Summary: Looking for a card that delivers performance greater than a GeForce 6600 GT but don't want to spend a ton of money in the process? If so, you may want to check out NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 GS. The 7600 GS is based on the same GPU inside NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 GT, only it runs a little slower. The result? A card that delivers impressive performance for less than $150. Read more about the GeForce 7600 GS in this article!
Like the GeForce 7600 GT, the GeForce 7600 GS is based on NVIDIA’s G73 GPU. If you recall, G73 is built on TSMC’s new 90-nanometer manufacturing process and functionally is a scaled down version of the G71 GPU powering the GeForce 7900 GT/GeForce 7900 GTX. We referred to it basically as half of a G71 GPU in our GeForce 7600 GT Performance Preview article, as it sports half the pixel shaders as GeForce 7900 GT (12 versus 24), half the ROPS (8 versus 16), and half the memory interface (128-bit versus 256-bit). Basically the only portion of G73 that isn’t sliced in half are the vertex shaders. NVIDIA equips G73 with five vertex units, whereas G71 has eight.
The best news of all for the GeForce 7600 GS is that NVIDIA’s made no compromises to the G73’s core architecture for GeForce 7600 GS, all the pixel and vertex shaders found in GeForce 7600 GT carry over intact, nothing’s been disabled. All NVIDIA has done is lower the clock speeds to make GeForce 7600 GS cards cheaper to produce. For instance, the GeForce 7600 GT requires high-speed GDDR3 memory running at 700MHz, whereas the GeForce 7600 GS is able to get by with cheaper 400MHz DDR2 modules.
Because the core architecture carries over unchanged, this gives the GeForce 7600 GS 12 pixel shaders, with five vertex units and eight ROPs, just like the GeForce 7600 GT. The GeForce 7600 GS’ G73 GPU is also still fed by two 64-bit memory controllers, for a 128-bit wide memory interface.
NVIDIA has turned down the clock speeds pretty dramatically though. Whereas the GeForce 7600 GT runs at 560MHz, the GeForce 7600 GS runs at 400MHz. On the memory side, the GeForce 7600 GS ships with 256MB of DDR2 memory running at 400MHz. In comparison, the GeForce 7600 GT’s reference specifications call for 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 700MHz.
As a result of these changes, you’ll never mistake a stock GeForce 7600 GS for a GeForce 7600 GT in terms of 3D performance. At the same time though we’ve been told that the GeForce 7600 GS should sell for significantly less than a 7600 GT. NVIDIA expects GeForce 7600 GS boards to sell somewhere in the $129-$149 price range. In comparison, most GeForce 7600 GT cards sell online for about $189-$229 right now.
Another interesting aspect of the GeForce 7600 GS is that due to its lower clock speeds, NVIDIA’s able to cool the GPU passively – other than a relatively mundane aluminum heatsink, nothing else is required to keep the GPU cool. As you can see in the shots provided by NVIDIA of the GeForce 7600 GS reference board, the card ships without a fan. Since the GeForce 7600 GS supports all the PureVideo features found in other GeForce 7 cards, including the GeForce 7900 GT/GTX, this should be a pretty nice card for use in media center PCs. NVIDIA provides one dual-link DVI connector on the GeForce 7600 GS reference design as well, allowing the card to drive high-end flat panel displays like the Dell 3007WFP at its native screen resolution of 2560x1600. You’ll also note that the SLI connector is present on the top of NVIDIA’s reference board. This provides a dedicated path that the GPUs can use to communicate with each other, resulting in better performance than if the PCI Express interface were used.
With its $129-$149 MSRP, the GeForce 7600 GS is intended to compete directly with ATI’s Radeon X1600 Pro, a task that’s been handled pretty well by the GeForce 6600 GT up to this point. The GeForce 6600 GT and the rest of the GPUs in the GeForce 6600 line have all been phenomenal sellers for NVIDIA – in fact NVIDIA claims they’ve shipped well over a million GeForce 6 GPUs alone – but with TSMC’s 90-nm manufacturing process now mature and battle-tested with the GeForce 7300, NVIDIA’s ready to take advantage of the cost-savings that the smaller process brings to their entire graphics lineup. With the debut of G71 and G73, NVIDIA’s finally got all of their latest GPUs built at 90-nm, top-to-bottom.
So how does the GeForce 7600 GS stack up in comparison to the GeForce 6600 GT and Radeon X1600 Pro? Let’s take a look:
We’ve been told that so far, only one GeForce 7600 GS board will be available upon launch with HDCP support. The manufacturer? ASUS. To be honest, we don’t have any specifics on the card, we don’t know if ASUS will be providing HDCP support via DVI or HDMI connectors. We also haven’t received the name of the product or its price. All we know is that ASUS is the only manufacturer that has committed to producing an HDCP-ready GeForce 7600 GS graphics card, making them the first manufacturer among NVIDIA’s board partners to bring an HDCP-compliant card to the retail market, none of the GeForce 7900 GT/GTX or GeForce 7600 GT boards that have been announced to date offer HDCP support. We’re hoping to get our hands on the board either later this week, or most likely sometime next week, but we honestly haven’t been given a firm ETA on when the ASUS card will be available. We have a strong feeling though that once it is finally announced it will be highly sought after among home theater PC users looking for a card capable of outputting HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies at full resolution to an HDTV or HDCP-compliant monitor.
