NVIDIA's GeForce 7950 GX2 & Forceware Rel. 90
Our Summary & Conclusion
Performance Summary: The new GeForce 7950 GX2 is undoubtedly the fastest, most powerful graphics adapter available. In every test we ran, with the exception of a couple that were CPU bound, the GeForce 7950 GX2 handily outpaced a GeForce 7900 GTX and a Radeon X1900 XTX. The 7950 GX2 was also a bit faster than a pair of Radeon X1900 XTs running in CrossFire mode in a few of our F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 tests, but it couldn't quite catch a pair of GeForce 7900 GTXs running in SLI mode. The GX2 performs much like a pair of GeForce 7900 GTs running in SLI mode, but the GX2's larger frame buffer will give it an edge over a pair of 7900 GTs clock-for-clock in many situations.
We were very impressed by the GeForce 7950 GX2, like many of the products NVIDIA has released as of late. We hesitate to call the 7950 GX2 a "single card" solution, because quite frankly it is a pair of cards bolted together that happen to use a single slot. But the GeForce 7950 GX2 is a single graphics adapter no matter how you slice it. Although it's powered by dual-GPUs and leverages NVIDIA's SLI technology, it's compatible with multiple platforms and will work with most motherboards that feature a PEG slot, provided the motherboard's BIOS has been flashed to support the GX2's proprietary PCI Express switch. And on top of the broad compatibility, the GeForce 7950 GX2 is an excellent performer. NVIDIA will still be limiting Quad-SLI support to its own nForce platform. For now though, Quad-SLI is not supported in the DIY segment and will only available from select system builders. This will likely be changing in the coming weeks, however. And there is nothing in the drivers to prevent users from slapping two GX2s into a single system now. It's just not officially supported yet.
While we're talking about the drivers, we also have to give NVIDIA praise for the Forceware Rel. 90 suite. The new Vista-like interface took some getting used to, but after a couple of hours exploring we preferred the updated look of the new interface hands down. We also like the fact that NVIDIA has exposed all of PureVideo's advanced features without the need to purchase a separate decoder. The new noise reduction, edge enhancement, and inverse telecine algorithms incorporated into the PureVideo engine also worked well, and gave NVIDIA an edge over the competition in the HQV benchmark and in our CPU utilization test.
The GeForce 7950 GX2 will be available immediately from multiple outlets for approximately $599 to $649. Higher clocked cards like the XFX GeForce 7950 GX2 570M XXX we looked at here will likely be priced at the upper end of the spectrum, however. That's not exactly cheap, but considering the GX2 features a pair of G71 GPUs and 1GB of fast GDDR3 memory, that price is a bit more justifiable in a sea of $500, single-GPU, 512MB graphics cards.
With its extreme performance, new driver suite with enhanced PureVideo capabilities, and broad platform compatibility, the GeForce 7950 GX2 is sure to get many hardcore enthusiasts worked up into a frenzy. We can't wait to get a second one in the lab for some Quad-SLI testing. As it stands now, a single GX2, and especially a higher clocked model like XFX's 570M XXX Edition is a very compelling upgrade to any single graphics card currently available. We're giving the XFX GeForce 7950 GX2 570M XXX Edition a strong 9 on the Heat Meter and a rare Editor's Choice award.