Summary: Looking for a new video card but want to spend between $100-$125? If so then NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 GS delivers a package that's pretty tough to beat. You've got performance that's much greater than a GeForce 6600 GT in a package that runs silently, plus NVIDIA PureVideo. In this article we take a look at two of the most popular GeForce 7600 GS cards from EVGA and XFX. How do they compare to one another, as well as the GeForce 7600 GT and Radeon X1600 Pro, and which card is right for you? Let's find out!
Even more significant is OEM adoption. System manufacturers like Dell and HP buy value and mainstream graphics cards like the GeForce 7600 by the truckload. These cards then go into the $900+ systems that are becoming increasingly popular with computer shoppers tired of spending $2,000 or more on a new PC.
Today’s latest mainstream graphics cards pack quite a punch too. While they don’t sport the wider 256-bit memory interface found in more expensive graphics cards, they’re capable of delivering performance equivalent to the high-end DX9 cards of just a few years ago.
The GeForce 6600 GT for instance was capable of outperforming the Radeon 9700/9800 Pro in many cases, while its successor, the GeForce 7600 GT, is a better overall performer than NVIDIA’s once mighty GeForce 6800 GT despite the fact that it has fewer pixel shaders and a narrower 128-bit memory interface. The GeForce 7600 GT is largely responsible for making the GeForce 6800 GS irrelevant.
But we’re not here to talk about the GeForce 7600 GT today, that article is coming shortly. Instead we’re talking about its younger sibling, the GeForce 7600 GS. The GeForce 7600 GS shares all of the key architectural features found in the GeForce 7600 GT, including its 12 pixel shaders and five vertex shaders. Like the GeForce 7600 GT, the 7600 GS utilizes two 64-bit memory controllers, for a 128-bit (total) memory interface. The only difference between the 7600 GT and 7600 GS lies in clock speeds. 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.
Because of the card’s slower speeds, you’ll never confuse a stock GeForce 7600 GS board for a 7600 GT, but the lower clocks allow NVIDIA’s board partners to cool the card passively – a fan isn’t required for operation. In fact both of the boards we’re featuring today boast silent operation. Let’s get started by taking a look at the EVGA e-GeForce 7600 GS.
Founded in 1999, EVGA is one of NVIDIA’s newer board partners but they’ve racked up sales quickly, allowing them to rapidly elevate up the ranks to Tier One board partner status. EVGA is one of a handful of NVIDIA launch partners; with the release of each new NVIDIA GPU EVGA is one of the first manufacturers with cards available. EVGA has earned a loyal following of users thanks to their excellent customer service and warranty, not to mention the performance of their cards which are often overclocked from the factory to run at speeds higher than other manufacturers. EVGA is also the only video card manufacturer to offer an upgrade program to their customers via their Step-Up program.
With EVGA Step-Up, EVGA customers can trade in their existing EVGA graphics card for the latest and greatest model available, as long as the upgrade occurs within 90 days of the initial card purchase. EVGA customers simply pay the difference between the two cards to complete the transaction. This allows prospective EVGA owners to purchase a faster graphics card if the original doesn’t meet their needs, or upgrade if NVIDIA introduces newer technology. The only downside to Step-Up is that you can only use it once, so you should use it wisely.
The e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB w/passive heatsink is pretty close to NVIDIA’s reference board design for the GeForce 7600 GS, although it’s not an exact replica. Unlike some of their higher-end KO and CO boards which run at some of the highest speeds out there, for the e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB w/passive heatsink EVGA sticks with NVIDIA’s stock GeForce 7600 GS clock speeds of 400MHz core/400MHz memory (800MHz effective). You’ll also see that EVGA relies on NVIDIA’s stock aluminum heatsink to passively cool the card’s G73 GPU and memory. With 12 pixel pipelines onboard running at 400MHz, you’d think an active cooler with fan would be necessary to keep the GPU cool, but thanks to TSMC’s 90-nanometer manufacturing process this isn’t a requirement.
With that being said, the GeForce 7600 GS’ G73 GPU does run a tad warmer than if a fan had been used, and the entire board itself will get pretty toasty, especially after extended gaming sessions under load (you certainly won’t want to touch the card if you care for your fingers), but based on our experience this shouldn’t be too much of a concern as it looks like the PCB and board-level components are well designed to handle the heat that the GPU generates. We even went so far as to overclock both the EVGA and XFX boards with no form of active cooling on the card and didn’t experience any graphical artifacts or other anomalies.
In a nutshell, EVGA’s e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB w/passive heatsink isn’t designed to be flashy. It’s designed to get the job done, and do so at an attractive price point. For instance, their 512MB GeForce 7600 GS board can be found for under $150 on Newegg right now, and $130 after mail-in rebate. Meanwhile, the e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB w/passive heatsink we’re looking at today can be found for $120 on Newegg, and $105 after rebate, while the EVGA GeForce 7600 GS with fan can be had for as low as $100 after rebate, making it one of the best, if not the best value at that price point right now. One thing we should note about all three of these EVGA boards though is that they aren’t offered with EVGA’s lifetime warranty policy. Instead EVGA provides a one year standard warranty, with an additional year of warranty coverage once the card is registered with EVGA, for a total of a 2-year warranty. All three boards run at NVIDIA’s stock clock speeds as well.
Software and accessories
To keep the price point as low as possible, EVGA skips the traditional game bundle with their e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB w/passive heatsink card. Instead inside the package you’ll get a DVI adapter, S-Video cable, and component video cable for hooking the card up to an HDTV. EVGA also includes their driver CD and manual with the card.
