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XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
Based on NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

February 8, 2006








TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configurations, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions



We are already accustomed to new announcements, new accelerators, and defunct previous top models. There is nothing strange about them. One question still remains undetermined: what happens with defunct stars? Will they go down in price or is it unprofitable for manufacturers and they will prefer to kill a product rather than allow price reductions?

There is no simple answer. If a previous top was manufactured almost artificially, that is engineers squeezed the last drops from the process technology, and the GPU cost is very high, then the chances are high that the old product will be discontinued as soon as a new Hi-End product is launched. Of course, along with technical reasons for discontinued top products, there are purely marketing ones.

But sometimes former flagships survive and outlive several generations of video cards. For example, RADEON 9800 PRO. It was manufactured when it was the most powerful accelerator and when it was replaced with the 9800 XT. Even when the X800 series was launched, the 9800 PRO was still in production. Its price dropped significantly and this model went down to the Middle End segment of the market. As for the 9800 XT, it was discontinued as soon as the X800 was announced.

Here is a more recent example. Six months passed since the launch of GeForce 7800 GTX, which had been a king of all gamers in summer 2005. We saw the launch of GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB, ATI RADEON X1800 XT, X1900 XT, X1900 XTX. All these cards are more powerful and thus they snatched the crown from each other one by one. As for now, the X1900 XTX is crowned.

And what about the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB? It's still in High End sector, as in the NVIDIA camp it's outperformed only by the 512MB modification of the same card with increased frequencies. But in March 2006 NVIDIA will launch a new series codenamed G71. We don't know the specifications yet, but it's already clear that the new products will be manufactured by the 0.09-micron process technology, which means reduced costs. Besides, it's not clear how robust the new cards will be. This threatens the GeForce 7800 GTX - it may be discontinued. Or will it go down in price? If the latter is true, the 7800GT should also go down. Taking into account that GeForce 6800 Ultra/GT (NV45) cards with their huge costs (0.13-micron process technology, HSI bridge integrated into the chip package) are already discontinued and the cards are disappearing from the shelves, the reduction of prices for much more advantageous 7800GT/GTX cards (0.11-micron process technology, no bridge) seems logical. But we heard some rumors that NVIDIA will discontinue G70 chips. It my opinion, it makes sense only in one case: if the G71 will come in 3 or 4 video cards at prices from $300 to $600-$700, then the new series will cover all Hi-End segments and the G70 will become useless.

This way or another, the GeForce 7800GTX are cards highly popular these days. Even today (in late January) we can see RADEON X1800 XT cards on the shelves, while GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB cards are nowhere to be found (or all shipments go to the reserve). I think these cards will be popular for a long time. We haven't reviewed production-line cards of this class for a long time already, so now we get back to this topic.

XFX products (a trademark of PINE Technologies) have been known on our market for a long time. But they are not very popular because of the competition with famous brands. But everything we reviewed from this company was notable for superb quality and moderate prices. One of the present-day accelerators also works at increased frequencies! This feature is mentioned only on a box sticker.

Video card



XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
Interface: PCI-Express x16

Frequencies (ROP/Shader/Geometry unit/memory - physical (memory - effective): XXX: 451/451/491/625 (1250) MHz (Regular cards — 430/430/470/600 (1200) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 8

Number of pixel pipelines: 24

Number of texture processors: 24

Number of ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: green.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, S-Video.

VIVO: available (Philips 7115)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.6ns memory access time, which corresponds to 625 (1250) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX


Comparison with the reference design, back view
XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX


That's obviously a reference design (like all GeForce 7800 GTX cards). Only the bracket is special (with a serial number to see through a box window). Both cards are absolutely identical and differ only in frequencies. But a code on the PCB indicates a card type: UDF7 - regular card, UDE7 - Extreme edition, UDD7 - XXX Edition

Note that both products offer VIVO, where VideoIn is based on Philips 7115.

Besides, this card has two DVI jacks, regular monitors with d-Sub can be connected via the corresponding adapters that come shipped with the bundle.

The cooling system was thoroughly examined in the base article about G70. I will just remind you that the central heatsink is connected with a heat pipe to the memory heatsink. The device is very narrow and occupies only one slot. Memory chips on the back of the PCB are cooled by a narrow plate. On the whole, the cooler is not noisy. Only the first seconds after startup are a tad noisy because of the high rpms of the turbine. You can hear the noise in this video (1.5MB, WMV) (note that the turbine does not start up immediately after the computer is turned on). The main drawback - the hot air is not driven out of a PC case, so temperature conditions in sealed PC cases without air flows may become critical.

