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EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO SLI
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Date: Jan 24, 2007
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications, and Bundle

As enthusiasts, we'd all love to own a killer quad-core powered rig complete with a healthy amount of RAM, super-fast hard drives, and a pair of NVIDIA's flagship GeForce 8800 GTX cards pushing the pixels. The kind coin required to assemble a system like this puts them well out of reach for the majority of us, however, hence the immense popularity of more affordable, mainstream products like the one we're going to talk about today, EVGA's e-GeForce 7950 GT KO.

As the newest member of the GeForce 7 family, the GeForce 7950 GT has a lot going for it. The GPU offers all of the features of its more expensive sibling, the GeForce 7900 GTX, and arguably more thanks to the full HDCP support that comes courtesy of the necessary crypto-ROMs. EVGA has taken the 7950 GT, and cranked things up a notch by goosing the card's GPU and memory frequencies, offering a lifetime warranty, and throwing in a nice assortment of accessories and software.  We took a couple of EVGA's e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards for a spin and have our findings laid out on the pages ahead. It turned out to be pretty good ride...

         

EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO
Features and Specifications
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 esktop 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


Software/Game Bundle
._Driver CD
._Hitman: Blood Money

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

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

 


   

EVGA includes a well-balanced group of accessories and software with their e-GeForce 7950 GT KO. Along with the card itself and an obligatory driver / utility CD, EVGA throws in a basic user's manual, an S-Video cable, an HD Component Output dongle, a 6-pin PCI Express power adapter, and a pair of DVI-to-DB15 monitor adapters. The utilities contained on the driver CD include trial versions Snapstream Beyond Media and Ulead DVD Movie Factory, and a second CD bundled with the card included a full-version of the game Hitman: Blood Money. Hitman: Blood Money may not be a cutting edge title, but it was very well received in the gaming community and garnered numerous high ratings in various reviews. Kudos to EVGA for bundling in a game that's worth playing.

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The e-GeForce 7950 GT KO

Save for the custom decal affixed to its cooler and its GPU core and memory frequencies, EVGA's e-GeForce 7950 GT KO doesn't stray from NVIDIA reference design one bit.  The card is built upon a standard green PCB and looks unassuming in today's world of gigantic dual-slot coolers and 10" PCBs.

      

NVIDIA's reference specifications for the GeForce 7950 GT call for a 550MHz GPU clock with 512MB of 700MHz GDDR3 RAM. EVGA didn't go too overboard raising the clock speeds for this "KO" Edition of their 7950 GT, but they did goose the GPU and memory frequencies by 10MHz and 20MHz, respectively. The resulting 560MHz GPU and 1.44GHz (effective) memory speeds will give the card a slight performance advantage over run of the mill GeForce 7950 GT cards.

      

Due to the fact that the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO is based upon NVIDIA's G71 GPU, the card features 24 pixel shader pipelines, 16 ROPs, and 8 vertex shaders. In the shadow of the recently released GeForce 8 series, the 7950's specs may not seem impressive, but this card is plenty powerful enough for the majority of PC gamers. Plus, the fact that the card is single-slot, doesn't require an inordinate amount of power, and is priced below $250 make it an attractive mid-range option.

Of course, the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO is SLI capable too, as is evident by the edge connector at the top of its PCB. In fact, we'll be testing this card in single- and dual-card configurations throughout this article.

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Our Test Systems and 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

OS -
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 v6.11


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.

In both singe- can dual-card SLI modes, the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO falls in line right where you'd expect, just ahead of a standard GeForce 7950 GT and just behind the 7900 GTX. The Radeon X1950 XTX in single-card and CrossFire modes outpaces the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO, but the X1950 Pro fell way behind in 3DMark06.

 

The same trend holds true in the individual Shader Model 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0 tests. The 7900 GTX's similar GPU and memory configuration, albeit with higher clock frequencies, give it an edge in performance. The Radeon X1950 Pro's 36 shader pipes aren't enough to catch the 7950 GT KO, however.

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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.

In both single-card and dual-card SLI configurations, the EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO proved to be an excellent performer in Half Life 2: Episode 1. The card(s) produced playable framerates at both resolutions with 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled. Scaling wasn't great at 1280x1024 in SLI mode in this game, and the X1950 Pro CrossFire setup actually pulled ahead, but once the resolution was increased to the 1600x1200, the 7950 GTs jumped out in front of the Pros by a sizable margin.

