When it comes to mid-range gaming performance it is hard to go wrong with a GeForce 7600GS or 7600GT graphics card. Given their price range, the performance delivered by these GPUs is impressive.
In the meantime, ATI newly released answer to the 7600 series remains unavailable, so there is not a lot that threatens NVIDIA's mid range offerings. Then there is the new GeForce 7900GS graphics card which can be very tempting at $210, but that obviously belongs to a different market segment.
Currently a GeForce 7600GS will set you back $110, while the 7600GT is slightly more expensive at $150. Both are based on the G73 architecture which uses a 90nm fabrication process. While the 7600GS is now available in either PCIe or AGP form, the 7600GT is at present only available using the PCIe bus. The 7600GS can come configured with either 256MB or 512MB of onboard memory, while the 7600GT tipically comes with just 256MB worth of memory buffer. Both of the GPUs feature 12 pixel pipelines, 1 TMU (Texture Mapping Unit) and 5 VPUs (Visual Processing Units).
Thus far the cheaper 7600GS would sound like the better product, offering greater flexibility in its memory and interface support. However, while the 7600GS is cheaper and possibly more flexible, it's also considerably slower than the 7600GT despite having the same amount of pixel pipelines. This is because the 7600GT core comes clocked 160MHz higher and the memory operates 600MHz DDR faster. This can boost memory bandwidth from the 12.8GB/s of the 7600GS, to a much more impressive 22.4GB/s for the 7600GT.
At just $40 more than the 7600GS, the 7600GT sounds like a steal and rightfully so. However not everyone will be so quick to jump at a graphics card that costs 36% more than the next best in line. The performance of the 7600GT will have to be at least 40% greater than that of the 7600GS almost all of the time to warrant dishing out the additional funds. This is obviously something that I will cover later on in this review, as we will discover the performance margins between these two graphics cards.
That said, you can expect the results from these graphics cards to be a little different from a typical 7600GS vs. 7600GT comparison, as Gigabyte has factory overclocked the cheaper card. The memory frequency of the 7600GS remains the same, however the core frequency has received a 50MHz boost, allowing it to operate at 450MHz. This 12% rise in clock frequency will have a minor impact on performance. Therefore I will also be fully testing both graphics cards at their maximum overclocked frequencies. This will give us a clearer view of which card really offers the best bang for your buck when running at full steam. Gigabyte has not just simply overclocked the 7600GS and called it a day. Rather, they have fitted this particular 7600GS with the aluminum and copper version of the Zalman VF700.
This not only helps the Zalman edition 7600GS operate at much cooler temperatures, it is also a darn sight quieter. However, the Silent-pipe edition of the Gigabyte 7600GT is also a flashy looking product making absolutely no noise whatsoever. While neither product addresses memory cooling, the fact that both do an excellent job of cooling the GPU while maintaining a totally silent or near silent operating volume is a welcomed addition.
You may want to know Gigabyte does offer a passively cooled GeForce 7600GS, but I believe the Zalman version we are reviewing today is aimed primarily at gamers on a tight budget that ultimately want to get the most out of this little card. In this case Gigabyte took the core from 400MHz to 450MHz for you and I am sure most will have plans to take it even further. Now let's move on to see just how far we can take things...