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Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E

November 16, 2006








TABLE OF CONTENTS

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



Despite the changes in the top price segment and the appearance of GeForce 8800 GTX/GTS, the middle and the budget sectors slack after the new products from AMD: ATI RADEON X1950 PRO and RADEON X1650 XT.

One may argue that it's to early for DX10 solutions to come to these segments, because the final API itself is just forming now. Or it's time already. There will be different opinions. Theoretically, we could have expected NVIDIA to launch several families of new accelerators instead of only one. But we know that the Californian company is doing great in Middle-End anyway, demand for its products is high, all price segments are covered. Why break anything?

So it's only natural that NVIDIA favorites of Christmas sales will be GeForce 7600-7900. Competitors offer no less attractive solutions, of course. We reviewed them many times.

Today we'll get back to the cards destined to go for less than $200 (it's practically impossible now, though, considering realia of the Russian market; but the prices still tend to this mark). Namely GeForce 7900 GS. Prices for such cards has come close to $200 even in Russia.

I already reviewed this card before, it appeared in the beginning of September. And now we'll examine two cards. Both accelerators operate at increased frequencies, remaining quite cheap. Besides, we'll compare them with RADEON X1950 PRO, which appeared not long ago, but has all chances to compete with the 7900 GS.

Both companies are not strangers to our market, so there is no need to introduce them.

Video Cards



Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7900 GS (G71)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 540 MHz (nominal - 450 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical/effective): 750 (1500) MHz (nominal - 660 (1320) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 7

Number of pixel pipelines: 20

Texture Processors: 20

ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: blue.

RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Multi-GPU operation: CrossFire (integrated into GPU).




XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7900 GS (G71)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 480 MHz (nominal - 450 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical/effective): 700 (1400) MHz (nominal - 660 (1320) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of vertex pipelines: 7

Number of pixel pipelines: 20

Texture Processors: 20

ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 190x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: black.

RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Multi-GPU operation: CrossFire (integrated into GPU).






Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 1.2ns memory access time, which corresponds to 800 (1600) MHz.




XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (GDDR3). 1.4ns memory access time, which corresponds to 700 (1400) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS
XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E


Comparison with the reference design, back view
Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS
XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E


Perhaps, we should resist the temptation to use banal words. But they are just asking to be used here: both are reference designs, they differ only in PCB color. They conform to the 7900 GT design.

A separate mention should be made of fast 1.2ns memory in the product from Galaxy, which is necessary for operation at the increased frequencies. And of course we cannot ignore the heavily overclocked core of this card - 90MHz higher than the nominal value! Very good! Our tests will show results of this overclocking.

The product from XFX is less overclocked by the manufacturer (I mean factory overclocking, not the overclocking potential). But it's also good.

The 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:

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

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%.

Now about the cooling systems.

The XFX product is equipped with a usual rectangular cooler of the closed type with an off-center fan. Such devices are absolutely identical to the reference design. In fact, this card IS of the reference design, it just has a nice sticker :).




The card from Galaxy is traditionally equipped with a cooler from Zalman.




Well, what can I say: that's the best solution for an overclocked GPU, noiseless at that. We should also note that memory chips are equipped with mini heatsinks.

Bundle

Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E
User Manual, CD with drivers, utilities and other software, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, external power splitter. As well as a composite output adapter.


XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E
It's a similar bundle, but there is no composite-out adapter.




Packages.

Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E

A large box with a window in the middle to show the card. Everything is secured into plastic inside.




XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E

This nice box also has a window to show off the card. Bundled components are also secured well in plastic.









Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Athlon 64 (Socket AM2) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2600MHz) (L2=2x512K)
    • Motherboard: Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H on NVIDIA nForce590 SLI
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz (CAS (tCL)=3; 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
  • Monitor: Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI CATALYST 6.9; NVIDIA Drivers 91.47.

VSync is disabled.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, 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. (DON'T panic when the screen goes black for 5-10 seconds after the first menu. The demo will follow.)

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, trilinear filtering.

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, trilinear filtering.

  • 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



Summary performance diagrams

You may download the results in Excel format (Office 2003) archived in RAR 3.0 or ZIP.






Conclusions

  1. Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E - our tests demonstrate that it's an excellent product for its price! The increased frequencies produce a very good impression of this card. It should be added that the card is equipped with a quiet cooler. So we can safely recommend this product. Unfortunately, Galaxy products are more and more rare on our shelves.

  2. XFX GeForce 7900 GS Extreme 256MB PCI-E is a tad weaker card, but it's also good for its price. Of course, RADEON X1950 PRO has already prejudiced the serene and expedient reputation of the 7900 GS. But nevertheless, the increased frequencies make themselves felt a little. If the price goes down below $200, it will be certainly an excellent choice.

    Both cards put up excellent performance, we had no gripes with them. Excellent 2D quality in 1600x1200@85Hz.



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








Galaxy GeForce 7900 GS 256MB PCI-E gets the Original Design award (November).








ATI RADEON X1300-1600-1800-1900 Reference

NVIDIA GeForce 7300-7600-7800-7900 Reference



We express our thanks to
ZEON
and Alexei Lebedev personally
for the provided XFX video card



PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER




                               Motherboard for the testbed was kindly provided by the company









Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

November 16, 2006


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