ECS GeForce 8800 GT Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: April 15, 2008
There are so many different video cards in the market these days that it is hard to make a choice on which one to get for your system. Between your budget, brand preference or whatever, which one is the best for you? For nVidia cards, there are cards that will blow your monitor off, but for the majority of builders the prices are outrageous. Overall, the GeForce 8800 GT seems to be the sweet spot between price and power. But in the $200+ range, that is still too much for some. But what if you could get an 8800 GT that cost less with only 256MB of memory and through a simple BIOS update turn that card into one with 512MB of memory?
Skeptical yet? I was too until I received the ECS GeForce 8800 GT 256MB video card to review. ECS sells this as a 256MB 8800 GT card so the price is lower then its 512MB counterpart, but here is the catch. ECS has a BIOS update that unleashes an additional of 256MB of memory, making the card have a total of 512MB. But where does this extra memory come from? How is the performance compared to the card having 256MB or another 8800 GT with 512MB? There is only one way to find out and that is to test the card, but before that let's go take a look at this baby.
ECS has gotten very creative on the designs of its graphics card boxes and the GeForce 8800 GT is no exception with its dragon rider theme. On the front of the box there are some of the highlighted features of the card and the button showing the card having 256MB DDR3 memory available. The back goes into more specific features in several different languages and also shows that this card is SLi capable with an SLi motherboard and another 8800 GT video card.
Opening the box, you will see how well this card is protected with the layers of cardboard. Included with the ECS GeForce 8800 GT video card is the manual, S-Video to Component out cable, DVI to VGA adapter, molex to PCI Express power adapter, and the driver CD.
Now that we have the video card out of its shell, lets take a better look at what makes it tick.
At first glance, the ECS GeForce 8800 GT looks like any other 8800 GT card, with the exception of the unique cooler instead of the reference single slot cooler many other 8800 GTs have. ECS went with a blue PC board for the 8800 GT and added a custom cooler for maximum cooling and overclocking. There are two DVI ports, which support up to a 2560x1600 resolution, and an S-Video out. The back of the card has the 6-pin PCI Express power connector to provide the aditional power the card needs to run efficiently. The ECS GeForce 8800 GT is a PCI Express 2.0 card and supports DirectX 10.0, Shader Model 4.0, and OpenGL 2.0 and is SLi capable with another 8800 GT video card using an SLi bridge.
Stripping off the coolers, we can get a better look at the memory and the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The memory is made by Qimonda and runs at 700MHz for the stock speeds, which is 200MHz less than a reference 8800 GT, and on a 256-bit memory bus. Will this drop in speed hurt the performance? The GPU is based on the nVidia G92 core and runs at 600MHz, which is on par for a stock 8800 GT. But wait, all of the memory spaces are filled? So is there actually 512MB there onboard? Under the tail end of the heatsink you can see where the voltage regulation occurs providing the raw power to the GPU and memory to make the video card work.
The cooler on the ECS GeForce 8800 GT card is the Accelero L1 which uses an aluminum fin design with an 80mm fan to provide active cooling. The heatsink covering the voltage regulators is also made of aluminum to help dissipate heat using the natural airflow of the case. The Accelero L1 cooler takes up two slots on the motherboard, making it impossible to place a card in the slot directly beneath it. I wanted to give you an idea of the cooler compared to the same concept of another card, so I placed it next to the ASUS EN8800GT TOP reviewed earlier by OCC so you can get an idea of the unique cooling solutions for these cards.
Now that we have seen the hardware of the ECS GeForce 8800 GT, let's get it in and take a look at the configuration to make the card work.
To get started with the configuration you just have to pop in the CD and the auto start box will pop up. Click run on the auto start box and it brings up the ECS VGA Card Installer program. The menu has several options, including the profile button which brings you to nVidia's website, a Utility button which gives you options to install several programs and assisted drivers for different chipsets, an Information button which tells you your OS and video card model, a Manual button which gives you an electronic version of the manual included with the card, and the DirectX and Driver buttons which install what is needed to power the ECS 8800 GT.
To install the card's drivers, click on the button labeled "Driver Install" and the nVidia Display Driver will start. Click "Next" and the installation is all automatic. When the installation is complete, it will prompt you to restart your system. I recommend you do this before you do anything else.
When the computer comes back up, go back into the VGA Card Installer and click the "DirectX" button. This will bring up the DirectX installer and install the software on your system. Again, this is completly automatic and when it is done click the "Finish" button to finalize the installation.
Now that we have everything configured, we can move on to the testing to see how the ECS 8800 GT performs.
|256MB / 512MB with BIOS update|
Low Profile with ATX Bracket
|PCI Express 2.0|
|Dual DVI, S-Video|
- Features 112 stream processors and an impressive 256-bit frame buffer.
- Depth of Field (DOF) enables in-game "Focus" effects.
- nVidia SLi ready.
- Supports nVidia PureHD for outstanding Blu-Ray and HD DVD movie quality.
- Next Generation PCI Express 2.0 technology.
