eVGA 7600GT CO: A Step Up

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Product: eVGA e-GeForce 7600GT CO
Price: ~ $199.95 @ MemoryExpress

Introduction:

The battle for GPU price vs. performance is as old as the GeForce 2 MX.  In fact it was the GeForce 2 MX that was my first "real" gaming graphics card.  It played the original SiN, Half-Life and Unreal Tournament just fine.  It was much cheaper than the full-blown GeForce 2 GTS, Pro or Ultra.  While it had half of the pixel pipelines of the GTS or higher, it did at least have Hardware TnL and got me gaming.  Thankfully, the trend has continued and companies still produce GPU models that are made more for the mainstream market.  The enthusiast and gaming market is big money for sure, but most people can't drop the coin for a 7950 GX2.

When nVidia launched the 6600GT, it was a great step in the right direction.  They got over the blunders of the GeForce 5x00 series, and got back on track with good products.  The 6600GT could be had for cheap and it featured all of the technology of it's more expensive siblings.  The hitch is that it has 128-bit DDR3 memory instead of 256-bit.  Clock-for-clock it will be slower, but when it debuted, it was priced just over the $200 mark - making it affordable for people who really want to game, but can't afford the best.

As for scalability, the 6600GT was SLI-ready so you could increase your GPU horsepower by simply plugging in a second 6600GT.  For a while a 6600GT SLI setup ran faster than other more expensive single card setups.

nVidia has followed up the GeForce 6 series with the GeForce 7 series, and their good mid-range card has become the 7600GT.  This card is priced in the same range as the 6600GT was upon its release, but packs more punch as it's memory is clocked higher, and it features some updated technology.  The questions we are trying to find out today are: How does the 7600GT really perform, and how much better is it than the 6600GT?  Keep on reading as we take a look at the eVGA 7600GT CO.

eVGA 7600GT CO - Box
eVGA 7600GT CO - Box

Specs & Features:

Here is a list of the specs and features from eVGA's website.

Performance

  • NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT
  • 580 MHz GPU
  • 12 Pixel Pipelines
  • $00 MHz RAMDAC

Interface

  • PCI-E 16X
  • DVI-I, DVI-I, HDTV-7
  • SLI Capable

Resolution & Refresh

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max Analog
  • 2560 x 1600 / 1600 x 1200 Max Digital

Memory

  • 256 MB, 128 bit DDR3
  • 1500 MHz (effective)
  • 24.0 GB/s Memory Bandwidth

 

 

NVIDIA® CineFX™ 4.0 Engine
Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 enables stunning and complex special effects. Next-generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA® Intellisample™ 4.0 Technology
The industry's fastest antialiasing delivers ultra-realistic visuals, with no jagged edges, at lightning-fast speeds. Visual quality is taken to new heights through a new rotated grid sampling pattern, advanced 128 Tap sample coverage, 16x anisotropic filtering, and support for transparent supersampling and multisampling.

Next-Generation Superscalar GPU Architecture
Delivers up to 2x the shading power of previous generation products, taking gaming performance to extreme levels.

PCI Express Certified
Designed to run perfectly with the next-generation PCI Express bus architecture. This new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4GB/s in both upstream and downstream data transfers.

NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Dramatically scales performance by allowing two graphics cards to be run in parallel. Only available on select PCI-Express models.

64-Bit Floating Point Texture Filtering and Blending
Based on the OpenEXR technology from Industrial Light & Magic (
http://www.openexr.com/), NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effects through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending.

NVIDIA® PureVideo™ Technology
The combination of high-definition video processors and software delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high-end home theater.

OpenGL 2.0 Optimizations and Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for all OpenGL applications

NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games like id Software's DOOM 3, that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects.

Single Dual-Link TMDS Connector

It sounds like it has a lot going for it.  Click the next page as we take a look and compare the eVGA's 7600GT CO with the standard issue 7600GT and a 6600GT.


Before we take a look at the card, we will compare the differences between the 6600GT, Reference 7600GT and eVGA's 7600GT CO.

Reference GeForce 6600GT
Reference GeForce 7600GT
eVGA GeForce 7600GT CO
0.11 Micron
0.09 Micron
0.09 Micron
146M Transistors
177M Transistors
177M Transistors
3 Vertex Pipelines
5 Vertex Pipelines
5 Vertex Pipelines
8 Pixel Pipelines
12 Pixel Pipelines
12 Pixel Pipelines
8 Pixel Shader Engines
24 Pixel Shader Engines
24 Pixel Shader Engines
500MHz Core Clock
560MHz Core Clock
580MHz Core Clock
4000 MTexels / sec
6720 MTexels / sec
6960 MTexels / sec
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
1000MHz Memory Clock
1400MHz Memory Clock
1500MHz Memory Clock
16.0 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
22.4 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
24.0 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth

We see that eVGA has clocked up this "CO" version 20MHz on the core and 100MHz on the memory.  This gives us a few more MTexels and GB per second bandwidth across the card, but not much.  We'll have to see how it adds up when it comes to the benchmarks.  Keep in mind that the 7600GT uses 256MB of memory while the 6600GT only uses 128MB.  That being said, there is a 256MB version of 6600GT as well, however our comparison card only has 128MB.

