XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition Graphics Card Review

Nvidia’s main mainstream weapon these days, GeForce 7600 GT graphics accelerator, has already been mentioned in one of our previous reviews devoted to ATI Radeon X1800 GTO performance. Despite the 128-bit memory bus, it demonstrated the level of performance comparable with that of the ATI’s solution, and sometimes was even much faster than the latter. Today we are going to take a real close look at the XFX solution based on this Nvidia chip – XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition.

by Alexey Stepin
07/27/2006 | 11:49 AM

As all of our readers surely know, the G71 and G73 graphics processors were announced by Nvidia at the same time. The former chip is meant for high-performance solutions, ranging from the GeForce 7900 GT to the dual-processor monster GeForce 7950 GX2, and has been covered extensively in our reviews (for details see our articles called Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT Review and Two for One: Nvidia's Dual-Chip GeForce 7950 GX2 Reviewed). The latter hasn’t been tested in our labs yet although it was mentioned in our review of the ATI Radeon X1800 GTO called PowerColor Radeon X1800 GTO Graphics Card: the Best in Its Class?. We think it’s time we made our amends to this graphics solution.

 

So, the G73 chip was originally designed by Nvidia as a graphics processor for mainstream and budget-mainstream graphics cards. This new GPU was to replace the out-dated NV42 and NV43 chips which had been used in GeForce 6800 GS, GeForce 6800 and GeForce 6600 GT cards and to provide the user with all the capabilities of the GeForce 7 architecture at an affordable price.

One G73-based graphics card model was announced at first. It was the GeForce 7600 GT which occupied the price range of $149-199, and later on the budget-mainstream GeForce 7600 GS was included into the 7600 series. In this review we are going to take a scrutinizing look at the former of these products, at one available version of the GeForce 7600 GT graphics card.

Nvidia G73: Specification

Like the G71, the G73 chip is manufactured on TSMC’s 0.09-micron tech process with low-k dielectrics, consists of 177 million transistors, uses a 128-bit GDDR3 memory interface, and has 12 pixel and 5 vertex processors. In other words, it has the same number of functional subunits as the NV42, but has less transistors and a different memory controller.

If you compare the GeForce 7600 GT with its direct market rival Radeon X1800 GTO, you’ll see that the G73 has a much lower transistor count: 177 million against 320 million in the R520 with some subunits disabled. It means that Nvidia’s graphics processor costs much less to produce.

The 128-bit memory access might provoke some apprehensions, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean a failure in competition with the opponent as has been confirmed in our earlier tests (see our article called PowerColor Radeon X1800 GTO Graphics Card: the Best in Its Class?), and this narrow memory bus simplifies the design and wiring of the graphics card’s PCB to a great extent. So, G73-based products are cheaper to manufacturer, and Nvidia has quite a lot of room for price maneuvering. ATI Technologies uses a PCB initially designed for high-performance and expensive solutions for Radeon X1800 GTO (as well as for Radeon X1900 GT), so the Canadian firm doesn’t have much freedom in setting the price for this product.

The GeForce 7600 GT also has fewer raster operators (ROPs) than the Radeon X1800 GTO. Combined with the narrower memory bus, this will negatively affect the performance of the card in certain cases, particularly in high display resolutions and when full-screen antialiasing is enabled. But these cards being mainstream solutions, this rarely becomes a real problem since their performance is often not high enough for comfortable play if you try to use high resolutions and FSAA simultaneously.

The difference in the number of vertex processors doesn’t matter much, either, because the scene geometry in modern games isn’t yet as complex as to make this factor crucial.

A curious fact, the GeForce 7600 GT is declared to have 12 pixel processors, but RivaTuner reports there are 16 of them in the G73, but one quad is disabled on the hardware level.

As you see, Pixel Unit 2 is disabled, i.e. only 12 out of the 16 pixel shader processors are active. We are not sure if the extra pixel processors are an error of the program, or a means to increase the chip yield by increasing the number of execution subunits, or a strategic reserve against future opponents. According to Nvidia, the chip contains 177 million transistors and works at a rather low clock rate, so we doubt the company would put spare execution subunits into it since this redundancy isn’t observed in more complex chips that work at higher frequencies. On the other hand, if there are really extra pixel processors inside, Nvidia has prepared a simple means to respond to ATI Technologies’ launching a new high-performing mainstream solution.

We will be examining XFX’s version of the GeForce 7600 GT today. It is called XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition and has improved clock rates, but its design is exactly the same as that of the reference card.

XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition

Package and Accessories

Besides just competing with their products, graphics card manufacturers are also running a contest for the best product package design. Originality of design is a sure way to attract the potential customer. They experiment with size, colors, material, but the shape of the package usually remains the classic rectangle. XFX, however, is not afraid to step away from the conventions. Its very original X-shaped box was mentioned in our XFX GeForce 6600 GDDR2 review called XFX GeForce 6600 GDDR2: GeForce 6600 Rejuvenated and it is in a similar box that the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition comes to us:

This is by far not the optimal solution when it comes to transportation and storage, but this deficiency is made up for by the queer shape of the box that is certain to provoke an interest in a computer shop customer. This customer attraction tactic must be working fine since XFX doesn’t seem to want to give up its X-shaped packages.

The box is the same for the entire XFX GeForce 7600 GT line, so it is only a special sticker that indicates that the described product belongs to the XXX Edition series. Yet another sticker tells you that a copy of the 3D shooter Starship Troopers is included with the graphics card. There’s a flap in the top part of the box; you can open it to learn more about the product: memory type, memory bus, the configuration of connectors, and the type of the set of accessories. The picture on the package is ordinary enough and shows you a humanoid monster in a mask, with riveted bracelets on the wrists of its paws and a length of chain behind the back. On the reverse side of the box there are two windows through which you can see a plastic container with the card. The bigger window gives you a good view of the card proper without your having to open the box; the smaller opening shows the connectors the card is equipped with and the product barcode, which is very convenient.

But that’s about all the conveniences the package of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition can offer. For example, it’s not easy even to open it up. You have to tear off or cut up as many as eight transparent stickers just to remove the colorful wrapping from the box. You can leave it as it is, though, and only cut two stickers to open the internal box and take out the contents, which is yet another (this time square-shaped) box with two containers: a cardboard container with the accessories and a transparent plastic container with the graphics card. The X-shaped seal with the skulls and signs of radioactive, biological and chemical hazards is missing here (see our previous review to see what we mean): it’s not necessary because the graphics card container catches on the sides of the package and it’s rather hard to take it out. Be careful not to cut your fingers on the thin plastic edges, though!

The container with the accessories includes the following items:

The user manual is quite informative and up to the contemporary realities of the computer world, while the installation guide is somewhat out-dated and doesn’t even mention the PCI Express bus which is currently the number one graphics interface.

So, you won’t get too many of accessories with your XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition, but the checkmark next to the word “Standard” in the “Package Edition” column on the package’s flap honestly warns you about that. To sweeten the impression somewhat, there is a copy of the 3D shooter Starship Troopers inside. The game has a straightforward plot, but features thrilling and variegated missions, good visuals with modern-age special effects, and a lot of enemies of course. There can be up to two or three hundred alien “bugs” on the screen simultaneously, so if you like mass battles – check out this title! This addition to the graphics card will also be appreciated by all fans of sci-fi shooters since Starship Troopers is based on the namesake movie which in its turn draws upon the sci-fi universe created by Robert Heinlein.

PCB Design and Cooling System

The G73 having been originally optimized for low power consumption, it wasn’t a hard job for Nvidia’s engineers to make the PCB of the GeForce 7600 GT simple and small:

The GeForce 7600 GT is shorter than the GeForce 6800 GS which used the GeForce 7800 GT’s PCB. The dimensions of the XFX card are comparable to those of the GeForce 6600 GT, and this is no marvel considering the use of 0.09-micron low-k tech process. It’s just progress, you know.

The GeForce 7600 GT’s power circuitry is, however, somewhat more complex than the GeForce 6600 GT’s. It is based around two Intersil ISL6549CBZ controllers located on the reverse side of the PCB, one of which is responsible for the GPU and the other for the memory. Apart of them, there’s nothing interesting on this side of the PCB, except for the seat for a VIVO chip. This seat is sealed with a sticker with patent numbers on the XFX product. It seems that the installation of the VIVO chip is not required, but possible. Today, the option of capturing analog video signal is not demanded much, while the cost of the product is reduced a little by not putting the appropriate chip on the PCB.

It should be noted that unlike on the GeForce 6600 GT, there is no place for an additional power connector on the GeForce 7600 GT. That’s explicable: the more advanced GeForce 7900 GT card consumes less than 50W in 3D mode and could quite well be satisfied with the amount of power the PCI Express slot can provide. The G73 has even fewer functional subunits than the G71, so it’s logical that solutions on this GPU do not call for external power, even accounting for the additional inactive quad of pixel processors. We already know that the power consumption of the GeForce 7600 GT is about 35W in 3D mode, but the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition works at higher GPU and memory frequencies and thus needs a little more power.

The G73’s memory interface is 128 bits wide, so four GDDR3 chips from Samsung (K4J52324QC, 16Mx32 organization) are used to provide 256 megabytes of graphics memory. With only four memory chips on board, the wiring of the PCB is made much simpler and, accordingly, cheaper. The BC14-suffixed chips have an access time of 1.4 nanoseconds and can work at frequencies up to 700 (1400) MHz. This is the standard memory frequency for the GeForce 7600 GT, but the memory of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is pre-overclocked by the manufacturer to 800 (1600) MHz.

