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BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC
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Date: Jul 28, 2005
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Introduction, Specs and Bundle

NVIDIA most definitely has been on a roll as of late, with the introduction of a very successful 4th generation motherboard chipset with the nForce 4, and more recently with their GeForce 7 series launch and market introduction of the GeForce 7800GTX.  In these launch articles we often times work with platform "reference" hardware for testing direct from the core technology OEM and soon to follow, we cover retail level products from various board partners as they are released into the channel.

With the NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX launch however, the Silicon Valley based 3D Graphics giant seems amazingly strong and confident in their roll-out, as is evident in the wealth of information we've been receiving on various incarnations of the final retail product from virtually all the top 3rd party Graphics Card suppliers.  Not to mention their immediate availability in the retail channel which speaks to the fact that these new GPUs are flowing pretty freely off the line at NVIDIA's fab partner, TSMC.

We have many retail ready GeForce 7800GTX cards in the queue for analysis and showcase here at HotHardware.com and one of the first manufacturers out of the gate was BFG with their "GeForce 7800GTX OC".  Sporting a goosed up core GPU clock at 460MHz (30MHz faster than the NVIDIA reference design) and GDDR3 cranked up a notch to 1.3GHz (1.2GHz is the stock GF7800GTX spec), the card is a true testament to the fact that NVIDIA is perhaps holding back a bit, saving some extra juice to perhaps counter whatever ATi's next gen product brings to the fight.  For now however, the spotlight is on NVIDIA, or shall we say BFG?  Bringing in the "big guns" is what this new graphics card suggests it will allow you in your gameplay. Right then, let's lock and load.

BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC Specifications
Above & Beyond NVIDIA's Reference Clocks
Core Engine Clock - 460MHz*
GDDR3 Memory Speed - 1.3GHz*


NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture
_Vertex Shaders
·
_Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
·
_Displacement mapping
·
_Geometry instancing
·
_Infinite length vertex programs
_Pixel Shaders
·
_Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
·
_Full pixel branching support
·
_Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
·
_Infinite length pixel programs
_Next-Generation Texture Engine
·
_Accelerated texture access
·
_Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
·
_Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
·
_Support for non-power of two textures
·
_Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
·
_DirectX and S3TC texture compression

_Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline with native hardware support for 32bpp, 64bpp, and 128bpp rendering modes


API Support
• Complete DirectX support, including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0
_Full OpenGL support, including OpenGL 2.0


64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending
_Full floating point support throughout entire pipeline
_Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
_Floating point texturing drives new levels of clarity and image detail
_Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions


NVIDIA Intellisample 4.0 Technology
_Advanced 16x anisotropic filtering (with up to 128 Taps)
_Blistering- fast antialiasing and compression performance
_Gamma-adjusted rotated-grid antialiasing removes jagged edges for incredible image quality
_Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling modes boost antialiasing quality to new levels
_Support for normal map compression
_Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
_Fast z-clear


NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
_Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games
NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0 Technology
_DVC color controls
_DVC image sharpening controls


NVIDIA SLI Technology
_Patented hardware and software technology allows two GPUs to run in parallel to scale performance
_Scales performance on over 60 top PC games and applications


NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
_Adaptable programmable video processor
_High-definition MPEG-2 and WMV9 hardware acceleration
_Spatial-temporal de-interlacing
_Inverse 2:2 and 3:2 pull-down (Inverse Telecine)
_4-tap horizontal, 5-tap vertical scaling
_Overlay color temperature correction
_Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window
_Integrated HDTV output


Composited Desktop Hardware Engine
_Video post-processing
_Real-time desktop compositing
_Accelerated antialiased text rendering
_Pixel shader-driven special effects and animation

Advanced Display Functionality
_Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including
2048x1536 at 85Hz
_Dual DVO ports for interfacing to externa l TMDS transmitters and external TV encoders
_Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability


Advanced Engineering
_Designed for PCI Express x16
_Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory


Operating Systems
_Windows XP/Windows XP 64
_Windows ME
_Windows 2000
_Linux
_Macintosh OS X

* Standard NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX GPU Engine clock = 430MHz
* Standard Memory speed = 1.2GHz

We've provided the full specifications and features of the BFG GeForce 7800GTX for you here but we won't re-hash what we've already covered in our launch article in terms of the overall architecture.  It's very safe to say that literally the only thing that distinguishes this BFG card from the NVIDIA reference card we looked at in June, are its Core GPU and Memory clocks, which as we mentioned BFG has tested and warranted to work at 460MHz and 1.3GHz, respectively.  Without even so much as a cooling modification BFG was able to offer these speeds preset and out of the box, which again just goes to show how comfortable NVIDIA is yielding these new 24 pixel pipe GPUs in high volume production.

