Graphics Cards Guide

MSI NX7600GS-T2D256EH review

MSI NX7600GS-T2D256EH (GeForce 7600 GS 256MB)

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More NVIDIA Mid-Range Goodness

More NVIDIA Mid-Range Goodness

The ebb and flow of fortunes of the two dominant players in the graphics scene continues to entertain onlookers, thanks to the rapid thrust and parry between the participants. First blood of the year went to ATI, which snatched back the performance champion crown from NVIDIA with its Radeon X1900 series. Then, at CeBIT, in front of a captive audience from around the world, NVIDIA responded with a slimmer (due to a successful transition to the 90nm manufacturing process) and leaner GeForce 7900 GTX that somewhat restored parity between the two fierce rivals in the never-ending battle royale at the high-end segment. The older GeForce 7800 series looks to suffer the same forgotten fate as ATI's Radeon X1800 series, destined to be phased out in favor of its replacements. Already, their retail prices compare unfavorably with the new upstarts.

The GeForce 7900 series brings unprecedented graphics performance from a card bearing the NVIDIA logo. Recent developments have also revealed NVIDIA's increasing focus on making SLI even more indispensable, what with Quad SLI and now we have just learnt of SLI physics, which aims to offload physics calculations to the idle GPU. However, not everyone can afford a SLI setup and so it is the other card introduced at CeBIT, the promising GeForce 7600 GT that seems to be what the majority could afford comfortably. This new mid-range card hits the sweet spot coming in at just below US$200. Its naming convention suggests that it should succeed the best-selling GeForce 6600 GT and we certainly liked what we saw in our review here. However, it seems that NVIDIA is not done yet. Building on its relatively new 'GS' suffix, which has so far yielded a great price performance contender in the form of the GeForce 6800 GS among a few others, but it now has a new product with the 'GS' suffix. This is none other than the GeForce 7600 GS 256MB, a slightly lower tier product after the new GeForce 7600 GT.

Featuring the same G73 core found in the GeForce 7600 GT, the GS version is basically a reduced version of the GT, adhering to the "build once, reuse in many" principle. The core has been clocked slower at 400MHz and it uses cheaper DDR2 memory, hence the RAM is clocked at a modest 800MHz DDR. More importantly, the standard vanilla GeForce 7600 GS in the retail market has been equipped with a passive cooler. That seems to indicate that NVIDIA intends the GeForce 7600 GS to play a starring role in systems that have low noise tolerance, like media center PCs. Furthermore, NVIDIA emphasizes the PureVideo support present in the GeForce 7600 GS and backs it with new drivers that add support for high definition H.264 hardware decode acceleration on GeForce 6 and 7 series GPUs, making it even more desirable for media center PCs.

MSI managed to send us its new GeForce 7600 GS – the NX7600GS-T2D256EH in advance, which should reassure consumers that like many of NVIDIA's recent product launches, this card should make the retail shelves on time. Before we reveal the details of this card, let's take a look at what MSI has conjured up and go through a brief comparison of the GeForce 7600 GS with some of its older and existing competitors:

Comparing the NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS
GPU/VPU NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GS 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT 128MB ATI Radeon X1600 XT 256MB ATI Radeon X1600 PRO 256MB
Core Code G73 NV42 NV43 RV530 RV530
Transistor Count 177 million ~190 million ~145 million 157 million 157 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.09 0.11 0.11 0.09 0.09
Core Clock 400 MHz 425MHz 500MHz 590MHz 500MHz
Vertex Shader Pipelines 5 5 3 5 5
Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines 12 12 8 12 12
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) 12 12 8 4 4
Raster Operator units (ROP) 8 12 8 4 4
Z Compare Units 16 12 8 8 8
Memory Clock 400MHz (800MHz DDR2) 500MHz (1000MHz DDR3) 500MHz (1000MHz DDR3) 690MHz (1380MHz DDR3) 390MHz (780MHz DDR2)
DDR Memory Bus 128-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 12.8GB/s 32.0GB/s 16.0GB/s 22.1GB/s 12.5GB/s
Ring Bus Memory Controller - - - 256-bit (for memory reads only) 256-bit (for memory reads only)
PCIe Interface x16 x16 x16 x16 x16
Molex Power Connectors NIL Yes NIL NIL NIL
Multi GPU Technology Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI) Yes (CrossFire) Yes (CrossFire)
DVI Output Support 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link 2x Single-Link 2x Single-Link 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link 1x Dual-Link 1x Single-Link
Street Price US$129 - US$149 ~ US$199 ~ US$140 ~ US$180 ~ US$120