Summary: Are you looking for a GeForce 7900 GT card but aren't sure which one to buy? If so, you may want to check out today's article. Inside we've rounded up 5 of the hottest GeForce 7900 GT cards on the market, all of them are factory overclocked and some even feature custom cooling. How do these supercharged GeForce 7900 GT cards perform in comparison to the Radeon X1900 GT and X1800 XT 512MB? Find out inside!
All these enhancements (and more) added up to increased individual pipeline efficiency clock-for-clock than previous GeForce architectures, not to mention the increased number of pixel and vertex shading units that NVIDIA added to GeForce 7800 GTX.
The GeForce 7800 GTX was about more than just performance though – the G70 GPU inside the GeForce 7800 GTX featured full support for NVIDIA’s PureVideo technology, a feature which its predecessor, GeForce 6800 Ultra (NV40) lacked. With GeForce 7800 GTX, NVIDIA also introduced a new transparency AA mode. By taking additional texel samples and antialiasing passes NVIDIA was able to remove the jaggies often found on thin-lined objects such as chain link fences and foliage (strands of grass for instance, or leaves).
Not everyone can afford to spend $500+ on a new graphics card though. To service the lower-end of the high-end market, NVIDIA concocted the GeForce 7800 GT. The 7800 GT was based on the same G70 GPU as the GeForce 7800 GTX and shared most of its key features, only it had four of its pixel shaders disabled and one vertex unit turned off (for a total of 20 and 7 respectively), as well as running at lower clock speeds.
Despite its reduced functionality the 7800 GT was still a terrific performer, delivering very good frame rates at high resolutions and with high graphics settings. This 1-2 punch of the 7800 GTX/GT was a terrific combo for NVIDIA, racking up huge volumes in sales at both the OEM and retail levels. Not since the GeForce4 had NVIDIA enjoyed so much success with both markets.
Replacing such a successful product wouldn’t be easy, but it can’t be denied that NVIDIA’s new G71 GPU powering the GeForce 7900 GT and GeForce 7900 GTX isn’t a strong successor. The new GPU is based on TSMC’s smaller 90-nm manufacturing process, allowing it to consume less power and thus generate less heat than G70. The new process also allows NVIDIA to crank up the clock speeds: at 450MHz, the GeForce 7900 GT runs 20MHz faster than the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB, while the GeForce 7900 GTX runs 200MHz faster at 650MHz. And of course the smaller process makes the GPU cheaper to manufacture, something everyone likes as the GeForce 7900 GT is officially priced at $300 – that’s half the price of the GeForce 7800 GTX on its debut. When you factor in that the GeForce 7900 GT also delivers faster performance than the GeForce 7800 GTX, you’ve got a pretty appealing product that’s hard to resist, and unlike it predecessor, the GeForce 7800 GT, the GeForce 7900 GT shares all the functionality of the more expensive GeForce 7900 GTX. None of its shaders have been disabled.
But for some people, even a stock GeForce 7900 GT isn’t good enough, they want more performance and/or they want better cooling than what the stock GeForce 7900 GT is capable of delivering. For these enthusiasts, we’ve rounded up four of the hottest enthusiast-level GeForce 7900 GT cards on the market; none of these cards are bone stock 7900 GT reference boards, they’ve all got something special added to them, whether it’s higher clock speeds, custom cooling, or both. Let’s take a look at the first card shall we?
ASUS’ GeForce 7900 GT card, the EN7900GT TOP/2DHT, is up for review first, and ASUS has incorporated a number of changes into this board over the basic NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT reference board design.
The most striking difference between the NVIDIA reference board and ASUS’ EN7900GT TOP card is the card’s cooling. As you can see ASUS has developed their own custom cooling solution for this board. ASUS replaces the standard NVIDIA copper heatsink/fan unit with an all-aluminum cooler that is composed of three distinct pieces: an aluminum heatpipe, a large plate, and finally a conventional heatsink.
Flanking the heatpipe is an aluminum heatsink. Fin density varies at different locations on the heatsink, directly over the heatpipe for instance ASUS uses lots of thin, long fins whereas higher up on the card rolled fins are used.
One aspect where ASUS’ cooling definitely stands out though is in the use of active cooling the board’s memory modules. Heat is passed from the memory modules to a large plate, which rests directly above the memory modules and the GPU itself. Thermal pads are mounted to the memory modules to ensure they make contact with the plate. Finally, ASUS finishes it all off with a conventional fan.
Besides the added cooling, another area ASUS sets the EN7900GT TOP card off from standard GeForce 7900 GT boards is with its clock speeds. ASUS clocks the card at 520/720MHz (1.44GHz effective), that’s 70MHz higher than stock on the graphics core and memory, buying the EN7900GT TOP a nice boost in performance in our benchmarks.
