eVGA's 7900GT KO - 7900GT To The Max

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Product: eVGA 7900GT KO
Provided By:
MemoryExpress
Price: $299.95 CND After $30 Mail-in Rebate

Introduction:

It doesn't seem that long ago when nVidia launched their GeForce 2 GTS graphics card that broke the 1000 MTexel fill rate barriers.  It's only been a few years later and now we are talking 10 times that with over 10,000 MTexels on a mid-range card!  Today we are looking specifically at the eVGA GeForce 7900GT KO and will compare this $300 card to a $200 7600GT CO and see what you get for the extra $100.  Is it worth saving your money on the GPU and buying more RAM?  Keep on reading and we'll see how much the 7900GT KO p0wns the 7600GT CO.

7900GT KO - Box
7900GT KO - Box

eVGA is known for tweaking it's cards up a notch above the nVidia reference specs and in fact, there are several versions of this card from eVGA.  They are: the 7900GT, the 7900GT CO, the 7900GT KO and the 7900GT KO Superclocked cards.  All but the plain 7900GT runs at higher clock speeds that nVidia states they should, and the KO versions have copper coolers instead of Aluminum heatsinks.  Take a look below at the difference between the 7900GT KO that we are looking at today and the standard issue 7900GT.

 

 

Reference GeForce 7900GT
eVGA GeForce 7900GT KO
0.09 Micron
0.09 Micron
278M Transistors
278M Transistors
8 Vertex Pipelines
8 Vertex Pipelines
24 Pixel Pipelines
24 Pixel Pipelines
48 Pixel Shader Engines
48 Pixel Shader Engines
450MHz Core Clock
500MHz Core Clock
10800 MTexels / sec
12000 MTexels / sec
256-bit GDDR3 Memory
256-bit GDDR3 Memory
1320MHz Memory Clock
1500MHz Memory Clock
42.2 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
47.95 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth

 

eVGA has beefed up their KO series with an extra 13% memory bandwidth and a 11% faster core clock speed.  While that may not seem like much it does have the ability to push the card past the competition.

Specs & Features:

Here is a list of the specs and features of this card according to the eVGA website:

Performance

  • NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT
  • 500 MHz GPU
  • 24 Pixel Pipelines
  • 400 MHz RAMDAC

Interface

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

Memory

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

Resolution & Refresh

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

 

 

UltraShadow II Technology
Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games, like id Software’s Doom III, that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects. 2nd-generation technology delivers more than 4x the shadow processing power over the previous generation.

Integrated HDTV Encoder
Provides world-class HDTV-out functionality up to and including 1920x1080i resolutions.

Superscalar 24-pipe GPU Architecture
Delivers up to 2x the shading power of previous generation products taking gaming performance to extreme levels.

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.

64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending
Based on the OpenEXR technology from Industrial Light & Magic, NVIDIA’s 64-bit texture implementation sets new standards for image clarity and quality through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending.

nView Multi-Display Technology
The nView hardware and software technology combination delivers maximum flexibility for multi-display options, and provides unprecedented end-user control of the desktop experience. NVIDIA GPUs are enabled to support multi-displays, but graphics cards vary. Please verify multi-display support in the graphics card before purchasing.

Digital Vibrance Control 3.0 Technology
Allows the user to adjust color controls digitally to compensate for the lighting conditions of their workspace, in order to achieve accurate, bright colors in all conditions.

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.

NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
The combination of the GeForce 6 Series GPUs’ high-definition video processor and NVIDIA video decode software delivers unprecedented HD video, stunning picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high-end home theater.

256-Bit Memory Interface with Advanced Memory Control
Delivers more memory bandwidth and efficiency to power the latest games and applications at blazing speeds.

128-Bit Studio-Precision Computation
128-bit studio-precision computation through the entire pipeline prevents image defects due to low precision and ensures the best image quality for even the most demanding applications.

Integrated TV Encoder
Provides best-of-class TV-out functionality for resolutions up to 1024x768.

Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates–up to 2048x1536 at 85Hz.

Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for all DirectX® 9 applications, including Shader Model 3.0 titles.

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.

Dual Dual-Link TMDS Connector

The list of features is long; let's just hope that as we continue the review, performance is up to the task.


First Look:

Before we begin the performance testing, we need to take a closer look at the bundle that eVGA throws in with this card as well as take a look at the silicon itself.

eVGA's Lean Bundle
eVGA's Lean Bundle

eVGA is famous for selling high-quality graphics cards at low prices and one way they can do this is by trimming the bundle.  The 7900GT KO comes with everything that is required to get you up and playing your favorite games, but that's about all.  The card comes with a PCIe to 2 x Molex power adapters to provide this hungry card with power.  eVGA also throws in a couple of DVI to D-Sub adapters, a component video out cable as well as an S-Video cable.  Finally, they include a User Guide and a CD containing Ulead DVD Movie Factory 3, ResChanger 2005, Manual, 83.91 Drivers for 2K/XP & XP-64, DirectX 9.0C, Snapstream Beyond Media 1.1.0 and Adobe Reader 6.0.  There are no games included with this bundle.  If you want a bunch of old lame games, buy an MSI card.

The 7900GT KO is based on nVidia's 7900GT reference design for the most part and requires a 6-pin PCIe power connector to provide additional power to the card.  It has a very basic, clean layout and a nice copper cooler to keep things under control with the higher clock speeds of both the GPU and the memory.

7900GT KO - Close Up
 7900GT KO - Close Up

7900GT KO - Back
 7900GT KO - Back

This card has two DVI-D connectors as well as a multi-video output that can either run S-Video or Component video when using the provided dongles.  The output resolution for TV is 1024x768 which will look great on a projector or newer TV.  Below are a couple more pictures of the card for your viewing pleasure.  Notice the sweet copper cooler underneath the tinted plastic shroud.

7900GT KO - PCIe Side
 7900GT KO - PCIe Side

7900GT KO - Copper HSF Fins
 7900GT KO - Copper HSF Fins

The copper fins are soldered to the base of the cooler instead of being skived or machined.  Soldering is a cheaper process that works well if done correctly.  Skiving or machine though would provide more efficient cooling.

Closer Look:

To see what makes the 7900GT KO tick we removed the four screws that held the copper heatsink firmly in place.  I applaud eVGA for using an actual silver based thermal paste on the GPU core instead of the pink gum that some companies use.  The memory modules make contact to the HSF via some thick thermal tape.  This tape is not very efficient, but it provides better cooling and consistent contact to the memory chips.

7900GT KO - HSF Removed
 7900GT KO - HSF Removed

7900GT KO - GPU Core
 7900GT KO - GPU Core

7900GT KO - Samsung DDR
 7900GT KO - Samsung DDR

The GPU core is the newer G71 core with the A2 stepping.  This is one of the newest 7900 series cores available and should clock fairly well.  eVGA uses Samsung GDDR3 memory as do most GPU manufacturers.  The memory is Samsungs K4J553230G-BC14, and is rated at 700MHz DDR (1400MHz effective).  This memory is already running at 1500 Mhz so I don't expect a lot of overclocking headroom here.

Just before we jump into testing, we'll take a look at our test setup and see if this card overclocks as well as we all hope.


Test Setup:

We will be using our test setup both at stock clock speeds and overclocked as well to give the 7900GT more room to move.  Stock clock speed is 20x133=2660MHz, and our overclocked speed is at 20x180=3600MHz.  The system runs stable, fairly cool and very fast at this speed.

Testing Info:

We ran our Intel 805 Pentium D at both stock speeds and overclocked on the 7900GT to help eliminate the CPU bottleneck.  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 7600GT CO and the 7900GT KO.  These two cards are in separate performance and price classes, but this review will help give you an idea of how much more performance you gain when you spend an extra $100 on a graphics card.