So, the peak memory bandwidth of this graphics card is 25.6GB/s as opposed to the standard GeForce 7600 GT’s 22.4GB/s, which is, however, still lower than the Radeon X1800 GTO’s 32GB/s. Note that the memory chip work at a higher frequency than they are rated for, so it is possible XFX had ensured its stability by increasing its voltage.

The G73 chip installed on our sample of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is revision A2 and was manufactured at the beginning of 2006. The die area is small due to the low transistor count and the 0.09-micron tech process. The die is smaller than the NV42’s or NV43’s and looks quite a midget in comparison with ATI’s R520 employed in the Radeon X1800 GTO. There’s no protection of the core against physical damage, but that’s not a problem with the small and light cooler the GeForce 7600 GT is equipped with. The core frequency of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is 590MHz which is 30MHz above that of the reference card.

Quite typically for a modern graphics card, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition has two DVI-I connectors and a universal video output. As opposed to the G71, the G73 chip has only one TMDS transmitter that is capable of working in dual-link mode, so only the lower DVI-I connector, closest to the PCI Express slot and the mainboard, can be used to connect an LCD monitor with support for 2560x1600 resolution. The mounting bracket of this card differs from the standard one in having a special tab with a barcode sticker. It is this tab that you see through the smaller window in the package.

The XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition carries an ordinary reference cooler, the same as you see on any other version of the GeForce 7600 GT. This cooler should be familiar to our readers from our GeForce 7900 GT review. It consists of a copper bar and a folded copper sheet which is glued to that bar. The whole thing is covered with an air-directing casing and is equipped with a small blower with a blades diameter of 45mm and a power draw of 2.16W (0.18A x 12V). This is a simple and not very efficient design, but it suffices for cooling the low-consumption G73 chip even on the overclocked GeForce 7600 GT. The cooler is firmly secured on the PCB with four spring-loaded screws, so there’s low probability that it can crack the GPU die. The cooler’s base contacts with the GPU core through a layer of thick dark-gray thermal paste. The cooler does not touch the memory chips.

The single difference of the cooler installed on the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition from the reference one is that it carries a sticker with the XFX logotype on the casing. The blower has a two-contact connection to the card, but there’s a seat for a 4-pin connector nearby. The same seat can be seen on the GeForce 7900 GT, so we suspect it had been planned to mount coolers with a different, perhaps more efficient, design on the GeForce 7900 GT and GeForce 7600 GT – at least coolers with different fans. As you know, the GeForce 7900 GT lacks any fan speed management system, and this affects its noise parameters negatively – the card is loud in any mode. We’ll tell you later on in this review if the same is true for the GeForce 7600 GT.

Power Consumption and Overclocking

Following the usual testing procedure we apply to each graphics card that enters our labs, we measured the power consumption of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition on a modified testbed configured in this way:

The measurements were performed with a digital multimeter Velleman DVM850BL (0.5% measurement accuracy). We put the GPU under load by launching the first SM3.0 graphics test from 3DMark06 and running it in a loop at 1600x1200 resolution and with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering. The Peak 2D load was created by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from Futuremark’s PCMark05 benchmarking suite. The results follow below:

The XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition really has a higher power draw than the standard 7600 GT, but the difference is small, not bigger than 2.5W in the 3D mode. The device mostly loads the +12V line; less than 1W is consumed across the +3.3V line. This is characteristic of the GeForce 7800 GT and 7900 GT, too.

The results of the GeForce 7600 GT in the power consumption tests are the best in its class as the ATI Radeon X1800 GTO needs 12W more power than Nvidia’s solution and is comparable to the more advanced GeForce 7900 GT in its appetite.

Our attempt to overclock our sample of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition ended in a failure. After all, the card already comes overclocked by the manufacturer, and the hot weather in our area impeded our overclocking tests, too. So, we couldn’t increase the graphics core frequency even by 5MHz because the card didn’t pass ForceWare’s built-in stability test at such a core clock rate. So, we stopped at that and benchmarked the XFX card at its default frequencies, i.e. 590/800 (1600) MHz.

Noise and 2D Quality

We measured the level of noise produced by the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition with the help of a digital sound-level meter Velleman DVM1326. This instrument has a resolution of 0.1dB and allows measuring noise level in a range up to 130dB with A or C weighting.

The background noise level was 36dBA in our lab when we were conducting the measurements. The level of noise was 40dBA at a distance of 1 meter from the test platform in which a graphics card with passive cooling was installed. These are the reference numbers we’ll base our judgments upon.

So, here are the results of this test:

The XFX card is equipped with the reference cooler, so the data shown above is true for all brands of the GeForce 7600 GT, except for those versions of the card that come with non-standard cooling systems. It’s obvious that the GeForce 7600 GT is free from the drawback of its senior brother GeForce 7900 GT – we mean it has fan speed management circuitry which changes the speed depending on the mode the card works in.

