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Appeared on: Tuesday, September 19, 2006
MSI NX-7600GT


1. Introduction

Gaming is something that most users sooner or later get involved with. Most of use like to test and play all the latest games available, which often requires hardware updates if we're going to enjoy the game. This happened to me recently, and after installing the latest games, I realized I had to upgrade my VGA card with something faster, but at the same time affordable. Personally, I don't want to spend a fortune on high end cards, regardless of the fact that they provide superb gaming experience.

After searching around for a while, I decided to purchase the an NVidia 7600GT card, the MSI NX7600GT-T2D256EZ. This is the top card in the 7600GT series with 256MB of DDR3 memory and at the same time, passive cooling, a neat feature to keep noise levels down. How this card will perform under the various benchmark software and of course games, will be unveiled later on in our review. For the time being, lets see my new VGA card and all its features.

- MSI NX7600GT-T2D256EZ

MSI offers various solutions based on the NVidia 7600GT series, but they all use the same chipset (Nvidia G73). The main differences, concerns the cooling method (passive or fan), the chipset/memory clocks, and if the card supports HDCP (VT2D256E-HD).

Below are the various logos which also show card's main features:


GeForce 7 Series GPUs Model Comparison

Feature
GeForce 7950 Models
GeForce 7900 Models
GeForce 7800 Models
GeForce 7600 Models
GeForce 7300 Models
Graphics Bus Technology
PCI Express
PCI Express
AGP 8X/PCI Express
AGP 8X/PCI Express
PCI Express
Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
SM3.0
NVIDIA® Intellisample™ Technology
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Y1
Y
Y
Y
Y2
High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Support
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
NVIDIA® TurboCache™ Technology
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
Y
Effective Memory Interface
512-bit
256-bit
256-bit
128-bit
128-bit3/64-bit
Memory
GDDR3
GDDR3
GDDR3
GDDR3/DDR2
GDDR3/DDR2
Process
0.09 µ
0.09 µ
0.11 µ
0.09 µ
0.09 µ
RAMDACs
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz
400MHz

MSI Vivid Video Technology

MSI Vivid is a nice tool that can enhance "image quality". It can help users get better image quality in viewing " Digital photos, document & games ". As MSI explains:

  • Colorize your vision when browsing digital photos!!!
  • Sharpen characters edge!!!
  • Enhance contrast when playing game!!!
  • For more information about MSI Vivid, refer to MSI's website.

    Geforce 7600GT Chipset Features


    Full Microsoft® Direct® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
    The standard for today's purchase and next-generation consoles, enables stunning and complex effects for cinematic realism. NVIDIA® GPUs offer the most complete implementation of the Shader Model 3.0 feature set -- including vertex texture fetch (VTF) -- to ensure top-notch compatibility and performance for all DirectX9 applications.

    Ture High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Rendering Support
    The ultimate lighting effects bring environments to life for a truly immersive, ultrareailstic
    experience. Based on the OpenEXR technology from Industrial Light and Magic, NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effects through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing, and blending.

    NVIDIA® CineFX® 4.0 Engine

    Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 enables stunning and complex special effects. Next-generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

    NVIDIA® SLI Technology
    Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU speeds. Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 enables stunning and complex special effects. Next-generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

    NVIDIA® PureVideo Technology
    The combination of high-definition video processors and decoder software delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for all video content to turn your PC into a high-end home theater.


    Adaptable Programmable Video Processor
    PureVideo's programmable technology adapts to new video encoding formats as they are developed to provide a future-proof video solution.

    High-Definition H.264, MPEG-2 and WMV Hardware Acceleration
    Smoothly playback H.264, MPEG-2, and W MV video including WMV HD with minimal CPU usage so the PC is free to do other work.

    Advanced Spatial Temporal De-Interlacing
    Smoothes video and DVD playback on progressive displays to deliver a crisp, clear picture that rivals high-end home theater systems.

    High-Quality Scaling
    High-quality scaling technology delivers a clear, clean image at any window size, including full-screen HDTV resolutions up to 1080p.

    Video Color Correction
    Corrects differences in color characteristics of RGB monitors and TV monitors through NVIDIA PureVideo's ProcAmp Color Controls setting, such as PureVideo s ProcAmp Color Controls setting, such as ensures videos are not too dark, overly bright, or washed out regardless of the video format or display.

    Integrated HDTV Encoder
    Provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution.

    128-Bit Memory Interface
    Delivers more memory bandwidth and efficiency to power the latest games and applications at blazing speeds.

    NVIDIA® UltraShadow II Technology
    Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games, like id Software's DOOM 3, that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects.

    Full-Speed 32-Bit Color Precision
    Delivers increased image quality with no performance compromise.

    NVIDIA® ForceWare® Technology
    Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability, and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare ensures the best out-of-box experience for every user and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce GPUs.

    Before buying such high end cards, users should be aware of the system requirements:

    Intel Pentium IV (and above), AMD K8 (and above) or compatible with PCI Express slot
    Minimum 128MB of system memory
    Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
    Interactive Program guide requires Internet connection for listing updates
    400 watt Power supply (550W is recommended for SLI mode), is highly recommended for system stability.


    2. Retail package

    The MSI NX-7600GT was bought at the retail price of ~€220 (including VAT). Prices may vary depending on your region.

