Ultra High-End Graphics

NVIDIA's ultra high-end graphics offerings kick off our price guide. The new addition to our video price guides is the GeForce 7950 GX2. These cards are essentially SLI packaged into a single X16 slot solution, although you will need a motherboard with a BIOS that properly supports PCI-E devices other than graphics cards in the X16 slot. While there is some debate about whether or not this is truly a "single graphics card solution," the 7950 cards certainly are fast. We previewed the reference card performance last month and found that the 7950 GX2 is in general faster than 7900 GT SLI. There are a couple reasons for this. First, the GPU core is clocked slightly higher (500 MHz versus 450 MHz). You also get 512 MB of RAM per GPU instead of 256MB, though this is balanced out somewhat by the fact that 7900 GT cards ship with faster memory (1320 MHz versus 1200 MHz). Many of the 7900 GT cards come factory overclocked, though there are also a few 7950 GX2 cards that ship overclocked. Here's the list of GX2 cards.


The cheapest GX2 is currently from MSI [RTPE: NX7950GX2-T2D1GE] at $530 after rebate. Leadtek [RTPE: PX7950 GX2 TDH] and Gigabyte [RTPE: GV-3D1-7950-RH] are both priced similarly to the MSI offering ($563), but without the rebate. The XFX XXX model [RTPE: PV-T71U-ZDD9] is priced about $100 more and is still on pre-order, but it ships factory overclocked at 570/1550 MHz core/memory, making it the fastest GX2 card we're currently tracking. If you really want to drain your bank account, you could even purchase two GX2 cards and go for quad SLI. You'll need an SLI compatible motherboard, of course, and be sure to get a really beefy power supply (700 Watt recommended -- the Fotron Source FX700-GLN would be a great choice). Also, you should know that the support is unofficial, meaning you can't complain to NVIDIA if things don't work right. As we understand it, the 91.33 drivers and later should support quad SLI with the 7950 GX2 cards, though we haven't been able to internally verify this yet.


Dropping down a level, we have the 7900 GT and GTX cards. The 7900 GTX performs right up there with ATI's X1900 XT and X1900 XTX. It's difficult to say which is better as the 7900 GTX brings some excellent competition to ATI. The 7900 cards also generate less heat, use less power, and generally run quieter than their ATI counterparts. The main deciding factor between these cards will be the price and features, as well as the intended use. We would say that ATI tends to have the performance advantage in many games right now, but there are still titles that favor NVIDIA's cards. If you're inclined to run multi-GPU setups, we would have to give the edge to NVIDIA. ATI still performs better with X1900 CrossFire in many titles, but the simple fact of the matter is that NVIDIA's multi-GPU drivers feel far more mature than ATI's CrossFire drivers. Taking a further step down in performance, we've discovered that the 7900 GT performs slightly better than a 7800 GTX, which puts the 7900 GT at or slightly above ATI's X1800 XL and X1800 XT.

At the moment, the MSI GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB [RTPE: NX7900 GTX-T2D512E] is the cheapest priced GTX we are seeing this week, going for $420 after a $30 mail-in rebate. Leading the 7900 GT pack this week are two cards, the MSI GeForce 7900 GT 256MB [RTPE: NX7900GT-VT2D256E] and the XFX GeForce 7900 GT Extreme 256MB [RTPE: PV-T71G-UDE7] which are on sale for $260 after a $20 and a $30 mail-in rebate, respectively. You'll note that many of the 7900 GT/GTX cards come factory overclocked, so if you want the performance bump but don't want to overclock on your own you should pay attention to clock speeds.


The GeForce 7800 GT/GTX used to be very popular. However, we are only picking up two GT cards this week as all the others are now out of stock and we've gotten better performance out of the 7900 GT cards. All the other 7800 GT cards listed in the RPTE are coming up as pre-order only, so you won't see them displayed in the above chart. The best price we are able to find on a 7800 GT is the BFG GeForce 7800GT OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR78256GTOC] going for $300. With only 20 pipelines compared to 24 on the 7900 GT, there's absolutely no reason to recommend a 7800 GT anymore. If you already have one and are looking to upgrade to SLI, you can get a moderate performance increase, but that's about the only reason to even think about the 7800 GT cards.

