NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT
Today on the test bench we have yet another version of NVIDIA's venerable G71 core, the 7950 GT. Though the name is similar don't confuse it with the 7950GX2. The 7950 GT is a single GPU video card with the same G71 core as the 7900 GT and 7900 GTX.
Last week in our 7900 GS article we mentioned the launch of the 7950 GT. NVIDIA asked us to actually hold our numbers on the 7950 GT until today?s date so that they would have product on the shelf before they showed what performance it offered. A quick look around the internet shows stock of the 7950 GT in several places. Hats off to NVIDIA for yet another good hard launch of video cards.
As mentioned above we know that the 7950 GT has the same core as the outgoing 7900 GT which we have discussed many times. The big change for the 7950 GT is a move to 512MB of memory. At $299 the 7950 GT is big news as it brings a new low price to high-end video cards sporting 512MB of memory. It's also the opposite of what ATI did with their X1900XT 256MB that we reviewed yesterday. We're starting to see a separation between cards with 256MB and 512MB in some of the latest games at higher resolutions, so the sooner 512MB becomes mainstream the better for us gamers!
When it comes to speed the 7950 GT does not disappoint. The reference 7950 comes clocked at 550MHz core and 1.4GHz memory. That's 100MHz core, 200MHz memory slower than the single card flagship 7900 GTX.
Now for the bad news. With the introduction of the 7950 GT and 7900 GS there is now no room for the 7900 GT, thus it will be phased out. If you were planning to run a pair of 7900 GT's in SLI and only have one right now, you will either need to pick up a second one soon, or find one being sold second hand later.
Let's take a look at our XFX 7950 GT.
XFX 7950 GT 570M Extreme
As mentioned in the review of the 7900 GS, I really like the all black PCB and brackets. It's as sexy as a computer component can get without having a picture of Kristen Kruek on it. It quickly becomes obvious something is missing on this card and it is indeed the fan. This card is 100% passively cooled. Where the fan usually is we see a massive black heat spreader with the XFX logo on it and a set of aluminum heat pipes coming out of the top.
On the back side of the card we see that the heat pipes are inserted into aluminum fins to dissipate the heat. The other two pipes you see in the aluminum fins are attached to a bracket on the left side and are there to keep the whole thing stable and off the backside of the card. Let's get under the heat sink and see where the heat is coming from.
Now that we've got the heat sink off we see that the core contacts the heat spreader by a copper plate. The heat is then spread to the heatpipes and the rest of the sink. The length of the board is identical to the 7900 GS and 7900 GT which are all shorter than the 7900 GTX. The 7950 GT does of course require the PCI-E power connector.
Here is a picture of the core, the numbers silk screened on the core are almost identical to those of our 7950GX2 which suggests that NVIDIA is again using some of the better binned power efficient cores similar to the mobile line here. The core is clocked at 570MHz on our XFX card.
The memory used on the 7950 GT is Infineon branded GDDR3 rated for 700MHz. XFX is already running over the spec rating for this memory by clocking them at 730MHz (1.43GHz effective).
2 Dual link DVI connectors are standard as they were on the 7900 GS and 7900 GT. This silent beauty from XFX will set you back $320.
|Video Card Test Platform|
AMD Athlon 64 4800+
2GB Crucial PC-4000
Western Digital Raptor 74GB
Retail AMD Heatsink
OCZ PowerStream 600W
Windows XP Professional
- ATI Catalyst 6.8
- NVIDIA Forceware 91.47
Quake 4 is a very relevant test as this is obviously a very popular multiplayer game. Having a low framerate while competing in a local LAN is only going to hurt your chances of winning.
The 7950 GT is battling the 7900 GTX for top spot in Quake 4. The new NVIDIA card outpaces not only the X1900XT 256MB but the X1950XTX here.
Serious Sam 2
Ok, let's get Serious! This game offers HDR, tons of impressive scenery and enough enemies to make your trigger finger tired. We've provided results below with standard Anti-Aliasing without HDR. HDR is the next big thing for games coming out today and on the horizon. Although the ATI X1000 series support the use of Anti-Aliasing with HDR enabled in Serious Sam 2, the Nvidia 7000 series does not. No HDR+AA results were included in the review for this reason.
In the HDR tests the 7950 GT starts off pretty strong only 6fps behind the X1900XT 256 but by the time we reach 1920x1200 it's down by 11fps.
And in the AA results we see the 7950 GT much more competitive. It's just under 7fps faster than the X1900XT 256 at our lowest tested resolution and falls to just 1.7fps slower at the highest. Notice in all of our tests just how much faster the 7950 GT is than the 7900 GT it replaces.
First Encounter Assault Recon or F.E.A.R. Anyone who has played this game knows that it brings any computer to it's knees. Fantastic visuals, this is one of the most advanced graphic engines we have seen. If you haven't played this game you should really check it out. Both graphics and machine settings were on "Maximum" in the F.E.A.R. performance menu. Soft Shadows were turned OFF.
The 7950 GT is behind the 256MB X1900XT in all of our FEAR results. It does however have an advantage over the 7900 GT and GS and X1800XT.
The Sequel to the award winning X3: The Threat will introduce a new 3D engine as well as a new story, new ships and a new gameplay to greatly increase the variety in the X-universe. The economy of X3: Reunion will be more complex than anything seen in the X-universe before. Factories are being built by NPCs, wars can affect the global economy, NPCs can trade freely and pirates will behave far more realistically.
