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MSI Geforce NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD MSI Geforce NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD: Not only does MSI's 7900GT offer compelling gaming performance, but it is also HDCP ready.
Date: October 11, 2006
Written By: Huy Duong

While the question of who's card reigns supreme at the high end is something of a back and forth swap, there's no question that for single GPUs, the 7900GTX is a speedy piece of hardware. However, such speed requires a large number of dollars to attain (). While a few enthusiasts may have that amount of money laying around, the rest of us are probably a little more concerned with the need to eat three meals a day.

Over in the sub-$200 market there are some compelling choices, but there are some who are willing to spend a few bucks more for the additional performance of cards in the sub-$300 range. The 7900GT falls under this category, specifically the MSI Geforce NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD we'll be looking at today. While the 7950GT just came out recently, the than your typical 7900GTX. However, don't let the lower price fool you as you can still get a lot of bang for the buck. Furthermore, this particular model of the MSI NX7900GT is HDCP ready.

MSI Geforce NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD

We've been noticing a trend with much of MSI's artwork lately where they seem to be moving away from the bold red colours used in the past, and more of the elegant pearl white we've been seeing lately. They could use purple for all I care, as long as the performance and price are right. For this specific model, MSI went back towards artwork for the gamer as we have a big Serious Sam toting his guns on the main box art.

The card itself is very similar physically to NVIDIA's reference sample. Of course, we have MSI's own custom artwork on the cooler, but the physical layout is identical. Unlike the reference cards, the MSI Geforce NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD is clocked at 500MHz core and 1.4GHz memory (MSI states 1.53GHz in the press package, but we did not see this). This is a significant jump in speed from NVIDIA's specs. Given that we're already at the upper ceiling of the clock speed, unlike their standard 7900GT, this model by MSI offers a bit of cooling as we'll get into later.

As most of you probably know, the 7900 family replaces the 7800 family of a year ago. NVIDIA has shrunk the fab process down to 90nm, which will result in better yields and more chips per wafer. Furthermore, there are fewer transistors now and the power draw is much lower. To put things in perspective, the 7900GT is cheaper, clocked higher across the board and uses up to 20W less power than the 7800GTX.

In the past, lower priced parts typically had features turned off or disabled. The MSI NX7900GT though is not neutered version of the 7900GTX. Like NVIDIA's top part, the number of vertex shaders and pixels per clock are identical. Basically, the card can support exactly the same hardware and software features as the more expensive 7900GTX, albeit a little slower as it isn't clocked as fast.

A quick start guide and user manual are included, though the instructions are rather basic and cover pretty much any video card. In addition, MSI tosses in the required cables, as well as two DVI-to-VGA adapters. They also include a PCIE power adapter which we think is a good thing since there are people who do not have a PSU with a connection such as this.

There are a few CDs containing drivers and software as well as the game Serious Sam II. The game isn't really cutting edge, and probably not the best title to show off the features of the product but we do find it way more fun than the King Kong title MSI has included with their other products.

The cooling fan is of the single slot variety, which is good news for those of you with cramped motherboard quarters and cannot afford to lose any PCI space. The cooler on the MSI NX7900GT-VT2D256EHD also cools the memory which the cooler on their vanilla 7900GT does not do.

For your input and output options, there is a S-Vid out, and two DVI connections for dual screen or high definition support. HDCP is still somewhat in its infancy right now since available hardware is still relatively scarce in the computer side of things. I have seen demos of what true 1080p looks like on conventional consumer TVs and it is pretty amazing. It's been discussed in the past that HDCP video cards are not true HDCP, . MSI was among the first to market HDCP ready hardware, and in addition to this 7900GT, they offer a mainstream 7600GT HDCP and a high end 7950GX2 with HDCP support.

Test Setup

Pentium 840 Extreme Edition
2x512MB Corsair XMS2 8500
Maxtor 120GB Diamondmax 7200RPM

We'll be pitting the MSI NX7900GT directly against the ATI All-In-Wonder X1900. Both video cards will be tested at default clock speeds with the latest drivers available at the time of testing.

The games to be used for benchmarking are as follows:

Battlefield 2

Half-Life 2 Episode 1

Madden 2006

Quake 4

Tomb Raider Legend

For the tests, we stuck with the one resolution of 1600x1200. The driver settings were manually configured for AntiAliasing and Anisotropic Filtering enabled (4xAA and 16xAF respectively), and set to "Quality" via the video driver's control panel. All games were set to their highest allowable game settings and patched to the latest versions (as of September 5, 2006). FRAPS was used to capture the scores illustrated in the review.

Battlefield 2

ATI X1900

Both video cards allowed for a playable experience at 16x12 at 4AA/16AF. There were some instances for both cards where the game slowed down considerably, but once we explored the map a bit, the game ran pretty well. For the most part, we maintained a 40fps+ rate which was good enough that whenever we were killed, we couldn't blame the framerates.

Image Quality

Those of you who play the game (with good hardware I might add) know that BF2 has near photo realistic models and environments. Fire and gun effects are fantastic and the MSI 7900GT allows for high quality images while keeping things playable.


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