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MSI NX7600GT VT2D256E - GeForce 7600GT
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Date: Jun 21, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications

 

While many of us are impressed with the features and performance promised by today's top of the line graphics cards, in reality, not too many of us have the budgets to afford one of these gaming powerhouses.  Often times, the common user needs to keep things in monetary perspective and consider a more practical approach to their graphics card desires.  The key is finding the best bang for the buck, where performance, price and other added features all converge to bring the consumer the best overall value for their dollar. One such product is NVIDIA's GeForce 7600GT series, which aims to take on ATI's closest competitor, the Radeon X1600 XT, while remaining a viable mid-range option for a larger audience of mainstream consumers.

 

Keeping along that train of thought, we're going to take a look at MSI's NX7600GT-VT2D256E.  This card is based on NVIDIA's GeForce 7600GT series, but sports higher GPU and Memory speeds as well as an oversized custom cooler that begs us to overclock it.  From the start, the card looks impressive, but just how will it stack up compared to ATI's Radeon X1600XT?  On the pages ahead, we'll paint a clearer picture to see how the NX7600GT-VT2D256E compares in price, performance and features. 

MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E
Features & Specifications
Microsoft Direct 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
The standard for today's Purchase and next-generation consoles enables stunning and complex effects for cinematic realism. NVIDIA GPUs offer the most complete implementation of the Shader Model 3.0 feature set -- including vertex texture fetch (VTF) -- to ensure top-notch compatibility and performance for all DirectX9 applications.

True High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Rendering Support
The ultimate lighting effects bring environments to life for a truly immersive, ultra-realistic experience. Based on the OpenEXR technology from Industrial Light and Magic, NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effects through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending.

NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Engine
Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Full support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 enables stunning and complex special effects. Next-generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA SLI Technology
Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU speeds. Full support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 enables stunning and complex special effects. Next-generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
The combination of high-definition video processors and decoder software delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high-end home theater.

High-Definition H.264, MPEG-2 and WMV Hardware Acceleration
Smoothly playback H.264, MPEG-2, and W MV video including WMV HD with minimal CPU usage so the PC is free to do other work.

Advanced Spatial Temporal De-Interlacing
Smoothes video and DVD playback on progressive displays to deliver a crisp, clear picture that rivals high-end home theater systems.

High-Quality Scaling
High-quality scaling technology delivers a clear, clean image at any window size, including full-screen HDTV resolutions up to 1080p.

Video Color Correction
Corrects differences in color characteristics of RGB monitors and TV monitors through NVIDIA PureVideo's ProcAmp Color Controls setting, such as PureVideo's ProcAmp Color Controls setting, such as ensures videos are not too dark, overly bright, or washed out regardless of the video format or display.

Integrated HDTV Encoder
Provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution.
MSI Vivid Video Technology

MSI Vivid is an easy tool to enhance "image quality." It can help users to get better image quality in viewing "Digital photos, documents & games."
. Vivid brings the easiest way to optimize graphic quality.
. Colorize your vision when browsing digital photos!!!
. Sharpen characters edge!!!
. Enhance contrast when playing game

Key Specifications

. 128-bit memory interface
. OpenGL 2.0 Optimizations and Support
. NVIDIA nView Multi-Display Technology
. NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control 3.0 Technology
. Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
. Dual Dual-Link DVI Support
. 90nm Process Technology
. Built for Microsoft Windows Vista

System Requirements
. Intel Pentium IV (and above), AMD K8 (and above) or compatible with PCI Express slot
. Minimum 128MB of system memory
. Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
. Interactive Program guide requires Internet connection for listing updates
. Power supply of 400 watt(550W is recommended for SLI mode) is highly recommended for system stability.

