Summary: Last week we showed you how NVIDIA's GeForce 7900 GTX and GeForce 7900 GT cards performed in comparison to ATI's X1900-series cards, but as most of you know, many of NVIDIA's board partners overclock their retail GeForce cards for added performance. BFG is one such manufacturer, overclocking their GeForce 7900 GTX OC and 7900 GT OC cards from the factory. How do these oc'ed cards fare against ATI's latest and greatest with NVIDIA's new ForceWare 84.20 driver? Let's find out in today's review!
Thanks to its then-new CineFX 4.0 architecture, GeForce 7800 GTX boasted more powerful pixel and vertex shaders that were better designed to handle the more complex math operations that are used in normal maps, lighting, and other operations game developers are increasingly incorporating into their latest games. NVIDIA also improved the 7800 GTX’s texture engine and incorporated a new transparency AA mode into GeForce 7800 to improve visual quality. NVIDIA even managed to squeeze all this into a single-slot package that ran fairly quiet, making the GeForce 7800 GTX popular among OEMs as well.
The only real downside to GeForce 7800 GTX was its price, at $500 MSRP the GeForce 7800 GTX was by no means considered an inexpensive upgrade.
Late last year NVIDIA offered an even more powerful GeForce 7800 GTX variant, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB. We dubbed this card the GeForce 7800 “Ultra” because it delivered so much more performance than the original GeForce 7800 GTX thanks to its blazing clock speeds: at 550MHz core/850MHz memory (1.7GHz effective) the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB GPU ran 120MHz faster than its predecessor while memory speed was up 250MHz.
The GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB ended 2005 as the world’s overall fastest graphics card and held a lofty $750+ price tag to match its performance.
Both the GeForce 7800 GTX and 7800 GTX 512MB delivered excellent performance in all of 2005’s latest titles, but their high price tags were a turnoff for many enthusiasts – the MSRP for the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB is the equivalent of one or even two car payments for most people! In fact, graphics card prices had gotten so high, many began to openly wonder when we’d see the first $1,000 consumer-level graphics card.
Fortunately that day isn’t today. Amazingly enough, NVIDIA’s latest GeForce 7900 GT and 7900 GTX cards actually reverse this trend, retailing for $300 and $500 respectively. The really sweet part is that both of these cards not only cost less than their predecessors, they also deliver more performance than the cards they’re replacing as well. As we noted in our GeForce 7900 GTX/7900 GT Performance Preview article, this is due in large part to the 90-nm manufacturing process both GPUs are built on. Thanks to 90-nm and a few clever architecture tweaks to reduce transistor count, the G71 GPU that both the GeForce 7900 GT and 7900 GTX are based on measures just 196mm2. That’s nearly half the die size of the G70 GPU used in GeForce 7800 cards.
As impressive as NVIDIA’s stock GeForce 7900 GTX and GeForce 7900 GT cards are though, some board manufacturers are offering cards that deliver even more performance. It should come as no surprise to many of you that BFG is one of the first of these manufacturers. But how much faster are their GeForce 7900 GTX OC and GeForce 7900 GT OC cards in comparison to NVIDIA’s reference boards? Let’s find out…
In order to bring their cards to market as quickly as possible, board manufacturers like BFG usually stick with NVIDIA’s reference board design for their retail products. If a change is made, it’s usually limited to something minor, like incorporating (or removing) dual DVI connectors, or perhaps throwing in VIVO (video-in/video-out) support. More drastic changes to the board design or cooling are usually limited to follow-up 2nd-generation boards, if at all. Most card manufacturers just don’t want to risk the lost sales that would occur from being late to market.
Instead of differentiating themselves on their board design, one tactic board manufacturers have turned to instead is clock speeds, running their boards at higher speeds than NVIDIA’s specifications call for from the factory. Once the end user boots up his card, he’ll find that it’s overclocked out-of-the-box, backed with the full manufacturer’s warranty. BFG’s factory overclocked line of “OC” boards quickly became legendary among gamers and enthusiasts because of this free performance. (BFG’s true lifetime warranty was also a big hit among consumers who were tired of dealing confusing warranty policies.)
The best part about both OC cards is that they officially retail for the same price as other manufacturers stock GeForce 7900 GTX and GeForce 7900 GT cards, so you’re essentially getting “free” performance. Some of the other factory overclocked cards from other manufacturers sell at a price premium, depending on how high they’re clocked.
Other than the difference in clock speeds, the rest of the board design for BFG’s GeForce 7900 GTX OC and GeForce 7900 GT is pretty stock as far as boards go. In fact, as far as we can tell, BFG’s cards are manufactured on the exact same production line as NVIDIA’s reference board. All BFG does is slap their sticker on the card’s cooling unit and call it a day -- other than the sticker on the fan the BFG card is indistinguishable from NVIDIA’s reference board. All the board-level components are identical, including the copper cooling on the GeForce 7900 GT OC and the massive dual-slot cooler on the GeForce 7900 GTX OC. Like NVIDIA, BFG also provides two dual-link DVI connectors on both boards.
