Interested in turning your 12-pipeline GeForce 6800 into an even more powerful 16-pipeline card without spending a penny? Firingsquad's "Unlocking the GeForce 6800" article will show you the way.

In order to decrease manufacturing costs, NVIDIA tweaks clock speeds and disables features on its chips in order to provide what is essentially the same product to different markets. The GeForce 6800 is based on NVIDIA's NV40 graphics core, the exact same chip NVIDIA uses for GeForce 6800 Ultra and GeForce 6800 GT. On the regular GeForce 6800, though, four of its pixel pipelines are disabled, and one vertex unit is turned off. GeForce 6800 cards can be modded to run with 16 pipes via BIOS modification in software, which the article will show you how to do. (PCI-E GeForce 6800 cards can't be modded into 16-pipeline cards; the article refers to AGP cards only.) This will, of course, void your card's warranty.

As you'd expect, turning on all of the NV40's pixel/vertex pipelines brought an immediate performance improvement in all applications we tested.

Overall it's got to be pretty exciting to be able to unlock your GeForce 6800 card's pixel and vertex pipes for a little bit more performance. Unlike overclocking, board temperatures are practically unaffected, so those of you looking for a little more performance from your GeForce 6800 may want to give this a try.