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BFG PCI-E 6800 GT OC 256MB

Date: June 15, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams

If you are looking to upgrade your video card, there are so many options available. We are going to take a look at one of BFG Tech’s top PCI-E cards, the 6800 GT OC. How did it make out in our tests? Is the card worth it, with the next gen on the way?



Introduction

BFG Tech has been established for a while, but quickly gained the respect of being one of the best video card manufacturers in the world. They are known to make top quality, solid products, and are currently the only company to have a lifetime warranty guarantee on their video cards. The 6800 is a top end Nvidia based-GPU, which allows the card to be paired with another for an SLi setup. We are going to take a look at the GT OC (Overclocked) 256MB PCI-Express version today.

BFG Technologies’ brand of NVIDIA-based 3D graphics accelerators are designed to appeal to the PC enthusiast and hardcore gaming consumer. We offer a full line of NVIDIA-based graphics cards at various price points to meet the needs of the entry level gamer to the hardcore, performance driven customer.

Many of our employees are gamers and PC enthusiasts, and we provide hardware and marketing that reflects our passion and excitement for the latest technology. We build hardware that is stable, well supported and cost competitive. BFG Technologies delivers the latest 3D graphics technology before our competitors, offers lifetime warranties on all graphic products, and provides free expert technical support and a company commitment to the enthusiast lifestyle through gaming LAN-party sponsorships, gaming events, and high-visibility participation in industry trade shows.


Basics

As already mentioned, the 6800 GT I’m reviewing is the PCI-Express version, equipped with 256MB GDDR3 memory. It’s base Core Clock is 370MHz, which is 20MHz above the normal 6800GT speed, hence this being the “Overclocked” version. The Memory Clock stays the same, at 1000MHz.

The card features 16 Pixel Pipelines, and is capable of offering 555 million vertices/sec and has 32GB/second memory bandwidth. The card comes in two versions, and the only difference is that one comes with Dual DVI, and the other, which is the one we reviewed, has one DVI and one VGA. Both cards also include S-Video support though.

For more information on the 6800 GT/Ultra in general, such as the CineFX 3.0, Shader Model 3.0 and more, you can check out the Nvidia site for all the information.

BFG followed the reference design closely. As you can see though, the DVI/VGA version of the card uses Blue PCB, while the dual DVI version uses standard Green. You can also see that the card uses a great looking single slot cooler. Is this really a good thing though? I’ll talk about this later.

In this review, we will be using the standard synthetic benchmarks, as well as many top games to see how much power the card has. Even though the card is pre-overclocked, a 20MHz increase to the Core can hardly be considered worthy, so all benchmarks have been done with Stock and Overclocked speeds. System specs are as follows:

Processor
AMD 64 3200+ S939 “Venice” Core (512k L2 Cache) @ 2.00GHz
Motherboard
DFI LanParty NF4 UT Ultra-D
Power Supply
Ultra X-Finity 600W
Memory
512 * 2 Crucial Ballistix DDR400 (2-2-2-8)
Hard Disks
200GB * 2 Western Digital 8MB Cache160GB Western Digital 8MB Cache
Sound Card
AC’97 7.1 Built-In
Video Card
BFG 6800 GT OC 256MB
Etcetera
Windows XP Professional with SP2Video Drivers are official 71.89BIOS is May 10, 2005 Revision (Beta)

I should mention that no resolutions will be tested above 1280*1024 as my monitor doesn’t support anything higher. If you need benchmarks done on higher resolutions, you will not find any here! In the future, I hope to incorporate higher resolutions into reviews, up to now, I just haven’t had the need.


3D Mark, Aquamark 3

Synthetic Tests – 3D Mark 2001 and Aquamark3

This is a new card, and these are old synthetic tests. Of course they are, but they are still great to use to get a decent grasp of how they compare to other cards. They are good tests to see how well the card should work with DX8.1 – DX9 classic games.

3D Mark 2001 first introduced itself shortly after DirectX 8.1 was being used, so the tests are based off of that version. This 3D Mark introduced Vertex Shading and Shader Model 1.4. Aquamark3 is based on DirectX 9, and is much different than the 3D Marks. It’s comprised of different graphic capabilities, with tests such as Dynamic Occlusion Culling, High Particle Count and Large Scale Vegetation Rendering.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

Both score sets turned out with great results. Nothing to complain about here.