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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 EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards also performed quite well in our custom FarCry benchmark. In single-card mode, they outpaced the Radeon X1950 Pro by a couple of frames per second at both resolutions. In dual-card SLI mode, however, the 7950s fell just shy of the mark set by Radeon X1950 Pro CrossFire rig. Our test machine was somewhat CPU limited in this benchmark in the multi-GPU configurations though, which explains the tight grouping and relatively high framerates put up by all of the systems.

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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.

F.E.A.R. proved to be a strong point for the EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT KO card(s). In single-card mode they e-GeForce approached the performance of a Radeon X1950 XTX and handily outpaced the X1950 Pro. And things only got better in dual-card SLI mode. With a pair of e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards installed, framerates scaled nicely. In fact, at 1280x1024 the 7950 GT SLI configuration was faster than a pair of X1950 XTX cards running in CrossFire mode, and the 7950's only trailed by 3 FPS at 1600x1200. Conversely, the Radeon X1950 Pro CrossFire rig scaled poorly and lagged behind the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO rig by a significant margin at both resolutions.

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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.

The results reported by our custom Prey benchmark somewhat mirror those of F.E.A.R. on the previous page. In this test, the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards came close to, but trailed the Radeon X1950 XTX slightly at both resolutions. The Radeon X1950 Pro couldn't quite keep up, however.

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Overclocking the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO

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

Overclocking the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO
(Fast 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.


EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT  Overclocked Speeds: 582MHz Core / 765MHz (1.53GHz DDR) Memory
EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT  Stock Speeds: 560MHz Core / 720MHz (1.44GHz DDR) Memory

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

 


EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT  Overclocked Speeds: 582MHz Core / 765MHz (1.53GHz DDR) Memory
EVGA e-GeForce 7950 GT  Stock Speeds: 560MHz Core / 720MHz (1.44GHz DDR) Memory

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

When all was said and done, we were able to increase the GPU core and memory clock speeds on the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards running in SLI mode to 582MHz and 765MHz (1.53GHz), respectively. With the card's overclocked, we re-ran a couple of high-res benchmarks, namely F.E.A.R. and Prey, and saw marginal performance increases of about 2.2% to 2.5%.

Please keep in mind, however, that it is more difficult to overclock two graphics cards running in an SLI configuration.  With a single card installed, in our test system, we were actually able to bump the clock speeds up a little farther, to 588MHz and 776MHz.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: EVGA's e-GeForce 7950 GT KO was a strong performer throughout our entire battery of benchmarks. In single-card mode, the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO was consistently faster than the Radeon X1950 Pro and it trailed only slightly behind the more powerful GeForce 7900 GTX. A pair of e-GeForce 7950 GT KO cards running in SLI mode, however, obviously offered even better performance. But due to the superior scaling in some games, the performance of two of these cards running in SLI-mode was actually better than the more expensive Radeon X1950 XTX CrossFire system.

We know Windows Vista and its promise of ultra-realistic DirectX 10 games are just around the corner, but that doesn't stop up from really liking the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO. For about $245 on-line, it's hard to deny the overall value offered by the e-GeForce 7950 GT KO. For that money, you get a slim card that offers all of the features and performs at nearly the same level as a GeForce 7900 GTX, but with a quiet cooler, that'll use up only a single slot and won't require a monstrous supply of power. And a pair of 7950 GT's running in an SLI configuration is also a compelling solution. User's could run a pair of these cards in SLI mode for performance on-par or somewhat better than a GeForce 8800 GTS in the majority of today's games, without having to sacrifice any additional expansion slots and with the added benefit of being able to run more than two displays. Of course, the 8800 GTS would be less expensive and it offers DX10 support, but current owners of a single 7950 GT or budget conscious gamers who would also like to run multiple displays should consider running a 7950 GT SLI configuration a viable option. And due to its well-balanced bundle, lifetime warranty and competitive price, EVGA's e-GeForce 7950 GT KO is one of the better 7950 GT cards on the market. 

  • Strong Performance
  • Affordable
  • Good Bundle
  • Single-Slot
  • Relatively Quiet Cooler
  • DX10 Is Almost Here

 

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