Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX (512MB) review: Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX (512MB)

The 7900 GTX supports Nvidia's full suite of PureVideo features, such as hardware-assisted decoding of MPEG-2, WMV9, and H.264 video and inverse telecine to improve the quality of DVD movies originally filmed at 24 frames per second (fps). As of this writing, however, no 7900 GTX cards have shipped that support the HDCP digital rights management technology, which will be needed to play back some HD-DVD and Blu-ray movies at full resolution. We've heard of HDCP-compliant 7600 cards, but none have been announced that use a 7900-series GPU.

The GeForce 7900 GTX features a pair of DVI outputs, as well as a seven-pin connector that accommodates both an S-Video port for connecting analog televisions and an external component-output dongle for use with HDTVs. (Of course, you can use DVI to connect to many HDTVs, as well.) Both DVI connectors support dual-link DVI, allowing you to drive two large flat-panel monitors at resolutions up to 2,560x1,600.

Performance
Thanks to its increased speed and massive 512MB of memory, the GeForce 7900 GTX makes a significant performance jump over the previous-generation 7800 GTX. On F.E.A.R. (one of today's most demanding titles) at 1,600x1,200, we noted a 40 percent increase in frames per second on the 7900 GTX compared to the results from its predecessor. The 7900 GTX can't quite overtake ATI's Radeon X1900 XTX on F.E.A.R.; at every resolution the ATI card takes the lead by a few frames per second. If you look at the Half-Life 2: Lost Coast demo results, the GeForce 7900 GTX pulls ahead at higher resolutions, but with a frame rate of 63fps at even 2,048x1,536, the Radeon X1900 XTX is by no means slow. Either card will make your gaming life happier in single-card mode, but we found that when you double up, the story changes.

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x1,024  
1,600x1,200  
2,048 x 1,536  

When we paired two 7900 GTX cards in SLI mode, the results were dramatic. With F.E.A.R at 1,600x1,200, we saw an even bigger performance gain between generations than with the single cards, to the tune of a 47 percent increase from two 7800 GTXs to our pair of 7900 GTXs. Compared to ATI's X1900 XTX card in CrossFire mode, two GeForce 7900 GTXs compare very favorably as well. The only tests on which ATI's cards emerged victorious was on the lower-resolution Half-Life 2: Lost Coast demos, but it's a small sacrifice to be able to play at only 109fps at 1,600x1,200 on the GeForce cards, compared to ATI's 116fps.

On every other test, the pair of GeForce 7900 GTX cards won. One, our high-resolution F.E.A.R. 2,048x1,536 test, was close, but at that resolution, ATI's cards will do only a flickery 70Hz refresh rate on CRT monitors. The rest of our F.E.A.R. and Doom 3 tests resulted in clear wins for Nvidia. The Nvidia-optimized Doom 3 engine gives the GeForce cards an unfair advantage, but since two well-hyped upcoming games, Prey and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, will use the same engine, the test remains important. But even if F.E.A.R. is a more democratic benchmark, Nvidia's cards remain dominant. New drivers and features emerge every day (ATI's cards can do both high dynamic-range lighting and antialiasing at the same time, for example, Nvidia's cards can't), but for the moment, Nvidia's GeForce 7900 GTX is the clear performance winner in dual-card SLI mode, and in single-card mode, it performs admirably as well.

Doom 3 custom demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280 x 1,024  
1,600 x 1,200  
2,048 x 1,536  


F.E.A.R. 4X antialiasing off, 8X anisotropic filtering
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280 x 960  
1,600 x1,200  
2,048 x 1536  


System configurations:
ATI test bed:
Asus A8R32-SLI Deluxe motherboard; ATI Xpress 3200 chipset; Crucial 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Western Digital 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; Windows XP Professional SP2; PC Power & Cooling TurboCool 1KW power supply; Catalyst 6.223 beta driver

Nvidia test bed:
Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard; Nvidia Nforce4 SLI chipset; Crucial 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe); Western Digital 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; Windows XP Professional SP2; PC Power and Cooling TurboCool 1KW PSU; Nvidia Forceware 84.21 WHQL driver

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    Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX (512MB)

    Part Number: CNETNvidiaGeForce7900GTX512MB
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    • Compatibility Mac