Palit is a brand we have never looked at in the past - most of the time they just snuck under the TweakTown radar, since in the past they focused mostly on their OEM and ODM business. However within the past 12 months, things have changed.In the enthusiast area people began to hear the name Palit pop up more and more once they acquired Gainward as well as taking over XpertVision's retail business. While Gainward have always introduced overclocked models, it seems that this influence has filtered down to the Palit series, as they are producing some interesting products these days.The particular graphics card we are looking at today is a GeForce 7900GT although not your normal 7900GT - it comes with an overclocked core and 512MB of memory. It's priced at under $500 AUD (about $375 USD) and is gaining a lot of attention at the moment. We are going to follow a pretty standard layout for the Palit 7900GT testing except we have another new edition into our benchmarking suite this time around. First of all, let's take a look at the package and the card.
The PackagingThe Packaging
The first thing you notice about the box is the bright blue reflective coating and secondly you notice the size. While it's bigger than your standard graphics card box, it isn't so overkill
, like some of the boxes we have seen from companies such as ASUS.
There isn't a lot of information on the front of the box. We can see that a copy of Toca 3 is included and the main specs of the card including the amount of memory, clock speeds, model and the fact that it is PCI E and offers Dual DVI support.
Turning over the box there is a very brief set of technical specifications but in a multitude of languages. Of course, like most nVidia mid to high-end cards, the Palit 7900GT Sonic 512MB is SLI ready.
Opening up the box and bypassing the card, we get stuck into what cables we have. The standard PCI Express power connector is included for people who don't have one already on their power supply, S-Video type connector to S-Video/RCA and Component for making use of TV Out and of course two DVI to VGA connectors in case you don't use a DVI LCD monitor.
We have a quick installation guide also inside but we won't lie, you're probably going to get as far through it as we did and what you see above is all we saw of it.
Lastly onto the CD bundle we have the standard driver CD and copy of Power DVD which pops up in so many bundles but what is cool is the DVD copy of Toca Race Driver 3 which is an absolute fantastic game for any racing fan.While the card might be considered a little expensive compared to the cheapest 7900GT available, when you start comparing it to other overclocked 7900GT cards from other companies, it is actually very competitive. Considering the inclusion of 512MB DDR-3 onboard memory, it was surprising to find such a good game like Toca 3 Race Driver included. Not being very old and car games being so popular among the gaming community, it was fantastic to see something different added.
The CardsThe Cards
When you open up the package and see the Palit 7900GT Sonic, you have to wipe your eyes to make sure that it's actually an nVidia graphics card you're looking at. Seeing the nVidia logo on a red PCB feels a little weird at first.
You also notice that Palit aren't using a standard heatsink fan found on normal 7900GT graphics cards. This is always a good option when it comes to overclocked cards. Something else that we haven't seen in a while is memory sinks. A lot of cards we see these days either have the fan covering everything including the memory or leaving the memory bare. Memory sinks aren't really necessary due to DDR3 temperature being quite placid but it doesn't go astray and it is definitely a solid inclusion.
Moving over to the back of the card we can see that the air gets pushed over one set of memory sinks but the other set doesn't get touched. We can also see the PCI Express connector on the back of the card.
At the top of the card we find the SLI connector. As we saw on the back of the box the 7900GT Sonic 512MB from Palit is completely SLI compliant and we have a second card, so we are going to see what two 7900GT 512MB cards will do.
Turning the card over we can see the bracket that holds the heatsink fan in place and that's about all. Even though 512MB of memory is on the card it is all on the front of the card.
Moving to the final side of the card we see two funky colored DVI connectors and the TV out port. We can also see that the card uses a dual slot solution. While you would be able to fit another card directly next to it because the 7900GT card does get warm, it wouldn't be recommended, which is why Palit chose to make it a "Dual Slot" card. While the Palit 512MB does come with some extra memory it also comes overclocked. The default clock speeds on the core of the 7900GT is 450MHz, the Palit 512MB 7900GT Sonic comes at 550MHz. The memory however is still clocked at the standard 1320MHz DDR.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon X2 3800+ @ 2.6GHz (260 x 10 with 1:1 memory)Motherboard(s): DFI Lanparty UT SLI DR Expert (Supplied by Bronet)Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HV PC4000 @ 260MHz (Supplied by Bronet)Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7,200RPM SATA 2 Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: nVidia ForceWare 91.31, ATI Catalyst 6.6 and DX9c
Keeping with our re-vamped test bed system and since we are testing a higher-end graphics card today, we have decided instead of just simply doing a few overclocked tests, we will clock our AMD Athlon X2 3800+ to 2.6GHz (260MHz FSB x 10) and just leave it there for all our tests. This helps more as well when it comes to our SLI tests and CPU limitations. With Intel Conroe processors just around the corner let's hope that CPU limitations get knocked out of the ball park and really give all future graphics cards a chance to run free.As we mentioned in the introduction we have also added in Serious Sam 2. While it isn't the most intensive game around as soon as you start enabling HDR at higher resolutions, it really begins to start making use of high-end graphics cards.We mentioned that we do have two Palit GeForce 7900GT Sonic 512MB cards in our hands so we will be running them in SLI mode as well as one by itself. We have also thrown in a 256MB Radeon X1900GT that sits slightly cheaper then the 512MB 7900GT.3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is now 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 above.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
Straight of the mark we can see the clear advantage that is seen in 3DMark05 when SLI mode is operation.When comparing the single card to the Radeon X1900GT, we see that it is only ever so slightly slower. Let's see if this continues on throughout our benchmarking as 3DMark05 isn't the most intensive of programs these days.
