same computer with a Radeon 9800 XT and 86% faster than the same computer with the Radeon 9600 XT. That's almost like having a third CPU.


GRAPH LEGEND
Graphics Cards
GeF68 = nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL (8X, 256MB)
Rad98 XT = Radeon 9800 XT OEM (8X, 256MB
Rad98 SE = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X, 256MB)
Rad96 XT = Radeon 9600 XT OEM (8X, 128MB)
Rad98 R = Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Retail Edition (2X/4X 128MB)

CPUs
G5/2.5 = G5/2.5GHz MP Power Mac
G5/2 = G5/2.0GHz MP Power Mac

CONCLUSIONS
The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL is more than a card for driving a 30" display. It's got some real horsepower for running 3D accelerated games. And as we found out, it screams when you render Motion RAM PREVIEWs.

Being a "madman" for speed, I am definitely lusting over this card. However, be aware of the fact that it "eats" one of your PCI-X slots. The large heatsink/fan assembly encroaches on the PCI-X slot adjacent to the AGP slot. So if you are depending on having all three PCI-X slots available for use in your G5, this is not the card for you. Ditto for the Radeon 9800 XT. That might be why Apple is offering the Radeon 9800 Pro SE as a kit.

If you are one of those who bought the RocketRAID 8 port SATA PCI-X adapter, you might still be able to route the data cables out through the back of slot 2 with the backplate off.

Is the $599 aftermarket GeForce 6800 kit worth 50% more than the Radeon 9800 Pro Special Edition kit to get up to 115% more 3D game speed. Yeah.

Is the Configure-To-Order (CTO) $450-$500 GeForce 6800 worth 41%-50% more than the CTO Radeon 9800 XT to get up to 102% more 3D game speed. Duh.

It may seem cheaper if you buy the GeForce 6800 as a CTO option on your new G5 -- but remember, that $450-$500 addon price includes the "credit" for the Radeon 9600 XT or GeForceFX 5200 it replaces. Hmmm. That gives me an idea: Why not sell your old card on eBay to help recover some of the cost of your "smokin'" GeForce 6800?

FLASH: ATI showed off a Radeon X800 graphics card running on a G5 at the Digital Life Expo in New York this week. It only uses one slot and they are confident will match the performance of the GeForce 6800 Ultra. We hope to verify that soon.

CAUTION: I've been informed that a bunch of guys who got their 6800's are reporting that the card causes OS X 10.3.5 or lower to crash if the driver is not installed. This means that the Apple Install DVD is useless with the card in the slot. It also means that you can't reinstall the OS or fix permissions while booting off the DVD. It's probably a good idea to install the driver before you install the card. Then I suggest using Carbon Copy Cloner to make a back up drive that can booted from with the card installed. You may also want to make a bootable Install DVD as suggested on Blargatron.

RELATED ARTICLES
The GeForce 6800 Ultra running at 1920x1200 resolution
The Radeon 9800 XT running Motion, UT2003, and Quake3.

WHERE TO BUY FAST GRAPHICS CARDS
The Apple Online Store offers the 9600 XT ($50), 9800 XT ($300-$350), and GeForce 6800 ($450-500) as "configure-to-order" (CTO) options when purchasing a new G5 Power Mac.

If you already own a G5 Power Mac and want to upgrade to the 9600 XT or 9800 XT, you can't. They aren't available as kits from Apple (yet). And they aren't in retail channels (yet). Apple's Online Store does, however, sell aftermarket kits for the Radeon 9800 Pro " Mac Special Edition" ($399) and the GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL ($599).

There are various resellers carrying the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition. Buy.com has it and it qualifies for the $10 off coupon and free shipping. Check also with Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

If you own a G4 Power Mac with a 2X or 4X AGP slot, your best option is the Radeon 9800 Pro Retail Edition (128MB). I included it in the test graphs above so you can see that it is almost as fast as the other Radeon 9800 models. It is also at Buy.com and also qualifies for the $10 off coupon and free shipping. Check also with Other World Computing or Small Dog Electronics or the Apple Online Store.

If you own a Power Mac with only PCI slots, you might want to upgrade to the Radeon 9200 Mac Edition. But read my report on that card first.

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2004 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist