The Competition

ATI has been very aggressive as of late, and we have been quite happy with what we have seen so far. After their circuit design setback with the X1800 last year, ATI really turned things around and offered the X1900 lineup in rather quick succession. Before today, the X1900 was clearly the king of the hill in all things graphics. With the new RD580 chipset from ATI offering 2x x16 PCI Express slots, Crossfire is looking better than ever as well. The comparison at the high end is very exciting: it's never been a better time to be a graphics enthusiast with tons of excess money.

At the same time, the midrange is heating up as well. With prices on the X1600 looking good, the new pressure on NVIDIA from ATI's upcoming X1800 GTO (which we unfortunately don't have), and solid products like the 6800 GS and 7800 GT already out there, the 7600 GT is a welcome addition in price/performance.

So we can get a good idea of what we will be working with, we are providing tables comparing the features of the high end cards and mid range cards we will be testing from NVIDIA and ATI. CrossFire and SLI will be looked at as well.

NVIDIA Graphics Card Specifications
  Vert Pipes Pixel Pipes Raster Pipes Core Clock Mem Clock Mem Size (MB) Mem Bus (bits) Price
GeForce 7900 GTX 8 24 16 650 800 512 256 ~$500+
GeForce 7900 GT 8 24 16 450 660 256 256 ~$325
GeForce 7800 GTX 512 8 24 16 550 850 512 256 $600+
GeForce 7800 GTX 8 24 16 430 600 256 256 $450
GeForce 7800 GT 8 20 16 400 500 256 256 $300
GeForce 7600 GT 5 12 8 560 700 256 128 ~$200
GeForce 6800 GS 5 12 8 425 500 256 256 $180


ATI Graphics Card Specifications
  Vert Pipes Pixel Pipes Raster Pipes Core Clock Mem Clock Mem Size (MB) Mem Bus (bits) Price
Radeon X1900 XTX 8 48 16 650 775 512 256 $600+
Radeon X1900 XT 8 48 16 625 725 512 256 $500
Radeon X1600 XT 5 12 4 590 690 256 128 $150


We will also be including SLI and CrossFire setups for these cards in all cases but for the X1600 XT. Unfortunately, during testing one of our X1600 cards decided to roll over and die (such is the price of working with engineering samples and prerelease products). The other card we would love to have included is the X1800 GTO which has 12 pixel pipes and is clocked similarly to the X1800 XL. As we mentioned previously, ATI didn't get a card to us for testing.

For our comparison, we have decided to test all applications with 4xAA and 8xAF in all tests but Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. For Splinter Cell we are testing with SM3.0 options enabled and AA disabled as the game doesn't allow both to be set while playing. With all of this power available, our opinion is that AA is worth enabling in just about any situation. The visual quality benefit, even at high resolutions, is well worth it.

NVIDIA's Die Shrink: The 7900 and 7600 The Test and Power
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  • yacoub - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Any idea when we'll see a comparo showing the 7900GT against following cards?

    X800XL
    X1800XL
    X1800XT
    7800GT

    It is important for people running cards like those right now to know how much gain they will see going with a 7900GT versus going with a 7900GTX. Clearly they can see the difference between the 7900GT and 7900GTX on this review, but no one knows what improvement the 7900GT would have today (with today's drivers and games) over the cards many people are still using such as the X800XL or 7800GT.

