TABLE OF CONTENTS
We haven't tested Chaintech products for a long time. The company has been living through rough times of late. It was actually on the brink of bankruptcy, so the merger with Walton was a saver. The new company, Walton Chaintech, PSA member, is optimistic about its future prospects. But all old trademarks are preserved, products still bear the name of Chaintech.
Walton is a big company, which has been manufacturing memory for various systems, including computers. But like Foxconn, the company supplied various partners, so Walton was little known. Kingston or Kingmax has been buying memory from Walton. They just use their trademark.
And now both companies united their efforts - Walton Chaintech manufactures a wide range of PC components. There is one problem - production of motherboards is discontinued, but video cards are still manufactured. Moreover, the line of such components has been significantly expanded.
Today we shall examine five video cards from Chaintech: two of them belong to Hi-End, so NVIDIA traditionally orders them at third-party plants. That's why these cards come form Chaintech only nominally. But the bundle should also be taken into account.
So, meet five accelerators based on NVIDIA GPUs. Chaintech works with this very chip maker only. Three cards are based on the same PCB, although they have different names. So it will be much easier to describe their peculiarities.
Our examination proved that all the three Middle-End cards are based on the same PCB. The cards differ only in GPUs and sometimes in memory chips. Thus, this modification of the 7300GT looks much more imposing and faster than the reference design. Pay close attention to the difference between the 7600GS/7300GT frequencies and the standard ones for these accelerators. The 7600 GS is actually 7600 GT. In its turn, the 7600 GT from Chaintech is the fastest card in this price segment. That is all the three products offer much higher performance than the reference cards.
What concerns the 8800 cards, the situation is contrary. They are typical representatives of the reference cards. I repeat that all such cards are currently not manufactured by NVIDIA partners. The Californian company places orders at third-party plants and then sells ready cards to its partners.
That's why all 8800 GTS/GTX cards are as like as two peas. Except for overclocked modifications, of course - some companies already offer such products. Even in this case, they differ only in raised frequencies, the cards preserve their reference design.
All these cards have TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV-set via S-Video or RCA You can read about the TV-Out in more detail here.
Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:
What concerns MPEG2 playback features (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on all modern video cards does not exceed 25%. What concerns HDTV and other trendy video features, we are going to sort them out as soon as possible.
Now about the cooling systems. Both cards (Chaintech Apogee GeForce 7300 GT 256MB PCI-E and Chaintech Apogee GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E) are actually equipped with identical coolers, manufactured by Zalman. This cooler consists of a large cupped heatsink with fins of various lengths. A large slow fan is installed in the center of the heatsink - so the device is absolutely quiet. The cooler is so large that it blocks the second slot. But this drawback is not a problem in my opinion, because the PCI-E slot for a video card in most motherboards is followed by a small PCI-E x1 slot - there are almost no expansion cards for this slot. But both cards operate at significantly increased frequencies without problems with overheating, the cooler remaining absolutely quiet. Not bad, isn't it? - Not bad at all!
Now what concerns the 7600 GT cooler. It's a typical device we've seen since GeForce 7800. It's a small closed heatsink that covers only the core. It holds an off-center fan that drives the air inside the heatsink. But the MOST UNPLESANT ISSUE is the high rotational speed of the turbine - the device is very noisy. Unfortunately, there is no way to reduce it. None of our utilities can adjust the rotational speed of this cooler. BIOS sets it to maximum speed, and the driver is forbidden to reduce it. We couldn't do it even in ForceWare (you can move the slider, but there is no effect).
The 600 MHz core gets hot, of course. This cooler easily coped with power consumption of the reference card at the standard frequency, but it's not enough here. But it's still a pity you cannot control its fan speed. The core temperature at 600 MHz did not exceed 65°C, so it wouldn't have hurt to reduce the speed and noise.
What concerns cooling systems in 8800GTX/GTS cards, they use the same cooler. The 7900 GTX was equipped with a cooling system with a huge slow fan in the center. It drove the air through the left and right heatsinks with heat pipes that channeled the heat away from the core. With the launch of the 8800 series we roll back to the old turbine design with a fan at one end of a closed heatsink that drives the air through.
But don't worry that much about the noise.
Firstly, the device drives ALL hot air out of a PC case.
Secondly, the turbine is very large and slow, so it's quiet even under heavy loads.
Thirdly, efficiency of the cooling system is reinforced by heat pipes at the side of the heatsink.
The cooler is not heavy, as copper is used only for the plate that touches the GPU. Other components are made of aluminum alloy. The design resembles devices from Arctic Cooling.