Extensive development has gone into the X3 engine, making full use of DirectX 9 technology, to create dramatic visual effects and stunningly realistic starships. Coupled with the massively enhanced A.L. (Artificial Life) system, X3: REUNION will present players with an ever changing, evolving universe; where a player actions really can shape the future of the universe.
We tested with the resolution set to 1280x1024, High Quality with 4xAA/16xAF and everything enabled.
As we've seen in the past this benchmark favors ATI pretty heavily. The 7950 GT is nipping at the heels of the 7900 GTX and is substantially faster than the outgoing 7900 GT.
Call Of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 was tested with a custom multi-player demo. Quality Settings were set to max, DX9 rendering, and Anisotropic filtering. Optimize for SLI was enabled for all cards.
In Call of Duty 2 we see excellent scaling out of the 7950 GT, as the resolution increases it's able to outpace the 256MB X1900 and is very close the the 7900 GTX which is nothing to sneeze at.
Futuremark has overhauled "The Gamers' Benchmark" with the introduction of 3DMark 06. The benchmark includes improved Shader Model 2 tests, new CPU tests and HDR Shader Model 3 tests for system-wide gaming performance measurement. Final scores are now impacted very directly by the CPU used so we are including the Shader Model 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0 results as this will tell us just how well our video card performs in this benchmark.
In our final test we see that 3D Mark prefers the 7950 GT over the X1900XT 256MB. It also has a solid advantage over the 7900 GT and trails the "full version" X1900XT but just a few hundred points.
We weren't sure how well our passive cooled 7950 GT was going to overclock but we knew we had to test it out! After loading up Coolbits we set off to "Detect Optimal Frequencies." What it came up with was a little surprising. This was with no air flow on the card. Keep in mind that overclocking a passively cooled card is entirely bound to the temperature of the room it is in.
Here is the default clocks for our XFX 7950 GT Extreme.
602MHz for the core and 1606MHz memory is a decent overclock for passive cooling! The memory overclock was impressive as it's just over 200MHz faster than what the memory is rated for. Let's see what improvements our overclock made.
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 shows the biggest gains as the 7950 GT is nearly equal to the 7900 GTX!
Power Consumption & Conclusion
For testing power consumption we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 5 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running through 3DMark 2006.
Using default core and memory clocks of 550MHz and 700MHz (1.4GHz effective data rate) respectively, the GeForce 7950 GT includes a 512MB frame buffer (256- bit GDDR3 memory interface), 8 vertex shaders, 24 pixel pipelines (each of which includes a dedicated texture unit and 2 pixel shader processors), and 16 ROPs, consuming a max of 82W of power based on the suggested settings by NVIDIA. Our XFX GeForce 7950 GT Extreme 570M comes factory overclocked 20MHz on the core and 30MHz on the memory, but also comes without a power hungry fan. XFX GeForce 7950 GT Extreme 570M is very impressive in that it consumes very little power compared to the X1900 cards that it competes against. The total system power consumption is only 198 Watts under full load, which is a far cry from the 280 Watts of the X1900 XTX by ATI.
From our testing we've seen that the 7950 GT competes very well with the X1900XT 256MB. The X1900XT 256 is ever so slightly faster in most of the tests which makes this a tough decision but it's hard to say that anyone could tell a difference between the two in most situations. The problem is that the 7950 GT is entering the market at a slightly higher price than the X1900XT 256MB. Sure $20 isn't a huge difference, but when you're talking about $300 most sane folks are looking to get the best value for their dollar.
For some the fact that there is an option for a silent high end card more than makes up any price difference, especially when you're talking about the incredibly loud start up fan speed of the ATI X1900 series. The cooling provided on this card kept things in check, with no airflow at all idle temps were 58c and load getting to around 70c. In contrast the X1900XT with the louder air cooler runs nearly identical temperatures! With a near silent 120mm fan blowing on our 7950 GT we never saw temps get above 51c under load.
Power consumption is no contest, the 7950 GT was tested to be 53w lower than 1900XT 256MB which is 53w less heat being put out of your computer case and less electricity being used.
512MB video cards are no doubt the way the market is heading. As we've pointed out in various reviewsvideo cards that have 256MB start to lose performance as resolutions get higher. Games are becoming more and more dependent on a larger memory footprint with ever increasing detail and low compression textures.
When all is said and done we have to give the nod to the XFX 7950 GT. With two cards performing similarly it has to come down to creature comforts and having a truly silent card is hard to put a price on. Had ATI included the cooler from the X1950 on the just released X1900 XT 256MB video card the result would likely be reversed. If you can live with a little noise the X1900XT 256 may be the better buy with a lower price and very slight performance advantage. As it stands the the XFX 7950 GT offers a much preferred cooling solution, similar performance, and lower power usage all at a slight price premium.
When XFX designed the GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme they took the NVIDIA reference design and overclocked it just a bit, which is nothing new to the graphics card industry. XFX then went against the flow and used a passive cooling solution on the overclocked card! The end result was music to our ears. The 570M Extreme is a truly silent graphics card that can play all the latest game titles without the
hum roar of a fan. Even though the card is overclocked we found it to consume less energy than other cards in its class and it passed the 'light test' as our ceiling lights didn't dim when the card was being used under full load.
Legit Bottom Line: The XFX 7950 GT Extreme offers stellar performance, 512MB of memory, and features of the flagship 7900 GTX in a single slot solution that is completely silent, a package the competition can't match.