It feels like it has been ages since we have seen a new graphics card here in our labs. It's been roughly about 8 weeks since we saw a new card, so it seems that we're right on time for a new release. Today we see the release of the new line up from nVidia which comes in the shape of the GeForce 7900GT, 7900GTX and 7600GT.While there are three new cards in the latest line up form nVidia, we will only be looking at the biggest and toughest out of the bunch, the GeForce 7900GTX, and fortunately we have a pair on our hands to see just how these bad boys go when we SLI them in our ASUS A8N32-SLI.We will follow our normal review procedure for the 7900GTX we have here today - have a look at the package along with what comes with it and a look at the card itself along with how BFG mix it up with the latest version.Let's get started!
The PackageThe Package
The box is quite large and is the same as we saw with the BFG 7800GTX except with a different number on the front of the box. BFG has made it clear that the card comes included with 512MB DDR3 and you can also see that BFG are pushing the fact that they are an Authorized Board Partner.We can also see on the front of the box that we have two DUAL Link DVI-I ports which is a new feature to the 7900GTX to compete with the X1900XTX which also has two DUAL Link DVI-I ports. The 7800GTX only had one DUAL Link DVI-I port. Dual Link DVI ports are needed for both the Dell and Apple 30" LCD - few people are lucky enough to own one of these monitors let alone two, so Dual Link DVI is more of a selling point to make their card sound better more so then a feature that a lot of people will actually make use of.
Turning the box over we have got our extended features of the board along with how SLI works. The two main features you can see which are being pushed is Mind-Blowing Performance
and Ultra-Realistic Effects & Visual Quality
Opening up the box the first thing you see is an A4 piece of paper that lets you know that you are buying a BFG graphics card, information about getting the latest drivers along with the power supply requirements.
With the piece of paper aside we have a few cool extras. First out of the box we have some Teflon Stick Pads which are used on the bottom of your mouse and gives you extra smoothness you didn't think you could get. We also have some stickers that you can install on the card or anywhere else which have some witty sayings.
Also included is a T-Shirt so you can show your graphics card off loudly and proudly.
Paper wise we have a few pieces included that let you know how you use the HDTV connections available, a small piece about BFG Gaming, SLI run down, Install Guide and a note about technical support, with this said though the Australian distributor has let us know that this isn't valid in Australia.
There is also a voucher included for two months free game hire at Red Octane Rentals which lets you rent over 2000 titles for a number of different platforms.
We have another two small stickers included in the package which can be used on the front of your case to advertise the use of BFG Tech in your system.
Finally when it comes to CDs we have a BFG Tech CD which has the Drivers, Manual and 3D Demos and another CD which is called the BFG Tech Gamers Toolkit which comes with a few handy programs. It's a bit disappointing to find that no games come with the package but for people in the US, the Red Octane voucher is going to be excellent as you can try a number of different games over two months.
The CardThe Card
Compared to the standard 7800GTX 256MB from BFG Tech, the new 7900GTX is a lot meatier looking thanks to the larger cooler which we saw on the 512MB variant of the 7800GTX.
Together we have two very mean looking 7900GTXs which are just itching to be installed into our test system. The front of the card really gives off very little thanks to the HUGE heatsink fan that is included on the cards.
Having a peak at the side of the card we can see our two DVI ports and S-Video like port. While the DVI ports don't look any different to your normal ones, as we mentioned they are both Dual Link DVI-I ports to compete against the high-end ATI offering which gives two Dual Link DVI-I ports.
With most of the cards looking quite similar across the board, there are only a few key aspects that affect the brands: bundle, warranty, clock speeds and the pattern on the fan cooler. While some will stick to the reference design BFG Tech go out of their way to make an extremely cool looking cooler (no pun intended) with the grey and white flame design. The design is simple but elegant and looks just great.
Moving to the other side of the card thanks to the massive cooler there isn't a lot to see except the PCI Express power connector located at the top of the card like all higher end PCI Express graphics cards.
The top of the card shows us a bit more of the cooler and how it works. We have an all aluminum cooler with four heat pipes up the top which help make the card lighter then something that was made of copper and also helps make it more efficient thanks to the use of the heat pipes.
Moving across the top we also have the SLI connecter located in the same place which we will be fortunately making use of today.
Turning the card over we have a number of screws that help hold the massive cooler in place with our normal stickers which show us model/serials. Apart from this it's just a bunch of circuitry which we hope brings us the best gaming experience to date.
