7300GT - Budget GPU or Not?

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Product: Inno3D GeForce 7300GT-DDR3
Provided By: Inno3D
Price: ~Est. $130CDN

Introduction:

Inno3D recently offered their 7300GT for us to take a look at, and I politely told them that we weren't too interested in taking a look at entry-level graphics cards.  They replied by stating that the 7300GT they were offering has an edge up on the competition.  This piqued my interest, so I headed on over to find out how fast this GPU is clocked and what kind of memory they used.

7300GT Box

I discovered that the 7300GT is no slouch and with Inno3D's DDR3 version clocked in at 500MHz on the core and 1400MHz on the memory, it looks like it could certainly hold it's weight in a budget gaming rig.  In this review we aim to see if the budget priced 7300GT has budget performance graphics, or if it can actually turn the table on entry-level hardware and provide the consumer with good performance for the price.

Bundle & First Look:

Inno3D has included a pretty lean bundle with this card.  They throw in a Composite Video Cable, Component Video Dongle, Quick Install manual, CD with drivers and software, as well as a single DVI-D to D-Sub adapter.  Although this card has two DVI-D outputs, they only throw in one D-Sub adapter.  If you want to run dual monitors and you've got a couple of CRT's, you'll need to pony up for another adapter at your local computer store.

Inno3D's Bundle

The CD includes the older 83.91 drivers for 2K/XP & XP-64bit as well as DirectX 9.0c to get you started.  Then Inno3D sweetens the deal by throwing in a full electronic manual, Snapstream Beyond Media 1.1.0, ResChanger 2005 and Ulead DVD Movie Factory 3.  These programs are great for the beginner as they will give you a chance to play around with some DVD and media features that you'd normally have to pay money for.  The drivers aren't the latest version by all means, so for the review we used the 91.31 drivers.

Below are some pictures of the card itself.  You may notice that the layout looks familiar.  The board is actually virtually identical to the reference 7600GT PCB layout but colored dark brown as is signature for Inno3D.

7300GT - Front View
 7300GT - Front View

7300GT - Back Side
 7300GT - Back Side

Dual DVI + Video Out
 Dual DVI + Video Out

This card impresses me with its nice layout, good sized aluminum HSF, and dual DVI connections.  You'd be hard pressed to find a card that looks better and offers more features.  Other low-budget cards include 1 DVI and 1 D-Sub connector, but Inno3D includes support for 2 Digital LCD's pumping a massive 2560x1600 on each display.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at this card and what Inno3D claims it can do.


Closer Look:

This card is based on the G73 core but is a little different than the eVGA 7600GT in terms of model and revision.  The 7300GT core is labeled as the G73-VZ-N-A2 while the 7600GT is of the G73-GT-N-A2 variety.  Both should be able to clock up to similar speeds which leaves the memory as one of the major differences between these two cards.

7300GT - GPU Core
 7300GT - GPU Core

7300GT - Samsung DDR3
 7300GT - Samsung DDR3

You can see in the picture above that Inno3D uses the "pink gum" thermal interface material on the HSF.  I hate trying to get this off, but for the average user who buys this card, they will not likely ever remove the HSF.  Isopropyl alcohol doesn't even break this crap down.

What separates this 7300GT from much of its competition is the fact that Inno3D uses faster clocked DDR3 on this board.  With a core very similar to the much faster 7600GT, they realized that in order to take advantage of the core it needed faster memory to pump out the pixels.  The memory the used is Samsung's K4J52324QC-BC14.  This memory is 1.4ns, and is rated at 700MHz or 1400MHz DDR.  That is on the high end of the 7300GT spec, and enables this card to fly - at least for a budget card.

Specs & Features:

Before we jump into all the features of the G73 GPU, let's take a look at how this card stacks up to the competition it will be facing later on.

 

Reference GeForce 6600GT
Reference 7300GT
Inno3D GeForce 7300GT DDR3
eVGA GeForce 7600GT CO
0.11 Micron
0.09 Micron
0.09 Micron
0.09 Micron
146M Transistors
177M Transistors
177M Transistors
177M Transistors
3 Vertex Pipelines
4 Vertex Pipelines
4 Vertex Pipelines
5 Vertex Pipelines
8 Pixel Pipelines
8 Pixel Pipelines
8 Pixel Pipelines
12 Pixel Pipelines
8 Pixel Shader Engines
16 Pixel Shader Engines
16 Pixel Shader Engines
24 Pixel Shader Engines
500MHz Core Clock
350MHz - 575MHz Core Clock
500MHz Core Clock
580MHz Core Clock
4000 MTexels / sec
2800 - 4600 MTexels / sec
4000 MTexels / sec
6960 MTexels / sec
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
128-bit DDR2 or DDR3
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
128-bit GDDR3 Memory
1000MHz Memory Clock
666MHz - 1500MHz Memory Clock
1400MHz Memory Clock
1500MHz Memory Clock
16.0 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
10.67GB - 24.0GB / sec Memory Bandwidth
22.4 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
24.0 GB/sec Memory Bandwidth

 

As you can see by the specs above, nVidia has left the 7300GT wide open for companies to play around with.  You could buy a 7300GT that is slower than a 6600GT, or you could buy one that is significantly faster.  You will obviously need to do your homework before you go shopping.  The Inno3D 7300GT DDR3 card that we have has more pixel shader engines than a 6600GT, but not as many as the 7600GT.  The memory bus on all of these cards is 128-bit so that should even the playing field a bit.