7900GT vs 7600GT Size
7900GT vs 7600GT Size

Overclocking:

The eVGA 7900GT KO is already overclocked above nVidia's reference clocks by 50MHz on the core and 180MHz on the memory.  With that in mind we really didn't expect to see a lot of improvement overall.  We use Coolbits 2.0 to allow us to change the clock speed in the nVidia Control Panel and we were off to work.  We first used the auto detect feature to see where the card would run and it replied at 565MHz on the core and 1560MHz on the memory.  Already things are looking good as those settings are 115MHz faster core clock than a standard 7900GT and 240MHz over stock memory!  We pushed things further though and ended up with a rock solid 595/1660 setup.  We ran all of our benchmarks with no artifacts or anomalies at these settings.  It was 100% rock solid.

Even at stock speeds, a 2.66GHz Dual Core processor is a bottleneck for such a fast card.  For some of the benchmarks we loosened the reigns as it were on our system and clocked our processor at 3.6GHz in order to reduce the CPU bottleneck.  You can see in some tests where this is apparent.

Synthetic Tests:

In the first series of synthetic benchmarks, we ran FutureMark 3DMark 2003, 2005 and 2006.  These benchmarks are meant to show how the two graphics cards compare in an otherwise static test environment.  RAM Timing, CPU speed, FSB, HTT and LDT bus can all affect these numbers so they are not meant to be compared outside of our test environment.  That being said, let's see how much booty the 7900GT KO kicks when compared to the 7600GT CO.

3DMark03

The 7600GT CO scores fairly well, but in our test system, the 7900GT CO outscores it by a sizeable 33% at stock clock speeds.  Once we turn up the heat on both the GPU and the CPU the distance increases to an amazing 59% performance difference!  When overclocking the 7900GT KO alone, we see a 12% performance increase over stock speeds and a difference of 6401 3DMarks over a 7600GT.

 

Let's take a look and see how the more intensive 3DMark05 shapes up on both cards.

3DMark05

3DMark 2005 shows the same obvious trend - the 7900GT KO outruns the 7600GT CO.  The difference on a 2.66GHz Dual Core system is only about 15%, but as we clock up the CPU we see that the CPU is the bottleneck in this benchmark.  Once we open up the CPU and give the 7900GT KO some room to breathe, the difference becomes night and day.  When clocking up both CPU and GPU we see a 46% difference in performance.  When we clock up both, we gain an extra 26% performance increase over stock numbers.  There lies the reason for overclocking - 26% more free performance.

Finally, we wrap up our synthetic tests with a look at the latest 3DMark benchmark.  3DMark 2006 introduces more complex lighting effects and taxes a GPU's fill rate more than ever before.  It's in high bandwidth situations like this that the 7900GT KO should really shine.

3DMark06

In this benchmark the 7600GT holds is ground with default resolution of 1280x1024, but it can no way maintain the grade set by the 7900GT KO.  Even with the CPU bottlenecking the system at stock speed, the 7900GT scores a respectable 4663 3DMarks which is a 41% lead over the 7600GT CO.  As we overclock the 7900GT the distance increases to 56%, and when we clock up the CPU as well, we see an amazing 69% lead over the 7600GT CO.  For an extra $100, you can get over 50% performance increases in 3DMark06.

Let's face it though, 3DMark isn't a game.  While having higher 3DMarks than your friends gives you bragging rights, it doesn't mean you can play games at higher resolution or with more eye candy turned on.  To wrap things up, we'll take a look at some real world games to see how this card stacks up against its little brother.


Game Tests:

3DMarks are all fine and dandy, but to really see how your new graphics card performs you need to actually play some games.  We logged a whole bunch of hours playing games using the 7900GT KO from eVGA and it was a pleasant experience.  The game play was much smoother and prettier than when playing on the 7600GT CO.  The 7900GT KO has much more horsepower for those intense gaming situations and keeps your minimum framerate at a respectable level and helps give you the edge when fragging your friends.  If your card starts to choke and the screen stutters, let's face it - you're hooped.  How did it really stack up?  Take a look at some of the games we played below.