GeForce 7800GTX vs. 7900GTXGeForce 7800GTX vs. 7900GTX
While we have just covered the physical side of the card itself, we will have a quick look at what the 7900GTX offers over the previous generation. As we have mentioned already, we have two Dual Link DVI-I ports to power two 30" Apple or Dell LCDs. It is important to remember that Dual Link isn't needed to power 30"+ LCDs but just the two specific models available from Dell and Apple at the moment, which punch out a massive 2560 x 1600 resolution.Moving more onto the core, this is nVidia's first 90nm chip and what took ATI months and a huge amount of delays nVidia seemed to do without breaking too much of a sweat. The move to 90nm gives us higher clock speeds and cooler temperatures.24 pixel pipelines are included on the 7900GTX (like the 7800GTX) but thanks to the increased core speed, performance should be increased without any problems at all.Speaking of increased speeds, the standard clocks on the core is 650MHz which is a HUGE jump from the 430MHz found on the 7800GTX and memory has been bumped from 1200MHz to a massive 1600MHz thanks to the 1.1ns memory being used.Now with stock speeds being all good and well, it's a bit boring. BFG Tech has given a small bump at both ends with a core of 670MHz and memory speed of 1640MHz. With all that out the way let's have a look at how we go in our benchmarking results.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03Test System SetupProcessor(s):
AMD Athlon X2 3800+ Motherboard(s):
ASUS A8N32-SLI (Supplied by ASUS
2 X 1GB Corsair PC3500LL PRO DDR (Supplied by Corsair Micro
WD Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA (Supplied by Western Digital
Windows XP Professional SP2Why we would have loved to use a higher-end processor, this is all we had access to and it is obvious in some benchmarks that you really do need an expensive processor to help overcome that processor limitation which is shown its face more and more.We have run our normal benchmarks that give us an excellent run down across the board. We have our standard synthetic tests which consist of 3DMark03, 05 and 06. From there we have some Direct3D benchmarks with Far Cry being on the end of the older scale, Half Life 2 being a bit more recent and F.E.A.R. which seems to be one of the most intensives games available. We finish the line up off with Doom 3 and Quake 4 which both utilize OpenGL technology. The line up gives us a good idea of how the cards will perform in a number of different environments.To help remove those pesky CPU limitations we get aggressive with the AA and AF in four different programs. AA has been bumped up to 8X and AF to 16X along with the test resolution being set at 1600 x 1200.Finally we overclock the processor as CPU limited applications find quite good increases from small CPU overclocks. It gives us a good indication of how a faster processor will help our cause for 3DMark and gaming domination.We have compared the graphics cards against the 7800GTX 256MB cards from BFG Tech by itself and in SLI mode. While you may wonder why we would compare against the 256MB version (as opposed to the 512MB 7800GTX) the answer is easy, it's that hard to get the 512MB cards that its not a realistic product - it was only released to slow down and annoy ATI, which it did. The 7900GTX 512MB is really replacing the 7800GTX 256MB.3DMark03Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 360Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
We can clearly see that the latest generation nVidia card offers a significant performance increase at both resolutions. The single 7900GTX sits about half way between the single and SLI 7800GTX.
Benchmarks - 3DMark053DMark05Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
Where we are using a single card solution and the CPU limitation doesn't come into play, we can clearly see that the performance is up on the 7800GTX. When we SLI the 7900GTX we can see it is quicker but not as much as you would expect.
Benchmarks - 3DMark063DMark06Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 102Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
We are again painting a very similar picture to our 3DMark05 results. Single card sees a good jump from the predecessor but when we SLI them again the 7900GTX is faster but not the huge amount that is seen when comparing the two single cards.
Benchmarks - Far CryFar CryVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.3Timedemo or Level Used:
PC Games Hardware DemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.comBuy It Here
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry is very CPU limited but it seems that the 7900GTX needs some driver optimization as performance is a lot slower then the 7800GTXs. We would put the poor performance down to driver support.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2Half Life 2Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom Time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.We benchmark Half Life 2 with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here
Half Life 2 again shows some weird performance numbers with the SLI scoring similar and hitting the CPU limitation on offer from the X2 3800+ but the single card can be clearly seen lagging behind the rest of the pack.
Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom Time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here
The single 7900GTX puts out the highest score at the lower resolution with the SLI combination putting out the highest at the higher resolution. You can see at the lower resolution that both single card solutions perform better then their SLI counterpart.
Benchmarks - Quake 4Quake 4Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.quake4game.comBuy It Here
Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.
Quake 4 also finds the single cards performing better then the SLI offerings. OpenGL SLI really needs to be optimized so people who play Quake 4 or Doom 3 can justify spending big dollars on the upgrade.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.vugames.com Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/Buy It Here
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
Performance has been increased in F.E.A.R. at both resolutions with the average being a lot better on the 7900GTX in the higher resolutions and the average being heavily increased at the lower resolution for the single card.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh Quality
In our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load.This usually helps us remove the CPU limitation. We normally use 8 x AA and 16 x AF as this is quite a common setup for most people who are venturing into the AA and AF area.Since we are using such high-end cards our AA and AF tests while not only being bumped up in quality are moving to 1600 x 1200 to remove the processor limitation as much as possible.