In the 7800 GTX line-up, the best price we're pulling up on is again from BFG, the GeForce 7800GTX OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR78256GTXOC] which is currently going for about $380 shipped. As with other models, these 7800 GTX cards come with many different package alternatives, so read the details carefully to get what you really want or avoid what you don't. Given that the 7900 GT is over $100 cheaper and will generally overclock and outperform a 7800 GTX, we feel your money would be better spent elsewhere - or just save it for the next graphics card generation.


Shifting over to ATI's ultra high-end offerings, the X1900 XT cards are really the best choice. The best price we're seeing is the MSI Radeon X1900XT 512MB [RTPE: RX1900XT-VT2D512E] for $360 after a $30 mail-in rebate. We would also like to suggest the HIS Radeon X1900XT 512MB [RTPE: HX190XT512DVN] on sale for $367 shipped after a $25 mail-in rebate. Since the X1900 XT and 7900 GTX perform similarly, the deciding factor will usually be the price. As you can see here, the X1900 XT wins this week by a considerable margin.

The X1900 XTX cards continue to drop in price every week, though they're not much faster than the XT cards. The MSI Radeon X1900XTX 512MB [RTPE: RX1900XTX-VT2D512E] is selling for $415 shipped after a $30 mail-in rebate. If mail-in rebates aren't your thing, we've found the Gigabyte Radeon X1900XTX 512MB [RTPE: GV-RX19X512VB-RH] going for approximately $473 shipped. The XTX cards are only about 5% faster than the XT cards, and of course if you ever upgrade to CrossFire you will be stuck with XT speeds anyway. We definitely recommend the XT cards, as the extra $55+ really isn't worth spending. If you need a CrossFire card, we recommend going with the cheapest offering, as all the cards carry the same clock speeds. Unfortunately, the CrossFire cards cost more than even the XTX models, so you'll be paying at least $467 for the Sapphire model [RTPE: 100159]


These X1800 cards aren't very appealing these days because of the faster options you have available above. However, prices on the X1800XT have continued to drop, and we are currently showing the Sapphire X1800 XT for only $287 [RTPE: X1800XT]. You can also see the sole X1800 CrossFire card we're tracking, again from Sapphire [RTPE: 100-435716]. For $358, we would recommend bypassing this upgrade even for those who already own an X1800 XT card.

Let's head on over to the high-end graphics cards and take a look at what we have there.

Index High-End Graphics
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  • bongbong - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    The fastest 7300GT with ddr3 1400 mhtz meory is faster than a 6600GT and a 6800 and its price a bit lower than the geforce 6600GT so go for it.
    Its a mid end car masquearading as low end card.
    Reply
  • bongbong - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    There are lots of reviews on the web of the ddr3 powered 7300GT whose memory clocks at default of 1400 mhtz.
    It beats the 7600 GS whose memory is at 800 mhtz.
    The only 7600 that can beat the 7300 gt with ddr 1400 mhtz memory would be the 7600 GST
    which has the extra t and 1400 mhtz gdd3 memory also.
    It is however expensive in my country where a 25 usdollar difference in price from the 7300 GT (both 256mb versions at gd3 1400mhtz) is substantially felt by filipinos.

    Also the 7300 GT by Inno3d overclocks up to 1600 mhtz mem and 600 core.

    Just ggogle for inno3d 7300 GT ddr3 reviews or look up www.trustedreviews.com
    Im suprised these hi speed 7300 GTs arent widely available in America.

    They are very much worth the hype.
    Reply
  • dstigue - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    You're right about the 7900gt's needing to be moved down to high end but I think the x1800xt's should be too. x1800xt's compete very well with the x1900gt's and at a better price point I might add. Those three cards are in a deathlock as far as price/performance goes. I picked up a x1800xt 512 for $300 with $20 mail in rebate on newegg. And I will tell you I am very happy with my purchase. But I don't think my system is ultra high end either. Reply
  • Ozo - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    Why don't you guys include the Gainward BLISS 7800GS+?

