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PNY Verto GeForce 7800 GT
It's easy to like the $400 PNY Verto GeForce 7800 GT. As a stand-alone 3D card, it delivers the 3D performance we expected, but it really shines with its upgrade path. By offering a card that supports SLI, which allows you to add two graphics cards to one PCe, PNY puts itself on the winning side of the 3D-graphics-card wars, since ATI's competing CrossFire dual-card 3D technology has proven itself a late-to-market underperformer. The Verto also comes with an extensive set of adapters and cables that make it easy to install in a variety of configurations. If it had an overclocking utility and more robust Web support, it might be perfect.
Like all, the Verto is a single-slot PCI Express card. It requires a direct connection to your computer's power supply, but PNY includes a splitter cable in the packaging if your current supply doesn't have the right number of connectors. You'll also want to make sure that your power supply has enough juice to power the Verto. Single-card users will need a 350-watt supply; if you plan to run two cards in SLI mode, you'll need 450 watts. That's more than comes standard in most desktops (although those are the standard power requirement ratings for all GeForce 7800 GTs), so you may need to consider upgrading your power supply as well.
PNY was thoughtful with the bundled adapters, too. The Verto card has two digital video outputs--a great feature for those with LCD monitors. PNY also provides two DVI-toVGA adapters, which you'll need if you still have a CRT or an analog-only LCD. Like all GeForce 7800 GT cards, the Verto is capable of running dual-link DVI. This lets you achieve a maximum resolution of 2,560x1,600 at a 60Hz refresh rate, which high-end monitors such as Apple's 30-inch Cinema HD Display require.
With PCs taking over more and more home-theater duties, it's important that your graphics card work with several different components. The Verto comes with both a standard S-Video output and an S-Video cable for plugging into your television. More exciting, it comes with an HDTV-out adapter, which means you can output content from your PC at HD resolution of up to 1080i.
The PNY Verto GeForce 7800 GT's software bundle is a mixed bag. You get Nvidia's drivers, some stock Nvidia 3D demos, and the full version of Call of Duty 2, a hot new 3D shooter that shows off what the card can do. Unfortunately, you don't get an overclocking utility. You can get to the CoolBits overclocking software through a Registry tweak, but it's not readily accessible. It would be much more convenient if PNY invested in a software front end that allowed easy performance tweaks to Nvidia's drivers.
We also have a gripe with PNY's Web support. Component-level support is never that impressive, and true, there's a world of Nvidia-enthusiast Web sites out there with more advice than you could possibly want. The problem is that you have to sift through all of it to find what you need. It looks as if PNY took a stab at putting together some useful info, but it's badly in need of an update. The glossary, the FAQ, and the other features need a revamp. Adding a user forum wouldn't hurt, either.
Speaking of performance, the PNY card scored as expected, which is to say better than its ATI competition on Doom 3 but not as fast on Half-Life 2 and Direct3D-based games in general. On our Doom 3 tests, the PNY Verto achieved 47 frames per second (fps) on our demanding 1,600x1,200 resolution test. This score is especially impressive: four frames per second faster than ATI's more expensive 512MB Radeon X1800 XT card. Half-Life 2 proved more challenging; the Verto scored 48fps to the 51fps. This result is not as much of a win for ATI, because the Radeon X1800 XL is in the same price category as the Verto GeForce 7800 GT, and you would expect the two to be competitive.