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XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme
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Date: Sep 14, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Intro, Specs, and Bundle

Last week NVIDIA officially launched the $199 GeForce 7900 GS, and jointly announced the $299 GeForce 7950 GT.  In our coverage of the GeForce 7900 GS, we were able to reveal the 7950 GT's specifications and features, but were asked to reserve posting any benchmark results until the cards were made available. Well, here we are only one week later and that day has come.  As of September 14, you should be able to purchase GeForce 7950 GT cards from your favorite retailer.

The GeForce 7950 GT we'll be evaluating today comes by way of XFX. In typical XFX fashion, the company has mutliple GeForce 7950 GT offerings in their product stack, the $299 PV-T71J-YHF9, which is clocked at NVIDIA's reference specifications of 550MHz / 1.4GHz, and the $329 PV-T71J-YHE9 which is not only clocked a bit higher at 570MHz / 1.46GHZ, but also sports a silent, passive cooling solution.

     

XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme
Features and Specifications
GPU Clock: 570MHz
Memory Clock: 1.46GHz (effective)
Memory: 512MB GDDR3


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
._Delivers true high dynamic-range (HDR) lighting support
._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
._Dedicated on-chip video processor
._High-definition H.264, MPEG2 and WMV9 decode acceleration
._Advanced spatial-temporal de-interlacing
._Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
._High-quality video scaling
._Video color correction
._Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window

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-link DVI capability to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution digital flat panel displays up to 2560x1600
._Integrated HDTV encoder provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution
._Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability


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


Operating Systems
._Windows XP/XP 64/ME/2000
._Built for Microsoft Windows Vista
._Linux
._Macintosh OS X


XFX Unique Features
._Double Lifetime Warranty

Software/Game Bundle
._Driver CD
._Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

Accessories Bundle
._User Manual
._1 x S-video cable
._1 x HD Out Dongle

._2 x DVI-to-VGA adapter
._PCI Express power cable

 


      

XFX ships their GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme (model PV-T71J-YHE9) with a very good assortment of software and accessories. In addition to the obligatory user's manual and driver CD, XFX includes an HD component output dongle, an S-Video cable, a dual-Molex to 6-pin PCIe power adapter cable, and a pair of DVI-to-DB15 monitor adapters. The best part of the bundle, however, is the full retail version of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. It's no longer a $50 cutting edge title, but Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is much newer and more advanced than the games others typically bundle with their cards.  Kudos to XFX for throwing in a game that can actually take advantage of some of the card's leading-edge features.

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The XFX GeForce 7950 GT

Underneath the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme's large passive cooler, lies a dark colored PCB, tricked out with neon-green accents and connectors.

      

Although it may be a different color, the PCB itself doesn't differ much from the GeForce 7900 GT, or the 7900 GS for that matter, but it is a newer revision.  Our reference GeForce 7900 GT's PCB is labeled as version "A00", while the 7950 GT pictured here is marked as version "A01B".  A quick visual comparison between the two didn't reveal any major differences other than a few different coils and the inclusion on an HDCP crypto-ROM.

      

Of course, the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme is SLI-Ready, as is evident by its SLI connector at the top edge of the PCB.  The far end of the board houses a PCI Express 6-Pin power receptacle, and the mounting plate on the other side is home to a pair of dual-link DVI outputs and an HDTV/S-Video output.

  

The XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme's most intriguing feature has got to be its cooler.  XFX has outfitted this card with a low-profile passive cooler. That's right - passive, as in no noise.  A large, aluminum heatsink is mounted to the GPU and 512MB of memory on the front side of the PCB, and two heat-pipes connect the front heatsink to an array of thin aluminum cooling fins on the back. Most other GeForce 7950 GT cards are likely to be equipped with single-slot active coolers, similar to the one used on the 7900 GT.

  GeForce 7900 GTX GeForce 7950 GT GeForce 7900 GT GeForce 7900 GS
Core Frequency 650MHz 550MHz 450MHz 450MHz
Memory Frequency 800MHz 700MHz 660MHz 660MHz
Vertex Shaders 8 8 8 7
Pixel Shaders 24 24 24 20
Pixel Fill Rate 10.4 Billions/s 8.8 Billions/s 7.2 Billions/s 7.2 Billions/s
Texture Fill Rate 15.6 Billions/s 13.2 Billions/s 10.8 Billions/s 9 Billions/s
MSRP ~$449 ~$299-$349 ~$299 ~$199

The GeForce 7950 GT has essentially the same features as the more powerful GeForce 7900 GTX, but with lower clock speeds.  Both cards feature 24 pixel pipes, 16 ROPs, and 8 vertex shaders.  NVIDIA's reference specifications call for a 550MHz GPU clock with 1.4GHz (700MHz DDR) memory.  The XFX card we're looking at here is clocked a bit higher though, at 570MHz / 1.46GHz.  Don't fret though, we've down-clocked it to NVIDIA's specifications as well to give you all an idea as to how reference cards or other "stock" offerings will perform.