    It's important to know if the 7900GT offers enough gain for such users over their current cards, or whether they should step all the way up to the 7900GTX.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    I definite like the review and the presentation Derek. There are definite tradeoffs for price, power load and performance.
    All this talk of HDCP, DX10 (with Vista) and HD (1080p) PureVideo vs. AVIVO (shame on you nVidia for asking more from the consumer when ATI bundles such goodies) just around the corner, I'm still on the wait-n-see list before making the plunge to PCIe (besides AMD's M2 chipset, and Intel's DuoCore refresh to spank the PentiumD).
    What I don't get is how drastic ATI's ability to do AA with HDR (how many games truly support this? FarCry? but Splinter Cell can't? Half-Life2 engine?) shines above nVidia's lack. Is this the only feature ATI has an exclusive win over nVidia?
    Also, there was a preface of the 7900GT being marginally faster than the 7800 GTX-256, with a nice price advantage going to the 7900GT (as well as lower power load), killing off the 7800 line for newcomers. So where is ATI's high-mid or low-high 300$ competing part? Along with the 1900XTX being a gratutitous weak "ultra" offering, since a Crossfire only paces the 1900XT, "wasting" the XTX's 5% extra power, except to prove the King-of-the-Hill mentality. More power to ATI's customers paying a cost premium.
    The 7900GT SLI might be penny-wise & pound-foolish, as two of these cards cost substaintially more (350x2 vs. 550 = ~150$ / 20%) a single 7900GTX, draw more power (hence hidden cost of a beefier UPS upgrade) for roughly ~15% gain (YMMV with oc'ing, or manufacturer tweaks).
    And sure, the ATI X1800GTO squeaks a victory from the nV 7600GT, with est. end of March '06 MSRP of 249 vs. ~180-200. For the non-graphic fanatic, cost-conscious WoW player, the 7600GT is a nice target for newer PCIe. For the gung-ho FPS shooter, for a bit more, why not aim for the 7900GT instead of the X1800GTO?
    For curiosity sake, Derek, could you downgrade a 7900GTX to GT core/mem clock speeds and see how much a difference the extra 256MB makes? If the GT has good OC headroom, it can be a better bargain. With the same basic core, how much can the clock be pushed on the GT? As for memory, how much is 256MB more of GDDR3 RAM worth (over the same bus), and how far can the GT's bandwidth get pushed to help the benchmarks? Is nVidia able to push a GT to a GTX due to better active cooling? This might be wait tweakers looks for to justify their purchase. We see that a 7800GTX-512 had definitive victories over a 7800GTX-256/7900GT of about ~20%, which does bring nearly playable frame-rates into the 60 fps point. Maybe an enterprising third-party might offer a $400 7900GT-512 with a slightly higher mem clk; there is room for opportunistic pricing there.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    I like what XFX and eVGA are offering: http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/nvidia_geforce...">http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/nvi...orce_790... Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Good article, good conclusion.

    7900GTX @ $475 is perfect competition for the X1900XT/XTX.
    7900GT @ $300 is a great price for 7800GTX performance.

    A 7900GT with a quieter, better cooling solution and accompanying overclock for around ~$350 will be my next purchase as soon as Asus or Gigabyte or someone releases such a card at such a price.
    Reply
  • Leper Messiah - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    too bad the only 7900GTX I've seen is $559.00 Man, I though I read somewhere in Video that these things were supposed to be uber cheap. Guess that was just rumor. :( Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Really? I saw ones as low as $499 in the RealTime Pricing results.. Reply
  • KHysiek - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    I know it can be used to beat world record of fastest graphics cards, but for whom this tests are targeted. I think they are useless for 99.99999% of readers. Atlhon FXs, SLIs all over the place and almost none nonSLIsetups of currently available cards. How typical user, which has card 6-18 months old is supposed to evaluate speed of new cards and value of upgrading. I think it's the main task of such test - convince people to upgrade. Who have such systems like your testbed and who use SLI in real life - 0.00001% of these readers. Maybe even less. Reply
  • yacoub - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    some of us have been making this request for months now but it routinely falls on deaf ears. it appears most anandtech readers would prefer to read what is essentially technical advertising for GPU performance as tested in ubersystems 99% of us will never own. Reply
  • Egglick - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Trying to compare cards with all those SLI and Crossfire scores everywhere can get really irritating. Reply
  • bigboxes - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Can we please have separate charts for SLI/Crossfire setups and single cards that normal people will end up using. That way we can easily compare apples to apples. I'm sure that the 1% of you that use an SLI/Crossfire setup will like the articles, but the rest of us normal people will appreciate a direct comparison between the various single cards. Reply

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