Summary: With clock speeds of 460MHz core/1350MHz memory, EVGA's e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock is the fastest GeForce 7800 GS AGP card on the market right now. But how much additional performance does the card's boosted clocks buy you? Find out as we test this card against the latest AGP cards on the market (as well as the 9800 Pro) as well as run a few CPU scaling tests to see how it performs at lower clock speeds. And don't forget to check out the overclocking results!
Once we dusted off our trusty A8V Deluxe AGP testbed though and the benchmarks began to roll in, the card slowly began to make more sense. What!? Before you begin to question our sanity, we’ll explain…
Let’s set the record straight once and for all. The GeForce 7800 GS AGP is not the second-coming of the GeForce 7800 GTX, only on AGP. It’s not the GeForce 7800 GT reincarnated either. And it was never intended to be.
During the design phase of the GeForce 7800 GS AGP, NVIDIA made a conscious decision to launch the GeForce 7800 GS AGP at a certain (lower) price point than previous GeForce 7800 products. While it’s a little hard to believe now, remember that the GeForce 7800 GTX launched at $600 back in June, while the GeForce 7800 GT launched at $450 in August. NVIDIA felt that the average AGP buyer didn’t want to pay a premium to upgrade his or her existing AGP system. After all, if you’re going to spend that much money on an upgrade, you might as well upgrade your entire PC, including the CPU, motherboard, and graphics, rather than dumping it all into one component right?
NVIDIA also reasoned that AGP systems have a different power budget than PCs on the PCI Express platform. For starters, the AGP interface can’t supply the graphics card with as much power as PCI Express, and many AGP users aren’t going to want to upgrade their power supply just to run a new graphics card. If you recall the GeForce 6800 Ultra launch, the 6800U was the first desktop AGP card to be outfitted with dual Molex connectors. NVIDIA even stated on launch day that the card required a 480-watt power supply to run at full clocks. It wasn’t until our site showed that the GeForce 6800 Ultra could be safely run on some 350-watt PSUs that NVIDIA relented and changed the power supply recommendation to a “quality” 350-watt PSU or better.
With 20 or more pipelines in the GeForce 7800 PCI Express line running at over 400MHz, NVIDIA didn’t want to risk a repeat of the same situation, instead they decided to build a card that would be compatible with a wide range of AGP systems.
What we’re trying to say is that rather than producing an ultra high-end GeForce 6800 GT/Ultra killer that would only appeal to a limited audience, NVIDIA decided to focus on building a card that brought all the key features introduced with GeForce 7 (including more robust pixel/vertex shaders, PureVideo, and transparency AA) to the widest range of AGP users possible. Whether you built a high-end Northwood-based Pentium 4 system 2 ˝ years ago and are looking for an adequate upgrade from your Radeon 9800 Pro, a Barton Athlon XP user with a GeForce 6600 GT, or a small form factor owner looking to upgrade your HTPC, the GeForce 7800 GS AGP will be compatible for all of you.
In other words, one last card to rule them all.
As we mentioned in our BFG review, the GPU only draws up to 75W of peak power consumption, requires one Molex adapter to operate, doesn’t generate a lot of heat, and features a single-slot cooler that runs considerably quieter than the high-end AGP cards of yesteryear such as the Radeon X800XT/X850 series and the GeForce 6800 GT/Ultra. In addition, the GeForce 7800 GS delivers solid overall performance across a wide range of benchmarks, including an exemplary performance showing in Far Cry with HDR, while board prices are falling rapidly. Already Pricegrabber lists the card for $303.60, while Mwave prices start at $307. At this rate it wouldn’t be surprising to see online prices approaching the sub-$300 mark in a matter of days.
The bottom line is that for enthusiasts looking for the most performance from the GeForce 7800 GS AGP, the real innovation isn’t going to come from NVIDIA – their reference specifications for the GeForce 7800 GS AGP aren’t going to be changing – instead it’s going to come from NVIDIA’s board partners. Once again NVIDIA’s given them lots of leeway when it comes to their retail boards: clock speeds, cooling, etc, it’s all fair game to be tweaked and adjusted for more performance.
This brings us to EVGA’s e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock board. EVGA’s fine-tuned their card to run faster than any other GeForce 7800 GS AGP card on the market. Let’s take a look at what’s different with this card.
Just above the e-GeForce 7800 GS is EVGA’s e-GeForce 7800 GS CO (Part Number 256-A8-N506-AX). The CO board runs at 430MHz on the graphics core, 55MHz higher than stock, while its memory runs at 650MHz (1.3GHz effective), that’s a 50MHz boost over NVIDIA’s reference specifications.
The big kahuna of EVGA’s lineup though is the card we’re reviewing today, the e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock. The Superclock board ships with the highest clock speeds that have been announced to date for a GeForce 7800 GS card, as EVGA clocks the cards graphics core at 460MHz, that’s 85MHz over stock, and the board’s memory runs at 675MHz, 75MHz over your typical GeForce 7800 GS AGP card. These changes improve fill-rate by nearly 20% (to 7360 Mtexels/sec) while memory bandwidth improves by 11% (to 43.2GB/sec). EVGA lists a $380 MSRP for the e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock. We’ve provided the following chart summarizing how the boards stack up against each other, as well as a few other GPUs on the market:
Reference board design
It’s important to note that while EVGA does clock their e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock board higher than any other GeForce 7800 GS AGP card on the market, it’s fundamentally unchanged from the other first-gen GeForce 7800 GS AGP cards on the market, as it’s based 100% on NVIDIA’s reference board design for the GeForce 7800 GS AGP. EVGA even produces an e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock SKU with NVIDIA’s reference fan, the part number for that board is 256-A8-N508-AX. The board we’re reviewing today is equipped with an “EVGA fan” (Part Number 256-A8-N509-AX), but technically this is the exact same cooler that NVIDIA and their other board partners are using on their respective GeForce 7800 GS AGP cards, the only difference is that EVGA adds their logo to the top of the card’s fan.