First Look:

eVGA graphics cards are typically clocked higher and are priced lower than the competition.  What makes them more affordable?  The fact that they don't included anything but the bare essentials with their graphics cards.  The eVGA 7600GT CO ships with a couple of DVI-D to D-Sub adapters, a component video out dongle, S-Video cable, a driver CD, and a small manual.  There are no games or extra software.  Honestly, I find this a little disappointing but I likely would already have the game they'd throw in anyway.

eVGA 7600GT CO -Bundle?
 eVGA 7600GT CO -Bundle?

As you can see above, the 7600GT is a relatively short card that won't hog too much room in your case.  Because of its lower power requirements it doesn't require an extra power through a PCIe power connector.  The 90nm process also produces less heat and therefore a small single-slot heatsink is sufficient to keep this card cool.

When you first look at this card, you notice that the fan is a "Blower" type fan.  This fan runs fairly quiet at when running 2D applications, but when running 3D games, it speeds up and makes a fair bit of noise.  When the side of your case is closed, it will help deaden the noise, but it is the loudest component in our test system by far.

eVGA has labeled this card as being Windows Vista Ready, but I don't see any evidence of an HDCP chip on this card.  I hope I'm wrong and if you have information regarding this card's HDCP abilities, I'd love to know.

As is the trend with most GeForce 7x00 series hardware, Dual DVI-D ports come standard.  eVGA has included a pair of DVI-D to D-Sub adapters if you don't have any DVI equipment available.  This way you can still take advantage of dual displays even if you run a couple of CRT's.

eVGA 7600GT CO - Top View
 eVGA 7600GT CO - Top View

eVGA 7600GT CO - Bottom View
 eVGA 7600GT CO - Bottom View

eVGA 7600GT CO - Dual DVI
 eVGA 7600GT CO - Dual DVI

eVGA has followed the nVidia reference design to the letter.  The PCB, heatisnk and card features are exactly what nVidia has lain out.  This is not a bad thing though and ensures that the design works.

Closer Look:

To see exactly what makes this card tick, we took a closer look.  We started by pulling off the heatsink to see what kind of finish and thermal compound was used.  The Heatsink appeared to have good contact with the GPU core, and thankfully the TIM could be easily removed and then Arctic Silver Ceramique has applied prior to reinstalling the HSF.

eVGA 7600GT CO - HSF Bottom
 eVGA 7600GT CO - HSF Bottom

eVGA 7600GT CO - G73 Core
 eVGA 7600GT CO - G73 Core

eVGA 7600GT CO - Infineon DDR3
 eVGA 7600GT CO - Infineon DDR3

The GPU core is labeled as a GT73 core and is an A2 revision.  This is the second generation of G73 core and may offer some major overclockability.  We'll see if a few minutes.  Notice all the mounting holes around the GPU core on this card.  There should be a whole patter that will fit almost any after-market cooling solution on the market.  The memory eVGA uses on this 7600GT CO is made by Infineon and is their HYB18H512321AF-14 and is rated at 1.4ns or 700MHz (1400MHz DDR).  eVGA has already clocked this memory up to 1500MHz, so I really don't expect much out of it in the way of overclocking.

On the next page we'll take a look at our test system, some testing info then jump right in to the benchmarks.


Test Setup:

In this review, we're once again using our Intel Dual Core test setup.  The specs and information are listed below:

Testing Info:

We ran our Intel 805 Dual Core CPU at stock speed (2.66GHz) throughout this review as a 7600GT will likely be paired up with a mainstream rig and not an FX-62.  We ran a series of synthetic benchmarks as well as game benchmarks to compare the two graphics cards.  The system specs never changed when testing these two cards.  The benchmark results are a direct comparison of the 6600GT and the 7600GT.

Overclocking:

eVGA has already overclocked this card out of the box and they clock the memory 100MHz above it's rated spec, so we really didn't have much hopes for overclocking.  To get things started we installed Coolbits 2.0 and let the card auto detect it's optimal overclock.  According to the Auto Detect feature, the card would clock up to 625MHz Core and 1700MHz Memory!  Before we proceeded further we ran a benchmark to confirm the increase and soon crashed our system.  Although the memory and GPU core would both run faster according to CoolBits, they wouldn't run games and benchmarks clocked up this high.  In the end our system was rock stable at 605MHz GPU core and 1650MHz Memory.  This equates to a mere 4% Core overclock, but surprisingly we manage a 10% memory overclock.  The memory speed impresses me as the memory is rated at 1400MHz.  Our overclock is actually 17% above the memory's rated speed.

Synthetic Tests:

For these synthetic tests, we ran the infamous and often controversial 3DMark benchmarks.  We ran 3DMark 2003, 3DMark05 and the HDR enabled 3DMark06.  These scores can be compared to your own, but should really be merely compared with each other to get an idea of the performance improvement gained from the 7600GT.

