Gigabyte GeForce 7800 GTX review



The Card

Generally Gigabyte uses red PCBs for all their ATI based graphics products, while the NVIDIA cards all feature a blue PCB. However, in order to quickly move their GeForce 7800 GTX parts to the market, they stuck with the old school green. The size and design of the GeForce 7800 GTX is much the same as that of the GeForce 6800 Ultra, in fact the only real change appearance wise is the reference cooling design. The two Gigabyte GeForce 7800 GTX cards that I received look identical to that of the reference design and while it still does look impressive, it is nothing out of the ordinary. The packaging on the other hand looks quite impressive and unlike the ridiculously large boxes Gigabyte used for their previous generation ATI and NVIDIA cards, this one is quite reasonable in size.

The GeForce 7800 GTX core consists of more than 300 million transistors and is manufactured using a 0.11-micro process. Despite featuring such a complex core the GeForce 7800 GTX is still clocked higher than its predecessor. The total number of Raster Operation units has not changed, meaning these are still 16 texture sample taken per cycle. This means games that use large amounts of textures will not see the GeForce 7800 GTX greatly outperform the older GeForce 6800 Ultra.

There have been a number of visual improvements made to the GeForce 7800 GTX. For example, the additional rendering pipelines will help this product work with more vibrant color ranges. NVIDIA have officially stated that the GeForce 7800 GTX will be significantly faster in HDR modes. The inclusion of Transparent FSAA rendering mode is another visual quality improvement of the GeForce 7800 GTX.

Like the GeForce 6800 Ultra, these new graphics cards still use dual 4-pin molex connectors to draw additional power. The graphics card itself features the 6-pin PCI Express power connector which requires the adapter for power supplies that do not feature PCIe connectors. This adapter is of course supplied with the graphics card and is designed to draw current from two 4-pin molex connectors just as the GeForce 6800 Ultra does.

The card features 256MB of onboard GDDR3 memory clocked at 600MHz (1200MHz DDR). These cards utilized Samsung ICs (K4J55323QF-GC16) and it would appear that the majority of GeForce 7800 GTX based cards will use this exact memory. After some quick research, I have found that these modules are rated at 1200MHz DDR. This means the memory on our Gigabyte card is already at its maximum frequency. This will unfortunately not guarantee that there will be much overclocking headroom, nevertheless I intend to find out just how well the memory does overclock.

Whilst in action the Gigabyte GeForce 7800 GTX operating volume level is quite pleasant and should not be any cause for concern. Given how powerful these graphics cards are I was very surprised to find such a small and quiet cooling arrangement. Though when running at full throttle these graphics cards tend to get quite hot, particularly when in SLI mode. The cards would often rise just above 80 degrees, creating a very large hot spot within the case.

Although the operating volume is not something I would concern myself with, the power requirement for these graphics cards in SLI is. Originally I tried to set the GeForce 7800 GTX cards up in SLI using a 460w Thermaltake PurePower power supply on the Intel nForce4 platform, this configuration would randomly turn off. The same problem occurred with a 480watt Antec TruePower supply. The Intel Pentium 4 nForce4 platform required an Antec 550watt power supply to achieve absolute stability.

The AMD Athlon 64 platform was able to get away with the 460w Thermaltake PurePower power supply without any problems, which was quite surprising. While it is true that the Athlon 64 platform does require less power, the difference in power requirements between the two platforms is not huge. Nevertheless, I did find the Athlon 64 platform more user friendly with the Gigabyte GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards in SLI and therefore I used this system for the testing phase.

The rear of the GeForce 7800 GTX features an S-Video port supporting the Video-In/Video-Out function and dual DVI outputs. There are also a number of cables supplied with the card which will help the user utilize some of these features. However I will talk about these cables in an upcoming section of this review. Overall, the GeForce 7800 GTX looks to be a quality product with many unique aspects.

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