The level of noise is only 42.5dBA in the 2D mode, which is a very good result. This is confirmed subjectively – you can barely hear the sound of the card against the background noise from the rest of components of a working computer. The difference from the GeForce 7900 GT is a considerable 3.7dBA. In the 3D mode the cooler automatically speeds up and its sound intensity grows up to 48dBA. This is 1.8dBA higher than with the GeForce 7900 GT and may indicate a higher rotational speed of the fan. In this mode the graphics card’s noise is clearly discernable, but not that irritating as the sound of the Radeon X1900 XT’s cooler which has a particular “plastic” note in its spectrum.

Generally speaking, we think the GeForce 7600 GT is somewhat worse in comparison with the Radeon X1800 GTO/XL in its noise characteristics, but this is not an insurmountable problem since the card has a fan speed management system. The system can be set up as desired with the help of RivaTuner, but you should be careful not to slow the fan too much or the card may overheat.

We have no complaints about the image quality the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition provides in 2D applications. The card yielded a sharp picture without any shadowing or fuzziness in all display modes, including 1600x1200@85Hz and 1800x1440@75Hz. We’d like to note that the quality of a graphics card’s analog output is not as important nowadays as it used to be. LCD monitors with a DVI input are currently widespread and provide an immaculate 2D image quality due to the digital nature of this interface. We probably won’t check the 2D image quality in our future reviews just because it doesn’t make much sense now.

Testbed and Methods

We tested XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition on the following platform:

We set up the ATI and Nvidia drivers in the same way as always:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia ForceWare:

We selected the highest graphics quality settings in each game, identical for graphics cards from ATI and Nvidia, except for the Pacific Fighters flight simulator that requires vertex texturing for its Shader Model 3.0 rendering mode. Radeon X1000 doesn’t support this feature therefore we ran the game in Shader Model 2.0 in this case. We did not edit the configuration files of the games. We also didn’t use the driver profiles optimized for given games. To measure the performance we either used the integrated tools of the games we tested in, or if there were none available, resorted to FRAPS utility. If it was possible, we measured minimal performance as well.

Since mainstream graphics cards do not always guarantee acceptable performance in contemporary games with enabled FSAA, we ran the tests not only with FSAA 4x + AF 16x, but also with FSAA disabled and only the highest level of anisotropic filtering activated.

We enabled FSAA and AF from the game if possible. Otherwise we forced the necessary mode from the ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare graphics card driver. Besides the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition, we have also included the following testing participants:

These games and applications were used as benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

Simulators

Strategies

Synthetic benchmarks

Performance in First-Person 3D Shooters

Battlefield 2

The graphics card’s speed is measured with the Fraps utility in Battlefield 2 since the game lacks any in-built benchmarking tools. The numbers may be somewhat inaccurate as a consequence.

The XFX card does very well in both modes, successfully competing with the Radeon X1800 GTO when we use full-screen antialiasing and leaving it far behind when we limit ourselves to anisotropic filtering only.

Despite the 128-bit memory access, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition (and the reference GeForce 7600 GT, too, because the difference between them is no bigger than 10% here) allows playing the game in all resolutions without full-screen antialiasing and in resolutions up to 1280x1024 with FSAA. It delivers a comfortable 65-70fps in the mentioned cases.

The Chronicles of Riddick

The GeForce 7600 GT enjoys a certain initial advantage over the Radeon X1800 GTO here because it supports UltraShadow II technology and can process up to 16 Z-values per clock cycle against the Radeon’s 12. Added to that, the engine of The Chronicles of Riddick uses the OpenGL API. As a result, even the standard GeForce 7600 GT goes abreast to the Radeon X1900 GT, a solution of a higher class, in the “pure speed” mode, while the XFX card is only second to the GeForce 7900 GT. The G73-based solutions make the resolution of 1600x1200 playable whereas the Radeon X1800 GTO provides a comfortable average frame rate only in resolutions no higher than 1280x1024.

It’s different in the 4x FSAA + 16x AF mode because the ring-bus memory controller the Radeon X1800/X1900 cards are equipped with comes into play. But even here the standard GeForce 7600 GT, let alone its accelerated version from XFX, is confidently ahead of its direct market rival Radeon X1800 GTO. Resolutions above 1024x768 are virtually unplayable on these mainstream cards, though.

Call of Duty 2

The increased clock rates help the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition keep ahead of the Radeon X1800 GTO in this test at the “pure speed” settings. The same is true for the “eye candy” mode in which the Radeon X1800 and X1900 cards slow down suddenly in high resolutions – we first saw this odd thing happen in our PowerColor X1800 GTO review. We can’t explain this behavior of ATI’s solutions; perhaps there is some defect in the Catalyst driver.