  

  

Since this is a high end "enthusiast" class card, BFG decided to take the high road as well with the product's pack-in bundle.  Included with the GeForce 7800GTX OC are an assortment of cable assemblies, one which is a break-out adapter for connecting the card to a High Def TV via a Component Y/Pr/Pb connection.  Also included are two DVI to VGA converters, an S-Video/VGA VIVO dongle, and a dual 4-pin to single 6-pin PCIe Graphics power cable.

Beyond the hardware, BFG tossed in an assortment of software, including NVDVD 2.0 Multimedia Player, Video Studio 7 SE video editing software and GameDrive 9 which essentially allows you to make virtual drive copies of your CDs so that gameplay without the need to have a game CD in the drive is possible.  Then of course there's a full-up version of the impressive looking FPS game, Far Cry, which will afford consumers a taste of the benefits of leading edge DX9 graphics in action on your new BFG card.  Hats off to BFG for including this great game title.  Instant gratification is a beautiful thing.  Finally, just to ice what is already a well dressed slice of technology cake, BFG includes a tee shirt and a set of Teflon mouse slick pads, which really worked well in our rigorous and highly scientific frag-a-thons, err... testing sessions.

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The Card & Software Utilities Up Close

Take a standard reference design, build, test, and validate it at above specification clock speeds and you have what BFG is bringing to market with their GeForce 7800GTX OC.  It almost makes you wonder what clock speed a GeForce 7800 "Ultra" might run at, doesn't it?  Great minds think alike...

BFG's GeForce 7800 GTX Up Close
A standard reference design approach with above and beyond specifications

    

    

  

The beauty of the GeForce 7800GTX's design is its single slot-sized cooling solution, which may be a big plus to some of you, while others wouldn't mind a two-slot solution if it meant an exhaust system was incorporated into the design.  For sure the new GeForce 7800GTX does put out a fair amount of heat at standard clock speeds, never mind being slightly overclocked.  However, we've tested this BFG GF7800GTX card in a multitude of closed-case environments and its thermals were manageable and reasonable.  Regardless, a little birdie tells us that "OTES" (outside thermal exhaust system) style or Arctic Cooling style solutions are coming to the GeForce 7800 in the future.  This wasn't a BFG birdie that gave us this tip but perhaps BFG might consider the option as well?  In any event, there are obviously pros and cons to the single slot or dual slot design, depending on your perspective.

Beyond that, there really isn't much more to report that we haven't already covered, with this new BFG version of the GeForce 7800GTX, at least from a hardware perspective.  The card is well built and has an extremely clean and efficient design that does a great job of packing a whole lot of performance into a reasonable profile, as is the case with NVIDIA's basic reference design as well.

BFG's Included Utilities
For The Tweaker In You

Game Drive: We'll keep this section succinct and to the point as we intend to give you just a glimpse of a couple of the software perks that come along with BFG's bundle for their GeForce 7800GTX OC card.  First is GameDrive 9, which is a CD/DVD caching program that emulates the computer's physical CD/DVD-ROM drive, enabling end users to run PC games directly from their hard drives without the use of the physical CD/DVD drive or the actual game disc.  You can then also share these VCDs or "virtual CDs" on a LAN for multi-user access. 

The program also includes a virtual disk caching system which essentially creates a RAM Drive from system memory and uses it to load files into memory, emulating a hard disk function but with the obvious benefit of faster load times with less actual hard disk access.  This comes at the expense of available system memory of course.  We tested the basic version of GameDrive 9 (they want you to upgrade to the full version of course to get full functionality) with our Battlefield 2 CD play-disc and it worked like a charm, affording us the ability to jump into either single player or multiplayer internet action without any CD in the system.  As an aside the record time estimation to copy the virual CD to your hard disk, that is noted in the screen shot is not accurate.  Gamedrive 9 reported that it would take an hour to create the VCD when in actuality it only took about 15 - 20 minutes reading from our 48X CD/16X DVD drive.

