by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
11/15/2005 | 03:41 AM
Although top-end graphics cards make up but a very small percentage in the total sales volume, they do play an important role. They can be regarded as symbols of technological superiority of the developing companies who can create such advanced solutions with unmatched qualities. It is not strange then that this market sector is the field of never-ending and fierce competition between ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corporation which results in new products that push the 3D graphics quality bar ever higher and do not let the progress in the 3D hardware field stop or even slow down.
We think it won’t be an exaggeration if we called this year a year of NVIDIA. The company not only created the fastest GeForce 7800 GTX which ruled solely in the consumer 3D graphics realm for almost a quarter of a year, but also managed to ensure mass shipments of such graphics cards. A little later NVIDIA reinforced its standing in the top-end sector by complementing the G70-based product line with the very successful GeForce 7800 GT model.
The total power of the G70’s 24 pixel processors seemed unbeatable, but ATI Technologies was hastily preparing its R520 chip to change the unfavorable situation. After a few redesigns the new GPU was able to work at an extremely high frequency of 625MHz. On October 5, 2005, ATI made its reply to NVIDIA by announcing a whole series of new-generation graphics processors under the common name RADEON X1000. Two graphics cards, RADEON X1800 XL and RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, were introduced that were based on the senior GPU model codenamed R520 (for details see our article called ATI RADEON X1800 XT and XL Performance: Crushing NVIDIA's 7800?).
The “XT”-marked card seemed a real monster. As if it was not enough to clock its GPU at 625MHz, the card had 512 megabytes of onboard memory clocked at an unprecedented frequency of 750 (1500) MHz. Although the R520 had fewer pixel processors than the G70 (16 against 24), its ultrahigh frequencies and new architecture brought the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB a victory over the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX. It was not a crushing or decisive victory, yet the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB could now deservedly wear the crown of King of 3D, while NVIDIA lost its technological superiority.
NVIDIA’s response was not to be long waited for, however. Today, the company adds a new model to its GeForce 7800 GTX series. It is GeForce 7800 GTX 512, with 512 megabytes of graphics memory, 550MHz GPU frequency and 850 (1700) MHz memory frequency. The new product’s recommended price is $649. Its main purpose is to prove NVIDIA’s technological leadership rather than to earn money for the company.
But does the new card fulfill its purpose? You will have our answer at the end of the review when we will sum up the results of the gaming tests. Right now let’s examine the new device more closely.
It is not so easy to spot any difference between the PCBs of the GeForce 7800 GTX and the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 because the huge dual-slot cooling system borrowed from the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 leaves very little to the eye:
Yet there are differences, and quite serious ones. The PCB of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is actually a thoroughly modernized PCB of the GeForce 7800 GTX with a redesigned and reinforced power circuit. Some of its components can be seen in the card’s top right corner – they are missing on the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX as well as on the professional Quadro FX 4500 card.
More differences become evident if you take a look at the reverse sides of the PCBs. The GeForce 7800 GTX has a scattering of small components around its power circuit. The same area on the GeForce 7800 GTX is populated much less densely. Another important feature is that there are no memory chips and no seats for them on the reverse side of the PCB. All memory is located on the face side of NVIDIA’s new graphics card. Since there are no chips, the cooling bar is not necessary, either. So, it is missing here, just like the back-plate of the cooling system is. The cooler is now simply secured with nine spring-loaded screws. This is a rather strange solution, considering the large dimensions of the cooler. We removed it to see the following:
The left parts of the PCBs of the two versions of GeForce 7800 GTX are nearly identical, but the right part of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 card carries a more complex power circuit. The main power components of the circuit are still covered with a small rectangular heatsink. The ordinary version of the GeForce 7800 GTX permitted to install a total of 512MB of graphics memory by adding another eight 256Mb GDDR3 chips in 144-pin FBGA packaging, but such memory would not have allowed to be overclocked from 600 (1200) MHz to 850 (1700) MHz. The min access time of K4J55323QF series chips is 1.25 nanoseconds which corresponds to 800 (1600) MHz frequency. Moreover, Samsung doesn’t supply such chips in mass quantities, but only offers samples.