- RoHS Compliant.
My interest is piqued with the ECS 8800 GT and I really want to see what it has to offer. I will be putting it through a series of gaming video benchmarks to test the performance and whether the drop in memory clockspeed will make a difference in the comparison to another 8800 GT at stock reference speeds. I will be testing the ECS 8800 GT before the BIOS update with 256MB of memory and after with 512MB of memory. I will also be comparing it to and ASUS EN8800GT with clockspeeds of 600MHz on the GPU and 900MHz on the memory, which is what nVidia has set as the reference speeds for stock 8800 GT video cards. All other components will be run at their stock speeds and voltages to ensure that there are no variables that can affect the outcome of the scores.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16HGz (333 x 9.5)
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X38-DS4 w/ BIOS version F2
- Memory: Mushkin Redline XP2-8000 2x2GB @ 1066MHz 5-5-5-12
- Video Card: ECS GeForce 8800 GT w/ ForceWare 169.25
- Power Supply: Ultra X2 750w Extreme Edition
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 320GB SATA
- Opticals: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Comparison Video Card:
- ASUS EN8800GT 512MB
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16HGz (333 x 9.5)
- System Memory: Mushkin Redline XP2-8000 2x2GB @ 1066MHz 5-5-5-12
- Video Card: ECS GeForce 8800 GT @ 710Mhz on GPU, 800MHz on Memory
To overclock the ECS GeForce 8800 GT, I used RiveTuner. I turned up the fan to 100% to prevent any possible overheating and slowly raised the GPU speed, running 3DMark06 after every 5MHz increase to test for stability. Once the GPU became unstable, I backed it down to the last stable run and then I did the same thing for the memory. The final result I got was 710MHz for the GPU and 800MHz for the memory. These are the speeds that I will run the overclocked benchmarks at.
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- 3DMark 06 Professional
Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite use at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
In Crysis, the 512MB BIOS on the ECS card was slightly behind the ASUS 512MB card, while the overclocked ECS card pulled ahead a little.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew, or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.
The settings we will use are below:
- AA: x0
- Image Quality: High
- Direct X Version: 10
- All resolutions 60HZ
In PT Boats the ASUS card had the upper hand even against the overclocked ECS 8800 GT.
BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.
- All settings to Maximum
- V-Sync off
For Bioshock, the ECS 8800 GT started strong but fell behind the higher the resolution went.
Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Anistropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings Max
In the Call of Duty 4 test, both cards were neck and neck.
World In Conflict is a newly released DX10, real-time strategy game that simulated the all out war that the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical generate wealth and build type of game. You advance by conquering your foe.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- 0 X AA
- 16X AF
- Graphic Detail: Very High
In World in Conflict, the higher the resolution the less the ECS cards could keep up, but it was a negligible loss.
Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti Aliasing: MSAA 4X
For the Call of Juarez test, the best performance for the ECS 8800 GT seemed to be at the mid resolutions.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.
- 8x AA
- All other settings to maximum
In Company of Heroes, the higher the resolution the closer the scores evened out.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
In 3DMark06, the ECS 512MB fell behind the ASUS 512MB most likely due to the lower memory clockspeeds.
I have to be honest, I went into this review with high hopes but very concerned whether or not the lower memory clockspeed was going to affect performance, and the fact that the firmware needed to be flashed in order to reach 512MB. I was wondering where the other 256MB would come from; was it on the card or used as shared memory from the system? All sorts of things were going through my mind, but no matter what, as a reviewer you have to maintain the objectivity with any product you go into testing. So I started on it looking back and forth between the ECS 8800 GT and other 8800 GTs. I started to notice little things during the review, like the memory on the ECS board was the same brand as the ones on the ASUS card and that there were the same number of chips. So I started to think if it is so alike physically, then it should perform close to the same. Boy was I surprised! At 256MB, the card was behind, but that was expected for half of the memory buffer as the 512MB cards, but man, after that update the decrease in the memory clock did not seem to be that big of a deal. Dollar for dollar and spec for spec, you get almost the same performance of any other 512MB 8800 GT for a lot lower of a price. ECS has informed me that at launch, pricing on Newegg.com will be $179.99 with a $40 mail-in-rebate if purchased at that e-tailor. For a final price of $139.99, give me a 512MB 8800 GT that will touch that feature right now.
The only downfall of the ECS 8800 GT is the lower clockspeed for the memory. Since both cards used the same manufacturer of memory, ECS should have gone with the modules with the higher clockspeeds to match. That would have certainly pushed the card further and possibly smashing the competition. However, even with the lower memory speeds, the ECS 8800 GT gave the ASUS 8800 GT a strong run for the lead. If you want a very good performing card without putting a hole in you pocket, I highly recommend the ECS 8800 GT over more expensive cards.
- Inexpensive compared to other 8800GTs
- Upgradeable through a firmware update
- Comparable performance to other stock 8800GTs
- Unique cooling design
- Supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0
- Lower memory clockspeed than other stock 8800GTs