XFX designers attached a nice-looking brand badge on the cooler cover (you can see it in the collage).

Bundle

XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E
User's guide, DVD with drivers, a couple of old games (Far Cry is quite topical though, as the game is still very popular), VIVO software, DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV, VIVO adapters.




Box.

XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E

The cross-shaped box looks very original. To be more exact, it's X-shaped, which matches the first letter of the company name. All components are arranged into sections: the entire bundle is in a small box, the card in a plastic box is packed separately. So there should be no transportation damages. Besides, the package dimensions are not large (compared to modern traditionally huge boxes for Hi-End accelerators). The bundle is very nice.

XXX Edition has a sticker on the box.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configurations:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N32 SLI Deluxe on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI X16
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI CATALYST 5.13; NVIDIA drivers 81.98.

VSync is disabled.

I repeat that the XXX Edition card operates at higher frequencies using a standard cooling system. In fact, these frequencies are higher than declared, as the default core frequency step is 27 MHz, so 450 MHz are just impossible, it's 459 MHz and 491 MHz in the geometry unit.




We took the readings in a closed ventilated PC case. So we can see that the temperature is below critical, though it still crossed the 80°C mark (on the core). Taking into account that the hot air can be driven out only by PC case fans (meaning that at first it will rise to top and warm the CPU heatsink), it's not good. The situation in a closed PC case without additional fans may become critical. The other cooler on the 512-MB modification is more promising and efficient. Besides, a PCB with all memory chips on the front side would be better, as the plate, which should cool memory chips on the back side, grows hotter exceeding the pain limit. It's not surprising that many owners of these cards buy additional coolers from third-party manufacturers and install them on GeForce 7800 GTX.

What concerns overclocking, the XXX Edition card can operate at 486/486/526 MHz on the core (513 MHz are too much already), 1360 MHz on the memory. A similar top accelerator from ASUS operates at these frequencies, so we also published the 7800 GTX performance results at these frequencies.

We haven't tried overclocking the regular card.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos of Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, shaders 3.0 (for NVIDIA cards)/shaders 2.0 (for ATI cards); HDR OFF!

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01, ixbt02, ixbt03 The tests were carried out with maximum quality, option -dxlevel 90, presets for video card types are removed from dxsupport.cfg.

  • FarCry 1.33 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, 3 demos from Research, Pier, Regulator levels (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings.

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — High Quality (ANIS8x), demo ixbt1 (33MB!). We have a sample batch file to start the game automatically with increased speed and reduced jerking (precaching) d3auto.rar. (DO NOT BE AFRAID of the black screen after the first menu, that's how it should be! It will last 5-10 seconds and then the demo should start)

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay 1.10 (Starbreeze/Vivendi) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44 and demo ducche.

    I wish to thank Rinat Dosayev (AKA 4uckall) and Alexei Ostrovski (AKA Ducche), who have created a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help.

  • F.E.A.R. v.1.01 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, Soft shadows disabled.

  • Call Of Duty 2 DEMO (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, shaders 2.0, tested in Benchemall, demo and a startup script, readme contains necessary instructions

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • RightMark3D (iXBT.com) — DirectX, synthetic benchmark, Shader 2.0/2.0b/3.0, you can download it here.





Summary performance diagrams



You can find our comments in the conclusions.


Conclusions

XFX GeForce 7800 GTX/7800GTX XXX 256MB PCI-E is a very good product, based on the still popular GeForce 7800 GTX. By the way, even though the RADEON X1800 XT is available in stores, being faster and more promising (according to our tests) than the 7800 GTX 256MB, the latter is still enviably popular.

XXX Edition has an evident advantage - it costs like regular 7800 GTX cards from other brands, but it has higher frequencies and consequently higher performance. A stylish package and a good bundle - these are all positive sides of the product. It has a nice-looking cooler, which can be seen through a plastic window, so you can admire it without opening the package. But I already mentioned above that it has a drawback, so potential buyers should first of all take care of additional fans in their PC cases. However, we haven't noticed extreme temperatures yet (but in SLI mode these two cards can already put the system unit at overheating risk).

The accelerators were stable, we had no gripes with them, everything was up to the mark. They offered excellent 2D quality.

A regular (not XXX Edition) card is not different from the reference design. Thus it may be a good choice, considering a relatively low price for such cards (compared to competitors).

You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.










Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X1800 (R520)/X1600 (RV530)/X1300 (RV515) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/7800 (G70)/6600 (NV43)







Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

February 8, 2006



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