NVIDIA took another approach in order to reach the record-breaking memory frequency. The company redesigned the PCB of the new card in such a way as to make possible to use more advanced memory chips from the K4J52324QC series, in 136-pin FBGA packaging and with a double capacity of 512Mb. These memory chips with an access time of 1.1 nanoseconds are really unique. Even the manufacturer’s website has no info about their existence. According to official info, the GDDR3 chip series from Samsung currently stops at 1.25ns products. It is possible Samsung doesn’t yet supply such fast memory in mass quantities and this partially explains the exclusiveness of the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512. The memory frequency is reduced a little below the chips’ rating, to 850 (1700) MHz, probably to ensure stable operation of the device.
Samsung produces its K4J52324QC series in two versions, marked as BC and BJ. Here we have the second version that works at 1.8V voltage. This should reduce the total power consumption of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 a little. Since these chips have 512Mb capacity and 16Mx32 design, eight such chips suffice to yield a total of 512 megabytes of graphics memory accessed across a 256-bit bus. The peak bandwidth of the memory subsystem of NVIDIA’s new card is really impressive, being as high as 54.4GB/s (compare this to the 48GB/s memory bandwidth of the ATI RADEON X1800 XT 512MB). Of course, the efficiency of the memory controller affects the real performance of the card, yet NVIDIA’s new solution enjoys a 6.4GB/s advantage over its opponent in the “pure” memory bandwidth.
As for thermal interface, NVIDIA seems to have found an optimal solution and uses it here. We mean the cloth pads soaked in white thermal paste. They have already proved their efficiency, providing good thermal conductivity and proper contact between the memory chips and the cooler’s heatsink. In this case, the memory must be cooled properly. Clocked at 850 (1700) MHz, it has to consume a lot of power and, as a result, to dissipate a lot of heat, even despite the reduced voltage it works at.
The graphics processor we saw after removing the cooler was a surprise:
It seems to be nothing else but a GeForce 7800 Ultra which has been cancelled for marketing reasons – the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX is only second to the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, after all. This sample of the GeForce 7800 Ultra is mature enough, being revision A2 and manufactured on the 34-th week of this year, i.e. in August. We suppose that the G70 was originally developed as a super-powerful GPU that would work at a high frequency and would have an unprecedented number of pixel processors. This way NVIDIA tried to safeguard itself against possible problems. The chip came out strong and mighty, but the company could not make it stable at frequencies above 500MHz at first. It didn’t become a big trouble, though. Even at 430/470MHz clock rates the new graphics card easily beat any opponent then present on the 3D hardware market. When the design of the new GPU was improved, the clock rate could be raised up to the earlier planned point, but what was the purpose of releasing a GeForce 7800 Ultra if even the non-Ultra version of the card had no competitors among ATI’s products? The GeForce 7800 Ultra might even harm the sales of the GeForce 7800 GTX.
It means NVIDIA has long had G70 Ultra chips capable of working at 500MHz and higher frequencies up its sleeve and now the company produces this trump to beat the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB and prove its technological leadership once again. So, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is actually a GeForce 7800 Ultra born anew. By the way, all the subunits of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 work at the same frequency of 550MHz, while the GeForce 7800 GTX clocks its pixel processors and ROPs at 430MHz and its vertex processors at 470MHz.
The cooling system looks heavy, so you may wonder why NVIDIA didn’t put a cross-shaped back-plate on the reverse side of the PCB to prevent the card from bending. But the fact is the cooler is actually very light despite the impressive dimensions. At least, it seemed no heavier than the single-slot cooler of the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX.
The cooler owes its light weight to very small amounts of copper in its design. One of the few copper details is the rather thin plate that directly contacts with the GPU surface through a thick layer of gray-colored thermal paste. It is difficult to apply this paste due to its thickness but it does ensure excellent thermal conductivity. The heat is transferred from the base and is evenly distributed along the two sets of thin ribs via four heat pipes, also made of copper but coated with a thin layer of nickel. The aluminum ribs are fastened on a light-weight aluminum frame and are covered under a translucent air-directing casing. The ribs are pressurized rather than soldered to the heat pipes, but the heat contact is tight and heat transfer is good as indicated by the fact that both right and left heatsinks become very hot at work.
The frame that the rest of the details of the cooling system are installed upon has jutting areas opposite to the memory chips and, as we have said above, touches them through thermal paste-soaked cloth pads. The frame is large enough and is cooled by the fan, so you should not worry much about the thermal conditions of the memory chips.