AA and AF performance is JAW DROPPING on the latest cards with a single 7900GTX out scoring the SLI 7800GTX combination and the SLI 7900GTX clearly separating itself from the pack.
AA and AF tests help make the results more believable with the SLI cards clearly separating themselves from the single card solution and the 7900s showing a positive increase in both the single card and SLI setup.
Where Doom 3 saw performance a bit shady in our normal tests, when we start putting some serious pressure on the 7900s the performance playing field becomes a lot bigger and you can see not only what the move from a single card to SLI does but also the move from a 7800GTX to a 7900GTX.
Benchmarks - CPU OverclockingCPU Overclocking
Even with the power of the AMD Athlon X2 and Intel Extreme Edition processors, we still find ourselves hitting a CPU limitation in a lot of our benchmarks. That is, the graphics cards have more performance to give but the processor is letting the team down.By overclocking the processor we can see what kind of a performance increase we get. When something isn't CPU limited the performance increase isn't all that major but when we do have a CPU bottleneck, every MHz extra we can get can show us an excellent jump in performance.The Athlon X2 3800+ was increased from 2GHz to 2.2GHz with a slight increase in the front side bus utilizing the stock X2 heatsink fan.
The small overclock gives us a nice bump in score at both resolutions. Normally 3DMark03 doesn't see any major increases from a CPU overclock but here you can clearly see the small overclock has given us an increase.
We see again that 3DMark05 gives us a significant increase with the 10% CPU increase sees almost a 10% performance increase.
3DMark06 sees a significant increase at the lower resolution with the score being a lot closer at the higher resolution.
Doom 3 clearly sees a good increase with the 10% CPU increase showing almost a 10% performance increase at both resolutions.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
If you're sitting there saying you cannot live without AA and AF... you just need it to have the best gaming experience - well you can rejoice now because this is what the GeForce 7900GTX graphics cards are made for. It's clear that you don't use one of these cards and game without AA and AF turned up to a high level. They are designed so you can max out those AA and AF settings and still get a smooth frame rate.If you're just trying to break a 3DMark record there is no doubt that you are going to be slightly disappointed with the performance increase because the chances are you are going to do a default run. On the other hand if you are trying to break records with max AA and AF enabled, then it's a different story all together. The results and Dual Link DVI-I ports tell us that these cards are made for some serious gaming. The absolute minimum resolution you want to run one of these cards at is 1280 x 1024 and at that setting you should be able to max out the options of your favorite game and have full AA and AF running - unless of course your favorite game is F.E.A.R. because it is obvious that nVidia really need to work on this game.When we get some new official drivers we will be revisiting the performance and we think that there is no doubt there is plenty of room in these cards to come out ahead even more.BFG Tech as always has impressed us with their product. This is an excellent package for people in the United States thanks to the two free months of game hire but it is a little unfortunate that people outside of the USA will miss out on such a great offer - hopefully the local distributors will look closer into offering something like this in their region. The rest of the package is cool with the T-Shirt included, Teflon mouse pads, stickers and the other little extras. While the T-Shirt might not have a bigger retail price then a game, the chances are you are going to get more use out of it then a copy of Far Cry or something else that has been out for over 12 months.Overclocking at the moment is dismal on the cards with Coolbits finding optimal speeds under the default clocks. We are sure that over the next week or two we will get some updates to the overclocking programs and people will begin to mill the 90nm chip for everything it is worth.Is the GeForce 7900GTX better then the 7800GTX? In a high quality performance comparison, it is better in so many ways. Is the 7900GTX better then the Radeon X1900XTX? Comparing results on the fly against our HIS cards that we looked at, the 7900GTX seems to be quicker in just about everything but F.E.A.R.Finally is SLI better then Crossfire? The answer for that one is an easy "YES!!"And in so many ways, for starters the 7900GTX SLI ran on our 500 watt Antec PSU (that is about two years old) and fumbled every time the X1900XTX Crossfire solution went into 3D mode. You have the choice of what is probably the best chipset available (the nForce 4 SLI) and you don't have to worry about any master cards. The only thing that you have to worry about is getting your hands on two 7900GTXs which while available at launch might still be a bit of a pain.- Pros
Available by the time you wake upPerformance!True high quality gaming, turn it all upNice packagePre-OverclockedLife time warrantyAA and AF is now your friend Power requirements not as stressful as Radeon X1900XTX- Cons
Missing some real official driversGame bundle suited for people in the USARating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Performance Award