The one-upmanship practiced by both ATI and NVIDIA in their rivalry in the discrete graphics arena is best exemplified by the heated exchanges and sometimes downright dirty tricks used by the chipmakers to show that they have the best GPU. We have all heard of how the chipmakers 'optimize' their processors to perform better in certain benchmarks. Not to mention the bashing that goes on from both companies under the guise of presentations to the media. Blind fans of either side also worsen matters by engaging indiscriminately in flame wars on online hardware forums. Hence, attention is inevitably focused on the high-end, expensive graphics cards that many users would not end up buying anyway. For most of the bystanders that have no stakes or preferences and who are just looking to get a decent and cheap graphics card for their office applications, the entry-level budget segment is their main concern.
With its new cards in the GeForce 7 series targeted at the higher end so far, NVIDIA needed a contender at the low-end, which sell most of the cards in the market anyway. Witness the large market share controlled by Intel and its inexpensive integrated graphics solution. Despite the falling prices of its older cards like the GeForce 6600, NVIDIA required a refresh to its budget lineup that included all the new features found in the GeForce 7 architecture. Basically, a successor to its budget GeForce 6200 series was wanted. The result is the GeForce 7300 GS, which as it happens, is the company's first 90nm GPU.
The GeForce 7300 GS GPU has an impressive 112 million transistors despite its entry-level status. It just goes to show how complex graphics processors are nowadays. However, the GeForce 7300 GS only has 3 vertex pipelines and 4 pixel pipelines, which is similar to that found on the GeForce 6200. A crucial difference is that the memory bus is now 64 bits wide, unlike the GeForce 6200, which varied from 32 to 64 bits, depending on which model. Below we have included a table showing some of the key differences between the GeForce 6200 with TurboCache (TC) and the new GeForce 7300 GS:
|GPU/VPU||NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GS||NVIDIA GeForce 6200 with TC|
|Manufacturing Process (microns)||0.09||0.11|
|Core Clock||550MHz||Varies (300 - 350MHz)|
|Vertex Shader Pipelines||3||3|
|Pixel Shader (Rendering) Pipelines||4||4|
|Memory Clock||Varies (800 - 810MHz DDR)||700MHz|
|DDR Memory Bus||64-bit||32/64-bit|
|Memory Size||128 - 256MB (Up to 512MB with TurboCache 2.0)||32 - 64MB (Up to 256MB with TurboCache)|
NVIDIA's proprietary TurboCache memory technology (mentioned previously in our NVIDIA 6200 with TurboCache review ) has been updated to version 2.0 on the GeForce 7300 GS. From the looks of it, the new version is able to use a greater amount of memory from the system to complement the larger physical frame buffer found in the GeForce 7300 GS cards. Hence, the 256MB version of the GeForce 7300 GS can have up to 512MB of memory when you factor in the TurboCache memory technology (for which half of that is taken from the system memory). Unfortunately, the 64-bit on-board memory bus is still a potential albatross because despite being capable of using faster DDR2 and DDR3 memory (up to 256MB onboard), the narrow and limited local memory bandwidth (6.4GB/s) would definitely have an effect on its performance despite the presence of TurboCache technology.
Of course, much of the extra circuitry on the GeForce 7300 GS is needed to enable the advanced features found in the GeForce 7 series that are not present in the previous generation of the low-end. This includes 64-bit texture filtering and blending, support for High Dynamic Range rendering and transparent multi-sampling and super-sampling, to name but a few.
According to NVIDIA , the PureVideo technology enables the GeForce 7300 GS to 'decode H.264, MPEG2 HD and VC1 at 1080p resolutions' and 'run H.264 video at 1080p,' making the GeForce 7300 GS a great fit for the demands of media PC systems, especially if it lives up to those claims. Given that even the GeForce 6150 Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) is capable of delivering these standards when coupled with a powerful CPU, it shouldn't be difficult for a discrete GeForce 7300 GS to keep up with these claims with a decently powered CPU. Sounds like an ideal card to be had in an Intel Viiv-certified system and it probably won't be long before we see such. To make things more palatable, the GeForce 7300 GS also comes in low-profile versions that should be more appropriate for the smaller casings favored by media PC setups.
Leadtek has kindly sent us a retail unit of its GeForce 7300 GS – the Leadtek WinFast PX7300 GS TDH 256MB DDR2. One of the better models in the series, the Leadtek can have a maximum frame buffer size of 512MB with TurboCache involved and to top it off, it is a low profile version which has an added advantage as mentioned above. Before we see how it stacks up against the other budget cards, let us take a look at its technical specifications on the following page.