The rest of the card is similar to NVIDIA’s reference board design. The EN7900GT TOP is equipped with two dual-link DVI connections, providing full support for 2560x1600 LCD displays like the Dell 3007WFP. If you don’t want the extra cooling and clock speeds provided by the EN7900GT TOP, ASUS also produces a second GeForce 7900 GT SKU, the EN7900GT/2DHT. This card is basically an exact replica of NVIDIA’s reference design. It also sells for a little bit less than the EN7900GT TOP at most online retailers.
Software and accessories
ASUS includes quite a bit of software and hardware accessories with their EN7900GT TOP Edition card. Not only do you get a copy of the game King Kong on DVD-ROM, ASUS also includes the rally racing game Xpand Rally as well as copies of CyberLink Media Show SE 2.0, PowerDirector 3DE, and VirtualDrive 9. Hardware accessories include a component video cable, two DVI adapters, and a power adapter.
Up to that point a few manufacturers would offer a select line of cards that were factory overclocked, usually these were their second generation card that came a little later though. In comparison BFG’s OC cards were available on launch day with supercharged speeds. It was because of these traits that BFG quickly became a popular upgrade solution among the gaming crowd, racking up sales as a result. It wasn’t long before other card manufacturers incorporated many of these features into their own cards, so you could in a way thank BFG for why these features are becoming more prevalent now.
For their GeForce 7900 GT card, BFG continues this tradition, clocking their GeForce 7900 GT OC at speeds of 475MHz on the graphics core, while the board’s memory runs at 680MHz (1.36GHz effective). This is an increase of 25MHz over the stock GeForce 7900 GT on the GPU and 20MHz on the memory. As a result of these changes, BFG’s GeForce 7900 GT OC boasts a slight performance edge over your typical GeForce 7900 GT card, in our testing we found that the board typically ran about 5% faster than NVIDIA’s GeForce 7900 GT reference board.
In order to bring the GeForce 7900 GT OC to market as quickly as possible, BFG sticks closely to NVIDIA’s reference board design for their GeForce 7900 GT OC board. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if this board were produced on the exact same manufacturing line as the reference GeForce 7900 GT card provided to us by NVIDIA. It has got the exact same board layout and selection of components as the reference NVIDIA board, right down to the power circuitry and cooling. The only difference that we can spot is the BFG sticker sitting atop the NVIDIA heatsink/fan cooling unit.
Hardware accessories and software bundle
Like previous graphics card offerings from BFG, the company elects to ship their GeForce 7900 GT OC board without a dedicated game bundle. Instead inside the box you’ll find BFG’s Gamer’s Toolkit CD, which offers a free copy of GameDrive 9.0, plus trial versions of System Mechanic Pro 5, and utility software from webroot software including Spy Sweeper, Window Washer, and Desktop Firewall. The GeForce 7900 GT OC card also came with a coupon offering one month of free game rentals for Red Octane’s G2 service when you sign up for two months and two BFG case badges. Hardware accessories bundled with the card include a component video cable (with integrated S-Video output) for hooking the card up to an HDTV or TV, two DVI adapters, and one 6-pin PCI Express power adapter.
Taking NVIDIA’s latest GPUs to new heights is one role EVGA has relished in. You see, like the card other manufacturers in this roundup, EVGA clocks many of their boards at speeds higher than NVIDIA’s reference specifications from the factory, but what separates them from most other manufacturers is that with each new NVIDIA GPU, they make a line of graphics cards that are specifically designed to run at some of the fastest speeds available on the market, these cards are sold under the “KO” brand for EVGA, with the KO standing for knockout. Often times these KO boards are also outfitted with premium coolers.
Like the ASUS EN7900GT TOP/2DHT, the EVGA e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked has its own custom cooler which not only cools the graphics core, but also the board’s memory modules as well. The heatsink’s overall surface area is actually surprisingly close to that of the ASUS board. One key difference though is that EVGA uses a copper heatsink to cool the graphics core and memory, whereas the ASUS cooler is aluminum-based. Copper is superior to aluminum at transferring heat, with the downside being that it’s more expensive to implement.
EVGA uses one massive copper plate, which rests directly over the GPU and memory. (Thermal pads are used to transfer heat from the memory modules to the underside of the copper base plate.) From there rolled fins are grafted on top of the copper plate to increase its surface area, these fins are also made with copper. The final ingredient EVGA adds to the e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked’s cooling is a low-profile fan. Since copper does such a good job of transferring heat off the graphics core, it’s important that a powerful fan is matched up to it or else the hot air coming off the heatsink has nowhere to go and the whole cooling apparatus becomes less effective. Fortunately EVGA’s fan does a good job of keeping heat in check without getting too noisy, it’s not quite as quiet as the ASUS fan (although it’s close) but it definitely still runs quieter than the stock fan used on the NVIDIA reference boards.
