Magazines and e-zines are simply swamped with 8800 GT news and reviews, but you're really lucky if you actually manage to get your hands on an 8800 GT. The manufacturing costs of the small Small 65nm chip are low, hence the price is great, and same goes for performance. Today, we’re about to look at one of the fastest 8800 GT models on the market, and that is Zotac's 8800 GT AMP card.
Although this card runs at 700MHz, which is 100MHz more than reference speeds, Zotac AMP price is just a tad higher. For a measly $20 more you get a great AMP card. Current 8800 GT prices are higher due to enormous demand, but that should change later on. Zotac also offers a somewhat slower card running at 660MHz, but the trick is that its price is identical to that of Nvidia’s reference 8800 GT. The sad thing is that we would sincerely recommend these cards, if only they found their way to the retail stores. In the meantime, let’s see why Zotac named this card 8800 GT AMP Edition.
Zotac 8800 GT AMP is significantly faster than reference cards. The core runs at 700MHz, which is 100MHz more than reference, and the memory at 1000MHz (effective 2000MHz), which is also a 100MHz increase. Zotac was the first company that dared to soar to these heights, and we’ve already seen that only Gainward did better; theirs was dual-slot 8800 GT GLH but only the memory was faster, and only by 25MHz.
AMP card’s Shaders run at 1700MHz, which is faster than reference by 200MHz. The card has 112 Stream processors, and they are optimized much better than on the G80 generation; that is one of the reasons why this card has done so well.
GDDR3 memory came from Qimonda and its designation is HYB18H5123221BF-10, which means that memory is running at 1000MHz. The G92 core is surrounded by 8 memory chips that pack 512MB of memory in total. This card supports SLI, but you will need two cards for that, of course.
The cooler is based on Nvidia’s reference cooler design, but Zotac opted for a bigger fan. From the outside it's rather hard to tell it apart from the reference one, and you might think that no significant changes were made, but the interior begs to differ. Copper heat pipes that transfer the heat from the core are stacked differently, the aluminum fins are packed more closely together and there are more of them. Still, the cooler width stayed the same.
On the pictures above you see Nvidia’s cooler found on almost all the 8800 GT’s. Even XFX uses a reference cooler, and if you want to see the difference you can compare it to the picture below. The aluminum fins are tighter, and the copper pipes layout is different. The fan is not significantly bigger, we’re talking about less than a centimeter more in diameter.
The picture on the cooler is not just a sticker, but rather a real print, and that makes this card even more attractive. Zotac’s cooler is quiet and it outperforms reference coolers by a couple of degrees Celsius.
Power connectors are standard, one PCI-E 6 pin connector. Zotac made a little indent on the cooler lid to make it easier to connect the power.
8800 GT packs much better HD capabilities than the current 8800 generation based on G80 chip. The 8800 GT core can easily handle VC-1 or H.264 decoding, and display output logics is on the chip, rather than outside like we've seen on 8800 GTX cards.
HDMI + Audio are not a part of Nvidia’s reference design, but we’re hoping that some partners, maybe even Zotac, will manufacture a card with full HDMI support. We tried the DVI-to-HDMI dongle and had no trouble with the picture on our HDTV TV, but there’s no sound. The card has two DVI outs, and you can connect CRT monitors using a DVI-to-VGA dongle included in the box.
The box is on fire, just like the card in it. The rear part of the box has a cutout plastic window that lets you take a peek inside and see how the card looks.