3D Mark 2003, 2005

Synthetic Tests – 3D Mark 2003 and 3D Mark 2005

Both of the following benchmarks are popular for DX9.0 testing. 2003 only utilizes DX9 more so in the Nature test than the others. 2005 uses DX9.0c through all the tests.

With each new 3D Mark release, we find out just how much our cards lack, because they usually make the cards cry. We always quickly catch up though, and I am not sure we are ready for another version!


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

Once again, we have nice results. 11.6K in ’03 is awesome, and slightly overclocked almost upped the score by 1,000. 2005 also displayed a great score of 5,626 on stock. The upcoming 7800 GTX card is rumored to score around 7,700 – 7,800, which is not that far of a stretch from our score here.

That’s enough of these tests, let’s move on to some actual games.


Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 is no doubt one of the most popular FPS games ever, and sets a great base for benchmarking. To benchmark the game, I recorded two separate demos for playback, Canals and C17.

Again, I have benchmarked using 1024 * 768, with maxed settings, except for AA and AF, which were both left at zero. 1280 * 1024 was more stressing, with max settings again, and 4x AA and 16xAF.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

Canals is a great level especially for benchmarking, because there is a lot of graphical goodness to take in. The demo begins at your boat, and then make your way to the building, through it, and then ends as the screenshot shows above.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

Another great level is C17. In this demo, you get assistance from your robot friend to defeat some opponents. There is a lot of reflective areas here, flames and automobile throwing.

The lowest we managed to get was 35FPS in C17. This is a fantastic result though, considering there is 4xAA and 16xAF enabled. In each test at 1280 * 1024, the average stuck around 60+FPS.. incredibly smooth.


Doom III

Doom III

This games level of detail is immense, it uses every inch of your graphics power, and begs for more. Currently, this is the only game that fully supports 512MB cards, which is meant for the Ultra quality. Since my monitor supports a maximum of 1280*1024 however, we are safe to do benchmarks with the Ultra detail level, without much trouble.

We used two different resolutions and settings for the tests. At 1024 * 768, the detail was set to High, with all settings maxed, except AA which was left at 0. AT 1280 * 1024, the detail was kept at Ultra and everything else was maxed, once again, except for AA, which we kept at 4x. I used the built-in Demo1 level for testing. It’s small, but it packs a lot of the graphical potential into all 30 seconds worth.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

The card is nothing short of impressive here, showing an average of 53FPS at 1280*1024, with Ultra Detail. It’s interesting to note that overclocking actually decreased it a few frames, however. That could be due to the extra temperature, since the card was no doubt being stressed to the max.


Far Cry

Far Cry

For Far Cry, I am using the latest patch, 1.31. Once again, I am using two separate resolutions and settings for each. 1024 * 768 is while using 1x AF and 0x AA, while everything else is maxed. 1280 * 1024 is with every max, and 4x AA and 8x AF.

Far Cry is a game that encourages benchmarking, and this is why they have some preset demos. I chose to do runs through the Regulator and Volcano levels.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

These are not the most graphically amazing levels in the game, but they still give us a good idea of what to expect. Going from 1024 to 1280 definitely took a bite out of the performance, but the FPS still stayed around 50+FPS. Nothing to complain about here, great results again.


NFS: Underground 2

Need For Speed Underground 2

NFS has always been a racing series that never released a game without me playing it right away. Each new version boasts better cars, tracks and of course, graphics. The graphics utilize DX9, and includes cool effects such as Motion Blur, Light Blurs and Trails, Particles and Reflective Worlds. Each one of these could slow down game play, and they allow you to turn off each one if needed.

This game was harder to benchmark, as you can’t replay races, nor watch the computer play. With the next Need For Speed game, we want benchmarking tools please! To benchmark, I didn’t go through any races, but rather had a free run, so that I could keep variables as close as possible. The graphics were maxed, including AA and AF, although the game doesn’t specify how much of each the Max equals.

Starting off at the airport, I drove around a particular path I played in my mind, benchmarking for 120 Seconds from the starting point. Therefore, some scores will fluctuate differently than if the exact same play was being benchmarked.


Stock: 370/1000 – OC: 410/1100

This is one of the few games where ultra-high FPS rates do not make that much of a threat to game play. At max res, the graph shows I was hitting an average of 35FPS. While playing though, it’s hard to convince myself that it’s not running at 60FPS. Great results none the less.


