Nvidia's new architecture introduces a lot of potential beyond what we saw with NV3x. To begin, it features a massively parallel 3D pipeline for achieving up to 8x higher pixel shading (a historic weakness of NV40's predecessor) and up to 2x better vertex shading performance.
Moreover, the architecture supports Shader Model 3.0, part of Microsoft's upcoming DirectX 9.0c. Among the improvements there, displacement mapping, vertex texture fetching, and FP32 shader precision are perhaps the most notable enhancements. The DX9 subset also introduces longer vertex and pixel shader programs, dynamic flow control, and geometry instancing as well, though.
But even more relevant is the nVidia GeForce 6800's position versus ATI's recently announced Radeon X800 XT, formerly referred to as R420. The Radeon X800 XT does lack in a few areas - it doesn't support the Shader Model 3.0 specification, and in turn, it won't do FP32 precision. At the same time, however, it is a bit faster than the GeForce 6800 Ultra in what could be construed as the most demanding metrics, consumes a single AGP slot, and it doesn't come with a 480W power supply recommendation.
In response to this, nVidia is reportedly readying a limited-edition version of the GeForce 6800 Ultra bearing an Extreme suffix. Performance considerations aside, the Extreme version of the nVidia Geforce 6800 will be even more expensive than the 6800 Ultra, and purportedly sparsely available. The card's relevance in relation to its competition remains to be seen, but when it is released, we'll do our best to bring you a review of it, so you can judge for yourself.
So, although nVidia has clearly taken strides to improve upon its previous architecture, and while it holds Shader Model 3.0 and FP32 precision over ATI's head, the nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra fell just short of ATI's Radeon X800 XT video card in most of the benchmarks we've shown you - especially at higher resolutions with all the eye candy turned on. For luscious gaming, with killer image quality at the highest resolutions, it's clear that the Geforce FX 5950 Ultra has been significantly surpassed by the new Geforce 6800 Ultra. The differences between the nVidia Geforce 6800 Ultra and the ATI Radeon X800 XT are closer, but it is apparent that nVidia's NV40 still has some catching up to do!
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