    This thing is basically a 7900GT, and Overclockers UK will ship to the US. I didn't even realize this card existed until I started looking for dual-DVI to drive two big flat panels, and stumbled across references in newsgroups. Very sweet card. It already has an Arctic Cooler.

    Yes, I know $445 (delivered) is a lot, but this will extend the life of my S754 system for yet another year. Switching MB's, memory, I/O cards, re-installing XP, etc. is a major hassle when all I need is a faster graphics card.

    BTW, I love your guides. Very useful - Thank you!!
    Reply
  • jluquette - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    I'm curious to know what the difference between some of the different models (from the same manufacturer) of X1900 XT are. For example, Sapphire has 3 different X1900 XT models listed at newegg; model numbers:

    100149L $355
    100149 $389
    100149SR $399

    Newegg's comparison chart between the three can be found here:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductCompare.asp?S...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductCo...25%2CN82...

    These are all X1900 XTs; not AIWs, not GTs, not XTXs and not Crossfires. They're all X1900 XTs with the same core and memory clocks--yet for some reason there's a $50 price span. Sapphire doesn't list anything helpful to differentiating these models--so does anyone know what the differences might be for $50? Is it possibly the software bundle that's different? Or the accessory packs?

    On one hand, the memory and clock speeds are the same--and so is the pipeline count--so I feel confident that these cards should be equivalent in performance. But on the other hand, what could possibly prompt a $50 increase from the low end to the high end?

    Can anyone shed some light on this?

    Joe
    Reply
  • rrcn - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    From what I can tell: 100149L is the retail version of 100149, which is OEM. 100149SR is the same as 100149L, except 100149SR has a greater software bundle.

    Hope that helps.

    Haider Farhan
    Reply
  • erple2 - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    One other difference I've noticed: the 100149SR comes with 2x DVI to VGA adapters. Whether it's an oversight on the listing of the 100149L, I don't know. Reply
  • jluquette - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    Thanks!

    It looks like you're right. Looking through the supplied pictures shows that the SR comes with the game select disc among other software goodies. However, I'm confused as to why the OEM version of the card is ~$30 more expensive than the retail version (before rebate)--and nearly $60 more expensive after rebate.

    In general, isn't the retail version of anything supposed to be more expensive than the OEM version? The retail version is supposedly the same as the OEM version, just boxed up and fancy, right?

    Joe
    Reply
  • rrcn - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    quote:

    However, I'm confused as to why the OEM version of the card is ~$30 more expensive than the retail version (before rebate)--and nearly $60 more expensive after rebate. In general, isn't the retail version of anything supposed to be more expensive than the OEM version?

    Correct. I was pondering the same thing, why that OEM card is more expensive than the retail version. It could definitely be a pricing mistake, I'm positive it's happened before. I wouldn't stress over it...obviously go with the retail version. ;-)

    quote:

    The retail version is supposedly the same as the OEM version, just boxed up and fancy, right?

    Correct again. ;-) Sometimes though, the OEM will be just the card -- no power adapter, dongles, etc. Always read the "what's included" portion before buying.

    Haider Farhan
    Reply
  • unclebud - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    "However, with performance generally lower than the 6600 GT, the X1600 offerings really aren't very attractive."

    to somebody biased towards nvidia perhaps :/
    i have a friend playing wow on nvidia 6600. don't see a bit of difference, except that his dvd drive stopped working

    "Rather than going with an X1600 or the X700, we feel you'll get more for your money if you spend the few extra dollars and select the 7600 GT as your choice."

    how is paying twice the price a "few dollars more"? in what universe?

    "This is a truly buggy situation. Windows does not pick it up as a Sapphire using drivers provided by Sapphire,"

    this is like what i experienced with the 3dfuzion (3dfuzjunk imo) 6200 pci that i bought. i will just have to reflash the bios and reload windows, because the pci bus is tarfed now and the second monitor ouput on the 5500 pci i swapped back doesn't work now either
    i agree sapphire drivers are junk! some of the discs they ship with their cards are completely out of date. sorry, i know this doesn't help, but rest assured i feel the same pain... good luck. maybe try driver cleaner (althought that hasn't helped me either)
    Reply

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