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    Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB Review
    By Vince Freeman :  August 23, 2006

    Introduction

    When it comes to graphics card value, buyers usually head straight for the mainstream performance market, that special area where prices range from $150-$200. This is where you'll get the best combination of features, performance and retail price, and receive video hardware that can handle the top games on the shelves. Price vs. performance is the key element here, and mainstream performance cards walk the fine line between offering high-end performance without putting too large a dent in your wallet.

    Because NVIDIA and ATI are not clocking these cards to the stratosphere in a bid for the performance crown, there has been an emergence of specialized cooling designs, with many utilizing the Radeon X1600 XT and GeForce 7600 GT, and making use of their lower heat and power requirements. We've already covered the Silent Pipe II cooling system with the Gigabyte Radeon X1600 Pro card, and now we're seeing how well it translates onto the GeForce 7600 GT.

    The Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB Card

    The Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB card uses the powerful GeForce 7600 GT graphics processing unit, which is right at the top of the list in terms of mainstream performance. This is a 90nm GPU that features 12 pixel pipelines, 12 pixel shader processors, 12 texture units, and 5 vertex pipelines, and runs at a default clock speed of 560 MHz. This translates into a fill rate of 6.72 Gigatexel/s, which is excellent for its price level. The 90nm GeForce 7600 GT is a cool-running graphics processor, which also has a nice mix of performance and features for the mainstream class. The only area that has been toned down is the memory architecture, where NVIDIA went with a 128-bit interface, rather than the 256-bit of higher-end cards. This card features 256MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.4 GHz, allowing a top theoretical memory bandwidth of 22.4 GB/s.

    The Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB card sticks to the base specifications in terms of clock speed and memory capacity, but extends the reference design in terms of onboard cooling. The fanless Silent Pipe II design features a pair of front and back-mounted copper heatsinks, which are linked via a heatpipe. A front-flow thermal module is mounted on the backplate of the card, and it provides air-intake for improved cooling. This entire setup is custom designed by Zalman, so you can be sure it works as advertised. The Silent Pipe II cooling allows for a "natural convection design", whereby cooler air is brought into the system, moves over the card, and then is expelled by the system fans.

    The Silent Pipe II cooling system received high marks for stability and overall cooling, but there are a few potential issues. Because of the extensive cooling hardware, the Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB card requires 2 slots, one for the PCI Express interface, and the other to give space for the front-mounted heatsink and front-flow module. Depending on the motherboard design, the back-mounted heatsink also needs to be taken into consideration, as you'll need some room above the primary PCI Express x16 slot. On our reference ASUS motherboard, the chipset heatsink did come into contact with the Silent Pipe II heatsink, but it did not impede installation. This format also means that small form-factor and slim line systems, where a fanless video card could make the most sense, might have trouble accommodating the Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 256MB.

    The remainder of the Gigabyte physical card is standard, and its backplate includes dual DVI-I outputs, along with an S-Video port that can be used for HDTV output through the bundled breakout cable. In addition, as with all GeForce 7600 GT cards, there is no requirement for an external power connector. The retail bundle includes a user manual, two DVI-to-VGA dongles, and an HDTV break-out box. The software bundle includes drivers, Gigabyte's V-Tuner2 overclocking utility, and Serious Sam II. Gigabyte's GeForce 7600 GT 256MB card supports the latest SM 3.0, as well as a host of NVIDIA features and options. These include the CineFX 4.0 engine, IntelliSample 4.0, UltraShadow II, NVIDIA PureVideo, NVIDIA SLI, and nView, among others.

    To give a better idea of the architecture of the various mainstream and high-end cards we see competing directly against the GeForce 7600 GT, here is a small chart outlining the key performance features of each GPU:

    Graphics Processor Pixel Pipes Pixel Shaders Texture Units Vertex Shaders ROPs
    GeForce 7600 GT 12 12 12 5 8
    Radeon X700 Pro 8 8 8 6 8
    Radeon X1600 XT 4 12 4 5 4
    GeForce 6600 GT 8 8 8 3 4
    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

    Keep in mind that as many graphics designs have taken a more modular view of the architecture, so too does the entire picture of the GPU need 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 Gigabyte GeForce 7600 GT 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 Benchmark Analysis, Overclocking, Value, and Conclusion


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