Call of Duty 2 is a rather demanding game, so the mainstream graphics cards only provide an acceptable average frame rate in 1024x768 resolution without full-screen antialiasing. FSAA is available on the more powerful solutions.

Far Cry

It’s the graphics card’s pixel shader performance that is crucial for its success in this demo record made on Far Cry ’s Pier map. Top-end graphics cards usually reach the speed ceiling in this test as the Radeon X1800 GTO and the GeForce 7600 GT also do in the resolution of 1024x768 pixels. In the higher resolutions ATI’s solution has a slightly higher speed than the standard GeForce 7600 GT has, but the overclocked version of the latter card created by XFX keeps abreast to the Radeon X1800 GTO.

It cannot do the same in the “eye candy” mode, though. Having a 128-bit memory bus and only 8 ROPs proves to be fatal for the G73-based product and it cannot deliver a playable frame rate in 1600x1200 despite the relative simplicity of Far Cry .

The action in the demo recorded on the Research map goes on in underground caves, and the graphics card is required to be capable of quickly processing version 3.0 shaders to render the scene lighting in a single pass.

This demo usually runs at the highest speed on graphics cards with the GeForce 7 architecture, and today is not an exception. In 1280x1024 resolution the GeForce 7600 GT is already noticeably faster than the Radeon X1800 GTO. This is how the standard version of the card performs whereas the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is as fast as the Radeon X1800 XL that has 16 pixel processors. It can’t challenge the Radeon X1900 GT here because the number of pixel processors is still quite important for this test.

The graphics cards on ATI’s GPUs improve their positions after we turn on 4x full-screen antialiasing, mostly due to their more efficient graphics memory subsystems. The XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition cannot keep up the tempo of the Radeon X1800 XL, but is still successfully competing with the Radeon X1800 GTO. The reference card with its lower clock rates can’t do that. Both the solutions have a high speed in all the test modes, but considering the results in the Pier test, you won’t probably want to use 1600x1200 resolution at the “eye candy” settings on your GeForce 7600 GT.

The implementation of HDR (FP16) in the current version of Far Cry works the fastest on Nvidia’s cards, but the GeForce 7600 GT is only strong enough to permit you to use the lowest of the standard resolutions, i.e. 1024x768. The next resolution – one of the most popular today – is only available on the graphics cards of a higher class, i.e. on the GeForce 7900 GT and the Radeon X1900 GT.

This is true for both the demo records we use. Note that the XFX card has the same results as the Radeon X1800 XL which boasts 16 pixel processors, but this is not Nvidia’s merit. It’s just the poor implementation of HDR for ATI’s Radeon X1000 graphics cards.

F.E.A.R.

Having fewer pixel processors, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition makes up for it with its high graphics core frequency. As a result, it looks competitive against the Radeon X1800 XL in the “pure speed” mode and provides a comfortable speed in resolutions up to 1280x1024.

The XFX card is not that impressive in the FSAA mode, but it is still no worse than the Radeon X1800 GTO and even provides a slightly higher speed reserve in 1024x768: 29fps against the opponent’s 25fps. The higher resolutions aren’t interesting for a gamer because the GeForce 7900 GT with its 24 TMUs is the only graphics card here that is capable of yielding an average frame rate of about 50fps in 1280x1024.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Because of the use of the so-called deferred rendering it is technically impossible to turn on full-screen antialiasing in this game. That’s why we publish only the “pure speed” mode results here. Moreover, the game automatically limits the range of available display resolutions and graphics quality settings for graphics cards with less than 512MB of graphics memory on board. All the cards participating in this review are equipped with 256 megabytes of memory, which made it impossible to use the resolution of 1600x1200.

The GeForce 7600 GT has a higher core frequency in comparison with the Radeon X1800 GTO and is therefore as fast as the Radeon X1800 XL, even with fewer pixel processors. The XFX card turns in even better results, but cannot catch up with the Radeon X1900 GT which has a little lower core clock rate but three times the number of pixel processors.

You may note that none of the mainstream cards can give you 50fps in this game, although full-screen antialiasing is not used. You can only have this speed on a GeForce 7900 GT or a Radeon X1900 GT which belong to a higher product category. Anyway, the GeForce 7600 GT and Radeon X1800 GTO/XL never slow down to below 30fps, at least in 1024x768. This means that you can play Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter on these cards, too, but under not very comfortable conditions.

Half-Life 2

The engine of the original Half-Life 2 has a curious feature: the speed ceiling goes higher for graphics cards on ATI Technologies’ than on Nvidia’s graphics processors as is perfectly visible in low resolutions.

