The past few months have been relatively peaceful in the graphics scene. What with both ATI and NVIDIA having released their mainstream and lower end products a few months back, marking the end of the graphics lifecycle for the current generation. Going by the cyclical nature of this industry, the chipmakers are probably prepping enhancements to their existing products and unsurprisingly, the rumors have started to appear, with Digitimes quoting an unconfirmed date of November 12 for the next update of NVIDIA's GeForce 8 mid-range products, codenamed G92. For enthusiasts, it's time to start second guessing the likely performance of these new GPUs compared to the incumbents.
No doubt, we can assume that ATI is working hard to massage its product lineup into a more palatable form, especially with its painful lack of a high-end contender to match NVIDIA. Meanwhile, we have taken the opportunity of this lull in graphics development to get our own testing completed for all contemporary graphics chipsets available now. Since this period is arguably a transition phase, with DirectX 10 still in its infancy, we have included both the GeForce 7 and 8 series from NVIDIA, along with ATI's Radeon X1000 and HD series in this graphics benchmarking comparison. Hopefully, our benchmarks will help you decide which graphics card best suit your needs now. So without further ado, we'll start with the major chipsets of the last generation, NVIDIA's GeForce 7 and ATI's Radeon X1000 series.
Personally, we feel that those two words best sums up the two different approaches taken by the two major graphics companies for the GeForce 7 and the Radeon X1000 series of graphics products. While NVIDIA further consolidated its position by building on the architecture of the successful GeForce 6, ATI went through a major architectural overhaul that eventually culminated in a production delay, with the end result the R520 debuting as a huge and comparatively warmer GPU that had the performance but couldn't compete in other ways with the earlier released G70 that was relatively cooler, cost less to manufacture and most importantly, were widely available in stores at a far earlier time frame.
Widely anticipated, the R520 was released months after the G70. Supply was limited compared to the various GeForce 7 models already on retail shelves, making it in essence, a disappointing paper launch. On paper however, it was a rather impressive piece of engineering, with many new innovations like its ring bus memory architecture, a new ultra threaded shader engine, advanced HDR rendering and full Shader Model 3.0 support. A subsequent refresh, the Radeon X1900 series (using the R580 core) solved some of these issues and significantly improved the performance but the initial delay meant that ATI had a difficult task ahead recapturing the market with its expensive albeit powerful cards. NVIDIA had the upper hand when it came to sales figures and more misery was to follow for the red team. That about sums the events involving that generation of GPUs, so here's a rundown of the more commonly sought after cards in the retail market and their key specs:-
|GPU/VPU||Core Code / Manufacturing Process||Vertex / Pixel Shader Unit Config||Clock Speeds (Core/Memory)||DDR Memory Bus|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 1GB||Dual G71 (90nm)||2 x (8 / 24)||500 / 1200MHz DDR||2 x 256-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB||G71 (90nm)||8 / 24||650 /1600MHz DDR||256-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT 512MB||G71 (90nm)||8 / 24||550 / 1400MHz DDR||256-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS 256MB||G71 (90nm)||7 / 20||450 / 1320MHz DDR||256-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT 256MB||G73 (90nm)||5 / 12||560 / 1400MHz DDR||128-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS 256MB||G73 (90nm)||5 /12||400 / 800MHz DDR||128-bit|
|NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256MB DDR2||G73 (90nm)||5 / 8||Mid-performance variant: 450 / 800MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB DDR4||R580+ (90nm)||8 / 48||650 / 2000MHz DDR||256-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1950 XT 256MB||R580 (90nm)||8 / 48||625 / 1800MHz DDR||256-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1950 PRO 256MB||RV570 (80nm)||8 / 36||575 / 1380MHz DDR||256-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1950 GT 256MB||RV570 (80nm)||8 / 36||500 / 1200MHz DDR||256-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1650 XT 256MB||RV560 (80nm)||8 / 24||575 / 1380MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1650 PRO 256MB||RV530 (90nm)||5 / 12||600 / 1400MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1300 XT 256MB||RV530 (90nm)||5 / 12||500 / 800MHz DDR||128-bit|
|ATI Radeon X1300 PRO 256MB DDR2||RV515 (90nm)||2 / 4||600 / 800MHz DDR||128-bit|