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Appeared on: Thursday, November 16, 2006
Foxconn 7900GS

1. Introduction

Foxconn recently entered the VGA market, offering the latest from Nvidia, with the 7900GS and 7950GT series. In this review, we will be taking a look at the Foxconn 7900GS, a proposal aimed at entry level users.

- Foxconn 7900GS

Foxconn uses the Nvidia 7900GS series reference board. Below is a comparison chart for the GeForce 7 series, showing the main differences, which we will compare with real life gaming tests.

GeForce 7 Series GPUs Model Comparison

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
NVIDIA® Intellisample™ Technology
NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Support
NVIDIA® TurboCache™ Technology
Effective Memory Interface
0.09 µ
0.09 µ
0.11 µ
0.09 µ
0.09 µ

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 supersampling 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.

Before buying such high end cards, users 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. Retail package

- Retail package

Foxconn sent us the retail version of the Foxconn GeForce 7900GS with the codename FV-N79SM2D2. The card can be found at a retail price of US$190~$200. Prices may vary depending on your location.

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

The card is mid-sized, so it will fit comfortably in a mid ATX box. The card needs a PCI-E power connection in order to operate. Remember, you need at least a 600W SLI certified PSU if you decide to go SLI. The card offers two (x2) DVI-D outputs and one S-Video output.

Click To enlarge!

Looking at the layout of the card, we mainly notice a not so big heatsink and fan, the heatsink made of copper. The cooling seems to work fine, providing adequate cooling while at the same time keeping noise levels at acceptable levels.

Foxconn has included in the retail box, a useful USB 3D gamepad:

The memory is clocked at 660MHz, while the GPU at only 450MHz. The 7900GS series uses Hynix memory modules (700Mhz rated) , so we can expect good overclocking possibilities:

3. Tests

- Tests

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. Both the Inno3D and Foxconn 7900GS had similar scores, while a 7900GS SLI setup really boosts performance.

- 3D Mark 06 v1.2.0

Passing on to 3D Mark 06, the Foxconn 7900GS maintains a similar standing and registers 4146 marks.

4. F.E.A.R.

- F.E.A.R

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 used in all our tests. We maxed all details for CPU and the VGA card, except for Soft Shadows and AA/AF. Using Forceware 3D Control panel, we enabled AA/AF as shown in each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

At 1280x960 without any AA/AF, the 7900GS is very fast generating 70FPS, while it won't drop below 35FPS, making it very playable.

Enabling AA and AF hits performance with all VGA cards. Both the Inno3D and Foxconn 7900Gs have an almost straight line drop in FPS, and with 16x AF and 8xS AA enabled, manage 25FPS (average). The 7900GS SLI has around double the framerate in all cases.

5. Prey

- Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership 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 certainly 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 with all results posted below:

Without enabling AA/AF, the order remains the same as we've seen all along so far. After enabling Anti-aliasing and Anisotropic filtering, performance drops. At 16x AF / 4x AA, the 2 7900GS cards produce better than 40FPS performance, making it very playable.

It looks like our SLI setup didn't perform as well as it should, reporting low FPS after enabling AA/AF. We don't know the cause of this problem. It could be an issue with drivers or the game itself.

6. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

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 1 and 3, HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench that offers all benchmarking options with an easy GUI.

We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below, using SM1.1

The performance difference between the two 7900GS cards is negligible. SLI offers 2x performance.

Enabling SM 3.0, gives a performance hit of 10FPS, dropping the average framerate down to 43.25. Again, SLI is 2x faster.

Lastly, after enabling various AA and AF modes, we can see the performance differences between the various cards. At the maximum possible quality, 32FPS for the Foxconn 7900GS card is about average, SLI has the clear advantage.

7. Half Life 2 Episode 1

- Half Life 2 Episode 1

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 console to run each card with different visual quality settings. For all tests we enabled 1280x1024 with HDR shadows fully enabled. Unfortunaly, SLI results are not displayed, since HL2 refused to work under SLI mode, despite the build-in profiles and our efforts...

At 1280x1024, both 7900GS showed very good performance with 84FPS average performance.

Enabling AA/AF with HDR does have an effect on performance. With the highest possible visual quality settings, 7900GS keeps slight above 30FPS, so maybe its a good idea to lower to 4xAA.

8. Company Of Heroes

- Company Of Heroes

In Company of Heroes, gamers will experience the journey of the brave men of Able Company in a deep single-player campaign that begins with the invasion of Normandy through their fight across Europe, all set against the most dynamic battlefield ever seen in a game.

Company of Heroes' completely destructable environment means no two battles ever play out in the same way. Advanced squad AI delivers startling new realism and responsiveness, bringing soldiers to life as they interact with the environment and execute advanced squad tactics to eliminate the opposition forces.

The game offers impressive graphics. We used the build-in benchmark for all tests. Due to various performance visual settings, we choosed four quality modes (Ultra, High, Medium, Low) for 1280x1024 resolution. Each quality mode settings are posted above each graph for your reference.

