Summary: It's been well over a year since NVIDIA originally introduced the GeForce 6600 GT, time for a replacement don't you think? Today NVIDIA's introducing the GeForce 7600 GT, the chip features a 560MHz graphics core and 700MHz memory. But how does it perform and overclock? Well if you thought last year's GeForce 6800 GS was a nice card, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Among gamers and hardware enthusiasts, NVIDIA’s most popular mainstream offerings have been the GeForce4 Ti 4200 and, most recently, the GeForce 6600 GT.
The GeForce4 Ti 4200 was perhaps the most spectacular mainstream graphics card of all time. This is because the GeForce4 Ti 4200 shared all the key features found in NVIDIA’s flagship GeForce4 Ti 4600 card, right down to the GeForce4 Ti 4600’s 4 pixel pipeline/2 texture units per pixel pipeline architecture with dual vertex shaders to boot. The only differences between the Ti 4200 and the Ti 4600 were clock speeds and price; the Ti 4600 shipped with a 300MHz graphics core and 325MHz (650MHz effective) memory, while the Ti 4200 was clocked 50MHz slower at 250MHz, with either 250MHz (500MHz effective) or 222MHz (444MHz effective) memory. In terms of price, the Ti 4600 retailed for $400, while the Ti 4200 offered a much more affordable price tag of either $179 or $199 when launched.
Could you imagine paying $200 for a GeForce card that had all the same features as NVIDIA’s latest flagship offering, only it runs 50MHz slower on the graphics core and 75MHz on the memory in today’s market? Didn’t think so.
The GeForce4 Ti 4200 was a wildly successful card for NVIDIA, it was the upgrade of choice for countless gamers. In fact the GeForce4 Ti 4200 delivered so much performance that many gamers held on to their cards until well after the first round of DirectX 9 hardware was launched by ATI and NVIDIA – many of these gamers were content with their Ti 4200’s performance in their favorite games and didn’t really feel the need to upgrade until more demanding games came along like Far Cry and Half-Life 2. It wasn’t unheard of for a Ti 4200 user to get two or more years of life out of his card before he felt the need to upgrade. In fact we wouldn’t be surprised if many of you were still running your Ti 4200 card to this day!
The GeForce 6600 family was equally successful, delivering incredible performance in a $200 package: the 6600 GT in particular was capable of delivering performance equal to a Radeon 9700 Pro or 9800 Pro in DX9 games despite its narrower 128-bit memory interface. According to NVIDIA, over a million 6600 GPUs have shipped since launch, ushering in shader model 3.0 to a wide audience. Based on Valve’s latest survey results, the GeForce 6600 is the fifth most popular GPU among Half-Life 2 users, ranking right up there with the Radeon 9800 and 9600 (which hold the top two spots due in large part to the ATI/Half-Life 2 bundle) in terms of percentage.
The fact that NVIDIA went well over a year since launching the GeForce 6600 without a GPU to replace it is a testament to the GeForce 6600’s capabilities.
With such big shoes to fill, does the GeForce 7600 GT live up to its predecessors? Let’s find out!
NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GT is based off NVIDIA’s brand new 90-nm G73 graphics core. G73 supports all the latest features found in NVIDIA’s latest high-end GeForce 7900 cards, including shader model 3.0, NVIDIA’s more robust CineFX 4.0 architecture which boasts more powerful pixel and vertex shaders that have been tuned to handle more complex math operations, high dynamic range lighting, PureVideo, SLI, and transparency anti-aliasing, which can be used to improve anti-aliasing image quality.
NVIDIA has even integrated one dual-link DVI transmitter into the GeForce 7600 GT, while the 7900 family have two dual-link DVI ports.
Looking over the paper specs, NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GT is very well equipped to replace the GeForce 6600 GT, boasting faster memory, more pixel and vertex shaders, and higher core clock speed to boot (both the core clock and vertex clock run at 560MHz on the GeForce 7600 GT). G73 consists of 177 million transistors, in comparison GeForce 6600 GT contained 146 million while the X1600 contains 157 million. Enough with the paper specs though, let’s take a look at the actual card!
Like the GeForce 6600 GT, the GeForce 7600 GT features a single-slot cooler and is built on a rather small PCB. No external power connector is necessary, G73 gets all the juice it needs from the PCI Express interface, while the reference board design gets by with fairly mundane power circuitry. As we mentioned on the previous page, NVIDIA equips the GeForce 7600 GT with one dual-link DVI connector, that dual-link connector is the connector closest to the motherboard when plugged into the PCI Express slot. NVIDIA also integrates their new 7-pin HDTV-out mini-din connector on the back plate of the GeForce 7600 GT.
While our reference board shipped with dual DVIs, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some GeForce 7600 GT boards eventually ship with the more traditional DVI/VGA combination, despite the fact that the GPU’s got native support for dual DVIs. After all, ATI’s own X1600 XT reference board was also outfitted with dual DVI connections but we’ve already seen ATI board partners integrate VGA connections onto their boards. Fortunately for LCD users though it looks like the first wave of GeForce 7600 GT boards are all shipping with dual DVIs.