 

Next Generation Super Scaler GPU Architecture
Delivers over 2x the shading power of previous generation products, taking gaming performance to extreme levels.

Full Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
The standard for today's PCs and next generation consoles enables stunning and complex effects for cinematic realism.

NVIDIA® CineFX® 4.0 Engine
Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Next generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA® SLI Technology
NVIDIA SLI technology is a revolutionary platform innovation that allows users to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple NVIDIA graphics solutions in a single system with an NVIDIA nForce SLI MCP.

NVIDIA® Intellisample 4.0 Technology
The industry’s fastest antialiasing delivers ultra-realistic visuals with no jagged edges, at lightning-fast speeds. Visual qualiry 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.

True High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Rendering Support
The ultimate lighting effects bring environments to life for a truely immersive, ultra-realistic experience. NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effect through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing and blending.

NVIDIA® PureVideo Technology
The combination of high-definition video processors and decoder software deilvers 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.

NVIDIA® UltraShadow II Technology
Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects.

NVIDIA® ForceWare® unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare ensures the best out-of-box experience for every user and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce GPUs.

OpenGL® 2.0 Optimizations and Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for Open GL applications.

NVIDIA® nView Multi-Display Technology
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexible and control for multiple monitors.

PCI Express® Support
Designd to run perfectly with the next generation PCI Express bus architecture. The new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.


Test Setup:

In this review we are using our Intel Pentium D 805 setup.  This will be the last graphics card review using this system, as it is being replaced with some faster hardware.

Testing Info:

We ran our Intel 805 Dual Core CPU at stock speed (2.66GHz) throughout this review as a 7300GT 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 three cards.  The benchmark results are a direct comparison of the 6600GT, 7300GT and the 7600GT.

Overclocking:

Inno3D is not really known as a player in North America, but they've been around for quite a while and have a very good following in Europe and in Asia.  I didn't know what to expect when it came to overclocking, but we gave it a try.  We installed Coolbits 2.0 and used the auto detect setting as a baseline for overclocking.  Coolbits reported 551Mhz core and 1526MHz on the memory.  However, shortly after we overclocked the card it locked up the system.  After clocking back down, we could boot and load Windows, but even at stock speeds the graphics would artifact during 3DMark runs.  We clocked the card below default speeds to clear this up, but the card was pooched.  Inno3D was gracious enough to send us another card that they pre-tested before they sent it out.  This card will not overclock a single MHz.  Anything above stock speeds causes the screen to lock and Windows must be restarted.  We have no overclocked benchmarks as the card we used to complete the review cannot be clocked above stock speed - which is still much faster than many 7300GTs out there.

Synthetic Tests:

As this is the last graphics review on the Intel Pentium D 805 test system, we decided to stick with our old standard tests.  We started with the usual 3DMark series and the results are posted below for your viewing pleasure.

3DMark03

 

3DMark05

3DMark06

As you can see, the 7300GT sits right between the 6600GT and the 7600GT.  In the single card configuration that we used, the card score over 10,000 3DMark 2003 and gets an impressive 4660 in 3DMark05.  It scales well all across the board.

We'll take a look at game tests on the next page.


Game Tests:

For these tests we used some popular games that I've enjoyed playing and tested them out on an entry-level card to see if it can handle the task for the occasional gamer.  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.

This will probably be the last time we use canned timedemos to evaluate gameplay performance.  Timedemos are useful when comparing one GPU with another, but they don't take into account other factors that affect gameplay, such as AI.  For this review we do compare the cards using timedemos as it is a direct comparison of what the GPU is capable of as the rest of the system is static across the board.

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 7300GT.  We used a custom Timedemo to recreate and compare the 6600GT and 7600GT CO against the 7300GT.  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.

Call of Duty 2

Next up is a little Quake 4 Deathmatch.  This game runs much faster on all cards tested.

Quake 4

Even at 1280x1024, Deathmatch is actually playable on a $130 card.  This is remarkable as it smokes the 6600GT by 35% at 1280x1024.  Not bad at all.

 

Lastly, we take a look at three Serious Sam 2 maps at two different resolutions.  The results pretty much speak for themselves.

Serious Sam 2 - 1024x768

Serious Sam 2 - 1280x1024

1280x1024 is a bit of a stretch for the 7300GT, but at 1024x768 it is very playable in all the maps we tested.  Greendale is a bit laggy, but it is still playable, whereas on the 6600GT you cannot play with an average FPS of 26.  If you drop off AA, you'd see better performance especially with the 6600GT and the 7300GT.

Conclusion:

The Inno3D 7300GT DDR3 is a tremendous card for any entry-level or even low-budget system.  It supports PureVideo and all of the other GeForce 7x00 goodies that we've come to expect.  Priced just above the $100 mark really gives this card a position all by itself.  It is downright speedy for the money.  If you spend another $100 you could grab another 7300GT and pull some sweet SLI action that looks like it would blow the 7600GT out of the water.  Give it some thought, and look online for an Inno3D retailer so you can pick up this card for anyone who wants to game and still wants to be able to pay rent.

Pros:

  • Excellent Performance / Price Ratio.
  • Fan runs quiet, even in 3D Mode.
  • Decent software bundle for budget card.

Cons:

  • Overclocking is not available on our sample.

Here's the full breakdown:

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
9/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
9/10
Stability:
8/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
9/10
Total Score 9.0

 

I'd like to thank Inno3D for sending this card over the water for us to review.  We appreciate it and were amazed at the performance from this enhanced DDR3 version of the 7300GT. (Yes, just like you said.)

Please post your comments regarding this review at the comments link just below.