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Appeared on: Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Inno3D 7900GS


1. Introduction

A faster and better VGA card is something we all are interested in. After having played around with my brand new MSI 7600GT, nVidia announced a new series of cards, aimed at the middle of the order users, the 7900GS series. Of course, I was not very happy that the 7600 series was about to be overtaken so quickly, but at the same time, I was curious to find out how the new 7900GS series would stack up against my 7600GT card. Inno3D, kindly offered us the opportunity to test their version of nVidia's 7900GS platform. First, let's find out a bit about Inno3D

- InnoVISION Multimedia Company

InnoVISION Multimedia Limited was established in 1998 in Hong Kong. The manufacturing operations have been set up in Shenzen, China since 1990. In this short period of time, Inno3D has focused on manufacturing OEM/ODM products, as well as contracting out extensive production and research facilities to specialist companies. Inno3D's objective is to deliver the ultimate multimedia experience to the masses of PC users and multimedia professionals, at an affordable price. InnoVISION was then created, to build brand awareness for the continuously growing product range, in order to meet the fast growing market.

InnoVISION's product scope comprises the successful Inno3D brand - a comprehensive variety of 3D graphics board accelerators, the InnoDV - series of digital video/TV capture and editing products, InnoAX - high-end sound / audio cards, and EIO - advanced peripherals.

- Inno3D 7900GS

Inno3D uses the nVidia's 7900GS series reference board. Below, you can find a comparison between the various GeForce 7 series cards, noting their differences in specs, since we will be comparing them with real life gaming tests.

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

Geforce 7900GS Chipset Features

Next Generation Super Scaler GPU Architecture
Delivers over 2x the shading power of previous generation products, taking gaming performance to extreme levels.

Full Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 Support
The standard for today's PCs and next generation consoles enables stunning and complex effects for cinematic realism.

NVIDIA® CineFX® 4.0 Engine
Delivers advanced visual effects at unimaginable speeds. Next generation shader architecture with new texture unit design streamlines texture processing for faster and smoother gameplay.

NVIDIA® SLI Technology
NVIDIA SLI technology is a revolutionary platform innovation that allows users to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple NVIDIA graphics solutions in a single system with an NVIDIA nForce SLI MCP.

NVIDIA® Intellisample 4.0 Technology
The industry’s fastest anti-aliasing delivers ultra-realistic visuals with no jagged edges, at lightning-fast speeds. Visual quality is taken to new heights through a new rotated grid sampling pattern, advanced 128 tap sample coverage, 16x anisotropic filtering, and support for transparent super-sampling and multisampling.

True High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Rendering Support
The ultimate lighting effects bring environments to life for a truly immersive, ultra-realistic experience. NVIDIA's 64-bit texture implementation delivers state-of-the-art high dynamic-range (HDR) visual effect through floating point capabilities in shading, filtering, texturing and blending.

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.

NVIDIA® UltraShadow II Technology
Enhances the performance of bleeding-edge games that feature complex scenes with multiple light sources and objects.

NVIDIA® ForceWare® unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
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.

OpenGL® 2.0 Optimizations and Support
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for Open GL applications.

NVIDIA® nView Multi-Display Technology
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexible and control for multiple monitors.

PCI Express® Support
Designed to run perfectly with the next generation PCI Express bus architecture. The new bus doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X delivering over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.

Users, before buying such high end cards, should be aware of the system requirements:

1. Microsoft Windows® 2000/XP
2. A PCI-Express compliant motherboard with full size expansion slot
3. Installation requires CD-ROM or DVD-Rom drive
4. A 6-pin PCI Express supplementary power connector
5. DVI or VGA compatible monitor
6. Minimum of 500-600W Power Supply with a minimum of +12V @ 30A for all PC components in SLI mode


2. The Retail package

Inno3D sent us the retail version of the inno3D GeForce 7900GS. The card can be found at the retail price of US$200~$250. Prices may vary depending on your region.

The retail package didn't have any games included, just the bare necessities:

Looking at the card, it is average in size, so it should fit in the PC without too many problems. The card needs PCI-E power from an SLI certified PSU with at least a 600W rating, if you decide to go SLI. The card has two (x2) DVI-D outputs and one S-Video output.

What stands out, is the rather small looking cooling system. It comprises a copper heatsink and a fan. The overall system seems to work just fine, effectively dissipating heat while at the same time keeping noise levels at acceptable levels.

Click to enlarge!

On the back, there is a sticker with the card's serial number and other information:

Lavasys Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, can provide us with more details regarding the 7900GS, like the process technology and GPU/Memory clocks:

As we can see, the memory is clocked at 662 MHz, while the GPU at only 468 MHz. Since Inno3D uses Hynix memory modules (rated 700 Mhz) , we can expect good over-clocking possibilities:


3. Tests - 3D Mark05

We compared the Inno3D 7900GS against several cards we had in our labs. Our PC setup was as follows:

While for benchmarking we used:

- 3D Mark 05 v1.2.0

3D Mark 05 is a well know benchmark utility that represents the combination of CPU+VGA strength. The Inno3D 7900GS produced a high score of 6279 marks, the highest among all the cards, and with quite a difference.