Besides the custom cooler, the other area where EVGA’s e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked excels is in 3D performance. This is because EVGA bestows the card with some of the highest clock speeds on the market. The card is clocked at 580MHz on the graphics core, while the board’s memory runs at 790MHz (1580MHz effective). In comparison to the stock GeForce 7900 GT, that’s an improvement of 130MHz on the GPU and memory, and 70MHz shy of the GeForce 7900 GTX’s 650MHz graphics core, and just 10MHz slower than the GeForce 7900 GTX’s 800MHz RAM.
In other words, EVGA’s e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked is closer in clock speeds to a GeForce 7900 GTX than it is to a GeForce 7900 GT, making it one incredible performer.
As ridiculously fast as the e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked is though, EVGA doesn’t stop there. For gamers looking for even more performance, EVGA’s got one very special card for you…
For some hardware enthusiasts, a very fast graphics card just isn’t good enough. Think of it like the Porsche 911 Turbo versus the Porsche Carrera GT. Sure, they’re both more than fast enough to get you to work in the morning, but the Carrera GT will get you there at over 200 mph, compared to the 911 Turbo’s 193 mph. To many that 10 mph difference may not sound like a lot, but as any Porsche enthusiast will tell you, it’s a pretty dramatic difference. With their new Signature Series line of graphics cards, EVGA’s now catering to the extreme hardware enthusiast/gamer crowd. Not only is stock not good enough for this select group of people, but faster than stock isn’t good enough either. This card is for the gamer who wants the very best performance, and best service. This is the Carrera GT or Enzo Ferrari of the GeForce 7900 GT market.
So what goes into an e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series? Let’s take a look…
The most significant difference between the two boards is that the e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series runs at higher clock speeds than the KO Superclocked. EVGA clocks the Signature Series graphics core at 600MHz, just 50MHz shy of the GeForce 7900 GTX and over 150MHz higher than your typical GeForce 7900 GT card. Meanwhile, the board’s memory operates at 800MHz, that’s the same speed as the GeForce 7900 GTX. These speeds are actually higher than any other GeForce 7900 GT board on the market.
In order to hit such high speeds, EVGA bumps up the voltage on the graphics core to 1.45V, typically GeForce 7900 GT cards run at 1.2V. Meanwhile, the memory on the e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series continues to run at the stock GeForce 7900 GT level of 2.0V. EVGA then tests the card in games like Oblivion and F.E.A.R., runs a looped 3DMark 06 test, and performs a diagnostics test before the quality control department finally signs off on the card. All Signature Series cards are individually serialized and come with a certification of authenticity with its own certificate number, on the certificate of authenticity you’ll also see the names of the techs that actually signed off on your card. In fact, the e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series comes with its own custom packaging. The box itself is massive, it’s easily the largest box we’ve ever seen for a graphics card. Inside EVGA uses extra foam to ensure that your Signature Series graphics card arrives safely, not only is the graphics card surrounded by foam on all sides, but so are the other components that ship with the card, such as the DVI adapters and power cable.
Besides the added performance, Signature Series owners also get better service. According to EVGA, Signature Series owners get prioritized technical support and customer service, including a private email address for support and 24-hour next business day replacement if something happens to your original Signature Series card. You’ll also be placed at the front of the line for EVGA’s unique Step-Up upgrade program.
Software and accessories
EVGA ships the e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series and their e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclock with the same basic bundle of software and hardware accessories. Inside the box you’ll find two DVI adapters, a 6-pin PCI-E power adapter, S-Video cable, and component video cable, along with the manual and driver CD. For a limited time, EVGA also offers both cards with a free copy of the latest Hitman game, Blood Money.
But high clock speeds aren’t the only positive feature XFX has going for them, their warranty coverage is excellent as well. Like BFG and EVGA, XFX offers lifetime warranty coverage on all of their retail graphics cards, but they actually go one step further than the others, granting lifetime warranty coverage to the second owner of the XFX graphics card as well. In comparison, lifetime warranty programs offered by BFG and EVGA only apply towards the original owner of the graphics card. XFX backs up their double lifetime warranty program with top-notch support as well, offering 24/7 toll-free tech support just like EVGA and BFG.
For the GeForce 7900 GT GPU, XFX offers a whopping nine different graphics cards to choose from, the most of any NVIDIA board partner to date by far. Some of these cards ship with higher clock speeds for the graphics core and memory yet rely on NVIDIA’s stock reference design and cooling (like the XXX Edition card we’re evaluating today), while others sport fancy black PCBs and bright green DVIs with VIVO (video-in/video-out), but run at stock GeForce 7900 GT speeds. Finally XFX offers a third category of GeForce 7900 GT cards that mixes the black PCB and green DVIs with higher than stock clock speeds, but these boards aren’t clocked quite as high as the almighty XXX Edition. We’ve provided the following chart summarizing XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT lineup:
As you can see in the chart above, XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT XXX Edition is the granddaddy of GeForce 7900 GT cards, running at speeds of 560MHz on the graphics core and 825MHz memory (1.65GHz effective). To put these figures in comparison, that’s just 90MHz shy of the GeForce 7900 GTX on the GPU, and actually 25MHz faster than the 7900 GTX on the memory, making XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT XXX a tempting solution for gamers who want near GeForce 7900 GTX-class performance at a lower price point.