Unfortunately we don’t have a GeForce 7600 GS reference board to test with, nor were we able to obtain a retail card from one of NVIDIA’s board partners in time for this article. So in order to evaluate the performance of NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GS we’re instead going to do something a little different and underclock our GeForce 7600 GT to the 7600 GS’ clock speeds of 400/400. We realize that it isn’t the same as testing a true GeForce 7600 GS card, but given the circumstances we felt it was the best solution to the problem. Of course since we don’t have a card to test with we won’t be dabbling with overclocking. Normally we like to play around with overclocking, if only to get an idea of how well the GPU scales to higher clock speeds. In addition, NVIDIA’s reference boards are often produced on the exact same production lines many of NVIDIA’s board partners use for their boards, so overclocking the reference board can provide some indication of how far retail cards may be pushed when OC’ing.
GeForce 7300 LE
Like the GeForce 7300 GS, the 7300 LE supports NVIDIA’s TurboCache technology. NVIDIA expects that many of their board partners will equip their 7300 LE boards with 128MB of DDR2 memory onboard. This would run like a 256MB card in a PC equipped with 512MB of system RAM. NVIDIA also expects some of their partners to ship their boards with 256MB of memory onboard, these boards would support 512MB of memory in PCs with 1GB of system RAM. It’s also important to note that the GeForce 7300 LE has a 64-bit memory interface and supports PureVideo. The GeForce 7300 LE however isn’t SLI capable.
3DMark 06– Direct3D
3DMark 06– Direct3D
Half-Life 2 – 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
If NVIDIA can stick to the board’s $129-$149 price point, the GeForce 7600 GS could become a pretty popular solution for the lower-end of the mainstream segment. The GeForce 7600 GS trades blows with ATI’s more expensive Radeon X1600 XT, delivering superior performance in the flight sims we tested as well as Quake 4 and Serious Sam 2, while falling behind in titles such as Call of Duty 2, and Battlefield 2. Performance is pretty even in F.E.A.R. (with the X1600 XT coming in slightly ahead) and Half-Life 2 Lost Coast, where the X1600 XT fell behind in our HDR testing, but runs faster than the GeForce board once 4xAA is enabled. In terms of pricing, X1600 XT prices generally start around $150 and go up from there. And while we didn’t run tests today with the Radeon X1600 Pro, the board ships with a graphics core than runs 90MHz slower than the X1600 XT, while the X1600 Pro’s memory runs at nearly half the speed of the XT; we just don’t see the X1600 Pro keeping up with the GeForce 7600 GS.
Don’t get us wrong, you won’t confuse the GeForce 7600 GS’s performance with that of a GeForce 7600 GT. NVIDIA’s clearly built-in quite a bit of performance between the two cards, and while we didn’t have a GeForce 7600 GS board to test out overclocking with, we have a hard time seeing 400MHz DDR2 modules running at the 7600 GT’s stock memory frequency of 700MHz, so gamers looking for the most performance possible will still want to opt for the GeForce 7600 GT if they can afford it. The cheapest 7600 GT boards sell for just under $190, so you’ll pay about $50 more for a 7600 GT than a 7600 GS. In general, that $50 will buy you another 25-35% in performance, so you are getting your money’s worth out of the deal. More casual gamers though would likely be better served by the GeForce 7600 GS. And we certainly can’t wait to check out the HDCP-ready card from ASUS. Like we said earlier, it will probably be a huge hit among media center users.
In terms of availability, we’ve been told by NVIDIA that today’s GeForce 7600 GS announcement is “another hard launch”, with retail availability starting today, just like the GeForce 7600 GT and GeForce 7900 GT/GTX cards introduced a few weeks ago. In fact we were told that the GeForce 7600 GS launch was pulled from March 9th to today in order to ensure this. However, the fact that we weren’t able to get a reference board from NVIDIA nor a retail card from one of their board partners in time for this article strongly suggests otherwise. Gigabyte sent out a press release earlier today announcing their GeForce 7600 GS-powered GV-NX76G256D-RH. In the PR Gigabyte stated that their GV-NX76G256D-RH card wouldn’t be available until April. We have a feeling that timeframe is a little more accurate, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the GeForce 7600 GS hit retail en masse around then.
If you’re in the market for a midrange graphics upgrade, we’d highly suggest you check out the GeForce 7600 GS. After testing this product and the GeForce 7600 GT earlier this month, it certainly looks like NVIDIA’s got a pretty strong successor to the GeForce 6600 line. We wouldn’t be surprised to see these 7600 cards sell like hotcakes, just like the GeForce 6600s did…
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