High-quality and high-resolution textures are used in Half-Life 2 to a great extent. That’s why even the pre-overclocked XFX GeForce 7600 XXX Edition is lagging behind the Radeon X1800 GTO at the “eye candy” settings, but the gap is small. Although this game isn’t very demanding by today’s standards, the speed of the GeForce 7600 GT is less than 50fps in 1600x1200 with enabled 4x FSAA and even the pre-overclocked version of this card made by XFX barely reaches this point. You can play normally at this speed, but may want to limit yourself to 1280x1024 to safeguard you against slowdowns in complex scenes with many opponents.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

The XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is confidently ahead of the Radeon X1800 GTO in both test modes and in any of the standard resolutions. It also has almost the same results as the Radeon X1800 XL in the “eye candy” mode. The XFX card is strong enough to permit to play comfortably in 1280x1024 with enabled 4x full-screen antialiasing. We do recommend you to use this resolution at the “pure speed” settings, too, because the average frame rate bottoms out to below 55fps on the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition.

We want to remind you that a frame rate of 55-60fps is the limit of comfort for first-person 3D shooters and it is also desired that the minimum speed be not lower than 30-35fps in the hardest-to-render scenes. If these conditions are complied with, the gamer has the necessary smoothness of movement and accuracy of shooting. Without this, the game character’s life may prove to be just too short.

Prey

Prey runs on a modernized version of the Doom 3 engine and has quite a lot of features of the latter like the use of OpenGL and the preference for graphics cards with an accelerated Z-buffer. This explains the behavior of the GeForce 7600 GT, a product with moderate characteristics, which is slower only than the Radeon X1900 GT in 1600x1200. This is the standard version of the card, while the pre-overclocked XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is a mere 2fps behind the ATI solution that boasts 36 pixel processors. This has little practical value, though, due to the low average frame rate. It’s only comfortable to run this game in 1280x1024 resolution on the GeForce 7600 GT.

The 128-bit memory bus doesn’t impede the XFX card in the “eye candy” mode, either. In the resolution of 1024x768 pixels – the single playable resolution in this mode – the XFX is no slower than the Radeon X1900 GT. The results of the Radeon X1800 GTO are more humble since this card has only 12 pixel processors, works at lower frequencies than the Radeon X1900 GT, and does not support any technology equivalent to Nvidia’s UltraShadow II.

Quake 4

Although Quake 4 traces its origin to Doom 3 , there’s little, if any, initial advantage in this test for Nvidia’s GeForce 7 series cards. But in this test session, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is only second to the GeForce 7600 GT in the “pure speed” mode.

The XFX card is not that successful in the “eye candy” mode where it is a competitor to the Radeon X1800 XL rather than to the Radeon X1800 GTO. In this case the player had better limit himself to 1024x768 since the mainstream solutions do not have any speed reserve in 1280x1024 and slowdowns are inevitable in action-heavy scenes.

Serious Sam 2

We tested the graphics cards using one of the demo records included with the game, but measured their speeds with the Fraps utility.

Serious Sam 2 is very sensitive to the amount of graphics memory. The graphics card must have no less than 512 megabytes of memory if you want to use the game’s maximum graphics quality settings and do not want to experience a catastrophic performance hit. The graphics cards participating in this test session only have 256 megabytes of memory, and they have very poor results, as you see.

The GeForce 7900 GT with its 24 TMUs is the only card that notches the desired 60fps in 1024x768, but the min speed is only 26fps even with this device. The rest of the cards are slower, which makes them inappropriate for normal play at the maximum graphics quality settings, not to mention with enabled full-screen antialiasing.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The game’s HDR mode is not supported on Nvidia’s GeForce cards simultaneously with full-screen antialiasing, so we only tested it using anisotropic filtering. Without HDR TES IV: Oblivion loses too much of its visual appeal. Besides that, the game does not offer any options for automatic benchmarking, and we have to test the cards manually, measuring their speed with the Fraps utility. The numbers may be somewhat inaccurate as a consequence.

The average performance of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is quite high, but its minimum of speed is at 26fps only. It means that even in 1024x768 resolution you cannot avoid slowdowns and jerkiness of movement. Among the graphics cards included in this test session the Radeon X1900 GT is the best choice for playing TES IV: Oblivion ; this card has 36 pixel processors and ensures the biggest reserve of speed.

None of the mainstream graphics cards can provide you full comfort in this game. If you’ve got a device of this class, you have to lower the level of detail or stop using HDR, but this leads to a loss in image quality and, accordingly, in your gaming experience.

The problem is even more acute with the open game scenes. The average frame rate is almost never higher than 30fps here. With the graphics cards included in this test you have to lower the level of detail and/or disable HDR; otherwise your adventures in Cyrodiil may degrade into a slideshow.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Having a higher core frequency in comparison with the reference card, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition manages to outperform the Radeon X1800 GTO by 8-10% in average performance, but the minimum speed of the ATI solution is higher in every resolution. Both the cards deliver a playable frame rate in 1280x1024.

