Right after ATI's 'product refresh' rejuvenating their entire graphics card series, NVIDIA moved in fast and furious to tweak their performance series lineup. With a wide performance and price berth between the GeForce 7600 GT, GeForce 7900 GT and the GeForce 7900 GTX, last week's launch of the GeForce 7900 GS and GeForce 7950 GT has definitely helped a certain extent to bridge the gap. Since these new offspring are practically based on the GeForce 7900 GT with just a few tweaks, the original variant would soon cease to exist. Given the US$199 price point of the slightly crippled GeForce 7900 GS with one less operating quad and performance close to its US$270+ predecessor, consumers have a lot more to cheer about than grieve of the GeForce 7900 GT's departure.
In fact to fill the void between it and the enthusiast class GeForce 7900 GTX, today NVIDIA is making available a speedier version of the GeForce 7900 GT, which is what the GeForce 7950 GT is about at the US$299 price point. The 'new' GeForce 7950 GT maintains the exact same GPU architecture as the departing GeForce 7900 GT with 8 vertex shaders, 24 pixel pipelines and 16 raster operator units (ROPs), but is now clocked higher at 550MHz for the core with its massive 512MB frame buffer running at 1400MHz DDR. While we acknowledge that's making good use of a successful SKU to deliver more appropriate variants for the ever-changing market, we don't fancy the confusing product matrix. Lined up in ascending performance, NVIDIA's updated high-end segment consists of the GeForce 7900 GS, GeForce 7950 GT, GeForce 7900 GTX and the GeForce 7950 GX2. Still, beware of the lingering GeForce 7900 GT till the stocks deplete from retailers.
Physically, the GeForce 7900 GS, GeForce 7900 GT and the GeForce 7950 GT are virtually indistinguishable from one another if they're not labeled. The only sure way to identify them is to install them into a system with the most updated drivers. Not surprising since all three are based on one design, right down to the cooler with a variable speed fan, and even have the same peak power consumption of 82 watts. A close look at the PCB rear revealed some minor changes to the power delivery components of the GeForce 7950 GT card to better support its higher capacity memory devices as well as faster default clock speeds. It's not of any significance, but for those interested, here are the photos:-
The GeForce 7950 GT however, has one other design specification that was left optional for the GeForce 7900 GS and GT versions:- Full HDCP compliance. Instead of leaving the implementation to the vendors, the GeForce 7950 GT SKU is required to have the HDCP encryption keys in the EEPROM and that's a mandatory requirement laid down by NVIDIA (thankfully). With all modern GPUs having the capability to support the HDCP encoding encryption standard used with DVI or HDMI interfaces to link up with digital A/V components when outputting high definition protected movie content (such as those on Blu-ray or HD DVD), it's a shame that only a handful of graphics cards now have been endowed with the HDCP encryption keys to make the link a reality. The counterargument is of course that the protected HD content is non-existent until today, but this is an endless chicken and egg debate that would be more fruitful to discuss in a separate article. Lets move on with comparison and test setup details on the next page.