NV DVD: NVIDIA, like ATi, has also developed their own DVD and Multimedia player, entitled NVDVD 2.0.  BFG bundled this A/V utility in with the card and its free-of-charge with features and playback quality rivaling those of PowerDVD and WinDVD, which are the most common DVD players we've seen bundled in from various AIBs.

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Our Test System & 3DMark05

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested our BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC card on an Asus A8N SLI Premium nForce 4 SLI chipset based motherboard, powered by an AMD Athlon 64 FX57 processor and 1GB of low-latency Corsair XMS RAM. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest nForce 4 chipset drivers, installed all of the other necessary drivers for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were then disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 768MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

The HotHardware Test System
AMD Athlon 64 FX Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -




Memory -


Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 (2.8GHz)

Asus A8N SLI Premium
nForce4 SLI chipset

BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC
)
NVIDIA
GeForce 6800 Ultra
ATI Radeon X850XT PE


1024MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board (ALC850)

Western Digital "Raptor"

36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -

DirectX -
OpenGL -
DirectX -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2 (Patched)
nForce Drivers v7.13
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v77.76

ATI Catalyst v5.7


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark05 v1.2.0
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.03
FarCry v1.31*
Half Life 2*
Doom 3 v1.3 (Single & Multi-Player)*
Battlefield 2*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)
Performance Comparisons with 3DMark05 v1.2.0
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/

3DMark05
3DMark05 is the latest installment in a line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998.  3DMark99 came out in October 1998 and was followed by the DirectX 7 benchmark; 3DMark2000, which was released roughly two years later.  The DirectX 8.1-compliant 3DMark2001 was released shortly thereafter and became a very popular tool used by many hardcore gamers.  The legacy lived on with 3DMark 03, even through turbulent times and discrediting the usefulness of this synthetic benchmark.  With 3DMark05, though, Futuremark is regaining audience and appeal as a relative performance metric that we also consider meaningful as only a part of the overall performance profile of a given product. 

3DMark's "default" test runs at a resolution of 1024X768 without Anti-Aliasing enabled.  It consists of a combination of tests that focus on both graphics processing throughput and main system throughput.  With our test systems identically configured, the scores here are comparable with the only variable being the graphics card and driver set installed.  Referencing our system specs above, you'll note the two NVIDIA GPU based cards are running the same 77.76 latest version Forceware driver and the ATi X850 XT PE is running with the most recent Catalyst 5.7 release.  The BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC shows 46% advantage over its predecessor, the GeForce 6800 Ultra and very close to a 28% gain over ATi's fastest available enthusiast card, the Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition.

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FarCry Performance

We benchmarked the graphics cards in this review with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint, at various resolutions without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.31
Details: http://www.farcry.ubi.com/

FarCry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry is one of the most visually impressive games to be released for the PC to date. Courtesy of its proprietary game engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Poly-bump mapping, advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and surround sound. Before titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene, FarCry gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D Gaming on the PC. 

 

With a fast CPU like the Athlon 64 FX-57 powering the system behind it, ATi's Radeon X850 XT PE and the latest Catalyst driver release, give the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC a run for its money, but in the end come up short at all resolutions and image quality settings.  Without Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering enabled, the 7800GTX OC takes the lead handily with a significant pixel processing fill-rate advantage.  However, turn on AA and AF and the gap does close significantly, at least in Far Cry's game engine environment.  This benchmark is as close as either of the other two cards we tested will come to matching the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC's performance.

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Image Quality: Half life 2

**Important Editor's Note:
We ran things a bit differently, versus our traditional "apples to apples" test methodology, with both Half Life 2 and Battlefield 2, in this article.  What we've seen historically is that current generation NVIDIA cards provide comparable image quality at like AA modes, 4X AA for example, versus ATi cards.  However, ATi's 6X AA Multi-Sample mode provides significantly better image quality than both NVIDIA and ATi 4X Multi-sample mode.  Likewise however, NVIDIA's 8XS mode, which combines a 4X Multi-sample with a 2X Super-Sample, provides superior image quality over both 4X and ATi 6X AA modes. 

Also as an aside, we recently presented you with a showcase of NVIDIA's new SLI-AA modes which provide a 4X+4X blend and 8XS+8XS blend in their "8X SLI-AA" and "16X SLI-AA" sampling modes.  These new AA modes are only available in SLI Dual card setups, however.  As such, we won't be covering image quality at these settings in this article.  Rather, since we had only one BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC card at our disposal, we'll be showcasing up to 8XS standard AA only, which as you'll see is very nice indeed.  If you would like a refresh on SLI-AA, please head here to our showcase article on this technology.

