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NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX - Reference cards

In the battle of the graphics war, ATI currently stands atop Mount Performance with the X1900 flying its flag. Launched in January, X1900 was a follow up to the late arriving and somewhat muted X1800 series, but it was fast and available at launch.

NVIDIA claimed that its response would be ready for CeBIT 2006 and true to its word the 7900 GTX and 7900 GT have duly been released. Also joining the line up is the lower end 7600GT. Today we’ll look at the performance of the 7900 GTX in single card and SLI modes. We’ll follow up with a look at the 7900 GT and the 7600 GT.

GeForce 7900 GTX, GeForce GT and GeForce 7600 GT line up

The naming of the 7900 isn’t a million miles away from the 7800 series, which is fitting as it’s not a quantum leap in the same way that the 7800 GTX was over the 6800 series.

The headline figure is that NVIDIA has finally followed ATI and moved to a 90 nanometre manufacturing process. This brings a whole string of benefits. Firstly, the actual physical size of the GPU is reduced. It’s roughly half the physical size, so it costs less for NVIDIA to produce it and therefore it can make the card cheaper to produce than the viciously expensive 7800 GTX 512MB.

It also means that it can push clock speeds up higher. In addition NVIDIA states that it has worked hard on creating an efficient and optimised architecture. This means that despite the 7900 being more powerful it actually uses fewer transistors - 302 million on the 7800 GTX and only 278 million on the 7900 GTX.

The end result is that the heat output is reduced as evidenced by the smaller fan on the 7900 GT, which compared to the most recent fan/heatsink designs for high-end cards is positively puny. The memory on the GT also doesn’t feature any active cooling.

On the flagship 7900 GTX however, the heatsink and fan is still the same two slot design as used on the 7800 GTX 512. This is good as it’s much quieter than even the fan on the 7800 GTX 256MB or the 7900 GT and certainly much quieter than the blower on the relatively noisy X1900 cards. This simple fact could actually be a factor that sways buyers between going red or green.

The clock speeds on the 7900 GTX then are as follows: 650MHz for the core and 800MHZ (1,600MHz effective) for the memory. This is quite a significant hike from the official 430/1,200MHz that of the 7800 GTX. Other than that the architecture is the same with 24 pixel pipelines, eight vertex shaders, and 16 ROPS, which is where the output to the screen occurs.

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