By the numbers, the GeForce 7950 GT looks strong but not as strong as the competition. Nvidia has a pixel pipeline advantage, dedicating 24 pipes to rendering dots on the screen compared to the Radeon X1900 XT's 16. But its clock speeds come in at 550MHz for the chip and 1.4GHz for the DDR3 memory. The Radeon 1900XT has a faster 625MHz core and a slight memory speed advantage at 1.44GHz. That translates to an overall performance win for ATI, even when we compare its newly released 256MB Radeon X1900 XT against the 512MB GeForce 7950 GT.
The only test the GeForce 7950 GT took from ATI was Futuremark's synthetic (that is, not representative of real-world gameplay) 3DMark06. On that benchmark, the GeForce 7950 GT landed right in the middle of the 256MB and 512MB versions of the Radeon X1900 XT. But on every test using an actual game, at least at 1,600x1,200, the GeForce 7950 GT fell behind. We're most surprised by its loss on Quake 4, which Nvidia used to dominate. At the more complex 1,920x1,440 resolution, the GeForce 7950 GT fared better on Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast, which indicated to us that if you use Nvidia's SLI technology to pair two GeForce 7950 GT cards together, you might get better performance at higher resolutions than you would applying ATI's competing CrossFire dual-card mode. We've long favored SLI for its price advantages and its more elegant all-internal implementation over CrossFire's external dongle anyway.
|High Quality, 2,048x1,536, 4 X AA/16X AF||High Quality, 1,600x1,200, 4X AA/16X AF|
|1,920x1,440, Max Quality 4X AA/16X AF||1,600x1,200, Max Quality 4X AA/16X AF|
|1,920x1,440, Max/Shadows on grass off/Self shadows off||1,600x1,200, Max/Shadows on grass off/Self shadows off|
Where Nvidia does get the win is with setup. For one, the 7950 GT is a single-slot card; the Radeon needs only one PCI Express slot, but its double-wide design takes up the space of two slots. Both cards require direct power-supply connections, but Nvidia recommends a 400-watt power supply, while ATI recommends 450 watts. It's a minor distinction, but if you're trying to make a small-form-factor PC or if you're concerned about heat and, in turn, fan noise, the GeForce 7950 GT is less demanding than the Radeon X1900 XT in terms of power consumption.
We should add that Nvidia's next-generation cards, code-named G80, are due out before the end of the year. We imagine that if you're looking for solid performance and aren't too concerned with setting frames-per-second records, the GeForce 7950 GT will serve you well for at least another year or so. If you really want to get the most from your gaming hardware, however, and you don't mind waiting a few months, you might be able to get a more futureproof 3D card for a similar price. Still, priced at a reasonable $300, the GeForce 7950 GT shouldn't leave you with a case of buyer's remorse when the new cards hit (unlike Nvidia's fast-but-pricey $600 GeForce 7950 GX2).
Finally, we must thank GameSpot's Sarju Shah and James Yu, who provided us with the test results for this review, as they have for the last couple 3D cards we've covered. They've now completed a comprehensive roundup of the current state of the graphics card picture, covering four different market segments. If you're totally overwhelmed with the prospect of buying a new 3D card, that's the first place to look.
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62; Asus A8RMVP-Deluxe motherboard; 1GB Corsair XMS 3200XL DDR SDRAM; 160GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive; ATI Catalyst beta version 6.8_8.282.1 graphics driver software; Nvidia ForceWare 91.31 graphics driver software