Gigabyte 6800 Ultra Review :: Introduction

08-02-2004 · Category: Hardware - Video Cards

By Benjamin Sun

Gigabyte has been making computer equipment for many years now. Readers of my previous reviews have noticed I like to give a sense of history on my video card reviews. I think history is important to give a sense of where one has been, where we are, and where we are going, but I think most of the readers already know the name GIGABYTE for their motherboards and video cards, so I won't bore you with my spiel on it. They were, however, one of the first companies to make video cards from both the ATI and NVIDIA camps at the same time and that is important.

They have continued that tradition today, with cards based upon NVIDIA's and ATI's latest for sale. My last GIGABYTE review was of the ATI based X800 Pro.The X800 Pro is the 12 pixel pipe version of ATI's latest card, the X800, with other versions available including a X800XT PE and a X800XT.

Over the years, NVIDIA has released competitive, strong video cards that have dominated the market. The release of the GEFORCE 3 in 2001 marked the introduction of the first fully programmable Pixel Shader 1.0 card to the market, and formed the basic architecture for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. The introduction of the GEFORCE 4 Titanium series dominated the market in the early part of 2002.

This changed in the summer of 2002, which saw the delay of their next-generation NV30 chip and the introduction of a dominating powerful card by the competition, for which NVIDIA had no answer, the RADEON 9700 Pro. The 9700 Pro was faster, had more features and had better image quality than the NVIDIA Ti4800 8x which was the primary competition of the time. NVIDIA didn't answer the 9700 Pro until their 5800 Ultra finally arrived on the scene in February of 2003. By this time, ATI had announced their refresh for the 9700 Pro, the 9800 Pro and NVIDIA was in a bind again. Truth be told, all of 2003 was a bit of a mess for NVIDIA, as they released the 5600 Ultra, the 5200 series and 2 replacements for the 5800 Ultra the 5900 Ultra and the 5950 Ultra. Add to that the cheating by NVIDIA in benchmarks like 3DMark 2003 and you can see how the company was seen in a less than positive light by many people.

In April of 2004, NVIDIA introduced their next-generation chip, the NV40. This chip promised to bring respectability back to NVIDIA in terms of performance, features and image quality. Unfortunately, NVIDIA hasn't released many of these chips to retail until very recently (this month). At launch GIGABYTE announced their 6800 Ultra, the GV-N68U256D which I'm reviewing here.