The fan the installed cooling system is equipped with is an interesting thing, too. It is 80mm in diameter, i.e. it is the same size as standard system case fans. The wide and smoothly curved blades indicate that the fan is optimized for work at low rotation speeds. The required current, only 0.13 amperes, is indicative of the same thing, too. At 12V voltage the fan consumes only about 1.5W. The fan being of the axial design, most of its air stream is directed downwards, to the cooler’s base, and then the base with the casing make the air flow to other directions. Part of the air stream that goes leftwards cools the left heatsink and is exhausted to the outside of the system case, while the other part cools the right heatsink as well as the heatsink on the power circuit elements.
This cooling system earned a good reputation working on the professional graphics card NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500. It is somewhat more difficult to cool a GeForce 7800 GTX 512: the graphics processor works at about the same frequency as on the professional card, but the memory works at 850 (1700) MHz instead of 525 (1050) MHz. The cooler does its job well, nevertheless. We expect this cooling solution to be quiet enough and we will check this out shortly.
Like the GeForce 7800 GTX, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is equipped with a MIO connector for joining two such cards into a SLI pair. It also features a Philips SAA7115HL chip that endows the card with VIVO functionality.
Of course, we could not omit to check such an important parameter of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 as power consumption. The ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX consumes about 80W when a heavy 3D application is running. The new product from NVIDIA works at higher frequencies and has two times the amount of memory, so we were curious to see if it eats more than 100W and is more voracious than the current “leader” ATI RADEON X1800 XT 512MB.
We measured the power consumption of the card on a specially configured testbed:
The graphics card was put to test by running the third 3DMark05 subtest in a loop in 1600x1200 resolution with enabled 4x FSAA and 16x AF. We made the measurements by means of a digital multimeter Velleman DVM850BL (its 0.5% accuracy is sufficient for our purpose). And here are the results:
The power consumption of the new graphics card proved to be lower than we had expected and exceeded the 100W mark only in the overclocked mode. The much higher frequencies and the larger amount of graphics memory of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 come at a reasonable tradeoff of only 14 extra watts of consumed power. The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB with its 112W consumption still remains the single graphics card that requires more than 100W of power in its default operational mode. We think the lower memory voltage contributed to the result of NVIDIA’s new product (1.8 volts against the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB’s 2.0 volts).
We also measured how much power the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 needed when idle and in 2D tests of Futuremark PCMark05. The Idle consumption of the card was about 29-32W, depending on the running application. The consumption grew up to 53.3W in PCMark05 because the card’s frequency control system thought that a 3D application had been launched and increased the GPU clock rate from 275 to 550MHz.
Generally speaking, a power consumption of less than 100 watts is an excellent parameter for such an advanced device, which is another confirmation of the clever design of the G70 processor as well as of G70-based graphics cards. If you are going to become an owner of a GeForce 7800 GTX 512, you will of course need a high-quality and expensive power supply with an up to 450W wattage. But we think it won’t be a big problem to you, if you are ready to spend as much as $649 for a graphics card alone. And if you are into SLI configurations and want to assemble one out of two GeForce 7800 GTX 512 cards, you will have to have a power supply capable of yielding a sustained 500-550W and more.
The cooling system of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 proved to be almost silent. You could only hear a soft rumble of the fan when your ear was not more than 10-15cm away from the operating testbed. Since the fan initially has a low speed, its speed management system is set up for the maximum in all the three modes: 2D, Low Power 3D and Performance 3D. We do not recommend you to tinker with these settings since the card is silent as it is, while your reducing the fan speed may put it under the risk of overheat. We want to note that the heat pipes and the heatsinks would become very hot after long operation, so additional ventilation in your system case would be most welcome, even though the cooling system borrowed from the Quadro FX 4500 handles the new NVIDIA card quite successfully without extra help.
Our overclocking experiments agree with our supposition that NVIDIA has created a new revision of the G70 chip capable of working at increased frequencies. Without using additional air cooling, we managed to overclock the GPU of our sample of the card to 600MHz. This is a mere 25MHz below the GPU frequency of the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, but do not forget that the latter is a 0.09-micron chip and has only 16 pixel pipelines against the G70 Ultra’s 24. The memory reached its rated frequency, 900 (1800) MHz, and refused to overclock any further. The frequency potential of 1.1ns chips is probably exhausted and they cannot speed up any more at their default voltage.
