Summary: XFX's GeForce 7600 GT 580M AGP is one of the first AGP 7600 GT GPUs to hit US shelves. The card is overclocked from the factory and packs dual DVIs. In this article we examine the board's performance in comparison to the Radeon X1950 Pro AGP, GeForce 6800 Ultra, GeForce 6600 GT, and Radeon X850 XT PE, as well as the PCI Express GeForce 7600 GT to see if there are any differences in performance between the AGP and PCI Express flavors of the GeForce 7600 GT. See how the card fares in this review!
First introduced last March, the GeForce 7600 GT is the spiritual successor to two of NVIDIA’s most popular GPUs: the GeForce 6600 GT and before it, the GeForce4 Ti 4200. Like the aforementioned graphics processors, the 7600 GT is designed to deliver the absolute best bang for the buck: all three were introduced with a $200 MSRP, although in each case NVIDIA took a different path to get there.
In the case of the GeForce 7600 GT, a quick and dirty analogy for the GPU is that it’s half a GeForce 7900 GT. Its G73 GPU has 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). Essentially the only portion of the GeForce 7600 GT that isn’t sliced in half are the vertex shaders. NVIDIA equips the GeForce 7600 GT with five vertex units, whereas the GeForce 7900 GT has eight. NVIDIA even integrates one dual-link DVI transmitter into the GeForce 7600 GT, while the 7900 family has two dual-link DVI ports.
To keep performance up however, the GeForce 7600 GT runs at very high clock speeds. The graphics core runs at 560MHz, that’s over 100MHz higher than 7900 GT and 160MHz faster than GeForce 6600 GT, while its memory runs at an even 700MHz, yielding up to 22.4GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth. That’s a little over half the bandwidth of a GeForce 7900 GT, and 6.4GB/sec more than GeForce 6600 GT.
In our testing we’ve found that the GeForce 7600 GT delivers more performance than NVIDIA’s former flagship GeForce 6800 Ultra, all in a single-slot package that runs efficiently.
Because of these attributes, AGP users have been hoping for a GeForce 7600 GT AGP card. For months it looked like NVIDIA wouldn’t comply, but then in May a leaked set of beta ForceWare drivers contained support for the GeForce 7600 GS AGP. Then, around late August/early September, the first GeForce 7600 GS AGP boards quietly hit store shelves. At the time NVIDIA was actively promoting the launch of the GeForce 7900 GS/7950 GT, so the arrival of the GeForce 7600 GS AGP was hardly noticed by most sites. The GeForce 7600 GT AGP then followed a few months later at the very end of 2006. So why the delay in bringing these GPUs to AGP?
To be honest, NVIDIA really hasn’t directly answered that question. It’s widely believed though that NVIDIA’s haste stemmed more as a result of the competition than anything else: right around the time the GeForce 7600 GS AGP magically appeared, ATI released a slew of AGP-based Radeon X1600 cards.
Unlike NVIDIA’s previous AGP entrant, the GeForce 7800 GS AGP, the GeForce 7600 GS and 7600 GT AGP are a direct translation of their PCI Express counterparts. This means that none of the pixel or vertex shading units are disabled from the factory by NVIDIA and the clock speeds also carry over unchanged, in fact many of NVIDIA’s board partners are factory overclocking their GeForce 7600 AGP cards, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT 580M AGP we’re reviewing today is one such example of this. Let’s take a closer look at the card!
Since the GeForce 7600 GT AGP was a stealth launch from NVIDIA, we’re not exactly sure how closely XFX’s GeForce 7600 GT board follows the NVIDIA reference board design if one even exists. Clearly it’s not following NVIDIA’s reference GeForce 7600 GT PCI Express board design, as additional space must be created on the AGP board to make room for NVIDIA’s HSI (high speed interconnect) bridge chip, which rests directly underneath the GPU.
It’s possible that NVIDIA’s leaving the board design of this particular GPU solely up to the discretion of their board partners. Based on how wildly different the board designs of the various GeForce 7600 GT AGP cards are to one another, we have a strong feeling that the latter is probably the case, and that there is no reference board formula that NVIDIA’s board partners must adhere to. As a result, you’ll want to pay closer attention to what features the various GeForce 7600 GT AGP retail cards do and don’t support.
In the case of XFX’s board, there’s a lot to like here.
