TABLE OF CONTENTS
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.
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:
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.
Installation and Drivers
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:
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.
Game tests that heavily load vertex shaders, pixel shaders 2.0, active multitexturing.
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Call Of Duty 2 DEMO
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
Chronicles of Riddick, demo 44
Synthetic tests that heavily load shader units
3DMark06: Shader 2.0 MARKS
3DMark06: Shader 3.0 MARKS
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
April 12, 2006
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