There has always been a lot of competition in the graphics card market between different card manufacturers, and also between ATI and NVIDIA in general. For each new board released by ATI or NVIDIA, another one pops up sooner or later from the other company as an answer. A lot of times the most notorious performance wars happen at the highest end, with ATI and NVIDIA trying to hold the coveted title for the "fastest card." We saw an example of this back when NVIDIA released their 7800 GTX much to the dismay of ATI, who had no direct competitor on the high-end for this card for a good while. This was one case where the clear winner in performance was NVIDIA on the high-end, but usually things aren't so cut and dry.

Of course, perhaps more importantly, competition also happens with cards around the $200-$300 mark, as these are the kind of prices most gamers are willing to spend for higher performance. Many die-hard and casual gamers have budget constraints but will gladly shell out $200 on a graphics card they know will give them significantly improved performance in a given game. This makes this price range important for graphics card companies to focus on, and we often see heavy competition in this area of the market.

NVIDIA's GeForce 7900 GS shipped recently without a lot of fanfare, but we are seeing lots of them available right now for about $200, which is right at NVIDIA's MSRP. This could be great news to a lot of gamers looking for a graphics card upgrade, provided the 7900 GS has the necessary performance capabilities. We recently took a look at how this card performs in relation to a number of cards from ATI and NVIDIA when it launched (here), and then we looked at its SLI performance in the more recent Fall '06 NVIDIA GPU Refresh - Part II: GeForce 7950 GT and SLI.

Today, we happen to have five of these cards from different hardware manufacturers, and as always we are interested in seeing just how they perform relative to each other as well as a few other cards on the market. Since NVIDIA's 7900 GS is an answer to ATI's X1900 GT, we'll of course be including this in our tests, as well as the X1800 GTO, 7800 GT, and 7900 GT. As it sometimes happens, all five of the 7900 GS cards we have for this review come factory clocked at different speeds, with only one of them (from Albatron) at reference speeds (i.e. not factory-overclocked; 450MHz/660MHz). This means we'll get a detailed view of what we can expect from this card out-of-the-box compared to its competitors.

It appears as though overclockability will be one of the interesting features of these cards and might ultimately be a primary selling point. Of course, we will do some overclocking of our own on these cards, as well as the usual power load and heat tests, to give a thorough evaluation of each of these cards. The price tag is always a factor when considering a graphics solution, so we will be breaking down the prices of these cards and taking into account their individual performance to determine their overall value for this review. These are the things we'll be keeping in mind as we look at these different 7900 GS offerings from EVGA, BFG, Leadtek, XFX, and Albatron. So without further ado, let's talk about the cards.

The Cards
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  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    I'd like to see how these cards compare to a 7600GT, as I currently own a eVGA 7600GT KO, and will be upgrading my current system to a conroe, and MAY consider another GFX card, especialy one this in-expencive, or maybe I'll just go the 7600GT SLI route . . .
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Josh probably would have done well to provide some more specific reference to the previous two Anandtech articles on the the 7900GS that Derek did, including some links to those articles, since that is where you'll find more information on how these cards compare to a wider array of video cards, including the 7600GT. However, while they tested the new 7900GS in a SLI configuration in one of those prior articles, I don't think they inclduded results from a 7600GT SLI for comparison.

    I'm not sure what article might have that in it for reference.
  • Sc4freak - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    In the Oblivion test, why are do the X1800GTO and 7800GT both score 0 in the bar graph, despite their non-zero results in the line graph directly above it?
  • Josh Venning - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Thanks for pointing this out. It's been fixed.
  • Woodchuck2000 - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    ...of one of these working in SLI with a 7800GT?

    I'm assuming that the answer is roughly 0, but with such similar specifications, is there any hope? I've got a single 7800GT in an SLI board and can't find a second at the moment.

    Re fan power consumption, you're unlikely to be looking at more than 1 watt difference across the board.
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Find someone with a 7800GT and offer them one of the 7900GS Overclocked versions in exchange.
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    At this point, NVIDIA will not support SLI between prodcuts with different names -- even if they have the same pipeline configuration.

    We have mentioned that this would be quite a good incentive for people to get behind SLI, but it seems like they are worried about implying that it could work in cases where it can't.

    Our suggestion is to make sli between parts that could work together an unsupported option. We haven't been able to figure out how to hack the driver to allow it, and we don't think NVIDIA will allow it.
  • Martrox - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Don't you think that testing these cards without any FSAA is being kind of lazy? Anyone knowledgable enough to actually read this review most likely will be using FSAA, so that kind of makes this a waste....

    Also, did you at least turn the drivers up to high quality?
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    Mmm, most people don't use FSAA. Majority of users can't tell a diffrence with it on or off.
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, September 19, 2006 - link

    I'd have to agree. Most people with 1280x1024 LCDs that I've met prefer to leave FSAA off (if they even mess with the setting) to get the best possible frame rates. While the max framerate might not dip below 60 ... it's the minimum framerate spike that will effect competition.

    I used to enjoy turning on FSAA for Everquest, but for anything more FPS competition oriented I don't know anyone who uses FSAA unless they have SLI. (Which would be why they got SLI ... to run FSAA without noticable impact to framerates.)

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