Overclocking & Temperatures

Overclocking & Temperatures

Even though the card comes “Pre-Overclocked”, it shouldn’t be finalized. As already mentioned, the Core being bumped 20MHz is hardly anything to brag about. I found a completely stable overclock to be 410/1100, which is a 40MHz increase to the Core, and 100MHz increase to the Memory.

I fully believe that this card can even be overclocked further, but I have had bad temperatures with this card, which obviously will hold back the overclocks. When I say bad temperatures, it’s not an exaggeration. I will tell you the experiences I have gone through.

While trying to benchmark for this review, I had the problem of the computer shutting right down for no apparent reason. First the video would go, then the audio, then the whole PC would lock up. Originally, I thought this was my memory, but it was definitely the card. After doing many tests, and allowing RivaTuner to keep track of temperatures, I found that during my Far Cry tests, the Core was hitting an unreal 100ºC!

The temperature above, is the lowest I have ever managed to get. E-mailing BFG, explaining the situation, I got this reply:

Seeing temperatures that high, especially if your ambient is also high is genreally indicative of there being an issue with the cooling on the card not working conrrectly. Unfortunately there is no easy way to deal with this problem short of us swapping the card, as trying to resolve it on your end will void the lifetime warrantee. For all warranty options please contact us at 1-866-234-3499. We are open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

At least they are ready to fulfill the guarantee and swap the card. It also verifies that it was the card, and not just the ambient room temp. Considering that the Case temp was 35ºC, and the GPU was hitting 100ºC, it’s obvious where the problem was.

In order to combat the temperature for now though, I mounted a fan underneath the card, which is blowing air straight at the cooler, but not getting in the way of the cards cooler that is blowing air away. I also took the door off my case, which also helped. Now, instead of the card peaking at 100ºC, pushing it as hard as I can, it now hits 89ºC, which is still way too high.


Conclusion

So to me, even though the card rocks through all the tests, it takes a big hit due to the temperature. Normal 6800 GT’s usually will max at 70ºC, but this one maxes at 90ºC, with the door off and a special fan mounted in there. Looking around the web, it’s not only me with this problem, it’s happened to others with the same card. If the card was able to be kept more cool, with a special cooler, or a lower ambient room temperature, overclocking would be much better, I’m sure. I could see a nice OC of 440/1150 easy if the temperature was kept under control.

Conclusions

Looking past the temperature problems, this is still a fantastic card. It screams through all the current games at 1280 * 1024, max details, with ease. Currently, the only Nvidia card faster than this one is the 6800 Ultra. Not for long though, as the 7800 GTX is supposed to be released within weeks. Chances are, when the new series is released, then this card, and other 6800 GT/Ultra’s should go down in price.

It’s been rumored that once the 7800 GTX is released, (Could be equivalent to GT, or Ultra), that Nvidia is going to hold off releasing anything else until ATI releases their R520 Core based cards. When released, the 7800 GTX will cost around ~$700US. Since the 6800 GT I reviewed costs ~$400US, we may not see price drops right off the bat. We have also not seen any real benchmarks either. SLi’d 6800 GT’s may blow a 7800 GTX out of the water, we just don’t know yet.

Unless you are in bad need for a great video card, I would hold off for at least a month. If you were to buy a 6800 GT now, however, I would recommend getting an eVGA, XFX or MSI based, considering I have had bad temperatures with this BFG. The great thing about the BFG though, is that it comes with a Lifetime Warranty. If you leave your card untouched physically, and it ever dies on you, they are more than ready to swap it for you. If you like the sound of that, and are willing to put up with high temperatures, this may be your best choice.

If anyone reading this owns the same card, please let me know if you’ve personally had any of the temperature issues I have. I’m looking to hear from people who are still using the stock cooler though, not a special one. Whatever your experience either way, I will add it to the end of this review for others to note. You can let me know at rob [dot] williams [at] techgage [dot] com.

For those interested in the results of the card on a fully overclocked system, they are as follows:

Questions? Comments? Flames? Please feel free to leave a comment in our discussion thread here. No registration is required to post in our article related threads! You can also contact me directly at rob [dot] williams [at] techgage [dot] com. I really appreciate any comments and constructive criticism.

Addendum:

Adam: I have an extreme case of high temperature as well, with this card. I have 5 intake fans and 4 exhaust, (including the two PSU fans), and I still get temperatures sometimes reaching as high as 120. When it does reach that temperature, the entire system crashes. I get artifacts then the video dies then the system freezes. Other times, (for still unexplained reasons Video will die but sound keeps going, meaning I can still use the second monitor if I have it plugged in.

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