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Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E
Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E

February 2, 2007







TABLE OF CONTENTS

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



Do you know what Extreme is? It's always something extraordinary. That's the name of Leadtek accelerators operating at increased frequencies.

Today we are going to examine two 3D accelerators from this company. They are not the fastest models, they belong to the most popular Middle segment.

These are GeForce 7900 GS and 7950GT. The latter card is the sterling G71 with all pipelines enabled, while the former card has some of them locked (you can see the details in specifications published below). Leadtek decided to make 7950GT cheaper by equipping this card with just 256 MB of memory, while the standard modification must have 512 MB. But to make up for this loss, the company raised operating frequencies from 550/1400 MHz to 600/1430 MHz. Thus, this card will demonstrate higher performance in games that pose maximum requirements to shader computations, even though the card has less memory.

What concerns 7900GS, the card from Leadtek is also overclocked (520/1400 MHz versus the standard 450/1320 MHz). Both video cards belong to the previous G71 family, not to G80. But they are still very popular on the gaming market and support practically all modern functions. But there is no HDR+AA and anisotropy is of lower quality than in AMD/ATI RADEON X1xxx.

That's OK, but the problem is that Leadtek cards are disappearing from Russian stores. Products from this company used to be popular among users as well as vendors. We could easily buy high-quality products from Leadtek, along with devices from ASUS, MSI, and other industrial powers. But the situation has changed.

I cannot list the reasons, as I don't know all details. But there is some information that the company is experiencing some problems. Problems with marketing and sales. It looks like all good specialists were sacked. And don't forget that Leadtek stands in close financial relation to FOXCONN. And this company has started manufacturing cards under its own trademark. So to all appearances, the star of Leadtek is doomed to pale. What a pity! All products from this company we've ever reviewed were always of excellent quality. They used to offer a lot of interesting features and ideas. That is the company did not stand waiting and didn't manufacture clones of reference designs. But everything changes. Alas... Not always for the better. We speak only about video cards here, of course. Leadtek also manufactures other products, and they are doing well so far.

Let's proceed to the examination of two our cards, to be more exact, just a single card. Both products are absolutely identical in exterior, they are based on the same elements.

Video Cards



Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 7900 GS (G71)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders/Geom): 520/520/520 MHz (nominal — 450/450/450 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 700 (1400) MHz (nominal — 660 (1320) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: 7
  • Pixel processors: 20
  • Unified processors: -
  • Texture processors: 20
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 190x100x16 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).
  • PCB color: light-green.
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).




Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E
  • GPU: GeForce 7950 GT (G71)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders/Geom): 600/600/600 nbsp]MHz (nominal — 550/550/550 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 715 (1430) MHz (nominal — 700 (1400) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: 8
  • Pixel processors: 24
  • Unified processors: -
  • Texture processors: 24
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 190x100x16 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).
  • PCB color: light-green.
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).






Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E; Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 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). 1.4 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 700 (1400) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E; Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS


Comparison with the reference design, back view
Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E; Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS



As we can see, it's an all-purpose solution. It's actually one and the same card, but it's used differently. Besides, one card uses a cut-down GPU, while the other model uses a sterling processor. Plus differences in hardware. They certainly use different BIOS versions, different clockings.

Both cards are actually based on the simplest PCB we've ever seen with a 256-bit memory bus - 7900GT. This PCB appeared almost a year ago and made it possible to manufacture the cheapest Hi-End cards. And now it has descended to the Middle-End sector. The PCB is equipped with as little core logic as possible for this product, memory chips are arranged in the usual semi-circle around the GPU on the front side of the PCB.

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 × 1536 × 32bit ×85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 × 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface (both DVI jacks with Dual-Link)

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%. What concerns HDTV and other trendy video features, we are going to sort them out as soon as possible.

Now about the cooling systems. Both cards (Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E and Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E) are actually equipped with the same cooler.

It's a typical device we've seen since GeForce 7800. It's a large closed heatsink that covers not only the core, but also memory chips. It holds an off-center fan that drives the air inside the heatsink. The turbine is slow, so there is practically no noise, although similar devices in 7800-series cards were quite noisy.

The 600 MHz certainly gets hot. While the huge two-slot cooler from the 7900 GTX easily coped with such heat dissipation, our single-slot cooler is evidently insufficient, although we didn't raise the rotational speed and the core temperature did not exceed 80°C.

Bundle

Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E; Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E
Both cards have identical bundles. User manual, CD with drivers, games (Serious Sam II, SpellForce2), CD with Cyberlink software to create and and play DVD, DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, component output adapter, external power splitter.




Packages

Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E; Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E

Both boxes are also identical, only labels are different.

A big bright glossy box made of cardboard. The card and all bundled components are secured inside and arranged into cardboard sections. So dangling is out of the question.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Intel Core2 Duo (775 Socket) based computer
    • CPU: Intel Core2 Duo Extreme X6800 (2930 MHz) (L2=4096K)
    • Motherboard: EVGA nForce 680i SLI on NVIDIA nForce 680i
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM Corsair 1142MHz (CAS (tCL)=5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=5; Row Precharge (tRP)=5; tRAS=15)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA
    • PSU: Tagan 1100-U95 (1100W).