3D Game Bundle
Prince of Persia - The Two Thrones

MSI developed software
. VGA Driver
. MSI Live Update Series ( Live VGA BIOS & Live VGA Driver)
- Automatically online download & update VGA BIOS & Drivers, reduce the risk of getting the wrong files, and never have the trouble on web site searching.
. GoodMen
Automatically release the system memory space, reduce the risk of system hang-up.
. LockBox
- Instantly enter the data lock mode when you must leave your system for a while.
. WMIinfo
- Automatically list the detail system configuration, it helpful for engineering service people.
. MSI VIVID
- Vivid brings the easiest way to optimize graphic quality. Colorize your vision when browsing photos!!! Sharpen characters edge! Enhance contrast when playing game!
. MSI Live
- Including all real time life information you need, such as Live MSI Product News, Live Daily Information, Live Personal Schedule Manager, Live Search and more.
. MSI Secure DOC
. E-Color
. MediaRing
. ShowShift
. ThinSoft Be Twin
. Adobe Acrobat Reader
. Norton Internet Security 2005
. Microsoft DirectX 9.

The MSI NX7600GT VT2D256E is complemented by a decent retail bundle.  On the hardware front, MSI includes two DVI-to-VGA adapters for using the NX7600GT VT2D256E in a single or dual analog monitor environment.  Additionally, a VIVO adapter is provided which offers S-Video Inputs and Outputs, Composite Inputs as well as HDTV Outputs.  Rounding out the hardware is an S-Video cable and an MSI case badge.

   

The printed documentation was a bit light with the NX7600GT VT2D256E, offering a 26 language Quick User's Guide along with an English Quick Installation Guide.  MSI's Drivers and Utilities CD comes with MSI's custom drivers designed to work with D.O.T. Express (Dynamic Overclocking Technology) while also bringing a long list of other software, such as WMIInfo, GoodMem, LockBox, MSI Live VGA Driver and Live VGA BIOS.  A second CD is also included titled Star DVD Family, which includes a healthy collection of Cyberlink software, such as PowerCinema, Power2Go and more, which we will spotlight in the pages ahead.  Rounding out the bundle is a retail copy of Prince of Persia - The Two Thrones on DVD.

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The Software Bundle

 

Retail Software Bundle
CyberLink Multimedia All the Way

The CyberLink Multimedia CD comes chock full of useful software, but be aware that these are not the latest titles available.  For example, PowerCinema 3.0, Power2Go 4, MakeDVD 1 and PowerProducer 2 have all been updated at least one version on the CyberLink site.  Nonetheless, these titles are useful and will make you eligible for upgrade pricing, if and when you are ready for an upgrade.

  

All four titles can be installed from a single menu.  First in the list is CyberLink's PowerCinema which brings a Windows Media Center feel allowing user's to play TV and Radio (TV/FM Tuner Required), watch and record DVDs, as well as viewing pictures and playing music.  For those looking for a Windows XP Media Center environment without the upgrade, PowerCinema is a viable, although less robust alternative.  CyberLink's MakeDVD follows in the appearance of PowerCinema 3, but instead focuses on DVD authoring. With MakeDVD, creating VCD, SVCD and DVDs is a simple task.  The software supports various video quality modes and is both PAL and NTSC ready. 

   

If you are looking for a more "professional" DVD authoring tool than MakeDVD's simplistic approach, then PowerProducer 2 Gold brings more options to the game.  PowerProducer 2 Gold brings advanced DVD, SVCD, VCD authoring as well as creating VR and Divx media as well.  There is also a right-to-disc feature that takes a video input signal and burns it directly to disc.  The Disc Utilities section is also feature rich with options to Erase, Copy, Defragment, Burn from an image, record a disc image and burn from a DVD folder.  There is also a Make Compatible option that will convert editable DVD-VR media so it will work with most DVD players.

Rounding out the CyberLink bundle is Power2Go which is an all-inclusive CD/DVD authoring program.  Power2Go can record both CD and DVDs, including data, video and music discs.  Video and Photo discs can also be authored as well as simple tasks like disc copying, audio ripping and audio converting. 

In each application, the CyberLink software has easy to follow interfaces that novices and advanced users should appreciate.  What's even nicer is, while each program carries the MSI logo, there is no lockout, so you can install the software on any PC, not just one with an MSI product installed.