- 3D Mark 06 v1.2.0

Passing to 3D Mark 06, the Inno3D 7900GS again produced the best performance with 4069 marks.


4. Tests - FEAR

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple, eliminate the intruders at any cost, determine the origin of the signal, and contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which is what we used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and for VGA card, except for AA/AF and Soft Shadows, which were enabled in the second run of tests. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

At 1280x960 without AA/AF, both the 7800GT and 7900GS produced very similar framerates. It seems that the F.E.A.R engine does have a maximum frame rate...

Enabling AA and AF produced a performance hit on all the VGA cards. The Inno3D 7900GS was least affected, dropping only 16 frames per second, when my 7600GT had a whole 21 frames per second reduction...


5. Tests - PREY

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an other, worldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mother-ship orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is a serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on the Quake 3 engine and will no doubt keep you awake many nights...

For all tests, we used hocbench, which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the Inno3D 7900GS scored very high, at 66.50 FPS! After enabling 4x Anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering, making the 3D hunt of monsters an enjoyment visually, performance drops down to 45.10 FPS.


6. Tests - Splinter Cell

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged.

Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.

As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphical engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR along with other new effects. We again used hocbench with its GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:

With SM 1.1 enabled, the 7900GS once again produced the highest framerate with 53.03 FPS.

Enabling SM 3.0, results in a drop of 10 FPS, down to 43.25.

Lastly, after enabling 4x AA and 16x AF, the performance hit is very slight, just 3FPS. The game is still quite playable at 40.56FPS!


7. Tests - Half Life 2

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the console to run each card with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we opted for 1280x1024 resolution with HDR shadows fully enabled.

HDR feature makes all VGA cards drop in performance, but the 7900GS makes a difference with 84.8 FPS. Enabling 4x AA and 16x AF, leads to a drop for the 7900GS down to 64.91 FPS.


8. Tests - GTR 2

Extending the ground-breaking physics engine found in GTR, GTR 2 takes the thrill of driving to new heights.

GTR 2, which is the official simulation of the FIA GT championship, features more than 140 high detailed cars and 34 different track-layouts in a hyper realistic racing world with breathtaking real-world-like effects.

With a revolutionary Driving School Mode, GTR 2 will teach everybody how to become a real race driver.

All settings inside the game options (Video, Audio, Game) were maxed out. We recorded a race and we used the same reply procedure, in car view, with FRAPS (120seconds log) to record the performance of each card.

Since the game doesn't offer a way to set the exact AntiAlising and Anisotropic Filtering setting, we set them either with Nvidia or ATI Catalyst control panel, as mentioned in each chart.

At 1280x1024, Inno3D 7900GS, MSI 7600GT and Asus 7800GT had very close performance, probably GTR-2 engine has a maximum of 70fps...

Enabling 4xAA and 16xAF, doesn't give much performance hit, as we expected. Again 7900GS is the faster VGA card.


9. Overclocking

As most with enthusiasts, we were very curious to see how far the Inno3D 7900GS would overclock with its simple fan cooling system and the Hynix chipsets. The stock settings for the 7900GS are 450MHz core and 660MHz memory clock:

Using coolbits registry "hack", we enabled the overclocking features on nVidia's control panel. Next step was the usual trial and error procedure. Raise the frequency, run 3D Mark 06 to stress the VGA card, if all goes well then try raising a bit more, until you get an unstable system. Our best trials reached 522 MHz core and 800 MHz memory, a 16.00% (core) and 21.21% (memory) improvement, much better than what we had with our 7600GT. Below are the settings used for all OC benchmarks:

Usually, good overclocking does affect the gaming experience, but we wanted to find out by how much exactly:

Looking at the results, the performance difference in all cases is around 13.50% (higher), which leads to improved performance. The highest difference came with Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, a whole 7FPS difference. Again, overclocking is something that should be done with care, as you could damage your hardware.

As a last test, we tried to monitor the GPU temperature from idle to full load (3D Mark 06), using Lavasys Everest Ultimate Edition 2006:

The lowest temperature (idle) was 49° C, while the maximum was 70° C (full load). The cooling system seems to work just fine.


10. Conclusion

After our suite of tests, we are confident that the Inno3D 7900GS is a good product. What does it offer? Very good 3D gaming performance, up to 1280x1024 resolution with many 3D person shooters and racing games. And we still haven't told you the best part ... the price! While not many online stores sell the card, yet, you can expect the card to be priced around US$200~$250.

The dual DVI output is nowadays standard, but we would also like to see HDMI, something that will be needed, unless you have a High Definition setup, like we have for our Blu-Ray tests.

The board's clock frequencies for the GPU and Memory are what nVidia sets for its reference boards, which means there is room for some hefty overclocking. Our tests showed that in the best case, you can boost performance by up to 17% with specific games. Compared with a 7600GT card, it showed much better performance.

If you want to play games at higher resolutions (for example 1600x1200), a good idea would be to buy another 7900GS card and have a SLI setup. Of course, at that price (US$400), there are other cards available... BUt for overall performance and price, we were more than satisfied, and recommend this card for mid range users who want an powerful yet affordable solution.

Performance
Overclocking
Bundle
Value for money


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