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EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E
Based on NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

March 3, 2006



TABLE OF CONTENTS

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



As is well known, GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB has formally retired from the NVIDIA's top position, though GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB is still a rarity and it's extremely hard to find it. Besides, this accelerator is overpriced, its price is obviously not adequate to capacities of a top product. By the way, I have already published my opinion about the title of this card. Having raised operating frequencies and rigged it with twice as much memory, NVIDIA neglected to give it a new name. That's very bad. We have information that there have appeared GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB cards based on the old 256-MB cards, where additional memory chips are just SOLDERED to the board to get a 512-MB modification, but with old frequencies (432/1200 MHz instead of 550/1700 MHz), like in the original 7800 GTX 512. And how can poor users distinguish these products? There will certainly appear quirky retailers, who will make a profit out of inexperienced users. And that will be the fault of NVIDIA marketing specialists, who were too stubborn to introduce a new name for the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB with increased frequencies.

I repeat that even though the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB is not currently the most powerful NVIDIA product, such cards are very popular. That's why their prices slowly go down instead of dropping. Besides, these accelerators sometimes disappear from the shelves, which only amplifies the demand.

That's why the product under review will be very interesting to many users. Besides, this incarnation of the reference design operates at increased frequencies.

Now what concerns the manufacturer. eVGA (or EVGA) is not familiar to many readers. First of all because this company has been working solely for the American market for a long time already. Northern-American, to be more exact. That's Brand One for video cards on NVIDIA processors there. But even Europe hasn't heard much of EVGA up to recently. One high-ranking official left Gainward in a poor state and got transferred to EVGA, intending to expand the areal of products from this company. Long ago I already wrote about Gainward, so I shall not repeat myself. I'll just say that this company is living through the rebirth, its prospects are quite good.

But let's return to EVGA. Has the leading USA brand chances of taking up a share of the European market, especially in Russia? Of course, considering severe competition and a wide range of products on NVIDIA processors offered on our market, the answer is evident: almost no chances.

But still, there is some chance of success. American users must value EVGA products for a reason. They must be of high quality. Time will show. Besides, today we shall examine another reference card. EVGA has nothing to do with manufacturing it (except for a cooling system). However, the same can be said about any other NVIDIA partner. It's just GeForce 7800 GTX-based boards are still too expensive to manufacture and none of the vendors ventured manufacturing such PCB on its own.

If you have heard about the 7800 GTX for the first time, you may read our reference material that contains all main points about this GPU and cards, based on this chip. Besides, the key characteristics will be published below.

Video card



EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7800 GTX (G70)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 490/490/490 MHz (nominal — 430/430/470 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 650 (1300) MHz (nominal — 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: 205x100x16mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: light-green.

Output connectors: 2xDVI, TV-Out.

VIVO: available (Philips 7115)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 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
EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX


Comparison with the reference design, back view
EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX


I guess there is no need to remind you that this card is a copy of the reference design. There are no others and there will hardly ever be. Designing is too expensive to spend resources on your own modification.

The card has 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. The same adapter is used to apply analog video stream to Video-In for conversion into a digital form. You can read about Video-In in more detail here. TV-Out details are published here.

The card is also equipped with two DVI jacks. Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 / 1600 x 1200 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface

All previously reviewed GTX 256MB cards allowed to change the three core frequencies at 27 MHz steps, frequency of the geometry unit was higher by 40 MHz. I already described it in detail before. But in this case there is no 40 MHz difference as well as 27 MHz steps. Now all the three frequencies can be changed at will at 1-2 MHz steps. These frequencies are now equal and change synchronously. 490/490/490 MHz of the core frequency is a real value, it does not come down to one of the values from the 432-459-486-513 MHz range.

EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E

The new cooling system is based on the reference cooler, which is hidden inside this black housing. That is everything is standard: a closed heatsink and an off-center fan that drives the air through the inner fins of the heatsink.

Here are the innovations: heat exchange surface of the heatsink is expanded due to the housing; there is a copper core inside that touches the GPU to increase cooling efficiency; the back of the card is not just equipped with a plate to cool memory chips like in reference cards - each chip has its own small heatsink, all of them form a united coolant loop.

