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MSI GeForce NX7600GT-VT2D256E MSI GeForce NX7600GT-VT2D256E: MSI's mainstream product looks like an enthusiast product, but where will the performance lie?
Date: August 23, 2006
Written By: Huy Duong

It's every gaming enthusiast's dream to own the latest and greatest for their PC. Be it a high speed CPU, a feature laden motherboard or a mega pixel pushing video card, when it comes to framerates, money is no object. Unfortunently for most of us, money is an object so either we break the bank now and not upgrade for 15 years, or buy something a little more modest and budget for the coming upgrade cycles.

Due to the reasoning above, manufacturers don't really make big money on $500 video cards since not that many people buy them. The real money comes from businesses and OEMs buying integrated or budget solutions, as well as home users spending something in the $150 to $200 range. The sheer volume of purchases is what makes this category so profitable.

MSI GeForce NX7600GT-VT2D256E

Today we'll be looking at the MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256E, aka, MSI's GeForce 7600GT. The card takes dead aim at the highly coveted sub $200 market and is designed to be the replacement for the GeForce 6800GS. Despite the mainstream price, MSI does include some enthusiast minded enhancements to their product to stand out from the rest.

The card arrived in a good sized box, with the card surrounded by a cutout mold of foam for this specific card. This in turn has a hard, packaging film to hold the pieces in place. I hope the foam has some antistatic properties as no antistatic bag can be found.

Other than the card, we received a fairly basic package, which includes an instruction sheet, driver CD, case badge, two D-Sub to DVI converters and a VIVO cable package. No games are included here and to be truthful, we haven't been all that impressed with many bundled games anyhow as they would be useful for demonstrating video cards of two generations earlier.

The MSI NX7600GT is built upon the 90nm manufacturing process and features 12 pixel pipes and 5 vertex shaders. The newer G71 GPU that the 7600GT is based off of will run cooler, and consume less power than previous cards within the same class. As with many of their products, the card is built using a bright red PCB.

MSI exceeds NVIDIA specifications with their 7600GT, and does so under their warranty. The NX7600GT is default clocked at 580MHz core and 1500MHz memory. Compared to cards that strictly follow the reference design, MSI has a speed advantage, at least on paper. The NX7600GT uses 256MB of Infineon GDDR3 with a 128-bit memory interface, all of which is cooled by a huge cooler.

The die shrink makes for a much cooler card, but MSI still designed their NX7600GT with a massive two slot cooler. Despite appearances, it isn't really that loud and thanks to some heatpipes, the cooler proves to be very efficient at wicking away heat. Under load, our sample never passed 53°C. Naturally, the main drawback of such massive cooling is the card will occupy two slots. If you have more than one PCI device on a five expansion slot motherboard, having two of these cards plus that one PCI card will be the limit of your upgrades.

On the output side of things, the NX7600GT offers two DVI as well as VIVO. PureVideo Technology allows for High-Definition H.264, MPEG-2 and WMV hardware acceleration, but this particular model does not support (HDCP). At the time of this writing, it's not essential, but it will become an issue once Vista hits the street.

Gaming Performance

Operating System: Windows XP Professional (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 2
Processor: AMD X2 3800 (2.0GHz)
Motherboard: ASUS A8N32-SLI
Memory: 1024MB Corsair 3200XL Pro (2-2-2-5)
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Card name: MSI NX7600GT (NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT)

We'll be using FRAPS to record framerates in all our tests, playing the game as anybody would (trying to stay alive), firing weapons, dodging attacks and so on. Unlike our past video game tests, all benchmarks will be done with the audio "on", as we're trying to illustrate real gaming experiences, and I doubt any of our readers mute the audio during gameplay. A reference design 7600GT and a HIS X1800GTO will be used to compare. The monitor used is a Dell Ultrasharp 2005FPW 20" Widescreen LCD. All games were played in widescreen mode.

Test Software will be:

Doom 3 - Making good use of the BFG, rocket launcher and plasma gun (the most graphically intense weapons), we'll be kicking ass on the Enpro level and trying not to let the robot score all the points

Half Life 2: Lost Coast A short 10 minute game demo utilizing HDR in the Source engine, Lost Coast requires you to have a recent card to see all the visual goodness. Starting at the bottom of the stairs, we worked our way up to the chapel above, shooting the combine on the way and admiring the view.

F.E.A.R. Certainly not the prettiest game in the bunch used here, but if you want a good scare then this game can provide it. The lighting and shadows (if you have a machine capable of it) all add to the atmosphere. We ran around part of interval 03, after escaping the fire in the warehouse.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted NFS: MW features a lot of particle effects and reflective surfaces, along with an HDR filtering effect that provides some very nice visuals. We tricked a Lamborghini Murciélago and went for a blast around town avoiding the traffic and police.

Battlefield 2 - We tested the gameplay on the Songhua Stalemate map with 15 bots. This map features a lot of greenery and water areas, as well as lots of hills and buildings which makes the fighting tight and the views expansive, all of which gives your graphics card a challenge.

The driver settings were manually configured for Anti-Aliasing at 4x and Anisotropic Filtering set to 8x. Image quality was configured for "Quality". All games were set to their highest playable game settings for best possible image quality unless otherwise stated.

Doom 3 - 1680x1050

Frames Per Second

All three cards provide a similar gaming experience, as all three are very playable at these settings. To think that $400 cards barely made 1280x1024 playable a few years ago shows how far technology has come. The X1800GTO is the fastest of the bunch if discussing pure numbers, but as you can see, not anything tangible.

Doom 3 - Image Quality

7600GT 4xAA/8xAF Left, X1800GTO 4xAA/8xAF Right

Some of the IQ screenshots are from Scott's review, but the image quality between both 7600GTs are identical. I've always said Doom 3 was a little on the dark side, therefore AA and AF isn't all that important in a game such as this, but as noted by Scott, our senior reviewer who has compared the 7600GT and X1800 GTO previously, the 7600GT is a little sharper overall. I also find a bit more of a "washed" feel with the ATI products in the X1K family.


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