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    ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB Review
    By Vince Freeman :  August 15, 2006


    High-end buyers come in a few different flavors, and although there are hardware enthusiasts who literally have no budget, most of us are still trying to get the best value, even at this performance level. The NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT is a perfect mix of price and performance, and provides the same kind of value for high-end buyers, as the GeForce 7600 GT does in the mainstream market. You get a card that can play all the top games with lots of graphics fixin's, while still keeping to a budget on your high-end gaming rig. Some companies, like ASUS, try to make a good thing even better and in the pursuit of even greater value, offer up pre-overclocked GeForce 7900 GT cards. The ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB is one such product and its performance outstrips a standard GeForce 7900 GT card, and brings it that much closer to the ultra high-end.

    The NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT

    The ASUS EN7900GT TOP is a high-end graphics card that uses the powerful GeForce 7900 GT graphic processing unit. The GeForce 7900 GT is basically a 90nm version of the 110nm GeForce 7800 GTX, with some core optimizations that make it a bit faster than the older GPU at the same clock speed. The GeForce 7900 GT features 24 pixel pipelines, 24 pixel shader processors, 24 texture units, and 8 vertex pipelines, which is also equivalent to the higher-clocked GeForce 7900 GTX. The card's memory architecture consists of a 256-bit path to 256MB of GDDR3 memory.

    In addition to the core enhancements, NVIDIA has also increased the clock speeds to 450 MHz for the GeForce 7900 GT, up from 430 MHz for the GeForce 7800 GTX. The base memory clock has also been increased from 1.2 GHz to 1.32 GHz. This results in fill rates of 10.8 GTexel/s and 10.8 GPixels/s, and a memory bandwidth of 42.2 GB/s, both of which are slightly higher than the GeForce 7800 GTX. These specifications place the GeForce 7900 GT right near the top of the single card/GPU performance ladder, with only the Radeon X1900 XTX and GeForce 7900 GTX currently placing higher.

    The ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB Card

    The ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB is a PCI Express x16 video card that takes the default NVIDIA clock speeds of 450 MHz core and 1.32 GHz memory, and tosses them out the window. ASUS increases these to 520 MHz core and 1.44 GHz memory, and proudly displays these clock speeds on the retail box. The EN7900GT TOP is a single-slot card design, and requires an external PCIe power connector. The card's backplate is standard, and features dual DVI-I outputs and an S-Video port for TV and HDTV output.

    Due to the cool-running 90nm core, standard GeForce 7900 GT cards usually sport a small heatsink-fan, but ASUS has adjusted this to ensure smooth operation at the higher speeds. The ASUS heatsink-fan features a King Kong logo, and is wider, in order to cover the memory chips. The overall weight and ambient noise is no different from a base card, and this HSF design is preferable over the reference design.

    ASUS is well known for their excellent retail packages, and the EN7900GT TOP 256MB includes a very nice hardware and software bundle. It consists of a hefty, multi-lingual user manual (28 pages for each), a SpeedSetUP quick-start guide, a dual Molex PCIe power connector, an HDTV breakout cable, 2x DVI-to-VGA dongle, a driver/utilities CD, VirtualDrive 9, PowerDirector 3DE, MediaSHow SE 2.0, and two games: XR Xpand Rally and the official King Kong game.

    Like all GeForce 7 Series cards, the ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB supports the latest Shader Model 3.0, and a variety of NVIDIA features and options. These include the CineFX 4.0 engine, IntelliSample 4.0, UltraShadow II, NVIDIA PureVideo, NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control 3.0, NVIDIA SLI, and nView, among others. ASUS has also bundled applications like GameLiveShow (live streaming gaming), GameReplay (record and share gaming video), and GameFace Live (audio and video game chat).

    To give a better idea of the architecture of several mainstream and high-end cards we see competing directly against the GeForce 7900 GT, here is a small chart outlining the key architectural features of each GPU:

    Graphics Processor Pixel Pipes Pixel Shaders Texture Units Vertex Shaders ROPs
    Radeon X1600 XT 4 12 4 5 4
    GeForce 7600 GT 12 12 12 5 8
    GeForce 6800 GS 12 12 12 5 8
    GeForce 6800 Ultra 16 16 16 6 16
    Radeon X1800 GTO 12 12 12 8 8
    Radeon X1800 XL 16 16 16 8 16
    GeForce 7800 GT 20 20 20 7 16
    GeForce 7800 GTX 24 24 24 8 16
    GeForce 7900 GT/GTX 24 24 24 8 16

    Keep in mind that as many graphics designs have taken a modular view of the architecture, so too does the entire picture of the GPU needs to be taken into consideration. No more is performance relegated to the number of pixel pipelines or texel processing, but pixel and vertex shaders need to be taken into account, as does the number of ROPs (or Render Output units). Of course, the best performance metric is real-world testing, and we've assembled a wide range of game benchmarks in the next section.

  • Page 1 The ASUS EN7900GT TOP 256MB Card
    Page 2 Test Setup and Benchmark Software
    Page 3 Quake 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved Performance
    Page 4 Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 Performance
    Page 5 DOOM 3 and Half-Life 2 Performance
    Page 6 FarCry and Quake 4 Performance
    Page 7 Chronicles of Riddick and F.E.A.R. Performance
    Page 8 3DMark06 Advanced Standard & Feature Performance
    Page 9 Relative Performance & Overclock Testing
    Page 10 Benchmark Analysis, Value and Conclusion

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