While this may be a little disappointing to some enthusiasts, NVIDIA’s reference board design for the GeForce 7800 GS AGP is actually quite good. The GPU doesn’t generate a lot of heat, even when running overclocked and under load we’ve only seen temps as high as 65 degrees Celsius, and the reference cooler does an excellent job of keeping the graphics core, HSI chip, and the board’s memory cool while generating little noise in the process: the GeForce 7800 GS AGP runs considerably quieter than other high-end AGP graphics cards like the GeForce 6800 Ultra and Radeon X850 XT.
Accessories bundled with the card include two EVGA case badges, the owner’s manual and driver CD, a power adapter, DVI adapter, and S-Video cable. The card doesn’t ship with a game bundle.
Before we move on to the benchmarks, we wanted to take a quick look at the GeForce 7800 GS AGP’s performance with NVIDIA’s transparency AA enabled. Our Half-Life 2 demo that we use for testing happens to have a few chain link fences that we run by towards the beginning of the demo, so we used that particular demo for our testing. The EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock results are highlighted in yellow, with the “MSAA” results indicating 4x multisample anti-aliasing and the “TRSSAA” indicating that transparency anti-aliasing with super-sampling was used.
We should also note that gamma correction was turned on as well for all transparency AA results.
Half-Life 2 – Direct3D
In order to simulate the performance of EVGA’s e-GeForce 7800 GS CO board, we should note that we underclocked our e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock board to run at the CO’s stock speeds of 430/650MHz.
3DMark 06– Direct3D
Half-Life 2 – Direct3D
Battlefield 2 – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
IL-2: FB – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Call of Duty 2 – Direct3D
Serious Sam 2 – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
HL2 Lost Coast
HL2 Lost Coast
GeForce 7800 GS core: Make no mistake about it, the GeForce 7800 GS will never be confused for a GeForce 7800 GTX or 7800 GT – with only 16 pixel shaders, 8 ROPs, and 6 vertex units, its pipeline configuration resembles the GeForce 6800 line more so than the GeForce 7800 GPUs. Instead NVIDIA’s essentially bringing the GeForce 7800 feature set to AGP users. You’ve got GeForce 7’s more powerful shaders, transparency AA, and full PureVideo support. These are all assets that the GeForce 6800 GT and Ultra don’t have. In terms of performance, the GeForce 7800 GS clearly bests the GeForce 6800 GT, and outperforms the GeForce 6800 Ultra under many conditions as well. Its most notable performance showing was in Far Cry with HDR, where the stock GeForce 7800 GS card delivered 1.5 times the performance of the GeForce 6800 Ultra.
Is the GeForce 7800 GS AGP a GeForce 6800 Ultra killer? No. Apparently NVIDIA didn’t want it to be either. Instead they decided to appeal to a wider audience. Only time will tell if this was the right decision on their part.
Faster Clock Speeds: With a 460MHz graphics core and 675MHz memory, EVGA’s e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclocked is the fastest GeForce 7800 GS AGP card that’s been announced to date. The e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock outran the stock GeForce 7800 GS card by 17% in F.E.A.R. and HL2 Lost Coast with HDR at 1280x1024.
EVGA Lifetime warranty: EVGA is one of a handful of NVIDIA board partners to provide a lifetime warrant on all of their latest graphics cards. EVGA’s lifetime warranty isn’t a gimmick either, it’s a true lifetime warranty. Once you register your card with EVGA, you’re covered for as long as you own your card. The warranty itself is also comprehensive, covering everything except physical damage to the card. This means you can’t void your warranty by overclocking or by replacing the board’s stock cooling and mounting a third-party cooler on the card. According to EVGA, as long as the card isn’t physically damaged, you’re covered under warranty.
EVGA Step-Up/Support: EVGA has been know for providing excellent customer support to their users, which has earned them a loyal following among gamers. EVGA provides 24/7 toll-free tech support, as well as email and community support via their online forums, which are constantly monitored by EVGA employees. EVGA is also the only NVIDIA board partner who provides an upgrade program for their customers, known as Step-Up.
Step-up allows EVGA customers to trade in their existing EVGA graphics card for the latest and greatest model available, as long as the upgrade occurs within 90 days of the initial card purchase. When you trade in your card, you’ll get the full price you paid for your card too, it won’t depreciate or anything like that. EVGA customers simply pay the difference between the two cards to complete the transaction. This allows prospective EVGA owners to purchase a faster graphics card if the original doesn’t meet their needs, or upgrade if NVIDIA introduces newer technology. The only downside to Step-Up is that you can only use it once, so you should use it wisely.
No Dual-link DVI: For PCI Express-based GeForce 7800 cards, NVIDIA provides one dual-link DVI connection. This connector is used for driving ultra high-end LCDs like the Apple 30” Cinema Display and the Dell 3007WFP at their native resolution of 2560x1600. Unfortunately, NVIDIA doesn’t include a dual-link DVI connector on the GeForce 7800 GS AGP reference design, and as far as we know, none of NVIDIA’s board partners have announced a GeForce 7800 GS AGP with such a connector.
Enthusiasts who are looking for a little more performance than the stock e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock provides however may want to keep an eye out for EVGA’s next GeForce 7800 GS AGP. Following on the heels of their e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO ACS3 card, EVGA’s working on another KO board with ACS cooling for the GeForce 7800 GS AGP. With even better cooling than the board we’re reviewing today, it probably wouldn’t be too bold of a prediction to expect even higher clocks than today’s e-GeForce 7800 GS CO Superclock board provides. We can’t wait to see what that card can do once it’s released!
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