Regardless, until now 8XS mode for the most part, at moderate resolutions hasn't been all that playable in many recent game engines.  It took NVIDIA's GeForce 7800GTX launch to make this setting truly "playable" (at medium to high resolutions) in our opinion.  So as a result we'll show you the benefits of this NVIDIA AA sampling pattern over the others, and then in both Half Life 2 and Battlefield 2, we'll provide you with benchmarks at what we consider a card's given "Max IQ" or image quality setting, so you can see just what the card is capable of both in rendering output and frame-rate.

Image Quality Analysis: Half Life 2
Hi-Res / High-IQ Image Comparison

BFG 7800GTX OC
No AA

BFG 7800GTX OC
4X AA

BFG 7800GTX OC
8XS AA

 


Radeon X850 XT PE
No AA

Radeon X850 XT PE
4X AA

Radeon X850 XT PE
6X AA

Things to look for -

While image quality is a fairly subjective area, there are obvious finer points in detail that one can point to in analyzing in-game screen shots.  Specifically, we'd like to call you attention to two main areas of concern: edge anti-aliasing and texture or object area anti-aliasing.

First take a look at the shots without AA to establish a baseline.  Note both object edge aliasing artifacts, as well as texture surface artifacts like those that can be found in the chain-link fence area as well.  Then move to the 4X AA shots.  Note that both the BFG GF7800GTX OC and the ATi Radeon X850 produce very similar image quality.  In fact, we were hard pressed to see any real observable difference in these two screen shot comparisons. 

However, looking at the 8XS shot versus ATi 6X AA shot there are some fairly noticeable differences.  For starters, ATi's 6X AA is definitely doing a better job at cleaning up the edge aliasing artifacts versus both NVIDIA and ATi's own 4X AA mode.  But 6X AA mode definitely didn't help the artifacts that you can observe in the chain-link fence texture surface, since standard Multi-sample AA won't catch or correct this. 

Conversely, NVIDIA's 8XS mode does a superb job of cleaning up edge Aliasing, with a full 8X sample (again 4X Multi-sample with a 2X full scene Super-Sample) and it also does a nice job of fixing the chain-link fence, rendering it more accurately with its extra 2X Super-Sample rendering operation.  Also note that ATi's 6X AA shot seems to lose just a tiny bit of sharpness in texture detail, as is evident in the surface textures of the top section of the water tower in front of you.  If you compare the 6X AA shot to the 8XS shot taken on the BFG GF7800GTX OC, you can see that it retained the surface texture detail and doesn't look quite as soft as the ATi 6X AA shot does.  This again is the result of applying a 2X Super-Sample on a 4X Multi-sample versus just an additional 2X Multi-sample on top of 4X to render the scene. 

In a nut-shell, the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC's 8XS AA mode looks definitely superior all around, as long as it's playable and in the benchmarks ahead, you'll see that it very much is.

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Half Life 2 Performance

Again, we'd like to underscore the fact that our "Max IQ" settings in the following Half Life 2 benchmark comparisons are not what we consider a level playing field.  The directly comparable scores to look at are the 4X AA / 16X Aniso numbers, while the "Max IQ" scores are relative reference points in performance that show NVIDIA and BFG's current superior 8XS AA mode in action, versus ATi 6X AA mode.  So in short, the NVIDIA cards are doing more work in the "Max IQ" tests and while the end result might be a lower frame rate, the rendering outputs certainly reflect the trade-off, as we have shown you in the prior page's screen shot showcase.  There, if you're just a "chart scanner" type of reader, you can't say we didn't tell you so.

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November 2004 to get our hands on this classic. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo in the "Canals" map, that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled and then again with each card's maximum image quality settings which are 8XS AA and 6X AA for the NVIDIA cards and ATi Radeon X850 respectively.

** Max IQ = 6X AA for ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
** Max IQ = 8XS AA for GeForce 6800 Ultra and BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC

With Half Life 2 and these new generation high-end graphics cards, it's a complete no-brainer to run at high resolutions with at least 4X AA and 16X AF on all the time.  At 1280X1024 res, even the legacy generation of GeForce 6800 Ultra and Radeon X850 cards barely break a sweat at well over 125+fps.  However, turn up the AA and AF to as high as is possibly available on both ATi and NVIDIA based products and things are a bit more challenging.  The BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC and the GeForce 6800 Ultra still both maintain more than playable frame rates running with the superior image quality of their 8XS AA mode, while the Radeon X850 XT PE has an even easier time since it's only running 6X AA at its max available image quality settings.