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.
Moving to the more intensive 3DMark06 we see SLI performance increase a lot more but also that the GeForce 7900GT Sonic 512MB comes out on top when compared to the ATI Radeon X1900GT.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper 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, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast 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 Lost Coast 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
SLI always seems to take slight step backwards when it comes to Half Life 2 performance. When comparing the single cards to each other the ATI Radeon as always sneaks ahead thanks to its close relationship with Valve.At the higher resolution when more strain is placed on the graphics card, we see that while it is still faster the difference between the two cards is less.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in 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.
F.E.A.R. is quite an intensive game and the minimum FPS feature is excellent and quite playable with these cards. While people say that an average of 35 - 40FPS is good, we have to take into consideration what the minimum is.We can see that at 1600 x 1200 the Radeon X1900GT drops to what would be considered unplayable for a lot of people. In the average tests, we see that SLI works well at the high resolution but both in single and SLI form offer playable results at 1600 x 1200 with the X1900GT dragging just a little bit behind, dropping under that all important 30FPS.
Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is still one of the most popular games at the moment and is quite intensive in the 3D department, even though it is starting to age. 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
Doom 3 at the lower resolution sees a slight drop in SLI performance but when you move to the higher resolution, you can see it kicks back in and offers us a slight increase. You can clearly see though that the Radeon X1900GT cops a beating at the high resolution with the GeForce 7900GT from Palit offering a significant increase in speed.
Benchmarks - Quake 4Quake 4Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Necro666 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 shows a very similar picture to Doom 3, since they are both based on the same engine, with the Radeon X1900GT a long way behind.We also see the SLI performance drop at the low resolution but also at the high resolution. It is more then possible that we are beginning to hit some type of CPU limitation here.
Benchmarks - Serious Sam 2Serious Sam 2 (HDR enabled and disabled)Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Branchester (HardwareOC Bench) Developer Homepage: http://www.croteam.com Product Homepage: http://www.serioussam2.comBuy It Here
Picking up where Serious Sam: Second Encounter left off, Sam has rocketed off towards the conquered planet of Sirius, the new home of the notorious Mental. While en route, the Great Wizards Council of the nearly eradicated Sirian civilization telepathically contacts Sam to aid him in his quest to destroy Mental and help restore Sirius. He is then sent on a quest to find the fragments of a mystical medallion scattered throughout the galaxy that will bestow Sam with the power to defeat Mental.While Serious Sam 2 is not one of the most intensive games in our benchmark suite, we can stress the system by enabling HDR.
At the lower resolution with and without HDR, we see the cards all sit very close together. Moving to the higher resolution tests though the 7900GT shows a huge increase in performance when compared to the X1900GT but HDR tests show performance a lot closer together with the X1900GT even sneaking ahead of the single card.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh Quality AA and AF
Our high quality AA and AF tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the graphics cards weren't struggling before, they will start to now.
While 3DMark05 showed the Radeon X1900GT beating the 7900GT quite easily, when we turn on AA and AF we see that performance is a lot closer with the higher resolutions tests showing the cards scoring almost the same. Also with these settings we see that SLI shows a larger improvement due to the amount of strain on the graphics cards.
The low resolution AA and AF tests show what we saw in our other Lost Coast results. While we do see the 7900GT cards come out ahead, we don't see any performance gains with SLI here.
Finally, moving onto Serious Sam 2 in the high quality area, we can clearly see that both SLI is working and that the 7900GT has a significant lead over the ATI Radeon X1900GT.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
The Palit GeForce 7900GT Sonic is a great all round graphics card. Between the extra memory, the increased core speed, game bundle and the price, it has a lot going for it. The overall performance of the 7900GT from Palit is great and you can clearly see why it has become such a popular graphics card. The extra memory being needed is debatable but at the higher resolution we can clearly see that while the card does sit even with the ATI Radeon X1900GT at 1024 x 768, when we move to 1600 x 1200 the 7900GT 512MB from Palit usually sneaks ahead.SLI performance we have always known is something that is only really worth considering when you're getting into the high resolutions with settings turned up but there are still games that are having issues, as we can see in some of our tests. We had a look at overclocking during our testing but didn't have any joy at all as it seems the core is practically maxed out and the increased core speed is causing the memory to not move much at all. Overclocking can vary from card to card.Apart from the slight overclocking issue we had, the Palit GeForce 7900GT Sonic 512MB graphics card was an absolute dream to use and we would have no problems recommending a card like this to anyone who wanted a great performing high-end card but didn't want to break the bank with a more expensive Radeon X1900XTX or GeForce 7900GTX.- Pros
Pre-Overclocked CoreExcellent performanceCompetitively priced512MB DDR3Toca Racing 3- Cons
Overclocking seemed limitedRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Value Award