The results of stepped overclocking tests were quite ambiguous. As we know, the regular GeForce 7800 GTX can be overclocked with 27MHz increment for pixel processors and if the increment is lower than this value, then there will hardly be any performance gain at all. The situation with the new NVIDIA graphics accelerator is completely different: it seems to have no overclocking discontinuity or to support any other overclocking increments than the 27MHz one. We overclocked the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 graphics processor from 550MHz to 595MHz with 9MHz increment and measured the results with Xbitmark tool and Marko Dolenc’s Fillrate Tester on each stage. Here are the obtained results:
You can clearly see that the pixel processor performance by GeForce 7800 512 during complex shaders processing grows up almost linearly. We can see steps only in a few individual cases, and the significant growth should not necessarily coincide with the GPU frequency increase by 27MHz. This is a very unusual situation and we cannot explain the causes of it at this point. As soon as we raise the curtain of mystery over this matter, we will share the details with you, of course.
The quality of the 2D image was excellent on both DVI-I ports of the card. The image was crystal-sharp even in 1800x1440@75Hz mode. We observed no shadowing or fuzziness.
We installed the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512 graphics card into our testbed computer:
We set up the ATI and NVIDIA drivers in the following way:
ATI CATALYST 5.9:
NVIDIA ForceWare 81.89:
We select the highest graphics quality settings in each game, identical for graphics cards from ATI and NVIDIA. If possible, we use the games’ integrated benchmarking tools (to record and reproduce a demo and measure the reproduction speed in frames per second). Otherwise we measure the frame rate with the FRAPS utility. If it is possible, we measure minimal as well as average fps rates to give you a fuller picture.
We turn on 4x full-screen antialiasing and 16x anisotropic filtering in the “eye candy” test mode from the game’s own menu if possible. Otherwise we force the necessary mode from the driver. We don’t test the “eye candy” mode if the game engine doesn’t support FSAA.
Besides the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX, the following graphics cards took part in this test session:
These games and applications were used as benchmarks:
First-Person 3D Shooters:
Third-Person 3D Shooters:
Besides running gaming benchmarks, we also checked the performance of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 with Marko Dolenc’s Fillrate Tester and Xbitmark v0.60 to learn the theoretical potential of NVIDIA’s new solution.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 has no rivals in the fill rate parameter due to its high operational frequencies as well as to its architectural features like caching. The new card is only inferior to the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB when textures are not mapped, and is much better than it in the other cases.
The pixel shader performance benchmark produces similar results. The new GeForce 7800 GTX is obviously faster than the older one at executing simple shaders. The gap between them is much smaller as they are rendering per-pixel lighting, but the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 delivers two times the performance of the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB in this case!
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is much better than the GeForce 7800 GTX, but cannot beat the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB at executing pixel shaders with dynamic branching as well as multi-pass shaders like 27-Pass Fur. Its performance is much higher than that of the senior member of the RADEON X1000 family in the other cases, though.
Take note of the Vertex Noise shader that the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 executes just a little faster than the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX does. This is because the difference in frequency between the vertex processors of these two graphics cards is not as big as between their pixel processors and amounts to 80MHz only.
The overall potential of the new GeForce 7800 GTX model is more than impressive. Let’s see how effectively it can be applied to running real-life games.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 proves its superiority over the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB starting from 1024x768 resolution, and the gap between them grows up to 20% in 1600x1200. The new graphics card is also successful in the “eye candy” mode, although the RingBus controller helps the senior graphics card model from ATI to even the score in the highest resolution. We can observe a certain speed gain from overclocking the GeForce 7800 GTX 512, but it is not above a few percent since the overclocked frequencies are not very high above the card’s default ones.
Even the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX is faster than both the RADEON X1800 XL and the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB in this OpenGL application. Both versions of GeForce 7800 GTX are limited by the performance of the testbed central processor in low resolutions of the “pure speed” mode, but then the newer model breaks away as the resolution grows. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is 20% to 35% faster and allows you to play this game comfortably even in 1600x1200 with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering.