- Ultra Mode

At this mode, all quality settings maxed out and Antialising is enabled. This is the worst case scenario for enjoying COF visual effects.

- High Mode

At this mode, all quality settings maxed out except Antialising which is disabled.

- Medium Mode

At this mode, most quality settings set to medium, while others are disabled.

- Low Mode

At this mode, most quality settings set to low, while others are disabled.

After have seen all the settings we used for our tests, lets see how each card performed at Company Of Heroes Benchmark with Ultra Quality settings.

Both 7900GS cards performed exactly the same. The SLI setup has a small advantage, but with lower (?) "lowest" frames per second, according to the build-in benchmark.

Passing from Ultra to High (anti-aliasing disabled), accelerates performance to almost 40FPS, while SLI gives exactly the same. Disabling several visual improvements, give much higher FPS, with the 7900SLI setup really fly up.

9. BattleField 2142

- BattleField 2142

The year is 2142, and the dawn of a new Ice age has thrown the world into a panic. The math is simple and brutal: The soil not covered by ice can only feed a fraction of the Earth's population. Some will live, most will die. In Battlefield 2142, players will choose to fight for one of two military superpowers in an epic battle for survival, the European Union or the newly formed Pan Asian Coalition.

Armed with a devastating arsenal of hi-tech assault rifles, cloaking devices and sentry guns, players will also do battle using some of the most imposing vehicles known to man. Massive battle Mechs wage fierce combat on the ground, while futuristic aircraft rule the skies. When facing one of these new behemoths, players will need to use their wits and an arsenal of new countermeasures like EMP grenades to level the playing field.

Team play features allow up to 64 players to enter the action on the front lines as part of a formal squad, or work behind the scenes in Commander Mode to direct the strategic assaults of their teammates. With in-game success, players increase their rank and unlock awards, including new weapons, medals and more, delivering the most comprehensive and flexible persistence in the Battlefield universe to date.

In order to benchmark graphic cards, we recorded our own timedemo using the build-in command (demo.recordDemo). Then we used Guru3D BF2 benchmark modified in order to support BF 2142. We used the following quality settings, anti-aliasing is disabled inside game, we use Forceware AA/AF to enable disable such rendering modes:

Since the game counts all frames, including loading screens, using Excel we removed them so all numbers represent pure gaming experience. Note that all test performed at 1280x1024 with default camera view.

Without enabling AA/AF, we can see the performance of each card at 1280x1024. The difference between both 7900GS cars is minimal.

Enabling AA/AF affect the performance of each VGA card. In order to have a playable frame rate, you should keep anti-alaising to 4x.

10. Overclocking

- Overclocking

As most enthousiasts, we were very curious how well Foxconn 7900GS would overclock. With stock settings, the Foxconn 7900GS runs at 450MHz core and 660MHz memory clock:

Using coolbits registry "hack" we enabled overclocking features at Nvidia's control panel. Next step was to test and trial procedure, rise up frequency, run 3D Mark 06 to stress VGA card until we had a safe state. Our best trials came down to 525MHz core and 800 MHz memory, a 16.89% (core) and 21.21% (memory) improvements:

Usually overclocking does affect gaming experience, but we had to find out how much exactly:

By looking at the results, the performance differences are noticable (14.42% for 3DMark06, 18.25% for Prey and 31.89% for COH). Imagine a 7900GS SLI overclocked how would perform...Lastly, GPU runs hot enough, at idle mode reaches 53 celcious, while at full load, tops 70 celcious.

11. Conclusion

The Foxconn 7900GS comes to complete the entry level market for VGA cards. The card is based on Nvidia's reference 7900GS card series, which, is a good thing. In fact, we found its performance was very good in all tests and moreover, its overclocking capabilities were impressive. We had almost a 17% improvements in 3D Mark 06 benchmarks and more importantly, in real life gaming. The card comes with a retail price of US$190~200, making it a best buy for entry level users.

The overall design of the card is typical for this category. The big copper fan in the centre does its job and keeps the card cool (70°C full load), and is very quiet. The double DVI output is nowadays a standard, however HDCP is not supported, an important feature if you plan to playback High Definition content (HD DVD, Blu-Ray) without any problems. The card is rated Vista Ready, which is a plus for those looking for a solution that will cover future needs.

Moving on to performance, overall, the Foxconn 7900GS card performed almost identically to our already tested Inno3D 7900GS card. Enabling AA/AF is no trouble for this card, if you remember to keep AA either at 2x or 4x, depending on the game and screen resolution. For higher resolutions or AA rendering modes, you need to install a second 7900GS card in SLI mode, that in most cases doubles the performance, according to our tests. For that setup, you would need ~US$400, which is slightly above what a 7950GT card costs.

Lastly, we have to comment on the good retail package from Foxconn. The 7900GS comes with all the necessary cables, RestoreIT v7.0 & VirtualDrivePro v10.0 retail versions and a USB gaming pad. No retail game is included, which helps keep the retail price down, and for which reason, it gets our "Best Buy Award"

Value for money

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