TABLE OF CONTENTS
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.
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:
The Axle product comes shipped as OEM without a box.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
Summary performance diagrams
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
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
for the provided video cards.
PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 13, 2006
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