In addition to the card itself, BFG ships both the GeForce 7900 GT OC and GeForce 7900 GTX OC with a component video breakout box for hooking the cards up to an HDTV, a dual 4-pin to single 6-pin PCI-E power adapter, as well as two DVI adapters. Also included with both cards is a copy of GameDrive, which allows you to play games without the CD, and a driver CD.
3DMark 06– Direct3D
3DMark 06– Direct3D
Battlefield 2 – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
LOMAC – Direct D
Pacific Fighters – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Call of Duty 2 – Direct3D
Serious Sam 2 – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
Bars marked in yellow denote single-card configurations. The blue bars are all SLI systems running with various levels of AA.
Performance: Thanks to their new 90-nm manufacturing process and other core improvements, NVIDIA’s GeForce 7900 GTX and GeForce 7900 GT cards deliver more performance than previous GeForce 7800 GPUs in a smaller package that also generates less heat: despite running slightly faster than the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB, the GeForce 7900 GT gets by with a simple copper heatsink/fan unit. In fact, the heatsink NVIDIA employs on the GeForce 7900 GT isn’t that much larger than the cooler used on the GeForce 6600 GT. The GeForce 7900 GT is also built on a much smaller PCB.
In stock form, the GeForce 7900 GT runs about 3-5% faster than the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB card it replaces on average, although there are cases such as Quake 4 where the performance difference between both cards is closer to 10%. The GeForce 7900 GTX outperforms the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB by roughly the same margins. But BFG’s GeForce 7900 GT OC and 7900 GTX OC cards aren’t “stock” GeForce boards.
Higher clock speeds: For added performance, BFG clocks their GeForce 7900 GT OC and GeForce 7900 GTX OC cards at speeds higher than NVIDIA’s reference specifications. The BFG GeForce 7900 GTX runs at 670MHz/820MHz, that’s an extra 20MHz on the graphics core and memory than NVIDIA’s stock clock speeds. Meanwhile, the BFG GeForce 7900 GT OC operates at 475MHz/680MHz, an improvement of 25MHz on the GPU and 20MHz on the memory.
These changes added up to a 3% improvement in F.E.A.R. at 1280x1024, and 5% in Quake 4 and Half-Life 2: Lost Coast with HDR at 1600x1200 for the BFG GeForce 7900 GT OC, while the BFG 7900 GTX OC outran the stock GeForce 7900 GTX board by anywhere from 3-5% under the same conditions as well.
BFG customer service/warranty and tech support: BFG’s service/support is among the best in the entire graphics industry. BFG was the first of NVIDIA’s board partners to provide a lifetime warranty on all of their graphics cards. BFG’s lifetime warranty isn’t a gimmick either, it’s a true lifetime warranty. As long as you own your card, you’re covered by their lifetime warranty program. BFG also provides 24/7 toll-free phone support while many BFG fans hang out at bfggaming.com, where BFG hosts a number of game servers as well as forums.
GeForce 7900 GTX OC bundle: In addition to the graphics card and the normal accessories you’ll find bundled with a high-end card such as DVI cables and power adapters, BFG also includes a free T-shirt, 24 Teflon stick pads, and a collection of stickers with their GeForce 7900 GTX OC card.
Still a reference design: While BFG does differentiate themselves from stock GeForce 7900 GT and 7900 GTX boards by overclocking their board from the factory, their boards are still basically the same as every other manufacturer out there. BFG uses the same components and cooling as everyone else. This isn’t necessarily a “con” after all, everyone’s doing it, just something to keep in mind in case you were expecting one board to be manufactured differently than the rest.
BFG GeForce 7900 GT OC
We’re giving the GeForce 7900 GTX OC an extra point due to its bundle. While BFG doesn’t include any games with their GeForce 7900 GTX OC card, you do get quite a few accessories with the card. BFG includes 24 teflon stick pads inside the board’s packaging. These can be used on older mice with worn mouse feet, or on your brand new Logitech G7 to provide better traction. BFG also includes an XL BFG Up All Nite T-Shirt and stickers inside the box.
In terms of the hardware itself, BFG doesn’t disappoint. Their GeForce 7900 GTX OC boasts clock speeds of 670MHz/820MHz, making it one of the faster GeForce 7900 GTX boards on the market (although not the fastest). Again, this should provide peace of mind for less experienced users who have always wanted to overclock their graphics card, but for one reason or another, are leery of doing so.
BFG’s reputation for delivering solid customer service and support is practically legendary. This aspect alone sells a lot of cards for them each year. With their latest GeForce 7900 GT and 7900 GTX OC cards, you’re not only getting BFG’s renowned support, you’re also getting cards that deliver excellent performance at a competitive price. We have no qualms about recommending BFG’s latest graphics cards to anyone looking to purchase a new high-end graphics card for their gaming rig.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|