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Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E
Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E

June 13, 2006



TABLE OF CONTENTS

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


Do you remember an old joke? "Epitaph on a gravestone: Not all yoghurts are identically health-giving!" I guess many of you heard it.

Of course, a video card will hardly drive you to lethal outcome, but the question remains. Moreover, it's getting increasingly important.

When the 3D accelerator market only started to dispart into price segments, people noticed that vendors stuck to specifications (frequencies and memory buses) only in High-End sector. What concerned Low-End, they used whatever was available at the storage. Quite different products came under the same title - GeForce2 MX, GeForce4 MX, GeForce FX 5200/5600, GeForce FX 5700LE, GeForce 6200, 6600. To be more exact, they would have the same core, but quite different frequencies and buses. That's what was really going on.

Then such tricks gradually came to the Middle-End sector (up to $180 USD). And here you must be very careful. Narrow buses are much more rare here, but reduced frequencies are quite possible. By the way, you may also be in for a surprise - increased frequencies, while the manufacturer does not mention it in a product description.

It may happen, because the cheaper the chipset, the more chances it has to appear on the so-called grey market. So it may be purchased by any manufacturer with various conscience levels. We all know that all gaming video cards are made in China. These manufacturers are ready for a bargain with their conscience to save 20 cents. That's the reason for the appearance of defeatured cards, sometimes even of questionable quality. Moreover, we know some cases when well-known manufacturers produced curtailed cards and sold them as sterling models, withholding information about the reduced frequencies. That was especially popular, when manufacturers started covering memory chips with heatsinks. So that you couldn't determine memory access time and type during a brief survey of a card. Thus, accelerators could be equipped with slower memory - manufacturers hoped that users wouldn't notice the difference in frequencies. It was done for the sake of miserable profits.

So, let's get to the point. GeForce 7300 GS, 7600 GS video cards belong to the segment below $80 and $150 correspondingly. So they blend well with the above-mentioned situation. To be more exact, they have such potential. Unfortunately, NVIDIA does not have tentacles of a world hydra to track all products, based on their processors. So frequency reductions may go unpunished. Besides, I think that NVIDIA will shut its eyes to reducing MEMORY frequencies (not GPU frequencies), even if it's in the know.

Today we are going to examine four cards. Two of them obviously have frequencies that differ from the nominal values. Thank God that only one card is equipped with slower memory (thus reducing the overall potential), the second card is actually overclocked. However, the word "overclocked" is not appropriate here, as this accelerated GeForce 7600 GS card is based on the 7600 GT PCB. But we are putting a cart before a horse. Let's examine the cards one by one.

About manufacturers. Gigabyte is too popular in Russia to describe it here. Galaxy is also a well-known brand, though relatively new. It's a Polish company with manufacturing facilities in China. It sometimes resorts to outsourcing, that is it orders cards on third-party plants instead of manufacturing them on its own. We have never had gripes with products from this vendor, these products are of good quality. Axle is an ancient manufacturer, much older than Galaxy. It has been present on the Russian market for almost 10 years already. But for all these years the company has been selling its products as noname. You can very seldom come across the name of this manufacturer in price lists. Its video cards used to be of mediocre quality, but the quality level has grown of late. The company even offers interesting designs, etc. So it will be very interesting to examine the GeForce 7600 GS card from Axle.

Video Cards



Gigabyte 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: 160x100x15mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card). Dimensions are published for a card with a cooling system

PCB color: dark blue.

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

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7600 GT (G73)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 560 MHz (nominal — 560 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 700 (1400) MHz (nominal — 700 (1400) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 5

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 12

Number of texture processors: 12

Number of ROPs: 8

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

PCB color: green.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (one of them is Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7600 GS (G73)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 400 MHz (nominal — 400 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 350 (700) MHz (nominal — 400 (800) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 5

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 12

Number of texture processors: 12

Number of ROPs: 8

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

PCB color: black.

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

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.

Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
GPU: GeForce 7600 GS (G73)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 500 MHz (nominal — 400 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 700 (1400) MHz (nominal — 400 (800) MHz)

Memory bus width: 128bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 5

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 12

Number of texture processors: 12

Number of ROPs: 8

Dimensions: 160x100x33mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: blue.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (one of them is Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: not available

TV-out: integrated into GPU.





Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR2 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front and back sides of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (GDDR2). 2.5 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 400 (800) MHz.

Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front side of the PCB.

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

Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR2 SDRAM memory, allocated in 8 chips on the front side of the PCB.

Hynix memory chips (GDDR2). 2.8ns memory access time, which corresponds to 350 (700) MHz.

Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
The video card has 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in four chips on the front side of the PCB.

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





Comparison with the reference design, front view
Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TC
Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT
Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS




Comparison with the reference design, back view
Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TC
Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT
Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS




Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E is evidently just a reference card in a package from this vendor (plus a sticker on the cooler - that's all the leading manufacturer of video cards did - the 7600 GT is not a top product and a very complex one). It's sad to see old sky-blue cards with interesting solutions go to the budget sector. The proof is Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E. We can see that this cheap video card is equipped with a prodigious cooling system for some reason.