In the 4x FSAA + 16x AF mode the XFX card is slower than the Radeon X1800 GTO, probably due to the lower memory bandwidth (25.6GB/s against the opponent’s 32GB/s). At these settings, you can only play normally in 1024x768 on your GeForce 7600 GT or Radeon X1800 GTO.

Performance in Simulators

Pacific Fighters

Graphics cards from the Radeon X1000 family do not support vertex texturing, so they can’t use Shader Model 3.0 to render the water surface with the maximum possible quality in this game. This is only achievable on Nvidia’s GeForce 6 and 7 cards.

Like the rest of flight simulators from Maddox Games, Pacific Fighters is optimized for Nvidia’s GeForce 6 and 7 series processors. It is no wonder then that the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition has very high results in this test and makes all the resolutions playable in the “pure speed” mode.

Notwithstanding the 128-bit memory bus, the XFX card enjoys an even bigger advantage over its opponent when we enable full-screen antialiasing, but meets competition in 1600x1200 from the Radeon X1800 XL that has 16 pixel processors, 16 TMUs and 16 ROPs. This has no practical value, though. The average performance of the cards in this resolution is too low for comfortable play.

X3: Reunion

ATI’s Radeon X1000 cards almost always have better results in the space simulator X3: Reunion than same-class solutions from Nvidia. The game engine must have been designed in such a way as to fully utilize the key features of the Radeon X1000 architecture that was originally optimized to execute shaders with complex math1ematics as quickly as possible.

Despite the increased GPU and memory clock rates, it is only in 1024x768 resolution (without full-screen antialiasing, of course) that the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition shows an acceptable average speed. It may seem that the game can be played with comfort in 1280x1024 or in 1024x768 with enabled FSAA, but irritating slowdowns are possible during an intense space fight when there are many spaceships on the screen at the same time. The game is generally rather capricious and its speed may be even lower in some cases than the numbers we’ve got in our tests.

Performance in Strategies

Age of Empires 3

This game prefers graphics cards on Nvidia’s GeForce 7 chips for some reason. Perhaps it uses shaders with multiple texture lookups or there is some problem with ATI’s Catalyst. Or maybe it just doesn’t match the architectural features of the R520 and R580 chips well. The first of these suppositions is confirmed by the results of the GeForce 7900 GT which differs from the other cards in having 24 TMUs.

The mainstream solutions participating in this test do not show high speeds. Both versions of the GeForce 7600 GT that you can see in this review offer a good enough average speed in 1024x768, but the Radeon X1800 GTO is slow even then. At the same time, the Radeon X1800 XL does well in this test, leaving the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition behind and closely approaching the Radeon X1900 GT in the “eye candy” mode.

Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War

Contrary to Age of Empires 3 , this game runs on a very simple engine that doesn’t go beyond DirectX 8.0, but makes wide use of high-resolution textures and stencil shadows. GeForce 6/7 cards boast special technologies to accelerate the rendering of stencil shadow and are always faster than their Radeon X1000 counterparts in Dawn of War .

This is true for the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition which is only slower than the GeForce 7900 GT and looks just brilliant in the “eye candy” mode. The resolution of 1600x1200 with enabled 4x FSAA in the only unavailable for comfortable play on the XFX card; in all other cases it delivers an acceptable frame rate.

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark05 build 1.2.0

The original GeForce 7600 GT falls 846 points behind Radeon X1800 GTO, however GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition cuts this gap down to only 333 points. Despite higher clock speeds, no wonder happens and our hero remains the very last one, although it doesn’t fall behind as greatly as its reference brother.

In Game 1 test we hardly see any performance increase by XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition compared with the reference solution. Both cards run almost equally fast with Radeon X1800 GTO throughout the entire non-FSAA test. With enabled anti-aliasing they start falling slightly behind the competitor, because it boasts more efficient memory subsystem. However this gap is not dramatic and makes only 10%.

Game 2 test is comparatively less overwhelming than the Game 1 test. It doesn’t require high fillrate but is very critical about lighting and shadows as well as vertex shader processing speed. G73 based solution face some hard times here, because they have only 5 vertex processors, while the youngest Radeon X1800 representative features only 8 processors like that onboard. As a result, both GeForce 7600 GT modifications fall quite noticeably behind Radeon X1800 GTO.

Higher clock frequencies of the XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition do not have any visible effect in Game 3 test, just like in the previous case. However, when it comes to simultaneous use of FSAA and anisotropic filtering, the XFX solution manages to catch up with Radeon X1800 GTO, while the standard reference GeForce 7600 GT fails to do so.

According to these individual game tests results, XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition loses in the total score chart because of the Game 2 test, because in the other two cases it didn’t fall behind Radeon X1800 GTO at all.

