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Review: Mac Nvidia 6800 Ultra DDL Graphics Card
Published: 10/20/2004
Performance Tests vs OEM 9800 Pro 128MB in Dual 2GHz G5

Intro/Photos | 2D/Video Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance

2D Image Quality/Performance Tests
(Update: For 6800 Ultra tests in OS X 10.3.7 vs the ATI Mac X800 XT card, see the Jan 2005 ATI Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition Review.)

2D Image Quality:
I use a Sony FW900 24" CRT for most of my card tests and have often been disappointed in the past regarding sharpness at higher resolutions with many OEM cards. I was satisfied with this 6800 Ultra sample's image quality at up to 1920x1080, but I'd not want to use it daily at higher resolutions with a CRT. (for instance even at 1920x1200.)
This would not be an issue for digital/LCD displays, but I'm mentioning it for users of CRT displays.

Resolutions/Refresh Rates:
Here's a list of resolutions with max refresh rates seen for each using the Display Control Panel in 10.3.5 with the Sony FW900 CRT.

Mac 6800 Ultra resolution list

Available resolutions/refresh will vary depending on your Monitor's capability. LCD displays for instance won't support the wide range of resolutions that a good CRT display will. The 6800 of course like the most cards can drive two monitors simultaneously - either a mix of two DVI displays, two CRT/VGA displays (using DVI-VGA adapters, one included), or a DVI and VGA display.

DVD Playback/CPU Usage:
In the past (pre-G5 era) typically I have seen a bit better DVD player image quality with the ATI cards, and lower cpu usage as well. Granted many times you'll only be watching the movie so it doesn't matter what the CPU usage is, but running the terminal with "top -u" while playing the looping intro from the "Matrix" DVD showed the 6800 card typical usage in the 10-21% range during the menu loop but usually in the low teens and often below 10% during actual movie playback. DVD tests had the desktop set to 1920x1080, video set to full screen. Image quality looked good to my eyes.

Motion RAM Preview Tests:
I ran the Apple Motion RAM Preview tests described at the Motion Mark website using the "Fire-Mortise 2" template file Apple includes with Motion 1.0. The test was run 6 times (clearing RAM each time) with a reboot after 3 runs. The times recorded with a stopwatch were then averaged.

Motion RAM Preview tests

Since Motion uses OpenGL for this I was hoping for more than a 6% or difference with the 6800 card. Hopefully future OS/driver updates will improve that.
I also ran the same test with a dual-display setup, adding another CRT monitor (Sony F400 19in) with both monitors running 1920x1080 and with Photoshop CS running in the background with a 70MB psd image window on the 2nd display. (Granted I could have had dozens of windows on the 2nd display which would eat more vram...)

Motion RAM Preview tests Dual disp

Appleworks 6.2 Scrolling Tests:
With the desktop set to 1600x1200, millions colors I used AppleWorks 6.2.9 to test scrolling times from top to bottom of a 100 page, multi-column newsletter.

Appleworks scrolling test

The fan actually sped up during this scroll test with both cards (couldn't tell for sure if it was the PCI or CPU fans but since the fan control update, the PCI 'zone' fan seems to speed up much more often than before during testing).

XBench 1.1.3 Graphics Tests
I'm not a huge fan of it, but since it's popular I used Xbench for simple tests of primitive graphics and user interface performance. Note the Xbench OpenGL score is based on a single spinning squares test - not a very extensive test. (See the other pages of this article for better 3D/OpenGL tests.)

Xbench tests

For this benchmark, the 9800 Pro with more mature drivers scores well against the more advanced 6800. I'll be curious to see how later Nvidia drivers affect that.

For those that wonder about the simple "Let1Kwindowsbloom" benchmark results (it draws 1000 windows and shows the total time) - at both 1920x1080 and 1600x1200 the time for the 6800 was 15 seconds and the 9800 Pro 17 seconds.

Before OS X became standard, I used to test video card scrolling performance in Photoshop with large images at high resolution and maximum zoom. However Photoshop under OS X makes using the arrow keys for scrolling performance tests practically useless. Scrolling with any card/any system in OS X/PS7 is 10 times (or more) slower than the same tests in OS 9. (Some say this is a 'fine scrolling feature', but for me it's just frustration.)

6800 User Feedback Wanted:
Of course as a one man site (with limited time/resources), I welcome other 6800 owner reports on using it (in any application, game, etc.). Please include system/OS/software/addon software/hardware details in reports for adding to the Mac Nvidia 6800 card owner feedback page. Thanks.

The next page has results of tests with 3D apps/Benchmarks.

Index of Mac 6800 Ultra DDL Review

Intro/Photos | 2D/Video Performance | 3D Performance | Game Performance

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