GeForce 7950 GT and ATI X1900 XT 256MB: XFX and BFG Models
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The $299 Battle Royale
Last week we brought you a review of the NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS GPU, a new mid-range video card aimed at the $200 price segment. In that article, I alluded to the introduction of another new GPU from NVIDIA this week, named the 7950 GT. This GPU is scheduled to appear at an e-tailer near you today, with a price in the area of $299, just a step above the GS. And a step below the 7900 GTX. And an even smaller step above the 7900 GT. Got it?
NVIDIA's Second Release
NVIDIA has certainly become incredibly skilled in the art of "milking": that is; the ability to get as many parts (GPUs) in as many price segments, at as many time intervals as possible, all using essentially the same GPU technology: G70/G71. We saw this same exercise with the NV40 series of cards as well; do the names 6800 Ultra, 6800 GT, 6600 GT, 6800 XT, or 6600 ring a bell?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with working your own technology like this, provided you are giving gamers what they want. And that is very easily defined as faster gameplay for less money; and that is no doubt happening as the months wear on and G71 cuts longer and longer teeth.
Reference 7950 GT Specs
The GeForce 7950 GT being introduced today is based on the G71 core, but unlike the 7900 GS from last week, the 7950 GT isn't crippled in terms of pixel pipes. The 7950 GT sports a full 24 pixel pipes, the same as the 7900 GTX and 7900 GT. The 7950 GT will also keep the 512MB GDDR3 memory buffer that has helped the 7900 GTX become the beast of a card it is. The clock speeds of the 7950 GT will run at 550 MHz core and 700 MHz memory by default, though you can be sure (since we have two of them here) that vendors will be overclocking these GPUs in their retail forms as well. And just to clarify, we are looking at a video card with a single GPU on it -- the 7950 in this case does not equate to dual on-board GPUs, as the 7950 GX2 card has.
Also from this slide, you can see that HDCP is a standard feature on the 7950 GT! This should mean that nearly all 7950 GT cards you can purchase will have HDCP built into them -- the only other card to offer this as a standard feature is the 7950 GX2 card. The card uses a single slot cooler, the same that we saw on the 7900 GT and 7600 GT cards.
Here is a table from the NVIDIA slide deck comparing the new 7950 GT to the ATI X1900 XT 256MB card that was released with the new X1950 XTX cards back in mid-August. Based on the specs as they are listed out here, it would appear NVIDIA has the outright advantage: double the memory, half the slot capacity, quieter, uses less power and cheaper in multi-GPU mode thanks to the need to buy a bigger, more expensive CrossFire card instead of just another X1900 XT 256MB.
Interestingly, in all the benchmark slides we saw from NVIDIA however, the 7950 GT was compared to the X1900 GT, a somewhat older GPU that was occupying the $299 market space just a couple of months ago.
The ATI Competition
Speaking of the X1900 XT 256MB card, it turns out that we have one here.
The X1900 XT 256MB is the same R580 core core that made the original X1900 XTX card a power house, with slightly slower clocks and only 256MB on-board memory. ATI introduced this last month as a new contender in the $299-ish market place, putting an MSRP of $279 on it.
This graph was provided by ATI, and it shows the X1900 XT competing against the 7900 GTX 512 -- at nearly half the price! Of course, ATI couldn't have known about the 7950 GT card back then, so it turns out that true competition should be between the X1900 XT 256MB and the GeForce 7950 GT. Surprise! That's what we have for you here today.