For starters, XFX’s board is equipped with two DVI outputs. To cut costs, some board partners are only outfitting their GeForce 7600 AGP boards with one DVI output, and a second VGA out. With dual DVIs onboard, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT 580M AGP is more flexible, providing support for both dual DVI displays, and dual VGAs (via adapter). If only one DVI output were provided, you’d be limited to supporting just one DVI display. Here we should note however that the board isn’t endowed with the crypto-ROM chip needed for HDCP support, so the XFX GeForce 7600 GT 580M AGP isn’t HDCP-compliant.
XFX’s GeForce 7600 GT AGP also lacks support for VIVO, although this isn’t too surprising considering that most PCI Express GeForce 7600 GT cards also lack VIVO support.
XFX decks their GeForce 7600 GT board out with a black PCB and fluorescent green DVI connections. This look is used on a lot of their high-end boards and we really like it, it gives the board a distinctive look that really stands out in comparison to the green PCBs most board manufacturers typically use. You’ll also notice that rather than using the copper heatsink/fan unit used on most stock PCI Express GeForce 7600 GT cards, XFX has brought back the cooler used on the GeForce 6600 GT. The 6600 GT fan is slightly quieter than the stock heatsink/fan used on the GeForce 7600 GT PCIe, but like the GeForce 7600 GT fan, the 6600 GT fan used on XFX’s AGP card isn’t a variable speed fan. This means that the fan operates at the same RPMs regardless of temperature/workload.
Variable speed fans are quickly becoming preferred as they can run at lower RPMs (and thus generate less noise) during less intensive operations, such as at the 2D desktop. Fortunately the GeForce 6600 GT fan XFX uses is by no means noisy, and it does a good job of keeping the graphics core cool. Sitting atop the card’s fan is an XFX sticker.
As we mentioned previously, to make room for the HSI chip that translates PCI Express signals from the GPU into AGP (and vice versa), the graphics processor and memory are rotated approximately 45 degrees. The HSI bridge chip is then placed directly beneath the graphics core, at an angle parallel with the edge of the board. A second heatsink is used to cool the bridge chip, this heatsink is rotated 45 degrees off-axis of the bridge chip in order to fit properly.
Besides the new orientation of the graphics core and memory, another difference you’ll notice between the PCI Express variant of the GeForce 7600 GT and its AGP sibling is the addition of a Molex power connector on the AGP board. The AGP interface just isn’t capable of supplying enough juice for the card. If you don’t plug up the board’s power connection, it won’t even boot up. (On some previous AGP cards the board would boot into Windows, but run at slower clock speeds.)
The final feature we should note about XFX’s GeForce 7600 GT AGP board is its clock speeds. XFX overclocks their board slightly, running the graphics core 20MHz higher than stock at 580MHz, while the board’s memory runs at 750MHz, an increase of 50MHz over stock. This boost in clock speed should give the XFX board a slight performance advantage over typical GeForce 7600 GT AGP cards.
Software and accessories
To keep costs down, the XFX GeForce 7600 GT ships without a software bundle, although the XFX driver CD is of course included inside the box. Also inside you’ll find an S-Video cable, DVI adapter, and power cable.
Company of Heroes 1.3
3DMark 06 – Direct3D
Battlefield 2 – Direct3D
Quake 4 – OpenGL
Pacific Fighters – OpenGL
F.E.A.R. – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Oblivion – Direct3D
Call of Duty 2 – Direct3D
Far Cry – Direct3D
Company of Heroes – Direct3D
GeForce 7600 GT core: While it may not be the fastest GPU on the block, NVIDIA’s GeForce 7600 GT GPU is by no means a slouch when it comes to performance. As we said at the outset and you saw in the benchmarks, this GPU is faster than NVIDIA’s once almighty GeForce 6800 Ultra. On top of the performance, you’ve also got the benefit of NVIDIA’s PureVideo. The GeForce 7600 GT basically rewrote all the rules when it comes to mainstream cards, which is why it has proven to be so popular among end users.
Only one DVI adapter: While the XFX GeForce 7600 GT 580M AGP ships with dual DVI connections, to cut costs XFX only includes one DVI adapter inside the board’s packaging. This means that out-of-the-box you won’t be able to run dual VGA displays until you get a second DVI adapter.