 

** Max IQ = 6X AA for ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
** Max IQ = 8XS AA for GeForce 6800 Ultra and BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC

Our test results are only magnified at 1600X1200 resolutions, where the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC card easily blows by the Radeon X850 XT PE in 4X AA / 16X AF mode.  Half Life 2 has historically been a game engine that favors ATi cards but NVIDIA's new generation of 24 pixel pipeline GeForce 7800 GPUs have reclaimed a major-league overall performance lead.  Even with full 8XS AA enabled the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC shows silky smooth 78+fps frame-rates at 1600X1200 resolution.  Again this is something we want to highlight that simply wasn't feasible on a GeForce 6 series GPU historically, so we previously would have given the nod to ATi, which can maintain playability even in 6X AA mode.  However, now the image quality edge easily falls the way of NVIDIA.  Running in 8XS AA mode with the GeForce 7800 GTX OC from BFG, along with a fast action shooter like Half Life 2 or Counter Strike: Source, proved to be a powerful and graphically stunning combination.  

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Doom 3 Performance

With Doom 3 we're going to drop back down to our traditional "apples to apples" performance comparison, looking at high resolution frame rates without any additional pixel processing for AA and then again with 4X AA and the in-game automatic high quality setting of 8X Anisotropic Filtering.

Performance Comparisons with Doom 3 - Single Player
Details: http://www.doom3.com/

Doom 3
id Software's games have long been pushing the limits of 3D graphics. Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3 were all instrumental in the success of 3D accelerators on the PC. Now, many years later, with virtually every new desktop computer shipping with some sort of 3D accelerator, id is at it again with the visually stunning Doom 3. Like most of id's previous titles, Doom 3 is an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows. We ran this batch of Doom 3 single player benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

 

 

There is no doubt, that OpenGL based game engines and obviously Doom 3, are NVIDIA's strong suit.  They have been for what seems like the company's entire existence.  Here the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC really stretches its legs to the tune of up to a 50 - 70% performance advantage over the current ATi flagship card as well as the GeForce 6800 Ultra.

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Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory is a bit more challenging for NVIDIA cards, with its game engine based on a DX9 code path but also supporting Shader Model 3.0 rendering, which ATi cards do not support.   We tested ATi cards with the game's default shader model 1.1 code path and tested the NVIDIA-based cards with their more powerful shader model 3.0 code path enabled in the game engine but turned off HDR rendering features in order to balance the work-loads for each type of card.

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.03
Details: http://www.splintercell3.com/us/

SC: Chaos Theory
We've recently added Ubisoft's great new game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, to our suite of game benchmarks. Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards to really shine, but it does not have shader model 2.0 path to fall back upon at the moment. So, when paired with the current generation of ATI's 3D hardware, Chaos Theory uses a shader model 1.1 code path. For these tests we turned off High Dynamic Range rendering to somewhat level the playing field and benchmarked the game at resolutions of 1,280 x 1024 and 1,600 x 1,200, both with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.

 

 

We realize our readers are a quick study, so we're sure it won't take you long to notice that, even with a SM3.0 code path enabled, NVIDIA's GeForce 6 of GPUs don't quite measure up to ATi's Radeon X8XX product offering in Splinter Cell CT's game engine.  However, in stark contrast, the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC, with its additional 8 pixel processing pipelines, takes the ATi X850 XT PE to task handily.  Depending on resolution and AA level, we saw a 23 - 40% performance advantage for the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC card, a very strong showing all around. Also, at 1280X1024 and even 1600X1200 resolution, HDR (high dynamic range) rendering effects (although performance isn't shown here) can really add to the visual impact in the game engine and they're absolutely playable on this new BFG GeForce 7800GTX card.  Although you do lose the ability to run anti-aliasing with HDR enabled, so it's a bit of a trade-off if you're the type that likes to clean up the jaggies completely.

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Image Quality: Battlefield 2

In the benchmarks that follow this page, we've enabled 8XS mode for the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC and the GeForce 6800 Ultra, to show a complete performance profile at this setting.  Again, we also set the ATi X850 to it's highest 6X AA setting, which as you'll note below, doesn't look as good as NVIDIA's 8XS mode, since it doesn't have the ability to provide AA processing on transparent or opaque texture surfaces but only on object edge surfaces. 

