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Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E

April 12, 2006



TABLE OF CONTENTS

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


We review expensive, even very expensive accelerators more and more often. And we leave budget solutions off-camera. Many readers are indignant. But everything is simple here: a budget solution has always been and will be slow; despite marketing efforts to show that a $100 card today would have cost you $400 two years ago, you must understand that games evolve. Indeed, a Low-End card will certainly demonstrate high results in Quake3 or Serious Sam 1, which could be demonstrated by old Hi-End cards. But it makes no sense today to buy a video card for old games, even if it costs $100. Former Hi-End cards can be found on a flea market even for a lower price, if you want to buy a card for old games.

Games grow more complex, so Low-End cards have been marking time at 1024x768 without AA+AF on the brink of tolerable gameplay. Decent performance will be demonstrated only in 1.5-2-year old games.

Even though there are still some users who want to spend just $70 and get super graphics, and all state-of-the-art games at maximum quality, and VIVO, etc, most users are reasonable. They understand that they cannot possibly expect high 3D performance from such a cheap card. That's why lots of these cards are bought just to connect a monitor to and to watch movies. Let's dwell on this issue.

If we shift our focus from 3D, let it be video acceleration and even video decoding features. That is movies. We know well that all modern accelerators from the cheapest to the most expensive ones cope well with MPEG2 decoding, that is with DVD-Video in its usual format. So there is no point in dwelling on this issue: you may buy GeForce 6200 or RADEON X300SE, they will all cope well with MPEG2 and the CPU load will not exceed 25%, or it may be much lower. In addition to existing programs - PowerDVD, WinDVD, and the like, which already contain codecs that can use hardware resources of video cards, ATI and NVIDIA also offer their own decoders to make any player work with a video card instead of a CPU.

What concerns High Definition Video, which is getting increasingly popular, the latest budget models will do fine. They fully support decoding any wide format, including H.264. You just have to update your player or install a new decoder version from a vendor. We have touched upon this issue in Part V of the article about new expensive products from NVIDIA. But trust me, the same results will be demonstrated by GeForce 7300 GS as well.

And now let's get back to 3D. Even though 3D functions are not so popular in this price segment as in expensive accelerators, many readers still ask a question: what card is currently faster among $80-$90 models from ATI and NVIDIA? As well as what modifications the 7300 GS has.

Today we'll try to answer this question, having analyzed three cards from Albatron, MSI, and Palit. These cards differ in frequencies (core and memory), even though they bear practically the same title - GeForce 7300 GS. That's not much of news in this price segment: we have already come across lots of accelerators under the same name, but with different memory buses and frequencies. A potential buyer should be on the alert!

If you have heard about the 7300 card 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 Cards



Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7300 GS (G72)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 550 MHz (nominal — 550 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 350 (700) MHz (nominal — 350 (700) MHz)

Memory bus width: 64bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 3

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 4

Number of texture processors: 4

Number of ROPs: 2

Dimensions: 160x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: dark blue.

Output connectors: VGA (d-Sub), DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7300 GS (G72)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 550 MHz (nominal — 550 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 405 (810) MHz (nominal — 350 (700) MHz)

Memory bus width: 64bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 3

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 4

Number of texture processors: 4

Number of ROPs: 2

Dimensions: 160x55x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: VGA (d-Sub), DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7300 GS (G72)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 575 MHz (nominal — 550 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 600 (1200) MHz (nominal — 350 (700) MHz)

Memory bus width: 64bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 3

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 4

Number of texture processors: 4

Number of ROPs: 2

Dimensions: 150x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: VGA (d-Sub), DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.





Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of DDR2 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front side of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (DDR2). 2.8ns memory access time, which corresponds to 350 (700) MHz.

MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of DDR2 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (DDR2). 2.5 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 400 (800) MHz.

Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E
The video card has 128 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in two chips on the front side of the PCB.

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





Comparison with the reference design, front view
Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TC
MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E




Comparison with the reference design, back view
Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TC
MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E




The video cards compete with their predecessor GeForce 6200 TC, which is in the same price segment, so we'll compare them to these very cards. However, the 7300 card has a unique design. We can see well that in this case (a very simple PCB) each manufacturer exercises its wits as much as possible :). All the three cards have different designs. MSI decided (quite correctly) that such card would do for small PC cases and manufactured a Low-profile card, having equipped it with faster memory, but not exceeding the limits of DDR2 and 256 MB. As always, Palit engineers have designed a unique device: firstly, just two chips, but that's quite enough for the 64-bit bus in case of 32bit chips. The card is equipped with minimum memory (128 MB) using super-fast 1.4ns chips, so memory frequencies may be raised to the sky limit. To balance the solution, they slightly increased the core frequency as well. So we've got a turbo-accelerator among 7300GS cards. What concerns Albatron, it offers a standard solution: four DDR2 memory chips operating at standard frequencies.

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 TV-Out in detail here.

All the three cards are equipped with VGA (d-Sub) and DVI. Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected to DVI 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
  • 1600 x 1200 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface

Strange as it may seem, cooling systems of all these video cards have fans. A 0.09-micron small core would do fine with a passive cooler, especially considering that it does not heat much. But that's how manufacturers decided.



Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E

A very simple design. There is even nothing to describe. A standard rectangular heatsink with a fan in the center.

We haven't registered any noise. But such coolers are notorious for getting noisy after some time. That will not happen for sure, it's just a possibility. The 7300 does not get so hot, so this device copes well with its task.

MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E

A similar device. It's just modified for the low-profile (its heatsink is cut off).

The cooler is very quiet.

Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E

The cooling system is similar to the previous one in its operation, it's just a tad larger.

It's not very noisy.

Bundle

Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
User manual, CD with drivers, TV extension cord. THAT'S ALL! That's practically OEM rather than a scarce bundle.
MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
User's manual, CD with drivers. You will also find the following items in the box: DVI-to-d-Sub adapters and TV-Out cords.
Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E
User's manual, CD with drivers, several discs with old games, DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, composite TV-Out adapter.




Packages.

Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E

Traditional Albatron design with a girl on the front side of a small box. Everything is arranged into sections inside. But they are fragile and the card may still dangle inside the package, though its dimensions are not large.

MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E

The cardboard box is also small. The design is also in company's style, it's even too pretty for such a cheap product.

All components are arranged into sections. But they are too wide, so the card may dangle in the box.

Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E

It's a standard box from Palit, which we have already seen. A glossy jacket and a white cardboard box. Card info is published on the labels.

Components are secured well in sections, so there must be no dangling.





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 6.3; NVIDIA Drivers 84.21.

VSync is disabled.

The latest beta of RivaTuner (written by A.Nikolaychuk AKA Unwinder) to be released soon supports G72:

Monitoring core temperature of the fastest card (from Palit):

Maximum temperature did not exceed 62°C, which is another proof that passive cooling would have been enough.

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



Summary performance diagrams

So, we compare the 7300 GS with the X1300, as their prices are similar, though the latter is a tad more expensive. Note that we compare a 64-bit card (which prime cost is evidently lower) with a 128-bit card. However, we don't know prime costs of the cores, so it's hard to say which competitor is cheaper to manufacture.

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, mixed pixel shaders 1.1 and 2.0, active multitexturing.

FarCry, Research



Test results: FarCry Research

Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, pixel shaders 2.0, active multitexturing.

F.E.A.R.



Test results: F.E.A.R

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory



Test results: SCCT

Call Of Duty 2 DEMO



Test results: COD2

Half-Life2: ixbt01 demo



Test results: Half-Life2, ixbt01

Game tests that heavily load pixel pipelines with texturing, active operations of the stencil buffer and shader units

DOOM III High mode



Test results: DOOM III

Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44



Test results: Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44

Synthetic tests that heavily load shader units

3DMark05: MARKS



Test results: 3DMark05 MARKS

3DMark06: Shader 2.0 MARKS



Test results: 3DMark06 Shader 2.0 MARKS

3DMark06: Shader 3.0 MARKS



Test results: 3DMark06 Shader 3.0 MARKS

You can find our comments in the conclusions.

Conclusions

According to test results, the product from Palit is the leader, despite some blunders in 3D. We should also take into account that the GeForce 7xxx series currently offers better features for decoding HD-video, including H.264, while the decoder from ATI does not work quite correctly on AMD platforms so far. The other two cards demonstrated slightly lower results, sometimes being outperformed by the X1300. On the whole, RADEON X1300 and GeForce 7300 GS are on a par. It will all be up to the price.

  1. Albatron GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E is the cheapest accelerator among today's models under review. Good quality, nominal frequencies. Nearly OEM bundle. A budget solution for those who need a cheap and plain accelerator to be installed into a computer without any special 3D requirements. Good 2D quality - up to 1600x1200, 75Hz.

  2. MSI NX7300GS GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E will interest users of computers with small PC cases, because this accelerator is very small. Unfortunately, the bundle does not include a bracket for Low-Profile SLIM PC cases. At the same time, memory in this card operates at a higher frequency (relative to the nominal value). Nothing much, but it's still a nice feature. The bundle is unassuming, so it's just an interesting budget solution. 2D quality is good up to 1600x1200, 75 Hz.

  3. Palit GeForce 7300 GS 128MB GDDR3 PCI-E is the most overclocked and the fastest accelerator among the models reviewed today. Perhaps it's even the fastest model among all GeForce 7300 GS cards. I doubt that any manufacturer will equip such cards with 1.4ns memory operating at higher than 600 (1200) MHz. In fact it turns out a 128bit card with memory operating at 300 (600) MHz, while the X1300 has even lower memory bandwidth. Considering prices for Palit products (almost always lower than for products from other vendors), we can assume that this product will be the best offer among what you can get for $70-$80 (for PCI-E).

2D quality is excellent, even 1600x1200 85Hz mode was surprisingly sharp.

On the whole, RADEON X1300 competes well with the new products from NVIDIA in its segment, though we cannot give the palm to any product. And the X1300 is more expensive so far. It has nothing to do with the card from Palit, it's a certain leader.

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 X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)


PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER





Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
April 12, 2006

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