The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB overtakes the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX in high resolutions of the “eye candy” mode, but the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is not to be challenged in Doom 3 . This monster doesn’t find it difficult to give out over 60fps in all the modes and resolutions.
The Pier level is large and abounds in pixel shaders the water is created with. It traditionally favors graphics cards from ATI Technologies, and the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB looks preferable to the GeForce 7800 GTX here. The new graphics card from NVIDIA is about 35% faster than the older version, which is enough to score even with the RADEON in 1600x1200 resolution of the “eye candy” mode (in lower resolutions and in the “pure speed” mode the graphics cards do not differ, all having a frame rate of 85-90fps).
The Research demo is less CPU-dependent and uses version 3.0 pixel shaders, which makes it a more useful test. Thanks to its universal architecture that can execute effectively pixel shaders of any degree of complexity, the GeForce 7800 GTX outperforms the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB in the “pure speed” mode, but not at the “eye candy” settings (NVIDIA’s card is worse than ATI’s in memory bandwidth and the efficiency of the memory controller). The GeForce 7800 GTX 512, on the contrary, has a 6.4GB/s faster memory subsystem and outperforms the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB by 20%. So, NVIDIA wins the Far Cry test, too.
We traditionally check the ability of the new graphics card to work in the HDR lighting mode and we also include the results of ATI’s RADEON X1800 which support HDR in Far Cry after installation of a special patch from CryTek. Unfortunately, the patch is not very fast and doesn’t allow turning on FSAA. It is also unavailable to ordinary users as yet, so it’s too early to comment upon the results of the RADEON X1800 cards.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 has a comfortable speed of 60fps and higher even in 1600x1200 with HDR enabled. The ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX was limited to 1280x1024 resolution, its speed being below comfortable level in 1600x1200. Then, you should use 1024x768 resolution on the GeForce 6800 Ultra and on the RADEON X1800, too, at least with the current version of the above-mentioned patch.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 becomes the first graphics card to have a frame rate of over 100fps in this game. None of consumer graphics cards, including RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, could ensure a similar speed in F.E.A.R. before. The new GeForce is 10-15% ahead of the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB even in the “eye candy” mode and provides a comfortable speed in resolutions up to 1280x1024.
You can see some difference between the graphics cards starting from 1280x1024 resolution in the “eye candy” mode. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is a little better than the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB here.
It’s similar on the d3_c17_02 map. The new card from NVIDIA wins this test, but by a narrow margin of 2fps. The overclocking gain is expectably small, considering the small GPU and memory frequency growth.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 lacks only 9fps to reach a round number of 100 in 1600x1200 resolution at the “eye candy” settings, but 91fps is an excellent result as well. The second-best RADEON X1800 XT 512MB is more than 20fps behind the leader, although it too provides a comfortable speed even in the hardest video mode.
Unfortunately for reviewers, Quake 4 is a CPU-dependent game, at least when it comes to testing top-end graphics cards. It’s only in high resolutions and/or with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering that we can get some useful information. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is in the lead in these cases, but the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB follows a mere 10% behind. Well anyway, NVIDIA is victorious once again.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is the first graphics card to run Serious Sam 2 singly at a comfortable speed in high resolutions with enabled full-screen antialiasing. For example, the new card gives you a frame rate of about 55fps in 1280x1024 whereas the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB is limited to 42fps. Unfortunately, the game is very resource-consuming so even such monsters as RADEON X1800 XT 512MB and GeForce 7800 GTX 512 don’t have any speed reserve – their performance may go down to below 20fps in some very complex scenes.
We should also note that Serious Sam 2 collapses into a BSOD on the GeForce 7800 GTX with 256MB of graphics memory in 1600x1200 with enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering. This was not observed with the GeForce 7800 GTX 512. We think this problem is due some flaw in the graphics memory management system of the NVIDIA ForceWare driver.
This scene doesn’t suit for comparing today’s top-end graphics cards since they all have the same speed in it. The speed never goes below 85fpsirrespective of the test mode or resolution, which should be more than enough for any player.
The Metallurgy map offers us some more useful info. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is 35-37% faster than the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB. The gap may have been wider, but the new graphics card from NVIDIA is limited by the CPU performance even in 1600x1200 resolution and cannot give you more than 130fps. But as you understand, this is more than enough for comfortable play.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is 40% and 30% faster than the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX and the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, respectively. Its speed is never lower than 140fps!