Somewhat surprisingly, the board design itself of XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT XXX Edition is an exact replica of NVIDIA’s reference board, right down to the NVIDIA copper heatsink/fan unit responsible for keeping the GPU cool. The only real modification XFX makes to their XXX Edition board is to replace the sticker on the card’s fan with one outfitted with their corporate logo, everywhere else, this is basically a stock GeForce 7900 GT reference board.
As you can no doubt imagine, finding 7900 GT GPUs that are good for XXX Edition speeds must be no easy task for XFX, which is why they offer six other GeForce 7900 GT card options with overclocked clock speeds. The XTREME series will no doubt be the most tempting of these cards for enthusiasts. Not only do XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT XTREME boards offer a sweet-looking black PCB with bright green DVI ports, the XTREME board is also outfitted with XFX’s unique secondary cooler for the board’s PCB itself. Sitting atop the XTREME Edition card is a black aluminum plate, which acts to draw heat off the graphics board’s PCB, where it can then be dispersed in the air. Finally, the XTREME series boards all offer built-in VIVO functionality, making them one of the few GeForce 7900 GT cards on the market to support this feature.
Software and accessories
Like many of the other cards in this roundup, XFX doesn’t include a real game bundle with their GeForce 7900 GT XXX, instead opting to ship the board with just the driver CD, two DVI adapters, a component video cable, 6-pin power adapter, and an S-Video cable. Starting in early July though XFX will include a copy of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter with all of their GeForce 79xx and GeForce 7600 series cards. GRAW has only been on the market for about two months now, so once this kicks in XFX will have one of the most up-to-date game bundles available with their latest GeForce cards.
Pacific Fighters 4.04 (with Perfect landscape setting for ATI and NVIDIA)
Half-Life 2: Lost Coast – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
Pacific Fighters – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
Among these cards, EVGA’s e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series really stands out due to its unique combination of cooling and performance. The card is clocked over 150MHz higher than NVIDIA’s reference specifications for the GeForce 7900 GT, delivering a performance improvement of up to 24% in F.E.A.R. at 1600x1200, and 22% in Quake 4 at the same resolution. EVGA’s copper cooler runs quieter than the stock cooling provided by boards based on NVIDIA’s reference board design, with the cooler also responsible for cooling the board’s GPU and memory modules. Finally EVGA backs the board up with support that’s second to none, and what could be an intriguing game bundle (depending on what 2006 titles EVGA announces). All this ads up to an Editor’s Choice card in our book.
Picking a card to finish behind the Signature Series is a tougher choice. EVGA’s e-GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked runs at high clock speeds and shares the same cooling as the Signature Series, making it a very worthy candidate if you can’t justify spending over $300 for the e-GeForce 7900 GT Signature Series. Think of it like the junior version of the Signature card.
XFX’s GeForce 7900 GT XXX Edition also runs at very high speeds, in fact its memory runs faster than the Signature Series. If you don’t mind the stock cooling, it’s an excellent value, especially once XFX begins bundling it with a copy of Ghost Recon, which is a very good game that’s earned critical acclaim.
ASUS’ EN7900GT TOP/2DHT ran quieter than any other card in this roundup thanks to its custom cooling, and because of its higher than stock clock speeds, it was able to run over 10% faster than the reference GeForce 7900 GT in F.E.A.R. and Half-Life 2 Lost Coast at 1600x1200.
Finally, BFG’s GeForce 7900 GT OC continues BFG’s tradition of providing factory overclocking out-of-the-box. The 7900 GT OC may not have been overclocked as high as some of the other manufacturers, but it still delivered a nice performance improvement over the stock GeForce 7900 GT of roughly 5%, and BFG’s service and support is practically legendary in the graphics business.
So there you have it, our take on some of the hottest GeForce 7900 GT cards on the market. NVIDIA and their board partners have been battling through their fair share of support inquiries for the GeForce 7900 GT, it seems some users have noticed artifacts and other glitches with their cards. Unfortunately we’ve been unable to reproduce any of the problems with any of the 7900 GT cards we’ve tested, but this does reinforce why support and the warranty policy of the various cards on the market is so critical. BFG, EVGA, and XFX definitely stand out for their lifetime warranty policies and tech support (ASUS provides a 3-year warranty with their cards), something you should definitely keep in mind when shopping for your next graphics card, whether it’s a GeForce 7900 GT or not.
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