    The retail package was complete and included:

    The bundled CD contains the following

    The card is average sized, meaning it will fit without too many problems in your standard ATX box. There is no need for additional power supply, but if you install two of these cards, just remember to have enough PSU power to cover both. The card offers two (x2) DVI-D outputs and one S-Video output.

    Looking at the card, what stands out is the small in size, passive cooling system, made from copper to dissipate heat more effectively from the main Nvidia chipset.

    On the back, there is the other half of copper cooler:

    After removing the passive cooling system, we can finally see the heart of NX-7600GT:

    The G73 core on the GeForce 7600 GT measures just 125 x 125mm, in contrast to the original G70 core which measured 334 x 334mm. The 90nm die process has reduced overall heat production and allows higher frequencies. Lavasys Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 gives us further details about chipset features:

    MSI has used Infineon DDR3 memory chips, rated at 700Mhz


    3. Tests - 3DMARK

    Our main goal in this test was to compared MSI's 7600GT with several previous Nvidia cards, like the 6600GT and 7800GT, all with passive cooling. Our PC setup was as follows:

    While for benchmarking, we used:

    3D Mark 05 v1.2.0

    3D Mark 05 is a well known benchmark utility, that represents the combination of CPU+VGA strength. MSI's 7600GT produced a quite high score of 5033 (we double checked to be sure), while the ASUS 7800GT was lower, with 4811 marks.

    Passing on to 3D Mark 06, both the 7600GT and 7800GT were close, with scores just above the 3200 mark. The ASUS 7800GT had a slight advantage of 51 marks.


    4. Tests - FEAR

    F.E.A.R is a well known 3D shooter, with a demanding graphics engine. The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which is used in all our tests. We maxed all details for the CPU and VGA card, except for AA/AF and Soft Shadows, which were enabled in the second run. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

    The MSI 7600GT managed to deliver 53FPS average (28 lowest) at 1280x960, without AntiAlising or Anisotropic filtering enabled. If you decide to improve the visual quality by enabling them, you will notice a performance drop down to 32 FPS (18 lowest).


    5. Tests - PREY

    Prey is currently, one of the hottest 3D shooters, with impressive graphics. For all our tests, we used hocbench, which offers all benchmarking options with a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

    s

    Without enabling AA/AF, both the 7600GT and 7800GT are very close, at around 50FPS! After enabling 4x Anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering, performance drops down to 30.6 FPS for the MSI 7600GT.


    6. Tests - Splinter Cell

    Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, was one of the first games that used Pixel Shader Model 3.0. Again, we used hocbench, offering all benchmarking options under a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo, and all results are posted below:

    With SM 1.1 enabled, the 7600GT showed very good performance, with 40.41 FPS, leaving the 7800GT behind.

    Enabling SM 3.0, produces a performance hit, down to 30.6 FPS. The ASUS 7800GT has more power, managing to produce 32.84 FPS average.

    Lastly, after enabling 4x AA and 16x AF, both the 7800GT and 7600GT produced similar performance.


    7. Overclocking

    Like most enthusiasts, we were very curious to find out how well MSI's 7600GT would overclock, especially since it uses passive cooling. With the default settings, the 7600GT runs at 560MHz core and 700MHz memory clocks.

    Using coolbits registry "hack", we enabled the overclocking features with Nvidia's control panel, and by using the auto "find optimal" function, we got up to 586 MHz core and 760 MHz memory.

    Next step, was to use the usual trial and error procedure, where we gradually raised the frequency, ran 3D Mark 06 to stress test the VGA card until we reached the highest usable frequency. Our best effort reached 610 MHz core and 808 MHz memory, a 15.43% (core) and 8.92% (memory) improvement, not as good as we had hoped.

    By surfing around the net, we saw that the fan cooled version of this card, reached 650/810, not much better than what we had achieved. Obviously, you cannot call this card an overclocking champion.

    Usually, such small overclocking doesn't affect gaming experience, but we had to find out, so we ran one more round with all benchmarks and monitored any performance differences:

    s

    Looking at the results, we are not convinced that overclocking is worth the effort, with very little differences, especially in games. 3D Mark 05 and 3D Mark 06 are easily affected by overclocking, but we prefer to have less heat and better stability from our system. If you are that keen on overclocking, you could add a fan cooling solution to help boost overclocking levels.

    As a last note, the GPU core works at 65° C (idle) and climbs up to 78° C at full load load (ambient temperature is around 25° C).


    8. Conclusion

    After a series of tests, we were glad that we bought MSI's 7600GT series even with passive cooling. The card is able to deli ever high frames per second with all latest 3D person shooters, while at the same time, has a good balance at its purchase. The two DVI-D outputs will be useful for 30"+ LCD users, while passive cooling is effective, eliminating noise from your system.

    The 7600GT card is clocked at 560MHz core and 700MHz memory. Compared with a 6600GT series card, it offers almost twice the performance and sometimes managed to reach the 7800GT card, especially after overclocking. The maximum resolution we tested was 1280x1024, a standard resolution for the majority of 19" LCD users.

    If you want to go to higher resolutions (e.g. 1600x1200) in games, the performance would obviously be lower, so you either have to turn off AA/AF, or simply buy a more expensive card. Don't forget that this card is SLi ready, meaning if you buy two of them, you will see increased performance as well. The MSI NX7600GT-T2D256EZ is prices at ~€220 (including VAT). We recommend this card for mid range users who want an affordable but still powerful solution.

    Performance
    Overclocking
    Bundle
    Value for money


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