Futuremark 3DMark06 build 1.0.2

Unlike 3DMark05, the overclocked XFX GeForce 7600 GT proved highly efficient in 3DMark06 and this solution gained additional 491 points and reached the performance level of Radeon X1800 XL. How did this happen? Let’s find out now.

In the SM2.0 tests the performance gain made 139 points. It is not too much, but quite enough for XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition to compete successfully with Radeon X1800 XL. The performance boost was relatively moderate because the second test in this group is similar to the Game 2 test in 3DMark05, so the GPU frequency increase can hardly make up for the fewer vertex processors.

The XFX solution manages to get much farther ahead of the reference card in SM3.0/HDR test set. The difference here makes 271 points. However, it hardly affects the overall picture: overclocked GeForce 7600 GT runs close to Radeon X1800 XL, just like we’ve seen before.

The mainstream graphics cards performance in 3DMark06 with enabled FSAA is extremely low and doesn’t reach even 10fps rate. As a result, the discrepancy is too high to fairly evaluate the performance of the testing participants. So, we decided that it would be better if we tested these cards only with enabled anisotropic filtering.

The effect from higher clock speeds of XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition is hardly seen in SM2.0 graphics test. We can notice it only in 1280x1024 resolution, where our hero catches up with Radeon X1900 GT.

The second SM2.0 test reveals a totally different picture. XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition outperforms Radeon X1800 GTO only in 1024x768. In 1280x1024 and up the performance of these graphics cards levels out. Since this test doesn’t really require 24 TMUs unlike the first one, Radeon X1900 GT with only 8 vertex processors but 1/3 more pixel shader execution units takes the first prize from GeForce 7900 GT.

The first SM3.0/HDR test loads the pixel processors even more, so XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition fails to withstand the power of Radeon X1800 XL with 16 pixel shader processing units. Not to mention Radeon X1900 GT, that manages to outperform even GeForce 7900 GT here.

The performance in the second SM3.0/HDR test depends mostly on the efficient implementation of Cascaded Shadow Maps (CSM). XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition performs slightly better here: it even manages to get ahead of Radeon X1800 XL in resolutions below 1600x1200.

It is really hard to explain where the significant performance advantage of our XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition over the reference solution comes from. Our hero didn’t reveal any extraordinary results in any of the benchmarks from both testing suites. Moreover, the difference between them never exceeded 1fps.

Conclusion

The results of our today’s Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT test session suggest that it is one of the best mainstream solutions today. Besides the relatively high performance for a product of the kind, this graphics accelerator boasts small dimensions, simple design, low power consumption and heat dissipation. All this was possible due to the specially designed G73 GPU, which turned into a very powerful weapon. At this time, ATI has nothing but the relatively heavy-weight Radeon X1800 GTO with the higher-end component base to oppose to the G730 based products from Nvidia.

I can’t state at this time who is the absolute performance leader: GeForce 7600 GT or Radeon X1800 GTO. These solutions boast comparable performance shifting either way depending on the type of gaming applications. The games using OpenGL, stencil shadows or optimizations for the GeForce 7 architecture are a definite trump of the GeForce 7600 GT. However, if high-speed math1ematical calculations or fast work with the memory subsystem are required (when we enabled FSAA, for instance), Radeon X1800 GTO takes the lead. The choice here depends solely on the type of games you prefer.

Radeon X1800 GTO boasts one serious advantage such as simultaneous FSAA and HDR support, however, its performance is not high enough for this work mode. Moreover, this graphics accelerator is very long and requires additional power supply, while GeForce 7600 GT is free from these extras.

As for the particular XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition solution we tested today, it offers notably higher performance than the reference graphics card thanks to higher nominal GPU and memory clock speeds. As a result, it outperforms Radeon X1800 GTO in most benchmarks and sometimes competes successfully with Radeon X1800 XL and even Radeon X1900 GT. So far, this is the fastest GeForce 7600 GT we have seen.

Other than that, this solution is very similar to the reference product from Nvidia. It uses the same cooling system, which is pretty noisy and not very efficient. However, this will hardly be a serious bottleneck, because of the low power consumption and the opportunity to adjust fan rotation speed.

Since the card has already been pre-overclocked by the manufacturer, it hardly has any overclocking potential left, so it won’t be of any interest to overclocking fans, I assume. If you use water-cooling system instead of the reference one and/or modify the graphics card voltage regulator circuitry, you may be able to push its frequency a bit higher. However, we tend to address overclocking basing on the “safe and reasonable” concept. From this prospective, XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX Edition cannot boast much.

As for the package bundle, I would consider it to be pretty scarce especially for a solution with “XXX Edition” in the product name. However, everything you might need is present, and you will even get a Starship Troopers shooter as a free gift. A good game coming with a mainstream graphics card is definitely a plus in XFX’s favor.

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