 

This card would have done well with a passive heatsink, so I don't understand why they used an intricate frame. It's a Low Profile card even without it, a good point for fashionable reduction of PC case dimensions (barebone-kits, etc).

By the way, there is no point in describing the cooler in Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E, as it's a copy of the reference design.

The cooling device on Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E is very simple: a usual cooler of the closed type "a-la GeForce4 Ti" that cools the core (square package, fan inside). Plus heatsinks on memory chips, which are actually not necessary, as 2.8ns memory does not need cooling when operating at standard frequencies. We should get back to the topic of cards with different frequencies here. That's an example of a card with reduced memory frequencies: 700 MHz instead of 800 MHz. It resulted in an insignificant performance drop. But the fact of violated specifications is disquieting. It should be noted that the design of this card differs from the reference one, it even lacks contacts for a SLI adapter (very strange!)

What concerns Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E, this product is unique.



We can see that it has its own design with three jumpers. The bundle also includes a bracket with a switch. The fact is that a set of blue jumpers switches the card from one BIOS to the other. Yep, this card has two BIOS chips in case of unsuccessful attempts to flash new BIOS versions. So you can control from which BIOS it starts up. Either with a jumper or with a switch on a bracket.

A red jumper enables/disables audio alarms in case of malfunctions of the card. And finally the most interesting jumper is the yellow one - in future it will allow to enable/disable hardware monitoring of card's operation and core voltage changes. Galaxy programmers are currently developing Galaxy Smart Panel - this utility will be responsible for monitoring and will allow to adjust some parameters. The yellow jumper will allow or block this feature. The first presentation of this utility is planned at COMPUTEX'2006.

What concerns the cooler, the Galaxy product is equipped with a good modern and efficient solution from ZALMAN. You can read about this cooler at the link above. This device efficiently cools the GPU, remaining noiseless:

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.

Three cards are equipped with VGA (d-Sub) and DVI, while the 7600 GT card from Gigabyte has two DVI jacks. 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 (2560 x 1600 - in case of Dual-Link) - digital interface

Bundle

Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E
User manual, CD with drivers, TV adapter. THAT'S ALL! That's practically OEM rather than a scarce bundle.
Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E
User manual, CD with drivers, Serious Sam II (!). You will also find the following items in the box: DVI-to-d-Sub and TV adapters.
Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
Use manual, CD with drivers, adapter for composite TV out.
Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E
User manual, CD with drivers, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, composite TV-Out adapter, bracket with the BIOS1/BIOS2 switch.




Packages.

Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E

A modest little box. Nearly OEM.

Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E

A nice box - a glossy jacket with a cardboard box inside.

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

Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E

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





The Axle product comes shipped as OEM without a box.

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 6.4; NVIDIA Drivers 84.43.

VSync is disabled.

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

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

  1. Gigabyte GeForce 7300 GS 256MB PCI-E is a usual Low-End accelerator. We should mention the increased memory frequency, though it's not that important for such cards. Its advantage is noiseless operation, because of the lack of a fan. It's a low-profile card, but the frame of this card makes it of a usual height. I repeat that the 7300GS and the RADEON X1300 are similar in performance, so you should pay attention to prices.

    We had no gripes with this card, it demonstrated good 2D quality.

  2. Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB PCI-E is a copy of the reference design in a Gigabyte package, so this product offers no peculiarities. It's slightly outperformed by the X1800 GTO, but it's cheaper so far. So, keep tabs on the prices.

    Quality and reliability of this card are on a very high level (but I'll remind you that it's a reference card; such cards are always of high quality).

  3. Axle GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E is a curtailed version of the 7600 GS. Memory frequencies are reduced and there is no SLI mode, though it's only a theoretical drawback. You will hardly want to build SLI with Middle-End solutions (you'd better buy a single powerful card). What concerns the card itself, if its price is lower than that for the 7600 GS, why not? It's quite a good accelerator for $130. Besides, it offers good quality (I repeat that Axle has started to improve the quality of its products).



  4. Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E is the best product among our today's contenders. Very high operating frequencies (the core is just 60 MHz lower than the 7600 GT), and an effective cooling system (most importantly, it's noiseless), and interesting monitoring prospects (with the release of Galaxy Smart panel), and BIOS backup (when you flash a new version).

    The above comparison tables and diagrams with test results prove that 150 dollars can get you a very good accelerator with the best price/performance characteristics. As usual, we should mention the incompatibility between HDR and AA in NVIDIA cards. We can clearly see it in some 3DMark06 tests. But it's up to you to decide whether it's important to you or not. The card offers good quality. 2D quality is OK!



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







Galaxy GeForce 7600 GS 256MB PCI-E gets the Original Design award (June).





Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPUs ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)





We'd like to thank
Gigabyte Russia
ZEON
for the provided video cards.


PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER





Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
June 13, 2006

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