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Its just over a month since ATI launched their X1800XT. The X1800 was ATI's response to the very successful Geforce 7800GTX which Nvidia launched in June, and has since become a part which has proved very popular in enthusiast circles. For a very long time there were a lot of rumors that the X1800 would feature 24 or 32 pipelines when launched by ATI and completely blow the GTX away however such a part never became a reality and instead the product ATI launched was a 16 “pipeline” part with architecture and clock speeds which allowed it to exceed the performance of the 7800GTX in most titles, though not by a huge amount it has to be said.

Since then ATI have been hard at work in the driver department and two games which have benefited from the recently released Catalyst 5.11 drivers are FEAR and Quake 4. This is an indication that there is more performance to come from the X1800 in the future, however today future performance doesn’t matter as Nvidia are releasing an updated version of the GTX which is designed to make up the gap and exceed X1800XT performance levels.

So with the XT making it into retail just last week we have our first look at a retail model in the form of the Sapphire Radeon X1800XT 512mb and we take our first look at Nvidias reference model Geforce 7800GTX 512mb.

 

The Geforce 7800 GTX 512mb

 

The 7800GTX 512mb is not the smallest of cards, as soon as you remove it from the packaging you know this is a card that means business. Unlike the original GTX reference design the 512mb model uses a dual slot cooler. As far as heatsink/cooler designs go this is certainly one of the more impressive designs we've seen. The heat is absorbed by the heatsink directly under the fan and heatpipes dissipate this to the fins which are located at the left and right of the fan. Due to the positioning of the fan it pushes air across the fins to help keep them, and the card, cool.

As you can see from the above picture the GTX uses a rather meaty looking fan, due to this its initially worrying that the quiet operation of the 256model would be at risk, however im pleased to say that isn’t the case and the 512mb model is just as quiet, if not more so. In a room ambient of 27 degrees and a case temperature of 44 degrees the idle temperature of the GTX was around 50 degrees. After a testing session we checked again and the core temp had raised to 63 degrees, however the fan had remained near silent at all times.

The first thing that is obvious about the new GTX, even from reading the name is the move from 256mb to 512mb of GDDR3 memory. By removing the heatsink you can see that Nvidia are using Samsung chips and there are eight 64bit chips in use on this model.

On the reference model they are cooled by the heatsink and the thermal material used is almost fabric like, stringy and mildly sticky. It does its job well though.

By removing the cooler you can see the core of the card which is a G70 chip and additional power, through the 6pin PCIE power adapter is required. What’s also noticeable is that there is a 2nd heatsink underneath the main one which keeps some additional components cool.

The rear of the card is very similar to the GTX 256mb, you can however see the SLI connector more easily.

Connectivity is provided in the form of 2DVI connectors and the usual video out port which supports the usual standards such as s-video and HDTV out (1080i). As the GTX supports Purevideo you are guaranteed that the output quality to your display is very high quality and with additional features such as 3:2 and 2:2 pull down and advanced scaling and de-interlacing Purevideo allows even non HD source material to look great on your advanced display.

What looking at the card doesn’t tell you however are the core and memory speeds. By remaining at 24 pipelines in addition to adding 256mb to the spec Nvidia were also required to increase the core and memory speeds to attempt to pass ATI in the speed stakes. So rather than 430mhz/600mhz of the original GTX reference design we have a card which is clocked at 550mhz on the core and 850mhz on the memory. That’s right, not only have Nvidia released a card which pushes the G70 core up by 120mhz they are also bumping the memory up by a whopping 250mhz. On paper this is one hell of an increase and it is clear Nvidia are out to prove a point.

As we mentioned earlier, the GTX 512mb is based on the G70 core and so is a .11micron part with 8 vertex units and 24 pixel pipelines. This means that all of the advanced features of the original GTX are still present. The card supports Shader Model 3 and therefore HDR lighting. There is full 128bit floating point support throughout the architecture and the core and memory are connected by a 256bit bus.

Transparency Anti Aliasing (multi and super sampling) are also still present in the feature set and as well as supporting V8U8 compression the GTX also supports 3DC compression.

So that’s Nvidias Geforce 7800GTX 512mb, a very impressive product on paper I’m sure you'll agree.





Next: X1800

 

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