Processing complex version 3.0 pixel shaders is a forte of the new RADEON X1800 family and the senior model, RADEON X1800 XT 512MB, is quite far ahead of the GeForce 7800 GTX in this game. But the new GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is better still, although the ATI card follows no more than 2-4fps behind it at the “eye candy” settings. The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB and the new GeForce allow playing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory with comfort even in 1600x1200 resolution with enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering.
Colin McRae Rally 2005 is one of the few games where the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB can successfully compete with the GeForce 7800 GTX 512. It is even faster than the NVIDIA card, but only in 1280x1024 with enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering. In 1600x1200 the GeForce is ahead again thanks to its abnormally high memory frequency, 850 (1700) MHz.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is restrained by the CPU performance even in 1280x1024 with turned-on antialiasing and anisotropic filtering. It’s only in 1600x1200 that the CPU doesn’t interfere with the result, but the graphics card still turns in a performance of about 70fps. As for the opposite camp, the members of the RADEON X1800 family that use a less efficient OpenGL driver can only deliver a frame rate of 40fps which sometimes bottoms out to 20-21fps.
The GeForce 7 family is obviously victorious, but the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX cannot give you enough speed for comfortable play in high resolutions of the “eye candy” mode whereas the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 can, because its speed is about 30% higher. 45 frames per second is quite sufficient for a strategy game, so you can have an eye-pleasing 1600x1200 anti-aliased and filtered picture in this game on a GeForce 7800 GTX 512.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 meets no rivals in Dawn of War , either. In the hardest video mode it is 25% faster than the older model and 45% faster than the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB. The frame rate of 60fps that the new graphics card ensures is more than enough for any strategic mind.
Aquamark3 is by no means a difficult test by today’s standards. Most of its pixel shaders are version 1.1 and 1.4, with a small share of version 2.0 ones. The result of this benchmark mostly depends on the performance of vertex processors as well as on the GPU’s ability to remove invisible surfaces. The GeForce 7800 GTX is on the same level with the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB here, although they go different ways to achieve the result: the former makes use of its 24 pixel processors and its simple-shader-oriented architecture, while the latter has high operational frequencies and an improved invisible surface removal algorithm. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 has an even higher performance, but its advantage over the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB is not very big if given in percent, about 10-12%.
The overclocked GeForce 7800 GTX 512 sets a new record in this benchmark, notching over 6500 points. When at its default frequencies, the card stops less than 100 points short of that mark, but its leadership is unchallenged anyway. The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB cannot score even 6000 points here.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 stops only 718 points short of a new record when it works at its default frequencies, but overclocking helps to overcome the barrier. The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB suffers a crushing defeat – it scores 2923 points less than the new card from NVIDIA.
This test doesn’t need too many comments. Even the ordinary GeForce 7800 GTX is equal to the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB at the worst. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 has more power and its “eye candy” performance never goes below 220fps.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 wins all the resolutions of the second test, too, but note that the gap between it and the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB becomes much smaller as soon as we turn on FSAA and anisotropic filtering. It is no bigger than 2fps in 1600x1200 resolution. From the technological point of view, the test features normal maps and dynamic stencil shadows, so NVIDIA should have a certain advantage, but the RADEON X1800 XT 512 isn’t much worse than its opponent. We can assume then that the RADEON’s 1.5GHz memory with a RingBus controller is roughly equal to a traditional memory controller and 1.7GHz memory.
The third test has a more complex geometry than the second one, so it produces similar results, even though the advantage of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is more clearly outlined. Both opponents have 8 vertex processors, but they work at a higher frequency on the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB. So what prevented it from overtaking the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 in high resolutions of the “eye candy” mode? The problem must be somewhere in the Catalyst driver.
The fourth test makes use of numerous pixel and vertex shaders of version 2.0. The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB used to win here due to its high frequencies, but the new GeForce 7800 GTX 512 not only has high GPU and memory clock rates, but also 24 pixel processors. The combination of these factors makes up a real computational monster that can deliver 70fps and more even in the “eye candy” mode.
The overall triumph of the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512 in this benchmark is beyond doubt, but it would not be so impressive if the total score was based on the “eye candy” results.
