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The XFX 6800 XTreme 256MB Video Card: An Inexpensive High-Performance Secret

XFX supplies a wide variety of video cards and has significantly grown over the years. While XFX is currently selling the 7950 GX2, there is one particular video card which is a video diamond in the internet ruff of manufacturers. The XFX GeForce 6800 XTreme 256MB DDR3 is currently selling for around $140, paired with a $35 rebate from three major online sellers (Newegg, TigerDirect, and ZipZoomFly). What makes a $99 video card (after rebate) so special?

Scalable Link Interface.

Never before have consumers had the opportunity to take advantage of a fairly new technology at a significant price point. For about $250, you can have two video cards which in total, pump out approximately 45GB/s of memory bandwidth, 512MB of video card memory availability, and quad RAMDACs.

XFX GeForce 6800 XTreme 256MB DDR3

The XFX 6800 XTreme was announced only in Q1 2006 (January 26, 2006) and has since then, began to gradually become a very popular alternative for gamers who want to go SLi, but without a $500+ wallet crunch. The 6800XT was an affordable way for gamers to purchase a 6800 chip and see what it was capable of on the moderate end.

Overclocking The XFX GeForce 6800 XTreme 256MB

Overclocking the 6800 XTreme 256MB is quite easy to do with the proper tools, so you're base clock settings of the video card's Core Clock (the GPU's processing speed) and the Memory Clock can be increased, providing even more performance. Using Riva Tuner 2.0 RC 16 I obtained 400MHz core clock and 1150MHz memory clock settings without any problems.

Only 8 Pipes? Yes. Only Pipes.

Some may comment the 6800 XTreme 256MB having only 8 pixels per clock (i.e., Pipelines) is not enough to warrant a purchase. However, considering an SLi setup, you will have 16 pipelines which come very close to a video card costing twice as much. Putting low-priced high-performing cards in an SLi configuration greatly increases the capabilities. In fact, depending on the game you play, expect twice the performance, so if you like to shoot baddies higher than 800x600, SLi can be your ticket to some pretty lovely graphics and gameplay.

Initially, there was some confusion as to whether the 6800 XTreme 256MB could be "unlocked" to reveal the 12 pipeline architecture, but the extra four pipes are not available at all on the PCIe version of the card. Only the AGP version could be unlocked to this extent.

This is one of those video cards which will be talked about for some time. XFX has a large collaboration with nVidia and made quite a few of the 6800 XTreme versions. $35 rebates have been in affect since January or February of this year and there are rebates which are valid from July 1st to July 31st. ZipZoomFly says they are stock of the 6800 XTreme 256MB and is back ordered as of July 4th, but I'm somewhat guessing they won't be receiving any more--unless we still have a HUGE video card cache in a warehouse somewhere. It's been about 6 months since these rebates have been active and I would imagine these cards will begin to disappear off the shelves. XFX received around 100,000 6800 XT chips from nVidia for PCIe cards so the availability of these could be quite high and might last way into the end of this year.

The publicity of this high-performance card for so little money is surprisingly low on tech websites, but then again it doesn't surprise me because many websites dedicate just enough time to the latest video card, and hardly ever come back to take a closer look. The best information can be found on the consumer reviews being posted on eTailer websites such as Newegg and others. The information from these online seller sites is beginning to leak into forums but it's taken several months for this to do so, and of course, the average forum poster is concerned with the latest and greatest (and most expensive) so the real deals tend to be buried and forgotten.

The only Con I noticed was XFX's rather problematic drivers. I only recommend downloading a GeForce card's drivers from nVidia directly. Most of the tweaking you need to do is in the nVidia Control Panel anyway.

I gave this card a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on my website because it's just so powerful for the price and considering using two of these cards, the amount of performance is mind-blowing.

I happened to use the 6800 XTreme 256MB with three popular games: Doom 3, Serious Sam 2, and Half Life 2. The gameplay was so fun and the graphics were so smooth, I no longer envy my friend's Xbox. SS2 was played at medium settings with no problems whatsoever and oh my how the colors came alive. Doom 3 was especially scarier and while I can't necessarily say the colors were vibrant as the game is played mostly in total darkness, but I can say the detail was especially amazing when there was enough light around. HL2 really came to life when using this card as well. The detail was just as good as Doom 3, and possibly slightly better (probably due to more areas within the game which had more lighting).

Of course, please remember folks you do need a fast computer system with a nice supply of memory, and a quick hard drive as well. While a high-performance video card will certainly improve all aspects of your gaming, it will not improve it significantly if your computer system is not adequate. Be sure to investigate dual-core motherboards and even dual-processor motherboards. Depending on the configuration of each of these formats, you could get a seriously fast board at a modest price.

The 6800 XTreme 256MB (PV-T42E-UDE3) version (not the XXX version which sells for a little more but I don't recommend it due to the rebate offerings--why can't a rebate be offered on the XXX?) is by far the best deal I've seen in quite sometime. As noted earlier, this has to do with SLi. It MIGHT be possible to get two rebates by purchasing two cards, but there are stipulations such as being prevented from receiving a rebate at the same address. You could receive two rebates if you have two different addresses to send the rebates to. Why companies put such restrictions is a little irritating, especially since we have something called SCALABLE LINK INTERFACE! There should be a maximum of two rebates per household versus just one. The cards aren't going to sell otherwise so why not do it?

Bottom line, if you haven't considered this video card, get one (or two) NOW because they will not be around much longer. I plan on releasing a second part to this article on the differences between a single card and using two cards in the near future.

2006 by Jason Busch (DigitalDingus)

XFX GeForce 6800 XTreme 256MB DDR3

Source: www.articlecity.com