XFX’s XXX Edition boards are designed to appeal to the user who wants the fastest card on the market, these boards are factory overclocked to blistering levels that are higher than most other boards, while their Xtreme Edition cards merge higher than stock clock speeds with more conservative pricing, and often offer unique features that aren’t found on more vanilla boards from other manufacturers. XFX has also made a name for themselves with their double-lifetime warranty program, which not only grants a lifetime warranty to the original purchaser of the card, but also to the card’s second owner as well.
For their GeForce 7600GS Extreme Edition, XFX goes all out, decking the card out with several features that aren’t found on your typical GeForce 7600 GS card. Most card manufacturers aren’t going the extra mile with their GeForce 7600 GS cards because the two GPUs (the 7600 GS and 7600 GT) are priced so closely together – typically around $50 or less – so if you add too many extras to your GeForce 7600 GS card you run the risk of having to price it awfully close to your GeForce 7600 GT board. XFX really has to walk a fine line here, and it looks like they may have pulled it off well.
Their GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition ships with dual DVI connectors, most GeForce 7600 GS cards are shipping with one DVI and one VGA connection. With dual DVI connectors built-in, the XFX GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition supports a wider variety of monitor configurations than the traditional DVI/VGA setup: you can run two DVI monitors off the card, a VGA and DVI monitor, or two VGAs. With the DVI/VGA combo, you’re always going to be limited to 1 DVI monitor max. For added flair XFX employs green DVIs on their GeForce 7600GS Extreme Edition, and the board sports a sweet-looking charcoal black PCB and backplate, making it one of the best-looking GeForce 7600 GS cards on the market as well.
But dual DVIs and added eye candy aren’t the only features that the XFX GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition supports, as the card is also overclocked to levels that are higher than anyone else. XFX runs the GPU at a whopping 500MHz, that’s 100MHz over stock GeForce 7600 GS levels, while the memory runs at 450MHz (900MHz effective), 50MHz higher than stock. Thanks to its higher core clock, the GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition delivers performance that’s much closer to the more powerful GeForce 7600 GT, especially in shader-heavy applications at lower resolutions, where the disparity in memory bandwidth doesn’t play as large a role.
Since it also relies on NVIDIA’s stock cooling, XFX’s GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition will get a little warmer than other GeForce 7600 GS cards due to its higher clock speeds, but again, we didn’t run into any issues as a result of the higher frequencies. In fact we were able to push it even further when overclocking. We’re not going to spoil anything early though, you’ll see the temperature and overclocking results a little later in this article.
Software and accessories
Like EVGA, XFX doesn’t go overboard with the GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition’s bundle. You won’t find any games in the card’s packaging, just the driver CD, nor does XFX include much in the form of hardware accessories. Inside you’ll find just one DVI adapter (despite the card’s dual DVI connections) and one S-Video cable. With so much additional hardware onboard, our guess is that XFX must have decided to skimp on the list of bundled accessories to keep the card’s price competitive to other GeForce 7600 GS boards without getting too close to the 7600 GT.
3DMark 06 – Direct3D
Half-Life 2: Lost Coast – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
Pacific Fighters – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
Thinking we could push the GeForce 7600 GS cards a little bit further if the cards had active cooling, we actually mounted an 80mm case fan to both GeForce 7600 GS cards, but found that are highest OCs were only a few MHz higher. The temps came down pretty dramatically though, so if the thought of your card’s GPU idling at over 50 degrees Celsius concerns you, you may want to consider adding some form of active cooling on or even near your GeForce 7600 GS card.
The two cards we looked at today represent two very different extremes.
On one hand, you’ve got EVGA’s e-GeForce 7600GS w/passive heatsink. This card is a pretty faithful reproduction of NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GS reference board, EVGA really doesn’t add any extras to the board, nor does is it provided with EVGA’s exemplary lifetime warranty. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad card, on the contrary it’s actually one of the best 7600 GS cards out there thanks to its aggressive pricing – EVGA’s e-GeForce 7600GS w/passive heatsink board is the least expensive card on Newegg right now next to the EVGA card with active fan – but it doesn’t have the extras that an enthusiast may want in his or her card, such as dual DVIs or higher clock speeds.
With their GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition, XFX goes in the opposite direction, putting together one of the most feature-packed GeForce 7600 GS cards on the market. You’ve got a distinctive-looking board that boasts dual DVIs, and supercharged clock speeds that are higher than anyone else on the market, allowing the board to give a GeForce 7600 GT a run for its money in some cases, but it does come with a higher price tag. The lowest PriceGrabber listing for the XFX board is $125, with many retailers selling the board in the $130-$140 range, putting it awfully close to the GeForce 7600 GT, which ultimately is the faster card and also ships with dual DVIs by default.
Ultimately though, we’re giving XFX’s GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition our Editor’s Choice Award, as it clearly is the highest-end GeForce 7600 GS card on the market. If you want the best GeForce 7600 GS card money can buy, this is clearly it. At the same time though we’d be irresponsible if we didn’t caution you to watch the latest board prices carefully, XFX’s GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition is the best 7600 GS on the market, but some retailers have it priced awfully close to the GeForce 7600 GT, and as you saw in our performance results it can’t quite match the 7600 GT’s performance. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for the first crop of HDCP-compliant GeForce 7600 GS boards, which will be hitting the market en masse very shortly.
The XFX GeForce 7600GS Xtreme Edition is the board we’d recommend for someone looking for a high-performing 7600 GS card that has the added advantage of dual DVIs while also still running silently. This feat in particular is something that a stock GeForce 7600 GT card based on NVIDIA’s reference design will never be able to match.
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