ATI’s new architecture is especially strong in 3DMark05 as this benchmark puts an emphasis on execution of very complex pixel shaders and this is where RADEON X1000 cards can show their best. The increased frequencies of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 put it on top in this test, too, but the victory is not so impressive. The new GeForce scored only 347 points more than its opponent. We didn’t reach the 10,000 points mark on our testbed, but a faster CPU would probably have helped us to conquer that peak.
The RADEON X1800 XT 512MB and the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 start out at the same speed in this shooter-like test, but then the NVIDIA card goes ahead in higher resolutions. It enjoys a 15% advantage in the “pure speed” mode and a 20% advantage at the “eye candy” settings.
NVIDIA’s new card is not so much faster than its rival in this RPG-like test. The memory subsystem performance is not a key factor here because the scene is limited in space. To be exact, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is not more than 1fps faster than the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB.
The cards behave here in nearly the same way as in the first test. The GeForce 7800 GTX 512 is increasingly farther ahead of the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB as the resolution grows. Moreover, even the less advanced GeForce 7800 GTX manages to overtake the senior RADEON X1800 model in the hardest video mode.
So, the total score of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 in this benchmark seems quite correct, but we should note that the gap between it and the RADEON X1800 XT 512MB would be wider if 3DMark05 used a resolution higher than 1024x768 to calculate the total performance score of a card.
ATI RADEON X1800 XT 512MB didn’t last long in the position of the 3D graphics king: NVIDIA’s response was very simple, logical and efficient. Due to the availability of the new G70 revision, the company increased the nominal GPU frequency from 430MHz to 550MHz and provided the newcomer with high-performance memory. As a result, the new GeForce 7800 512 graphics adapter, the second incarnation of the GeForce 7800 GTX turned out to be a real monster with unprecedented performance.
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512 outperformed RADEON X1800 XT 512MB even in those tasks where its predecessor, GeForce 7800 GTX failed: I am talking about the games with numerous complex shaders and about the gaming modes with full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. The only exception appeared Colin McRae Rally05 race simulator, although ATI solution won in only one resolution there. In all other gaming tests, including 3DMark05, GeForce 7800 GTX 512 proved to be an undefeated leader. Moreover, the performance growth we have just seen allows playing games in 1600x1200 resolution with HDR color representation mode.
Besides the superior performance improvement, the newcomer from NVIDIA appeared quite modest in terms of power consumption, especially if we compare it against RADEON X1800 XT 512MB. Moreover, it is also almost completely noiseless. All in all, the new NVIDIA’s cooling system that has only been used for NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 turned out practically silent but at the same time efficient enough to ensure proper cooling of the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 working at higher clock rates. Moreover, 550MHz turned out to be far below the actual frequency limit for this G70 revision: the chip is capable of working fine at 600MHz and up. Some NVIDIA’s partners have already taken advantage of this attractive frequency potential. In particular, XFX has already announced their GeForce 7800 GTX 512 model with the GPU working at 580MHz. and this is not the unique case, I should say: ASUSTeK Computer, BFG Technologies, and other VGA cards manufacturers also offer their faster modifications of the new GeForce 7800 GTX 512 at this time already.
The price of GeForce 7800 512 is set at $649, which is $100 more than the recommended price of the ATI RADEON X1800 XT 512MB. It is quite logical, as the new NVIDIA graphics accelerator should sell at a higher price as it is the today’s fastest graphics consumer solution. Moreover, it is a purely image product targeted for those users who do not care about the price when it comes to getting the best and the fastest. All the other users should be pretty happy with the GeForce 7800 GTX equipped with 256MB of graphics memory. It also offers high performance, is quite overclockable and costs considerably less than the newcomer.
Anyway, NVIDIA has just struck back and regained the technological leadership. How long will it last? Time will show, but for sure they will stay on top of the hill for at least a quarter. ATI Technologies, doesn’t keep its hands in pockets either and is busy testing their new R580 GPU at this time and considers the possibility of equipping their current RADEON X1800 XT GPU family with faster memory. Especially, since there is always an opportunity to release a Platinum Edition modification. It would seem more logical though to bet on the new R580 GPU than to speed up the current RADEON X1800 XT line-up.