As an aside, we've previously shown you that ATi's Cross-Fire technology will begin to provide Super-Sample AA operations with the new dual-GPU based AA modes they'll be introducing with the product.  However, we have yet to see any Cross-Fire based motherboards or graphics cards in our test labs to date, so we can't comment first-hand on how well these new AA modes perform or look on the ATi based product.

For now, as far as what is available for you to purchase today, the 8XS single card driven AA mode that is available with the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC, looks decidedly cleaner in our opinion and is very playable even in heavy combat action with Battlefield 2.  Have a look for yourself.

Image Quality Analysis: Battlefield 2
Hi-Res / High-IQ Image Comparison

BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC
No AA

BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC
4X AA

BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC
8XS AA

ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
No AA

ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
4X AA

ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
6X AA

As we saw with our Half Life 2 screen-shots, like AA or non-AA processed image quality is virtually identical, comparing both NVIDIA and ATi-based outputs.  However, ATi's 6X AA mode can't compare with NVIDIA's 8XS mode as is very apparent in the barb-wire on top of and within the chain-links themselves on the fence in this scene. 

Interestingly enough however, it seems as though the 8XS mode is doing a good job of cleaning up the surface area of the fence that is horizontally facing the first person perspective in this shot.  However, it isn't doing quite as good a job on the surface area of the fence that runs down perpendicular toward the radio tower.  This area definitely looks a bit better than the ATi 6X AA mode but not as clean as the horizontal facing surfaces.  So, even 8XS AA doesn't grab everything and clean it up but perhaps 16X SLI-AA would?  We didn't have the opportunity to test this out with the single BFG card but may we can follow-up here in future articles to see if our theory holds true.

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Battlefield 2 Performance

Once more, just to call your attention to this again for complete clarity.  When you're looking at our Battlefield 2 graphs below, remember that the standard level playing field comparison to look at, is at the 4X AA / 16X AF modes we tested all cards in.  At our "Max IQ" test settings the ATi X850 is only running it's highest available 6X AA mode, while the NVIDIA's cards are running 8XS AA, which as we've shown you with the prior page of screen-shots, looks decidedly superior in a number of ways.

Performance Comparisons with Battlefield 2
Details: http://battlefield.ea.com/

Battlefield 2
New to HotHardware.com's Graphics/Gaming benchmark test suite, is EA's wildly popular Battlefield 2. EA developed Battlefield 2's game engine from the ground up and it is certainly  representative of state-of-the-art DirectX 9 3D Graphics rendering technology.  The game has impressive lighting effects as well as very realistic environmental physics and impressively natural character animation.  Not to mention it's just plain fun all around with character persistence and growth within its game-play, so gamers can achieve ranks all the way up to General unlocking new weapons and earning medals. 

 

We tested Battlefield 2 at 1280X1024 and 1600X1200 resolutions, with 4X AA and maximum Anisotropic Filtering set with in-game settings.  Then we re-tested the cards in this article with maximum AA and AF settings via driver control panel options: 6X AA for the ATi Radeon X850 and 8XS AA for the GeForce 6800 Ultra and BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC.

** Max IQ = 6X AA for ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
** Max IQ = 8XS AA for GeForce 6800 Ultra and BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC

At 1280X1024, with 4X AA and 16X Anisotropic filtering in Battlefield 2, the new BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC blows past the fastest frame rate we could pull in any previous generation graphics card (in this case ATi's Radeon X850 XT PE) with a major-league 45+% advantage.  Looking further at the numbers, the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC shows completely playable and robust frame-rates at its maximum image quality setting of 8XS, which again is clearly better than the 6X AA mode available with the Radeon X850.  In fact, the GeForce 7800GTX OC nearly matches the performance of the ATi Radeon card, although it is providing a full 2X Super-Sample on top of its 4X Multi-sample (8 AA samples total), versus the ATi card which is only performing 6 Multi-sample AA operations on a frame.

** Max IQ = 6X AA for ATi Radeon X850 XT PE
** Max IQ = 8XS AA for GeForce 6800 Ultra and BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC

The same trend continued for us here, at a 1600X1200 resolution, where all cards were very much playable with 4X AA and 16X AF. However, at max image quality settings of 6X AA for the ATi card and 8XS for the NVIDIA cards (again, 6X AA isn't available for NVIDIA cards at this time), only the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC and ATi Radeon X850 XT PE maintained reasonable and playable frame-rates.  Again though, we'll remind you conversely that the GeForce 7800GTX OC's 8XS image quality is worth the trade-off in frame-rate for its superior image quality.   

