MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
Zotac Graphics 8800GTS 320 (ZT-88SE320-FPP)
- Factory Overclocked, video adapter cable abundance, environmentally friendly packaging
- Lower memory not as impressive at higher resolutions
Although Zotac is a lesser known brand, the card's performance is on par with the competition. We tested and used the Zotac 8800GTS 320MB over a period of time and it remained stable and performed well. We were also impressed with the environmentally conscious packaging.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
As NVIDIA's series 8 cards flood the market it's hard to know which board manufacturer to choose. For many graphics card enthusiasts, Zotac is not a name that immediately springs to the mind, but the company has produced a range of new cards including a factory overclocked version of the GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, which performed well in our tests.
Like all GeForce 8800GTS cards, the Zotac uses NVIDIA's latest GPU (graphics processing unit) with a unified shader architecture that supports the latest DirectX 10 API (application programming interface). The Zotac 8800GTS card uses 96 stream processors, rather than the pixel and shader processors in older models. Stream processors provide a more efficient platform to process complex 3-D graphics than cards from the GeForce 7 series or Radeon X1900 series. It also features a 320-bit memory bus rather than the 256-bit bus of the aforementioned models. There are two common configurations for the 8800GTS, a 640MB version and a 320MB version. The Zotac ZT-88SE320-FPP is a 320MB version, but Zotac has gone the extra mile by cranking up both the GPU core clock and the memory clock speeds to give it a little boost.
Rather than the standard 8800GTS core clock speed of 500MHz, and the standard memory clock speed of 1600MHz, the Zotac 8800GTS is factory over-clocked to a core clock speed of 570MHz and a memory clock of 1800MHz. We found the card performed comparably well to the more powerful 640MB version (GeForce 8800 GTS (GV-NX88S640H-RH)), when running at the lower resolutions used by 19in monitors. We ran 3DMark 2006 using 8x anti-aliasing (AA) and 16x anisotropic filtering (AF) at a resolution of 1280x1024, the native resolution of a 17in or 19in monitor, at which it scored 5407. This is only just short of the GeForce 8800 GTS (GV-NX88S640H-RH) which scored 5795. While this is a noticeable difference, it's not a huge one. In the FEAR in-game benchmark at 1280x960 while using 4xAA and 16xAF, the Zotac 8800GTS 320MB card scored an average of 87fps (frames per second), while the GeForce 8800 GTS (GV-NX88S640H-RH) averaged only 81fps.
However, the performance hit on the Zotac 8800GTS 320MB was most notable in higher resolutions used in 22in monitors. The 3DMark 2006 test at 1680x1050 showed this. The GeForce 8800 GTS (GV-NX88S640H-RH) scored a 3DMark score of 4620 with 8xAA and 16xAF, while the Zotac 8800GTS 320MB scored only 3318, a more significant gap than at lower resolutions. Overall the results indicate that if you intend to use this card on a large widescreen monitor, such as 22in or higher, you may prefer a card with more memory - at least in the long term. However, for users of 19in monitors this card will more than comfortably run games in high-quality settings. During operation we found it was reasonably quiet.
The card itself requires one PCIe power connector, has two DVI ports and an S-Video port, and is the same length and width as other 8800 cards. The large cooler means it takes up the space of two PCI slots and is one of the longest boards available, so it may take some careful cable management to fit it into smaller cases. In the box you'll also find a DVI to VGA adapter, PCIe power adapter and a range of splitter cables allowing the card to connect to S-Video, component and composite video devices.
One of the most notable differences between the Zotac box and just about every other graphics card manufacturer box is the smaller size and reduced paper wastage. While this has no affect whatsoever on the performance and value of the card, it's a very pleasant surprise to pick up a graphics card box that's only marginally larger than the card itself. As we become more environmentally conscious with our purchases this may become a bigger factor, but for now this move by Zotac earns it a moral star rather than an extra performance star on our rating scale.
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