And the best buy is?
Clearly any game based on the Doom 3 engine is going to be more NVIDIA friendly and this was the case with the GeForce 7300GT. Even with the standard core and memory frequencies the 7300GT was 13% faster in Doom 3 and Quake 4 at 1280x1024. Overclocking the two cards boosted the 7300GT performance margin to 17% in Doom 3 and 15% in Quake 4. The 7300GT also faired quite well in UT2004, though the X1600 Pro did close in with a little overclocking. While the 7300GT did well in Doom 3 and Quake 4 it was games such as Far Cry, F.E.A.R and X3: Reunion where things started to go bad.
When operating at the standard specifications the GeForce 7300GT was just 1% slower than the X1600 Pro in Far Cry, which is nothing to get up in arms about. However, when it came to overclocking the 7300GT was hurt badly, falling 29% behind the X1600 Pro in performance. This was the biggest performance margin yet and it went in favor of the Radeon X1600 Pro. Things only got worse as the 7300GT was 56% slower in F.E.A.R without being overclocked and 22% slower once both cards were overclocked. Then to top it all off, the 7300GT had a 66% performance drop against the X1600 Pro in X3: Reunion.
Having all that said, it is safe to say the X1600 Pro is a superior product in terms of performance, even if overclocking is on the agenda. For about $10-15 extra, the X1600 Pro should be a worthwhile investment versus the GeForce 7300GT, that is without taking merit from NVIDIA's product which is a very solid one.
The particular 7300GT board we tested here offered a nice advantage of using a passive cooling unit versus the Radeon's standard HSF. This is something you may want to take into account, and while it is a much more common feature seen in GeForces than Radeons of this range, there are also (very few) offerings of Radeon X1600 Pro cards using a passive cooling design.
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