We found out that the cooling system worked very efficiently in both cases and did not allow the core temperature to rise above 85°C. But on the whole, both 8800 cards get very hot during operation, their PCBs may even burn your fingers. So you'd better install a good ventilation system inside your PC case. And don't forget about the length of the 8800 GTX - 270 mm, this card may not fit into your PC case. Before you buy this card, you should make sure that the distance between the wall of the PC case and the HDD cage is long enough.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
Video cards' performance
If you understand 3D graphics, you may draw your own conclusions from the diagrams below. What concerns beginners and those who just started to look for a video card, we shall include some explanations.
Firstly, you should look through our reference materials on modern video cards and their GPUs. Note operating frequencies, support for modern technologies (shaders), as well as a pipeline architecture.
Secondly, if you have just faced the problem of choosing a video card and are at a loss, our 3D-Video section offers articles about 3D basics (you will still have to understand them - when you run a game and open its options, you'll see such notions as textures, lighting, etc) as well as reviews of new products. There are just two companies that manufacture graphics processors: ATI (it has been recently bought by AMD and now bears the same name - AMD) and NVIDIA. So most information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly 3Digests that sum up all comparisons of video cards for various price segments.
Thirdly, analyze test results of the video cards under review.
1. 8800 GTX/GTS video cards still demonstrate the highest performance, so they are the absolute leaders here. GeForce 8800 GTX is stronger than the GTS card, of course. But we have some gripes with drivers for these cards, plus some problems in some games under Windows XP. You can read the details here, in the section devoted to video quality in games.
Moreover, even though Windows Vista is already out, drivers for this operating system are still buggy, and users report a lot of problems. We cannot test DirectX 10 yet - there are no games or tests for this API. But widely used games may run very slowly under Vista (performance may drop down to 2x) or their operation my be abnormally terminated. It may even lead to blue screens of death. I repeat that it is true for the beginning of February! If you read this article much later, bugs may be already fixed.
2. The 7300 GT video card is very close in its frequencies to the video card with the same GPU on our diagrams (below). So we can say that it's a very fast product for its class. It sometimes demonstrates higher performance than a more expensive 7600 GS card.
3. The 7600 GS from Chaintech is actually a nominal 7600 GT card for less money. So its performance is very good! Nevertheless, competition with RADEON X1650 PRO (which got cheaper) is very intense. Our tests demonstrate that the latter can sometimes be more expedient for a number of reasons, for example, better anisotropy. Anisotropic filtering should be enabled in such cards - they are fast enough.
4. But the 7600 GT card from this manufacturer is the fastest 7600 GT we've ever seen. It successfully competes with the X1650 PRO, being an obvious favorite, as its performance is higher by approximately 10% than that of the reference 7600 GT.
See the details in the diagrams below.
Chaintech Apogee GeForce 7300 GT 256MB PCI-E is an excellent choice for a relatively inexpensive video card supporting all modern innovations (before DirectX 10, of course). This product can outperform even more expensive cards owing to its increased frequencies.
Chaintech Apogee GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E is a good choice for the Middle-End segment. We pay for the 7600 GS, but we actually get the 7600 GT. However, you should take into account prices for X1650 PRO - this card can be more expedient.
Chaintech Apogee GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E can compete with the X1650 XT, owing to its increased frequencies. But you should also consult prices and only then make final conclusions. Don't forget that RADEON cards feature anisotropic filtering of higher quality.
Chaintech Apogee GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB PCI-E is a standard product, as it's a copy of the reference design. It's manufactured by NVIDIA's orders. That is Chaintech only bundled the card.
Chaintech Apogee GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCI-E - all the above said applies to this product as well. Besides, it's currently the most powerful 3D accelerator for games. And the most expensive, of course. We should mention once again some problems with the new 8800 series in a number of games due to buggy drivers (early February). Let's hope they will be fixed in the nearest future.
We should also mention the bundles with various bonuses.
The choice is up to our readers, as always. We can only inform you about this or that product. But we do not give direct instructions which products to choose.
And one more thing: having decided to choose a 3D accelerator on your own (a video card in your computer), you should understand that you change one of the key components of your system unit, which cannot and shouldn't work without proper configuration. This is not an end product, it's just a component. So you should understand that you'll have to learn 3D graphics basics in order to get maximum performance from a new video card. And some graphics as well. If you don't want to deal with it, you shouldn't upgrade your computer on your own: you'd better buy ready PCs with preconfigured software, or game boxes, where no configuration is required.
You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.
The following cards get the Original Design award (February):
We express our thanks to
for the provided video cards
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
February 7, 2007
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