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GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card
at 1920x1200 resolution

Originally posted October 14th 2004, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated October 15th, 2004 with Motion RAM PREVIEW results
Special thanks to "remote mad scientists," hackintosh and mars_999,
for their help in making this article happen.

Two days ago, we posted results for the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card running at 1280x1024 -- a limitation of the display available for the G5/2.5 Power Mac containing the card. Today we're pleased to offer you results at 1920x1200 (the native resolution of Apple's popular 23" Cinema Display.

The Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004) test was done using SantaDuck LCDBench at Maximum Settings. We chose the FLYBY because it's one of the best ways to measure the contribution of the GPU over the CPU.

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 1920x1200, 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
(* The ATI Pixel and Vertex Shaders produced faster times on the GeForce 6800 than the nVidia NV and Vertex Shaders. We put both results on the graph, labeling the NV shader run as "NV-s.")

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 as much on your graphics card's speed 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.


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

CONCLUSIONS
The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL once again shows it's the new "top gun" when it comes to graphics accelerators. If you are either a serious gamer or a Motion "jockey," this card is a "must have" option. It's going to be even more popular once "Tiger" version of OS X is released with its Core Image code that allows many other applications to hand off processing to the graphics card.

By the way, we hooked up TWO 30" Cinema displays to the GeForce 6800 Ultra then re-ran all the tests. The frame rates were only a tad slower. Very impressive.

Be aware that this card "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.

FLASH: On January 5th, 2004, ATI released the Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition which they claim is just as fast as the GeForce 6800 GT and Ultra. It drives the 30" Cinema but only uses one slot. Read our review.

You will pay 50% more for the aftermarket GeForce 6800 kit than you will for the Radeon 9800 Pro Special Edition kit, but you get up to 97% more 3D game speed at 1920x1200.

You will pay up to 50% more for a CTO GeForce 6800 option than you will for the CTO Radeon 9800 XT option, but you get up to 85% more 3D game speed at 1920x1200.

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 1280x1024
The Radeon 9800 XT running Motion, UT2003, and Quake3.
XLR8YourMac has their own GeForce 6800 Ultra review.

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).

Deal of the Week: 23" Cinema Display for $1495; 20" Cinema Display $899 at Small Dog Electronics. The new Aluminum DVI Cinema displays have dropped in price as well. Visit the Apple Online Store for details.

There are various resellers carrying the Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition. Buy.com has it at a good price ($309 after subtracting the $10 off coupon) plus 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 Mac Edition (128MB). The lowest price I've seen is $264 at Buy.com (after subtracting the $10 off coupon) with 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