Another advantage is the openwork housing that does not cover the card as a cuirass (sometimes done by Leadtek designers, which were criticized for this practice, because such cards got overheated and failed more often than the others). This special cooler allows the card to bear the ACS3 suffix in its title.

With all its advantages, the new cooling system possesses one significant disadvantage: the hot air is not driven out of a PC case. Let's recall a similar card from ASUS, which frequencies are also raised very high relative to the nominal values. That product is equipped with a very efficient and quiet cooler from Arctic Cooling that drives the air out of a PC case. Considering that even a regular GTX card gets very hot and can bring much trouble in closed PC cases without proper ventilation, driving the hot air out of a PC case with such high frequencies is a pressing task.









Bundle

EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E
User's manual, CD with drivers, DVI-to-d-Sub, HDTV/VIVO adapters, TV cable. It's a very unassuming bundle.




Box.

EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E

The card and its bundle are packed into a plastic box, which holds the card tight, so dangling is out of the question. The box itself in its turn is in a cardboard jacket with a proprietary design.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • 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 5.13/6.1; NVIDIA drivers 81.98.

VSync is disabled.






RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk) readings showed that the GPU temperature under load raised to 80°C in a closed PC case with standard cooling (from Chieftech). That's OK, even very good that the GPU temperature keeps within the admissible limits with such increased frequencies. That's why even though the cooling system itself does not drive the hot air out of a PC case, the temperature conditions are optimal.

But pay attention that this statement is valid only in case of a ventilated PC case! So I don't recommend to install this card into tight unventilated PC cases. Now that we all fight with noise, PC owners may disable all fans inside their system units.

If you install two such cards in SLI mode, you should be twice as careful and think about the way to drive the hot air out of your computer.

What concerns noise, I bring a good piece of news here - cooler operations can be controlled by RivaTuner, so there is no need to worry about it. Moreover, when the fan speed drops to 25% of the nominal value, the temperature rises by 2°C maximum, an inappreciable result.

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 . 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, demo from the Research level (-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, maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44.

    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.1.02 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, 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.



We shall publish summary performance diagrams for some video cards below. GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB operating at 486/1350 MHz is one of the contenders. It's the ASUS card we've already mentioned. According to our analysis, the performance difference between the above-mentioned ASUS product and the EVGA card under review is just 3-5% depending on an application, which even keeps within the measurement error. That's why we can say for sure that performance analysis and conclusions about GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB 486/1350 MHz certainly match those for our GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB 490/1300 MHz.

Here is an example from F.E.A.R. in popular resolution 1280x1024. Here are the results without AA + AF.



This game embodies the heaviest Shader 2.0 load on the accelerator we have ever seen. Our accelerator yields 90 FPS, demonstrating excellent gameplay even in this resolution under heavy 3D conditions. Even the strongest competitor of the GTX model (RADEON X1800 XT) is a tad outperformed. But it won't do to spend $550 for an accelerator and not use Enhanced 3D Graphics modes: AA and AF. Let's enable them:


Oh... performance immediately drops to 50 FPS. But nevertheless, gameplay is still on a good level! But the competing X1800 XT shot forward. Alas, our GeForce is defeated. There is nothing tragic about it - it's just one of the tests. But we should keep in mind that the X1800 XT is a dangerous weapon that has already started to drop in price.

You may finish the analysis on your own, using the data published below.

Summary performance diagrams






Conclusions

EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E is a very good modification of the overclocked 7800 GTX 256MB. We have seen such cases before. But in this case the frequencies are high and the card promises to be affordable (relative to its competitors, of course). Pros and cons of the cooling system have been already mentioned above. Noise can be controlled, so you shouldn't worry about it. What concerns the quality - the leading American brand would have hardly been so popular, if its products had been of low quality.

But I repeat that popularity of this card will depend on its price.

The card was very stable, we had no gripes with its operation. 2D quality is excellent, including 1600x1200@100Hz.

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








EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 Edition 256MB PCI-E gets the Original Design award (February 2006)










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)

March 4, 2006



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