Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1759



Introduction

In our review of the EVGA e- GeForce 7800 GTX KO, one of the most powerful graphics cards available right now, we explained how impressed we were by the performance. The huge overclock, coupled with EVGA's lifetime warranty, gave it an edge over the other 7800 GTXs that we've reviewed, and thus, put it on the top of our list. Today, we will be looking at the XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked. With a 490MHz core and 1.3GHz memory clock out of the box, it will undoubtedly match the EVGA KO in terms of performance, but we'll see how it compares in other areas as well. As you may know from our past 7800 GTX reviews, things like price and warranty (along with the usual suspects) are factors for the cards that we ultimately recommend over others.

As we mentioned, we were impressed with not only the performance of the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO, but with the warranty policy as well. EVGA's lifetime warranty, which covers just about everything but deliberate physical damage to the card, is unique among other graphics card vendors, and played a part in our decision to recommend that card over the others that we've reviewed. We'll take a look at XFX's warranty policy and see how it measures up on the next page.

We've stressed many times in this series about the importance of how well these cards perform out of the box, but we also take note of how well these cards overclock over the factory settings. For instance, we noticed that while MSI's NX7800 GTX was only clocked at 430MHz out of the box, it ran considerably cooler than other 7800 GTXs, which might allow for better user-overclocking. An even better example is how we were able to boost the EVGA 7800 GTX KO's memory clock all the way up to 1.35GHz because of the modified heatsink and the RAM sinks on the back. These are important things to consider if you are looking for a good 7800 GTX to overclock.

As usual, we'll be looking at how this card performs while both factory and user overclocked, as well as its power usage and heat levels later on. We'll also be comparing prices and warranties between each of the 7800's that we've tested to determine the best overall value. Now, let's have a look at the XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked.



The Card

The box for this card is by far the most creative that we've seen to date. It's in the shape of an “x” and we found it to be the most challenging of the 7800 GTX boxes to get into. The card itself looks just like NVIDIA's reference card with two exceptions. One is the shiny reflective sticker on the heat sink, and the other is a metal bar running along the top of the card (which does as much for aesthetics as for anything else). There is a hole cut into it to allow the SLI setup in case you are lucky enough to own two of these.

The version that we received didn't come bundled with any games, but there is a version that comes with Battlefield 2. This has been a trend among most of the 7800 GTXs that we've seen, and it's no surprise given the popularity of the game and the high system requirements. The only other game bundle that we've seen worth mentioning is The Chronicles of Riddick, which comes with the MSI NX7800 GTX. While not quite as popular as Bf2 and a single-player only game, this is still excellent and we highly recommend it.

As we mentioned in the introduction, the XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked comes out of the box at the same clock speeds as the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO. The core clock is set at 490MHz and the memory clock at 1.3GHz. This means that EVGA no longer holds the title of the fastest 7800 GTX. Although, for what little it's worth (and we realize it's not much), the EVGA KO still holds the title for the best looking 7800 GTX.

Let's talk a little bit about XFX's warranty policy for their graphics cards. While they do offer a lifetime warranty, it appears that the policy doesn't cover non-physical damage like power surges and overclocks as EVGA's does (and we haven't seen any warranties that cover physical damage, accidental or otherwise). This leaves EVGA as our pick for the best warranty policy thus far, and we hope their policy may start a trend with other graphics card vendors out there.



Performance

Given that the XFX 7800 GTX Overclocked and the EVGA 7800 GTX KO are clocked the same out of the box, we rightly guessed that we would see almost identical benchmark results between the two. As you can see by the graph, the framerates only differ by a few tenths of an fps, which isn't nearly enough to be significant.

For reference, here is our test system:

MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum/SLI motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 Processor
1 GB OCZ 2:2:2:6 DDR400 RAM
Seagate 7200.7 120 GB Hard Drive
OCZ 600 W PowerStream Power Supply

Battlefield 2 Performance

Doom 3 Performance

Half-Life 2 Performance

When we overclocked this card, we found that we couldn't quite get the memory clock as high as we were able to with the EVGA KO. This is understandable however, given the fact that there were no RAM sinks on the back of the XFX 7800 like there were on EVGA's. However, it hardly matters at all that the memory clock was slightly lower because as you can see below, the framerates were just a tiny bit lower than EVGA's; again, not enough to be significant. If you'd like more information about overclocking, as well as some information about NVIDIA's frequency scaling issue, take a look at the last article in this series on the EVGA 7800 GTX KO.

Battlefield 2 Performance

Doom 3 Performance

Half Life 2 Performance

All of the 7800 GTXs performed very well in these three games, which is no surprise given that these are the best graphics cards out here. As you can see, there aren't any huge differences in performance between cards. So, you can be sure that the 7800GTX that you decide to purchase will easily be able to handle even the most taxing games like Doom 3 and The Chronicles of Riddick.



