The NDA on the Nvidia GeForce 6800 (NV40) has lifted and all the previews are pouring out into the news channels. Various GF6800 previews are up on sites like Tom's and Beyond3D. The results? While we won't go into all the details for you, clearly this new chip is a gigantic leap forward for Nvidia. We will note that under a few games (like Halo), framerates are twice as high as the GF5950 and 1600x1200x32 runs above 60fps. Why such a dramatic performance increase? 16 pipelines = higher fill rate.

Looking at the key differences between 6800 Ultra and 5950 Ultra we see that although 6800 Ultra has a reasonably significantly lower clock speed than than 5950, it still has a whopping 237% pixel fill-rate advantage thanks to it having 4 time the number of pipelines. The difference in texture rates is only 68% because 5950 has twice the texture samplers per pipeline than 6800 Ultra does. The triangle rate is only 68% again because thought 6800 Ultra has twice the number of vertex shaders, and the clock speed difference pulls it back somewhat.

Despite this performance leap, the NV40 rose has its thorns. Some pictures show the 6800 Ultra blocking the PCI slot adjacent to the AGP slot. Nvidia has even said that the 6800 Ultra draws a whopping 120W and will require a 480W power supply unit. Talk about potential heat problems in your case. Power and heat problems aside, this could be the chip that moves Nvidia from playing second fiddle back to top player in the video card market. Unfortunately, we won't know for certain until ATI's X800 is released later this month. What we can say for certain is that the GeForce 6800 benchmarks make the current crop of leading edge cards look like run-of-the-mill mid-range GPUs.