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Our Test System & 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested the NVIDIA based cards used in this article on an Asus A8N32-SLI nForce 4 SLIX16 chipset based motherboard. The ATI powered cards, however, were tested on an A8R32-MVP motherboard based on the CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset. Both systems used the same AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 dual-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair XMS RAM. The first thing we did when configuring these test systems was enter each BIOS and loaded their "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Pro SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest chipset drivers available, installed all of the other drivers necessary 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 1024MB 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 Systems
AMD Athlon 64 FX Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -





Video Cards -









Memory -


Audio -

Hard Driv
e -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 (2.6GHzx2)

Asus A8N32-SLI
nForce4 SLIX16 chipset

Asus A8R32-MVP
ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200

XFX GeForce 7950 GT
GeForce 7950 GT
GeForce 7900 GS

GeForce 7900 GT
GeForce 7900 GTX
GeForce 7950 GX2
Radeon X1950 XTX
Radeon X1900 XTX 512MB
Radeon X1900 XT 256MB

2048MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

74GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.86
DirectX 9.0c (August Redist.)

NVIDIA Forceware v91.45

ATI Catalyst v6.8


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
FarCry v1.33*
F.E.A.R. v1.07
Half Life 2: Episode 1*
Prey*

* - 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.

As you'd expect looking at its specifications, the GeForce 7950 GT falls in between the 7900 GTX and 7900 GT in the default 3DMark06 benchmark. When compared to ATI's offerings it was about as fast as the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT, despite having double the amount of frame buffer memory at it's disposal.

The rankings don't change slightly if we focus on the individual shader model 2.0 test results. In this test, the new GeForce 7950 GT clearly outpaces the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT. In comparison to the other members in the GeForce 7 series though, its position doesn't change.

3DMark06's shader model 3.0 / HDR test results explain how the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT was able to outscore the GeForce 7950 GT. In this test, the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT finished with a score about 100 points higher than the GeForce 7950 GT.

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Half Life 2: Episode 1

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2: Episode 1
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 quite a while to get our hands on HL2.  Armed with the latest episodic update to HL2, Episode 1, we benchmarked the game with a long, custom-recorded timedemo 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 concurrently, and with color correction and HDR rendering enabled in the game engine as well.

Our custom Half Life 2: Episode 1 benchmark didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary.  Considering the GeForce 7950 GT's specifications, it finished where you would expect it to in relation to the other members of the GeForce 7 series, that is just behind the 7900 GTX, but well ahead of the 7900 GT. ATI's current high-end offerings came in a bit faster than the new 7950 GT though.  We won't harp on the results, however, because its still nearly impossible to find either the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT or X1950 XTX for sale anywhere.

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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 in the last few years.  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 fully patched version of FarCry using a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint. The tests were run at various resolutions with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

 

The results of our custom FarCry benchmark were very similar to the Half Life 2: Episode 1 results on the previous page. Once again, the GeForce 7950 GT comes in just behind the GeForce 7900 GTX and ahead of the 7900 GT.  The Radeons, or more specifically the similarly priced 256MB X1900 XT, was a bit faster overall though - somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% to 10% depending on the resolution.

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F.E.A.R. v1.07

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 game's 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 in the Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-classes or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.07, we put the graphics cards in this article through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to their 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 1,280x960 and 1,600x1,200, with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

The trend we've witnessed up to this point continued with the F.E.A.R. benchmark.  The new GeForce 7950 GT finished where you would expect it to in relation to its GeForce 7 series counterparts, about 10% faster than the 7900 GT and 10% slower than the 7900 GTX.  All of the Radeons were able to outpace the 7950 GT, however. Though the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT is the 7950 GT's only direct competitor in terms of price.

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Prey Performance

Performance Comparisons with Prey
Details: http://www.prey.com/

Prey
After many years of development, Take-Two Interactive recently released the highly anticipated game Prey. Prey is based upon an updated and modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Prey is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a plethora of dynamic lighting and shadows.  But unlike Doom3, Prey features a fare share of outdoor environments as well.  We ran these Prey benchmarks using a custom recorded timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" graphics mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

By now we're probably sounding more than a bit repetitive, but the results are what they are.  Once again, the new GeForce 7950 GT finished in-line with our expectations as they relate to the GeForce 7 series and the Radeons were a bit faster overall.  The 256MB Radeon X1900 XT and GeForce 7950 GT were evenly matched here though, with only a couple of frames per second separating the two cards at either resolution.

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Overclocking the 7950 GT

For our next set of performance metrics, we spent a little time overclocking the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme using the clock frequency slider available within NVIDIA's Forceware Rel. 90 drivers after enabling the "Coolbits" registry tweak.

Overclocking the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme
(Fast 3D Video Card) + Overclocking = Even Faster Card

To find the card's peak core and memory frequencies, we slowly raised their respective sliders until we begun to see visual artifacts on-screen while running a game or benchmark, or until our test system was no longer stable.