Power, Heat and Noise

Power

When testing the power usage of this card, we found that it wasn't nearly as power-hungry as the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO. This is worth mentioning because of the match in performance between the two. As you can see, at the factory clock of 490MHz and 1.3GHz, we measured the power load at 274 watts; the same as the BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC out of the box. When we overclocked the card to 500MHz and 1.32HGz, we get a power load of 277 watts, the same as the overclocked MSI NX7800 GTX. For reference, the power load was 148 watts while the system was idle.

Load Power

Keep in mind that the way we test the power usage of these cards is by measuring the wattage of the entire system at the wall outlet, then comparing the differences. These numbers don't represent the exact wattage of the graphics cards. Rather, they are simply meant to give us a general idea of how much power a card generates at different speeds.

Heat

Load Temperature

As it turns out, this card did run a bit on the hot side. It ran slightly hotter than the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO, though it was only a degree warmer. 80 C puts it in a tie for hottest card with the non-KO eVGA and the overclocked BFG 7800 GTX. We suspected that it would generate more heat in relation to the other cards because of the higher overclock, but it wasn't really much worse. It may not do as well as the EVGA KO in hotter climates because of the unmodified heat sink, but the single degree difference is tough to call significant. MSI of course continues to lead the temperature category, though again a 2 degrees C difference isn't huge. For reference, the idle temperature for the card was 47 degrees C.

Noise

Noise

As with most of these cards, we didn't notice anything remarkable about how much noise the card made. In relation to the other 7800's, we see that it falls somewhere in the middle, but leans a little more toward the quieter cards. Again, it will be very difficult to tell a difference in the loudness of these cards simply by ear, but we feel that it's worth seeing how these cards compare to each other in as many areas as we can.



Final Words

The fact that the EVGA KO and the XFX Overclocked perform the same out of the box means that there's now a tie for the best card in terms of performance. Ranking the cards that we've tested from the fastest to the slowest looks something like this:

XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked & EVGA e- GeForce 7800 GTX KO
BFG 7800GTX OC
EVGA e- GeForce GTX (450MHz)
MSI NX7800GTX (and NVIDIA reference card)

Note that technically, we managed to overclock the EVGA KO a little more than the XFX, but as this can be a subjective process, we give them a tie for first. Also, we'd like to stress again that the difference in performance between these cards is very small.

Let's talk about prices for a second. We understand that NVIDIA's 7800 GTX series is not a card for people who are on a budget. These cards represent the absolute best in gaming performance, and at anywhere from $500 to $600, their prices reflect that. We also know that every little bit of money that you can save when buying a card is important, so we try to look at the best overall value (given the price at the time of the article) when judging the cards.

We place a very high importance on performance with these individual 7800 GTXs, and the reason for that is simple enough. Those in the market for a 7800 GTX are obviously looking for the most powerful card available, and we feel that these same people would be willing to pay a little more for the added performance of a factory overclocked card. Obviously, how much more you pay compared to the actual increase in performance is what it boils down to, which can be tricky considering how card prices are constantly changing.

That being said, here is what we recommend. If you still don't have Battlefield 2 and want to get a good 7800 GTX with BF2 bundle, then definitely go with the XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked (with BF2 bundle), which is available for about $550 right now. You could also get the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX with Bf2 bundle for about $530, but you won't get the higher factory overclock of the XFX. Strictly looking at the cards themselves though, our pick for the best 7800 GTX would be the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX KO for $575. The XFX GeForce 7800 GTX Overclocked ($530) came in a very close second, and the $45 difference will make some people choose the XFX, especially given that they are the two fastest 7800's right now and perform exactly the same out of the box. But there are other factors that we considered when making this decision.

Firstly, as we mentioned earlier in the article, the EVGA KO has a modified heat sink and RAM sinks on the back, thus making it a little better candidate for user overclocking. Second, we are still impressed with EVGA's warranty policy and feel that this gives it a definite edge over the other manufacturers right now. Thirdly, the modified heat sink on the front of the card does more than just look good and dissipate heat; it also looks like a very effective protection against physical damage to the board. We realize that these are all very small things individually, but when put together, they add up. At the time that this article was written, the EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX (450MHz) with BF2 had gone back up in price to $530, and for $20 more, you can get the XFX Overclocked with BF2 plus a significant performance boost, but this is weighed against EVGA's quality warranty. We feel that the BFG 7800 GTX OC ($535) isn't a bad deal considering its performance, but again, we feel that if you are going to drop that much money on a card, you might as well pay another $40 and get the added benefits. Those who want the absolute cheapest 7800 GTX should probably go with the MSI NX7800 GTX. At $480, this is the cheapest one, and it will still make the bundled Chronicles of Riddick (and all other games) look great.

EVGA has proven itself with the 7800 GTX KO, and we feel that this is the best overall investment out of all the 7800's that we've tested. You may have to do a little searching to find one of these, as they seem to be popular right now, but they are out there. Next, we'll be looking at some of the 7800 GT graphics cards that have just been released, so be on the look-out for those soon.



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