 

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A Closer Look At The NX7600GT-VT2D256E

 

Closer Look at the NX7600GT-VT2D256E
Big and Beautiful

The NX7600GT-VT2D256E comes equipped with 12 Pixel Pipelines, 5 Vertex Shaders and is backed by 256MB of GDDR3 memory.  Clocked at 580MHz, the GPU runs 20MHz faster than NVIDIA's reference design.  The 256MBs of GDDR3 also comes clocked higher, running at 750MHz (1500MHz DDR) compared to 700MHz (1400MHz DDR).  The NX7600GT sports dual DVI outputs, dual 400MHz RAMDACs, is SLI ready and has full ViVo capability.  The core brings the same feature set as its big brother, the GeForce 7900 series, including SM3.0 and Pure video, however, with a power requirement of only 70W, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E doesn't require any supplemental power beyond what a standard PCI Express Graphics slot provides.

  

The one feature that makes the NX7600GT-VT2D256E stand out is its full-body cooler that spans the entire length of the card.  The cooler's two slot design draws fresh air from outside while exhausting heated air into the case to be removed by the chassis fans.  This method always ensures that cooler outside air is drawn across the heat sink, which should be the lowest temperature air available.  When removed, the oversized cooler's inner workings become more evident, showing a heat pipe design at its core.  MSI uses a tidy application of thermal interface material to ensure good transfer from GPU and RAM to the cooler.

  

Certainly some may be deterred by the NX7600GT-VT2D256E's very large cooler, which may not be usable in tighter cases such as mini PCs.  However, overclocking enthusiasts may appreciate the extra cooling hardware.  We should also note that the cooler is extremely quiet, even when we overclocked the card and ran it through some tests.  In our opinion, quiet is always a good thing.

 

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HH Test Bed and 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested the MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E on an Abit AL8 Intel 945P chipset based motherboard.  When configuring the test system, we entered 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 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 also 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.  For all comparisons, an ATI X1600XT was used, which is quite comparable on price and in specification.

The HotHardware Test System
Pentium D 820 Powered
Hardware Used Relevant Software
Processor - Pentium D 820 (2.8GHz) Operating System - Windows XP Pro SP2
Motherboard - Abit AL8 Chipset Drivers - Intel Drivers v8.0.1.1002
  Intel 945P chipset DirectX - DirectX 9.0c (March Redist)
Video Cards - MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E (580/1500) Video Drivers - NVIDIA Forceware v84.21
  Radeon X1600 XT (586/1380)   ATI Catalyst v6.5
Memory - 1024MB PQI 24200-1GDB Benchmarks Used
  CAS 2 Synthetic (DX) - 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Audio - Integrated on board DirectX - FarCry v1.33*
Hard Drive - Western Digital DirectX - F.E.A.R.
  80GB - 7,200RPM - PATA DirectX -
Half Life 2*
    OpenGL - Quake 4*
    OpenGL - Riddick-EFBB*
* Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)    
Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand-new version of their popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

   

When looking at the overall 3DMark06 results, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E topped the X1600XT by 774 3DMarks, which equates to a 31% advantage.

When we breakdown the SM 2.0 and SM 3.0/HDR test results, we continue to see a clear lead with the NX7600GT-VT2D256E.  In SM 2.0 testing, the margins increased to 45% whereas SM 3.0/HDR rounded out with a 28% lead over the X1600XT

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Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.33

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.33
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 was one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC last year. Courtesy of its proprietary engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Polybump 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. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint, at various resolutions without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then again with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

 

In our FarCry testing, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E easily beat the X1600XT at all image quality settings and resolutions.  At 1024x768, we saw an average of 20FPS lead in each run and at 1600x1200 that lead was 25FPS with no AA and 15FPS with 4XAA and 16X Anisotropic Filtering enabled.

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Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2

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 '04 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 without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering and with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

   

With our custom Half-Life 2 benchmark, the X1600XT put up a more balanced fight when compared to FarCry testing.  In No AA testing at both resolutions, the X1600XT delivered slightly better performance over the NX7600GT-VT2D256E.  However, once we enabled Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E regained the lead, with the X1600XT trailing by roughly 8FPS.  Frankly, with Half Life 2 we see no reason not to run at high resolutions with AA turned on as the MSI NX7600GT card provides "playable" performance up through 1600X1200.

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Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card, that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.03, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1152x864 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

With F.E.A.R. performance testing, we see the same pattern as we saw in FarCry and 3DMark06, where the NX7600GT-VT2D256E commanded a solid lead over the X1600XT.  This time around, we saw a 19FPS lead in No AA testing at 1024x768, while the lead dropped to 15FPS at 1600x1200.  With 4XAA and 16X Aniso testing, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E took a greater performance hit percentage wise, yet still held a 6FPS over the X1600XT at both resolutions.