Call of Duty 2 is a very intensive game and when playing on the 7600GT CO it seems to be both CPU and GPU limited.  We see the proof after we drop a heftier GPU in the mix and bring up our framerates by 40%.  We then overclock the 7900GT KO and see basically no improvement.  Once we overclock the CPU we give the 7900GT KO more room to run and run it does.  We gain a few extra FPS and make the game run a little smoother.  As you can see at the detail levels and resolution we chose, the 7600GT CO is not playable.  If you want to run CoD2 smoothly, your going to have to drop the extra $$$ on a 7900GT.

Quake 4 is based on the same engine that Doom3 uses and it's a beautiful game.  There is lots of bump-mapping high detail textures and plenty of special effects to keep the graphics system working hard.  Here is how it shapes up on both cards.

Quake4

When playing deathmatch games, framerate is everything.  You really want to keep the FPS above 60 at all costs in order to keep everything silky smooth.  With High Quality settings, everything enabled, and 2x AA both cards do a pretty good job in this game.  We are CPU limited in this game a bit as we notice a big performance increase when we clock up the CPU to 3.6GHz.  The scores above are average framerate but when you're playing the game, the 7900GT KO keeps things smoother as it's minimum framerate is much more solid than the 7600GT CO.

 

The last game we're going to look at today is Serious Sam 2.  This is a very beautiful game with lush outdoor environments and a lot of enemies onscreen at a time.  We benchmarked 3 different maps at three different resolutions to show how they compare.  You'll notice below that the 7900GT KO needs some serious CPU power to really run once again, but even at stock CPU speeds it owns the 7600GT CO, especially at higher resolutions.

Serious Sam 2 - 1024x768

Serious Sam 2 - 1280x1024

Unfortunately we didn't test out the 1600x1200 numbers on the 7600GT CO due to time restraints, but it would be safe to assume that it would lag even further due to its 128-bit memory interface compared to the 256-bit 7900GT KO interface.

Serious Sam 2 - 1600x1200

Once we hit 1280x1024 we start to see the 7600GT CO struggle.  It averages 34.6 FPS in the Greendale map, and cannot maintain playable framerates through the more intense game play.  The 7900GT has a 48% edge on this card and it worth every penny when it comes to Serious Sam 2.

 

Conclusion:

Some conclusions are hard to sum up, but not with the eVGA 7900GT KO.  This card can be had for around $300CDN and has a pretty sweet overclocking right out of the box.  When you realize that a reference 7900GT outperforms a 7800GTX and then take into account that eVGA has clocked it up even further, you can't help but be impressed.  If you're an enthusiast, you'll probably push the card even further and once again, eVGA leaves us impressed.  We were able to push this GPU core another 95MHz and the Samsung GDDR3 memory clocked up an additional 160MHz.  At the end of the day we were able to run the core 32% above reference speeds and the memory was rock solid when clocked 26% above reference speeds.  This makes the eVGA 7900GT KO one of the best valued 7900GT's on the market today.  This horsepower p0wned at higher resolutions and made every game more enjoyable.

Pros:

  • Excellent Performance / Price Ratio.
  • Copper HSF is fairly quiet.
  • Overclocked from eVGA & covered by warranty.
  • Overclocks very well for a $300 card.

Cons:

  • I don't have two of these.

Here's the real breakdown.

 

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
8/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
10/10
Total Score 9.5

 

This card deserves high awards as I've never seen such good performance from a $300 card that overclocks close to the speed of the 7900GTX which costs almost twice the price.  If you are looking for a new GPU that won't break the bank and will run every game on the market today, you owe it to yourself to pick up the eVGA 7900GT KO.  This card flies when combined with a speedy CPU.

I'd like to thank MemoryExpress for firing this card over for us to review.  It was fun and I have to admit I logged a few more gaming hours with this card that I should have.

If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please drop us a line in our forum at the comments link below.  You will have to register and log-in to post, but it's fast, easy and free.