NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTX / 8800GTS Linux Preview
Last June NVIDIA had successfully introduced the GeForce 7 series by launching the G70 7800GTX 256MB. As we had shared in a number of Phoronix articles (one, two, three, four), the GNU/Linux performance was initially hampered due to a 3D clocking issue within the NVIDIA 1.0-7667 display drivers (it was later corrected in August). The 1.0-7667 drivers, however, were provided on the same day as the 7800GTX launch. Last year we had also seen the launch of ATI's Radeon X1000 series. However, the GNU/Linux support for the X1000 series was not even added until this past spring, and at that time the performance had suffered miserably (ATI Radeon X1800 Linux Preview) compared against the Windows Catalyst display drivers and NVIDIA GeForce parts running under GNU/Linux. The Radeon performance continues to suffer under GNU/Linux as we had noted in our recent Q4'06 X1000 Examination. NVIDIA today is looking to trump ATI once again as they launch the eighth generation of their GeForce graphics cards. The GeForce 7800 and 7900 series already pound the Radeon X1000 parts under GNU/Linux, and with the GeForce 8800GTX and 8800GTS this disparity will only increase.
The GeForce 8800GTX has already made some news earlier this week after it was found out that there was a manufacturing defect with a single resistor. NVIDIA Corporation has been extremely quick to address this issue, and it should have no major affect on the consumer supply starting today. The GeForce 8800GTX offers 768MB of video memory, 384-bit memory bus, 575MHz G80 core clock, 900MHz memory clock, and 128 shader units. Meanwhile the slightly slower version of the 8800GTX (what would be the GT equivalent in the GeForce 7 series) is the 8800GTS, which features 640MB of video memory, 320-bit memory bus, 500MHz G80 core clock, 900MHz memory clock, and 96 shader units. While not incredibly relevant to alternative OS fans, the GeForce 8 series is the first to support DirectX 10.0 and Shader Model 4.0.
The PCB design for the GeForce 8800GTX is similar to that of the numerous leaked photographs that have turned up over time. However, unlike some previous pictures, water cooling is not mandatory for the G80. Both the GeForce 8800GTX and 8800GTS manage to put out quite a bit of heat, but fortunately the dual-slot cooler should be suffice for running at stock speeds. The pictures are, however, correct in noting that dual PCI Express 6-pin connectors are needed for power on the GTX variant. For those users immediately upgrading to the GeForce 8 series you certainly will not want to skimp on the power supply. For a single GeForce 8800GTX the minimum power supply recommendation is 450W for a standard desktop setup, though we always recommend getting a much higher power supply. The GeForce 8800GTX and 8800GTS also are HDCP compliant, support dual-link DVI, VIVO, and HDTV outputs.
While NVIDIA has been able to succeed with single GPU performance under GNU/Linux they have miserably failed thus far when it comes to Scalable Link Interface. Support for SLI was added with the Linux Rel80 display driver, and even being in the 1.0-9XXX series now, the MultiGPU performance benefits continue to be nonexistent. When strapping in dual or even quad GPUs, there is simply no major performance improvements. As would be expected, the GeForce 8 Family supports Scalable Link Interface. On the other side of the table, ATI has not supported their MultiGPU technology (CrossFire) by their fglrx display drivers nor would we anticipate this support to come anytime in the near future.
NVIDIA will be delivering new display drivers this morning for GNU/Linux users that support the GeForce 8800GTX and 8800GTS. These drivers will be available through nZone, so they will likely be a Beta candidate and not an official release. We have not had the time yet to try out these new GNU/Linux display drivers, however, head on over to the Phoronix Forums where you can share your thoughts or seek assistance. As we were only told by NVIDIA on the night of November 6 that there would be same-day GNU/Linux display drivers (the GeForce 7900 cards weren't supported by the Linux drivers for a month; see here), we have not yet benchmarked these new GeForce 8 GPUs. We are working on attaining the samples and should hopefully have up performance figures in the coming days and weeks. FreeBSD and Solaris drivers for the GeForce 8 series will likely accompany the Linux drivers.
From a technical standpoint the design of the GeForce 8800GTX should be phenomenal. The G80 GPU packs some serious horsepower with its 128 shader units, 384-bit memory bus, and a transistor count of approximately 681 million. The NVIDIA 8800GTX 768MB, however, will set you back approximately $650 USD at this time. Over the coming months NVIDIA will be expanding the GeForce 8 family as they had done after the 7800GTX 256MB launch. Seeing as the GeForce 7800 series is even able to smoke all of the ATI Radeon X1000 series under GNU/Linux, it's fairly safe to say that the 8800GTX will wear a penguin performance crown. Under Windows, a single 8800GTX has reportedly been able to outperform the ATI Radeon X1950XTX in a CrossFire configuration. We hope that AMD is able to straighten up the performance problems with the fglrx display drivers in time for the Radeon R600 launch early next year. Throughout all of this, there continues to be the constant rumors flying around about portions of the fglrx code being opened up to the OSS community by Advanced Micro Devices.
Feel free to discuss the NVIDIA GeForce 8 Family in the Phoronix Forums.
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