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Overclocking the BFG 7800 GTX OC

As we neared the end of our testing, we spent a little time overclocking our BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC card using the clock frequency slider available within NVIDIA's Forceware drivers after enabling the "Coolbits" registry tweak.

Overclocking the BFG GeForce 7800 GTX OC
Overclocking the Pre-Overclocked

Much to our delight the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC was able to hit a stable 500MHz GPU core speed and a 1.41GHz (705MHz DDR) memory interface speed.  This was achieved on an open air test-bench setup with ambient air temps in the room around 72oF.

 

The BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC held its stability at these speeds, for over a half hour of testing with repeated runs of our Battlefield 2 benchmark demo, which is strenuous and lasts over 2 minutes for a single pass.  We're not suggesting that this is without question something you could achieve in your own test system or that results would be the same in a hot closed-chassis environment but nevertheless, our results speak well for the headroom available for the overclocker with this new high-end card from BFG.  As our benchmark scores show, we were able to squeeze another 11% gain in performance out of the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC, nearing 70 fps at 1280X1024 resolution with full 8XS AA and Anisotropic filtering enabled.

So along with this impressive result, we set out to record what our maximum core GPU temps were when the card was heavily stressed.  We then decided to fire up the "Real-Time High Dynamic Range Image-Based Lighting" demo by Masaki Kawase and ran it in a window on a high res 1920X1200 desktop with three quarters of the screen area covered by the demo.  The BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC peaked and leveled off at these 500MHz/1.41GHz speeds, at a core GPU temperature of 80oC.  This may seem smoking hot to some of you (as it does us frankly) but NVIDIA's own temperature settings tab in their driver control panel shows a GPU core slowdown threshold of 115oC, so perhaps this is a relative measurement and within reasonable limits.

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Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC clearly exhibited that it was the fastest graphics card in literally every gaming scenario we threw at it.  Furthermore, this new GeForce 7800GTX-based card from BFG also affords end users the ability to run significantly better looking image quality settings with 8XS AA modes at high resolutions, something that can not be said for virtually any other class of graphics cards on the market currently.  Also, at identical test settings for Anti-aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering, the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC blew past both competitive ATi X850 offerings and NVIDIA's previous generation GeForce 6800 Ultra, with relative ease, often showing spreads of a 25 - 70% performance advantage in various game test conditions. And finally this particular GeForce 7800GTX from BFG showed it had plenty of margin left in it for higher clock speeds, allowing us the ability to overclock the core up to a blistering 500MHz top-end speed and it's memory to an equally impressive 1.41GHz.

 

We got our BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC in for testing just ahead of a slew of other cards from various manufacturers.  In the following weeks, we'll be certain to bring you more coverage of other GeForce 7800GTX offerings from around the globe.  Regardless, this abundance of NVIDIA's new generation of enthusiast class product calculates out to a wonderful problem for the end customer in the marketplace, one of decision on which card to consider and the other variable to the equation being price.  With all these cards hitting the street, there is no question the cost curve will drive much more aggressively in the consumer's favor.  In fact, we've seen the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC itself start from a high of $599 street price in our PriceGrabber search engine to about $550 now, with a spot price available at Dell at $533.

Another thing to throw into the mix that should weigh heavily for you if you're looking at cards that claim to be "overclocked" out of the box, is the warranty.  Here again BFG stands tall in the crowd offering a lifetime warranty on the card while others we've tested recently only offer a 1 year warranty.  That alone is well worth a few extra pesos if you ask us.  Toss in BFG's solid bundle of swag and the full version of Far Cry and you have what we would call the makings of an "Editor's Choice" level of product - which is exactly what we're going to give the BFG GeForce 7800GTX OC. We're giving the BFG GeForce 7800GTX a 9 on the Heat Meter. This card is definitely Hot Hardware.

 

•Overclock to 460MHz/1.3GHz Out of the box
• Even more headroom for overclocking beyond its stock speed
• Great bundle with Far Cry
• Playable 8XS AA at high res
• Relatively quiet operation
• Lifetime warranty
•Still rather pricey @ around $540 - $550

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