For keeping the graphics core cool, NVIDIA has elected to use a copper heatsink/fan unit. The cooler’s fan has a very high pitch to it, although fortunately it really only spins up when you first boot up your PC. For the most part the card runs fairly quietly, although the GeForce 7600 GT doesn’t run as quiet as the near silent fan on the GeForce 7900 GTX.
Home theater PC use
Pricing for retail, shipping GeForce 7600 GT cards should start right at $199.99, with the more exotic 7600 GT boards with higher clocks going up in price from there. XFX and EVGA’s plans for the GeForce 7600 GT can be found in the following table:
While we don’t have the final clocks for the EVGA boards, XFX did tell us that their $200 board would be clocked at 570MHz core/725MHz memory, so you’re effectively getting a slight overclock from factory specs out-of-the-box with no price premium with that card. From there their GeForce 7600 GT Extreme board will ship at speeds of 580MHz core/750MHz memory, and their flagship board, the GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition will run at 590MHz core/800MHz memory and retail for $219.99. All of XFX and EVGA’s boards will ship with dual DVIs as well.
ATI’s decided to counter today’s GeForce 7600 GT launch with a new GPU, the Radeon X1800 GTO. The X1800 GTO is based entirely on ATI’s R520 GPU – in other words this is the exact same chip that shipped in $500+ cards just a few months ago – only it has had some of its shaders disabled. The X1800 GTO features 12 pixel shaders, 8 vertex shaders, and is built with the same 512-bit (internal) ring bus memory controller with a 256-bit external memory interface that is used on elder X1800/X1900 cards. ATI also maintains 2x dual-link DVI connectors, while the chip runs at 500MHz on the graphics core, and is equipped with 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 500MHz memory. The most appealing part about all this? Price. ATI expects boards to sell for about $249.
We posted the complete specs for the X1800 GTO on page 2 of this article.
The Radeon X1800 GTO also supports ATI’s CrossFire technology although right now that support is tied to the Radeon X1800 CrossFire Master card, just like the Radeon X1800 XL. This means that you’ll have to fork over $249 for a Radeon X1800 GTO card and then another $349 for a Radeon X1800 CrossFire 512MB card only for the more expensive X1800 CrossFire board to run with half of its memory disabled and only 12 functional pixel shaders. Remember, according to the CrossFire FAQ:
What concerns us the most about the whole situation regarding the X1800 GTO is how heavily ATI is policing their partners. If you recall the X800 GT/X800 GTO boards, ATI’s board partners were all over the map in terms of features and clock speeds. In response to this question ATI stated that certain critical aspects of the X1800 GTO will be strictly enforced such as the 256-bit memory interface and pipelines, but guidelines for other features such as memory size, cooling, etc won’t be written in stone. In other words, ATI’s board partners may be given some leeway to dress their cards up a little, but hopefully it won’t turn into the confusing mess that the X800 GT and X800 GTO eventually became.
3DMark 06– Direct3D
3DMark 06– Direct3D
Half-Life 2 – Direct3D
Battlefield 2 – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
LOMAC – Direct D
Pacific Fighters – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Call of Duty 2 – Direct3D
Serious Sam 2 – Direct3D
You saw the benchmarks. The GeForce 7600 GT easily outperformed the GeForce 6800 GS in all our tests. Whether it was a shader model 3.0 test or not, OpenGL vs Direct3D, AA or no AA, even in HDR testing the GeForce 7600 GT came out ahead of the GeForce 6800 GS. The most amazing thing about it is that the GeForce 7600 GT manages to pull it off with considerably less memory bandwidth (thanks to its 128-bit memory interface) and only 12 pipelines.
ATI tried to throw a curveball at NVIDIA with the Radeon X1800 GTO, but based on our testing, it looks like the GeForce 7600 GT knocked them out of the park, as the X1800 GTO doesn’t have a clear performance advantage in comparison to the 7600 GT, in fact it’s outrun by the NVIDIA card in most of our benchmarks. On top of this, the X1800 GTO costs more and doesn’t have a dongle-less CrossFire solution. We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the X1800 GTO later this month once retail cards from ATI’s board partners are available.
In case you were wondering about other GeForce 7600 GT variants to come down the pipeline, NVIDIA hasn’t announced anything yet. Today’s G73 launch only includes the GeForce 7600 GT on the PCI Express interface. Those of you hoping for an AGP version should cross your fingers and make your voice heard. With so much performance coming from such a diminutive package we think there would be huge demand for an AGP GeForce 7600 GT card, but perhaps that’s just us. We also can’t wait to see what NVIDIA does with latter 7600 variants, hopefully NVIDIA won’t chop too much off these boards.
Anyone in the market for a new $200 graphics card though should definitely consider NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GT. This card is definitely one of the best buys to come along since the GeForce 6600 GT, and the GeForce4 Ti 4200 before that. NVIDIA’s legacy for building compelling mainstream GPUs definitely lives on.
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