Click For a Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

 

I was blown away with the performance increase from the 7600GT.  I had expected a couple thousand more points, but not a 53% improvement.  One of these 7600GT's would almost keep up to a 6600GT SLI setup in 3DMark 2003.

Next we fired up 3DMark05, which humbles our aging 6600GT even more.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

In 3DMark05 the performance difference is even larger.  Mind you the 6600GT still scores okay, and plays games quite well, but the 7600GT dominates the 6600GT.  eVGA's 7600GT CO runs this benchmark 69% faster than the 6600GT and when the 7600GT is overclocked, it manages a 77% performance improvement over the 6600GT.  Not bad for and extra $50 card.

Now we come to the HDR enabled 3DMark06.  This benchmark runs at 1280x1024 instead of 1024x768 as the other previous benchmarks.  This stresses the fill rate and memory bus more than at lower resolutions.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

With the higher resolution the 7600GT increases its lead over the 6600GT in 3DMark06.  At stock speeds it manages a little better than a 111% improvement.  Overclocking increases the difference an additional 10%.  Wow.

Now that we've got these synthetic tests out of the way, we're going to fire up a few games and see how they compare in the real world.


Game Tests:

For these tests we used some popular games that I've enjoyed playing and taken them to the next level of mid-range performance with the 7600GT CO.  Let's face it, 3DMarks don't tell the whole story.  Games are where it's at in the real world.  The games we feature in this review are Call Of Duty 2, Quake 4, and Serious Sam 2.

Call of Duty 2 is up first, and we have taken it to the wall by running some pretty high resolutions - well at least for a mid-to-low card such as the 6600GT.  We used a custom Timedemo to recreate and compare the 6600GT with the 7600GT CO.  This benchmark was run at least 3 times to get some results that we could average.  We ran at 1280x1024 with 2x AA, and 4x AF at High Quality settings.  Check out the results below.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

At the settings we used, the 6600GT really struggled and was virtually unusable.  That being said, you really can't use the 7600GT CO at these settings either.  The 7600GT CO ran 66% faster, but with an average below 30fps, you'll really want to drop some AA or choose a lower resolution.

The next game we looked at was Quake 4.  I rather enjoyed this game as it had the look and experience of Doom III, but without the demons.  No demons = Good Time.  For this benchmark we pulled a Deathmatch timedemo and ran it through several times to get a good average score.  We ran at both 1024x768 and 1280x1024 to see how much the memory bandwidth affects performance.  We ran at High Quality with all options enabled.  Combine that with 2x AA, and you've got a pretty impressive looking game.  Take a look at the chart below.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

The results really speak for themselves.  At 1024x768 with high quality settings and some AA, the game is very playable on both graphics cards.  At stock speed the 7600GT CO outruns the 6600GT by 29%, and overclocking yields an additional 1%.  The picture changes a bit when we bump up the resolution to 1280x1024.  Overclocking yields absolutely no benefit, but the performance difference between the 6600GT and 7600GT widens even further to an impressive 69%.  This takes the game out of the barely playable 38FPS territory, and puts it into the mid 60FPS.  Very nice.

 

The last game we'll take a look at this time around is Serious Sam 2.  This game has beautiful rich environments and runs quite well on a number of systems.  Because of the diversity of maps, we ran three separate maps and two different resolutions.  To get everything to make sense on a graph, we used a couple.  The image quality and detail settings are the same at both resolutions - Max Quality, Medium AA, and 4x AF.  We opted out of High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting in order to keep the game playable on the 6600GT.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

The 7600GT CO owns this game compared to the older 6600GT.  At stock speeds the 7600GT CO will render the game 74%-85% faster than the 6600GT.  Overclocking gives us another couple FPS or 5%.  Not a bad show at 1024x768.

Click For A Larger Chart
Click For a Larger Chart

All I can say from the above chart is "Wow."  At higher resolutions, the 7600GT CO from eVGA widens the gap to an amazing 97% improvement in performance over the 6600GT.  All this performance for only about $50 more than a 6600GT.  Truly the 7600GT is a worthy card for your money.

Conclusion:

This conclusion won't really take long.  The 7600GT CO from eVGA rocks.  It's clocked faster than a standard 7600GT by a mere 20MHz on the core, but manages a 100MHz increase on the memory.  Even with it overclocked out-of-the-box, there is still a bit of room to run.  This card is priced to move, and it can run many of today's games at very respectable resolutions with good image quality.  If you don't have a ton of cash and want to enjoy some fun games, you really ought to consider the 7600GT.

Pros:

  • Excellent Performance / Price ratio.
  • Small card fits in virtually any system.
  • 90nm process runs cool and doesn't require massive cooling.
  • Overclocked From eVGA & covered by warranty.

Cons:

  • Fan a little loud when running 3D applications and games.
  • No software bundle.

Here's the full breakdown:

 

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
7/10
Stability:
9/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
10/10
Total Score 9.2

 

I'm not knocking the score too much for the lack of software as most software and games included with graphics cards are already owned by the person who just bought the card.  Useless software is useless, and it's better to sell a card for a few dollars less that doesn't come with software rather than jack the price to pay for a redundant software bundle.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please head on over and post them in the forum at the comments link below.