First Look: New nVidia-Based Cards Hit Every Price Range

At a Glance
  • PNY GeForce 7900GTX OC Limited Edition

    PCWorld Rating
  • BFG Technologies GeForce 7900 GT OC

    PCWorld Rating
  • XFX GeForce 7600 GT Video Card (256MB, PCI Express x16, Dual DVI)

    PCWorld Rating

New graphics boards based on nVidia's latest crop of chips offer something for just about everyone. There's an ultra-high-end card for big spenders, an inexpensive power board for serious speed enthusiasts, and a fast mainstream product for generalists. I examined three shipping products using the chips, and got some interesting results.

Big Shooters

You obtain more than just the oversize two-slot board in PNY Technologies' $525 GeForce 7900 GTX Limited Edition package. The company throws in a handy tool kit, a 500MB flash drive, and a felt-lined metal carrying case (with a too-flimsy plastic lid). The extras are fun--though getting a game or two would have been nice--but the real reason to buy a card like this is performance, and here the 7900 GTX's results were mixed.

That's not to say it isn't fast--it is--but in our tests the 512MB board rarely outperformed a previously tested XFX GeForce 7800 GTX XXX Edition; admittedly, however, the new card costs considerably less than the outrageous $750 commanded by that hard-to-find board. The 7900 GTX did outrun ATI's $600 Radeon X1900 XTX on most tasks, though rarely by a significant margin. In the end, PNY's card didn't blow by the competition, but the 7900GTX did earn our top performance rating for the Power category.

Specifically, in tests performed at 1600 by 1200 resolution with antialiasing turned off, the 7900 GTX beat competing boards (often by only a few frames per second) on five of our tests and tied on three others with the 7800 GTX. The 7800 GTX won a single test, as did the X1900 XTX. Test results were comparable with AA turned on. The 7900 GTX's less-than-astounding performance on our tests isn't entirely its fault--these high-end cards are so fast that they're starting to outpace the rest of our test systems in some benchmarks.

One notch below the 7900 GTX is BFG Technologies' $330 GeForce 7900 GT OC, with 256MB of memory. BFG doesn't offer much in the way of extras (the only included app is GameDrive 9.0), but for the budget-minded performance hound, this card is a solid bet. In our tests it generally outperformed the competing XFX GeForce 7800 GT ($300) and Asus Radeon EAS X1800 XL ($380).

The 7900 GT outpaced both cards in our Battlefield 2, Half Life 2, Quake 4, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Doom 3, Halo, and Far Cry tests performed at 1600 by 1200 with antialiasing turned off (it tied the 7600 GT in Unreal Tournament 2004). Tests results were comparable at the same resolution with AA turned on.

King of Mainstream

Both the 7900 GTX and the 7900 GT OC are quite fast, but my favorite is XFX's GeForce 7600GT XXX Edition. This $209 card comes with XFX's excellent manuals and accessories, plus one slightly dated game (Starship Troopers), but the main draw here is the speedy little single-slot card.

The 7600GT sped away with nearly every test we ran, earning the top performance score possible in our mainstream category. Its performance was notably impressive versus such comparable products as eVGA's $179 eGeforce 6800 GS and PowerColor's Radeon X1600 XT Bravo Edition ($169). XFX's card was a clear winner at both our test resolutions (1024 by 768 and 1600 by 1200) and with antialiasing turned on or turned off.

For example, in our Battlefield 2 tests performed at 1028 by 768 with AA turned off, the 7600GT posted 77 frames per second, compared to 70 fps for the 6800 GS and 68 fps for the X1600 XT. At 1600 by 1200 it notched 58 fps, compared to the 6800 GS's 42 fps and the X1600 XT's 34 fps.

With its most recent product launch, nVidia has rolled out chips to suit just about everyone. If you've waited to buy at the high end, the 7900 boards won't disappoint you, though if you already own a 7800 board, you should skip this upgrade. I preferred the 7600GT, which offers top-of-its class performance at a reasonable price.

BFG Technologies GeForce 7900 GT OC

Geared toward performance-minded buyers on a budget, this card is light on extras--but the performance won't disappoint.
Street: $330
Current prices (if available)

PNY Technologies GeForce 7900 GTX Limited Edition

Speedy card isn't dramatically faster than its predecessor, but it costs less and is easier to find.
Street: $525
Current prices (if available)

XFX GeForce 7600GT XXX Edition

Excellent performance and a reasonable price make this board a solid choice.
Street: $209
Current prices (if available)
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At a Glance
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