XFX GeForce 7950 GT  Overclocked Speeds: 596MHz Core / 791MHz (1.58GHz DDR) Memory
XFX GeForce 7950 GT  Stock Speeds: 570MHz Core / 730MHz (1.46GHz DDR) Memory

GeForce 7950 GT Stock Speeds: 550MHz Core / 700MHz (1.4GHz DDR) Memory


XFX GeForce 7950 GT  Overclocked Speeds: 596MHz Core / 791MHz (1.58GHz DDR) Memory
XFX GeForce 7950 GT  Stock Speeds: 570MHz Core / 730MHz (1.46GHz DDR) Memory

GeForce 7950 GT Stock Speeds: 550MHz Core / 700MHz (1.4GHz DDR) Memory

The XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme proved to be a decent overclocker, despite the fact that the card is equipped with a passive cooler and is already overclocked from the factory. When all was said and done, we were able to take the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme up from its default GPU and memory clocks of 570MHz and 730MHz to 596MHz / 791MHz.

While we had the card overclocked, we re-ran a couple of benchmarks to see what kind of performance we had gained.  Performance in the F.E.A.R benchmark went up by 2 frames per second to 44, and the Prey benchmark went form 49.8 to 53.7, and increase of about 7.8 %. In fact, overclocking the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme gave it an edge over the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT in the Prey benchmark -- something it didn't have while running it is default configuration.

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Power Consumption and Acoustics

We have a few final data points to cover before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming using a power meter, and also took some notes regarding their noise output and temperature. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used and to explain how loud the configurations were under load. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption here, not just the power being drawn by the video cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption, Acoustics & Temperatures
It's All About the Watts and Decibels

Although it has higher GPU and memory clock speeds, and double the amount of frame buffer memory, the GeForce 7950 GT consumed only slightly more power then the 7900 GT.  We suspect that a tweaked PCB and the lack of a cooling fan drawing power are the reasons for the 7950 GT's relatively low power consumption numbers

And as far as noise concerned, the particular GeForce 7950 GT we tested didn't make any.  As we've mentioned, the XFX GeForce 7960 GT 570M Extreme is passively cooled, so there were no fans or moving parts on that card that would generate any noise.

To monitor the card's temperature we enabled the GPU monitor built-into the Forceware Rel. 90 drivers and ran a few benchmarks. According to the temp monitor, the XFX GeForce 7960 GT 570M Extreme ran at temperatures between 45'C and about 65'C in our test system, but we should note these results were recorded with our system's side panel removed.  When we first began testing in a closed case, the system actually shut down during our first run of 3DMark06. Suspecting the card had overheated, we removed the side-panel and tried again, and the card made it through all of our tests and overclocking experiments just fine.  We also experimented with the case sealed after we were done with our benchmarks, but the card didn't exhibit any heat-related problems to speak of the second time around.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In general the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme was slightly faster than a reference GeForce 7950 GT, thanks to its marginally higher GPU and memory clock speeds.  In terms of the GeForce 7950 GT's performance versus the other members of the GeForce 7 family and ATI's current Radeon X1900s, the results are mixed.  Considering its specifications, the new 7950 GT falls in line where you'd expect it to, behind the more expensive GeForce 7900 GTX and ahead of the 7900 GT.  In comparison to the Radeons, the GeForce 7950 GT competed well against the similarly priced 256MB Radeon X1900 XT, losing in the majority of our benchmarks by only a small margin.

With the new GeForce 7950 GT, NVIDIA has successfully fleshed out their GeForce 7 series line-up with strong products at virtually every single price point, from the sub-$100 7300 to the flagship 7950 GX2.  While its performance wasn't dominant in comparison to the similarly priced Radeon X1900 XT, the GeForce 7950 GT still has its advantages.  For one, we doubt you're ever going to find a passively cooled X1900 card anytime soon, and there is no completely practical multi-GPU option for the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT.  Users looking to run dual-256MB X1900 XTs can do so in a dongle-less mode and lose the super-AA performance advantages offered by ATI's compositing engine, or run the card alongside a 512MB CrossFire Edition X1900 XTX and end up with half of the master card's frame buffer disabled.  Either option isn't ideal.  A pair of passively cooled 7950 GTs running in SLI mode however, would scale very well and they wouldn't generate even the slightest bit of noise. That's a compelling configuration option in our book, even if XFX ends up being the only company with a passively cooled offering. We were relatively impressed by the GeForce 7950 GT, especially in the configuration presented to us by XFX. We're giving the XFX GeForce 7950 GT 570M Extreme a solid 8.5 on the Heat Meter.

   

  • Very good performance
  • Passively Cooled!
  • 512MB Frame Buffer
  • $300 price-point
  • SLI Ready
  • Decent Overclocker
  • HDCP Ready
  • Not as Fast as the 256MB Radeon X1900 XT

 

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