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Performance Comparisons with Quake 4

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 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.

   

With the Quake 4 testing, we saw the largest performance margin thus far, to the point we had to wonder if something was wrong in our test settings.  Rest assure however, that we double-checked that each card was tested with the identical settings.  This is no anomaly folks.  The NX7600GT-VT2D256E runs Quake 4 2.75 times faster than the X1600XT in No AA testing at 1280x1024.  When we increased the resolution to 1600x1200, we see a slight drop to 2.5 times faster.  The results are certainly closer with 4X AA and 16X aniso testing, where the results averaged 2x that of the X1600XT.

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Overclocking the MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E

Overclocking the MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E
Taking It Higher

The NX7600GT-VT2D256E comes equipped to utilize MSI's DOT Express overclocking which is enabled by installing the drivers on the CD, or MSI's web site. In our test scenario, however, we opted to use the most current NVIDIA reference drivers to ensure that both cards were as current as possible.  So, we used Coolbits to overclock the NX7600GT-VT2D256E and our results were none too shabby.  We managed to increase the GPU speed by 23MHz, which equates to 5.5%.  Memory speed also increased nicely, adding 55MHz (110MHz DDR), which equals an increase of 7.33%.  Next, we put these increases to the test with F.E.A.R.'s built in performance test.

 

To look at these results, you might think that we didn't gain much.  However, with further analysis, we saw something interesting.  First, with the No AA tests, we measured an increase of 3FPS, which equals 7.33%, the same increase we saw with the memory overclocking.  Next, when we ran the 4XAA and 16X Aniso test, we measured an increase of 1FPS, which interestingly enough, equals 5%, very close to the 5.5% increase we reported in GPU speed.  Regardless what you make of this, the overclocking of the NX7600GT-VT2D256E does result in measurable performance gains.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Assessing the performance of MSI's NX7600GT-VT2D256E, we walked away quite impressed.  When comparing it to a card such as ATI's Radeon X1600XT, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E took the ATI card to the mat in every one of our tests, except for Half-Life 2.  The biggest performance differential we saw was with Quake 4, where the NX7600GT out shined the X1600XT by no less than a factor of 2. 

 

Every once in a while a product is released that challenges all others in its class, setting itself apart from the pack.  One such product is NVIDIA's GeForce 7600GT line, which brings major competition to ATI's closest alternative, the Radeon X1600XT.  On paper, the two products are very close but MSI takes NVIDIA's reference GeForce 7600GT and adds a little flair and panache to its NX7600GT-VT2D256E.  With an oversized, premium cooler that is both cool and quiet, as well as Memory and GPU speeds clocked higher than reference specification, the NX7600GT-VT2D256E is ready for leading-edge gaming and overclocking.  Top off the deal with a decent retail bundle that offers a good balance of hardware and software extras and the NX7600GT-VT2D256E shapes up nicely for a mid-range graphics solution.  The only drawback some may find is the oversized cooler, which is a two slot design that runs the entire length of the card.  For those tight on space, you may want to opt for the NX7600GT-T2D256E, which comes with a standard cooling solution and runs at reference GPU and Memory clock speeds.

When we did some price comparisons with the Radeon X1600XT, the lowest price X1600XT we could find at the time of publication was $134, where the lowest 7600GT we could find was $165.  When you compare the performance deltas of the two, even with the Radeon X1600XT weighing in $31 less, a reference GeForce 7600GT is a better deal.  When we priced MSI's NX7600GT-VT2D256E, which comes clocked higher than NVIDIA's reference design and comes with oversized cooling, we found you'll have to spend roughly $184.  Whether the additional performance gains of the MSI's NX7600GT-VT2D256E is worth the additional $50 compared to the Radeon X1600XT is up to you, but depending on the games you like to play, that $50 may be well worth it in the end.

We give the MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of...

  • Great Performance
  • Solid Retail Bundle
  • Quiet Cooler
  • No External Power Required
  • Competitively Priced
  • Dual Slot Cooling
  • Very Long Card
  • Dated CyberLink Software

 

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