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitor: Dell 3007WFP (30").
  • Drivers: ATI CATALYST 6.12; NVIDIA Drivers 96.97.

VSync is disabled.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with/without HDR), maximum settings.

  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (HDR), demo (demo Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

  • FarCry 1.4 (beta) (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0b/3.0 (with/without HDR), 3 demos from the Research level (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings. We used HDRRendering=1 for HDR tests

  • PREY 1.01 (3D Realms Entertainment / Human Head Studios / 2K Games) — OpenGL, shaders 2.x, demo003 (40MB!). Tests were run with maximum quality. The batch file is included.

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

  • Serious Sam II 1.068 (Croteam/2K Games) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 3.0 (with/without HDR), batch file to start the test. It's the standard demo0002 that comes with the game. Tests settings — maximum.

    We express our thanks to our reader, Vozniuk Valery AKA Px, for his batch file to run this game.

  • F.E.A.R. v.1.08 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, maximum test settings, Soft shadows disabled.

  • Company Of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ) — DirectX 9.0, shaders 2.0, startup batch file. When you start the game, you should go to options, choose the graphics section, and press the test button. Tests were run with maximum quality.

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0c, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,



Video cards' performance

If you are familiar with 3D graphics, you will understand our diagrams and draw your own conclusions. What concerns beginners and those who just started to look for a video card, we shall include some explanations.

Firstly, you should look through our reference materials on modern video cards and their GPUs. Note operating frequencies, support for modern technologies (shaders), as well as a pipeline architecture.



ATI RADEON X1300-1600-1800-1900 Reference

NVIDIA GeForce 7300-7600-7800-7900 Reference

Secondly, if you have just faced the problem of choosing a video card and are at a loss, our 3D-Video section offers articles about 3D basics (you will still have to understand them - when you run a game and open its options, you'll see such notions as textures, lighting, etc) as well as reviews of new products. There are just two companies that manufacture graphics processors: ATI (it has been recently bought by AMD and now bears the same name - AMD) and NVIDIA. So most information is divided into these two sections. We also publish monthly 3Digests that sum up all comparisons of video cards for various price segments.

Thirdly, have a look at the test results of our today's cards. Leadtek card based on GeForce 7900 GS slightly outperforms RADEON X1950 PRO (operating at the standard frequencies) in most tests owing to its increased frequencies. But it's outperformed by the overclocked X1950 PRO. If we assume that their prices are identical, what card should you choose? The card from Leadtek is evidently better in OpenGL games (DOOM III, PREY, and other games based on the engine from id Software). But there are few such games, most of them use DirectX. On the other hand, the X1950 PRO allows to enable HDR and antialiasing simultaneously, and still demonstrates playable performance. Besides, this card offers anisotropic filtering of higher quality. So the choice is not simple here. It will all be up to the price.

What concerns the 7950GT from Leadtek, the situation is different. Tests demonstrate that increased frequencies may be more important in modern games than 512 MB of memory, so this product is very good. Competition with AMD/ATI? - It's a complex issue, because the Canadian company does not offer clear positioning in this segment. This segment is ruled by the X1900 series. Be it XT, XTX, GT - it depends on prices, which may differ much. But one thing is clear: if the price of X1900 XT 256MB is equal or lower, this product may be preferable. Besides, like the above mentioned X1950 PRO, it offers HDR+AA and better anisotropy. But the choice is again up to prices.

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





Conclusions

Leadtek WinFast PX7900GS TDH Extreme (GeForce 7900 GS) 256MB PCI-E is a very good choice for $180-$210, increased frequencies are a bonus. It has a good bundle - more or less new SS2 game. I repeat, if the card is cheaper than RADEON X1950 PRO, it will be a good choice. Otherwise, the latter is a winner here, possessing a number of features that NVIDIA products lack.

Leadtek WinFast PX7950GT TDH Extreme (GeForce 7950 GT) 256MB PCI-E is an original card. A tad questionable: what is better - increased frequencies and less memory, or vice versa? I think that overclockers would prefer more memory, because they can raise frequencies on their own. And common users can make the other choice, the card is faster than the reference model in many games. What else do you need? Getting performance gains for the same price - not bad. But that's true only if you cannot get X1900 XT for the same price.

Both products traditionally offer excellent Leadtek quality. The brand is up to the mark here. What concerns availability in stores - I mentioned the situation in the beginning of the article. Cards from this company are becoming extinct on the market. Bad news.

The choice is up to our readers, as always. We just provide information about this or that product. But we don't offer you direct instructions what products to choose.

And one more thing: having chosen a 3D accelerator (a video card in your computer), you should understand that you change one of the key components of your system unit, which cannot and shouldn't work without proper configuration. This is not an end product, it's just a component. So you should understand that you'll have to learn 3D graphics basics in order to get maximum performance from a new video card. And some graphics as well. If you don't want to deal with it, you shouldn't upgrade your computer on your own: you'd better buy ready PCs with preconfigured software, or game boxes, where no configuration is required.

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








We express our thanks to
IT Labs
for the provided video cards



PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by TAGAN




                               The Dell 3007WFP monitor for the testbeds was kindly provided by NVIDIA










Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

February 2, 2007


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