BFG Geforce 7800 GS OC AGP Review

Author: Matt Horne
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, February 2nd, 2006
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/bfg7800gs_agp/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introduction - A New AGP Performance Powerhouse

The AGP market has been left in a state of slow decay by our beloved graphics card houses. Left to fend for ourselves, we AGP users have seen release after release of PCI-Express-only cards whizzing by, with not a peep from either ATI or NVIDIA about AGP versions of their latest workhorses -- until now, that is.

While PCI-Express is admittedly a much better bus design, not only due to the sheer bandwidth available but also because of the flexibility in graphics card configurations (SLI, Crossfire, or just a boatload of regular cards driving more monitors than you can shake a stick at), the AGP market still commands a majority -- 55% in fact, as reported recently by The Inq. Completely ignoring half of the consumers out there is not a good business plan by any measure, and we're happy to report today that NVIDIA has stepped up to the plate, and is offering an AGP incarnation of their latest graphics architecture.

This new card is being dubbed the "GeForce 7800 GS", and as the name suggests, it makes use NVIDIA's G70 GPU. As it so happens, the 7800 GS GPU is the lowest-end in the series, but it represents the highest end part that one will be able to get for the AGP platform. For those not familiar, the 7800 GTX snags the crown, and the 7800 GT rounds out the middle in this series (both PCI-E parts). The following table compares the basic technical specs between the three G70 GPUs now out in the wild:

7800 GS7800 GT7800 GTX
Vertex Pipes678
Pixel Pipes162024
ROP Pipes81616
Core Clock375 (400)400430
Memory Clock600 (625)500600
MSRP$299-$349$449$599

We can see that when going from the 7800 GT PCI-Express to a reference 7800 GS AGP, NVIDIA has dropped the core clock speed by 25 MHz, bumped up the memory clock speed by 50 MHz (100 MHz effective), reduced the number of vertex and pixel shader pipes, and very surprisingly, cut the amount of ROP pipes to half. Doing some rough calculations, we can expect a reference GeForce 7800 GS to take about a 15-20% performance hit when compared to the 7800 GT. Please note that the sample sent to us by BFG Technologies belongs to their "OC" line-up, which enjoys slight bumps in core and memory clock speeds, as well as snazzier blue PCB and cooling systems -- those are the numbers you see in brackets.

At an MSRP $100-$150 cheaper than the GeForce 7800 GT and about the same price range very close to that of AGP X800XT/XL cards, this card could very well be a winner among the AGP-using populace who wish to have a taste of a modern GPU architecture without throwing away their hard-earned cash on both a new PCI-e motherboard and video card.

The GeForce 7800 GS AGP sample sent to us is made by BFG Technologies, Inc. It is representative of a full retail boxed product, and these things are ready to ship starting today. Once again NVIDIA has executed a flawless launch, with products from licensees available on launch day. BFG is usually at the forefront of NVIDIA product launches, and this time is no exception. We'd like to thank them for providing us with GeForce 7800 GS AGP sample.

Bundle

The 7800 GS OC AGP graphics card shipped to us in an average BFG green and grey box, with picture-window view of the new AGP card. The bundle is a bit slim, but fits the price range just fine.

List of box contents:


Features

The architecture of the 7800 GS AGP features the same technology that the Nvidia Geforce 7800 GPU line included in its initial launch last year. Some of the highlights were SM 3.0, Intellisample 4.0, HDR, PureVideo and transparency adaptive multisampling and transparency adaptive supersampling antialiasing.

Below is a summary of the architectural features of the 7800 family. If you've read our 7800GTX Preview, you'll already know about some of these features. If not, we encourage you to take a closer look at the Architectural changes from the 6800 family, as well as our discussion on Intellisample 4.0, HDR, Transparency antialiasing, and PureVideo.

The architecture includes the following feature:

Test Setup

You may recall that the last time anyone's really reviewed a "new" AGP product was a while ago - for us its been over a year. Due to our time constraints and availability we did not have all the AGP variants of our cards to test against. The 7800GS is a perfect candidate to test against the ATI X800 XT, X800XL, GeForce 6800Ultra, and the 6800GT that it is slated to replace. To achieve the closest comparison possible we used a combination of results from both AGP and PCI-E platforms in order to give you some numbers to compare against some of the above mentioned cards.

While we used 2 different platforms we used the exact same CPU and clockspeeds between the two platforms. Although not a perfect comparison, the differences in performance between the AGP and PCI-E platforms will not seriously hinder your understanding of just how well the 7800GS performs. Also, those of you considering upgrading to a PCI-E platform will have an idea of just HOW well a 7800GS AGP system might perform against a similarly equipped PCI-E platform.

The test setup is as follows:

(1)

AMD 64 3700+ @ 2.7GHz
OCZ PC5000 RAM
Soltek SL-K8TPRO-939 Motherboard
Seagate Barracuda 80GB
Nvidia 6600 GT AGP
BFG 7800 GS OC AGP

(2)

AMD 64 3700+ @ 2.7GHz
OCZ PC4800 RAM
DFI-NF4 Lanparty Motherboard
Seagate Barracuda 120GB
Nvidia 6800 GT PCI-E
ASUS 7800 GT PCI-E
Sapphire X800 XL PCI-E

*All tests were run with maximum quality and detail settings*

Note: We wanted to include the 6600GT AGP card because of its relevance in today's market. MANY of you have a card of this caliber, and seeing how it stacks up against the 7800GS in high end games with high quality settings will give you a taste of just how far NVIDIA has come.

3DMark05

As you can see from the results with Fill Rate were quite good, above the X800 XL in lower resolution, but just under in the higher resolutions.

Now we see the 7800 architecture shining through as it climbs to second spot and shows a mid-point between the 6800 GT and the 7800 GT.


The 7800 GS performs well once again, although with the vertex shaders the X800 XL pulls ahead slightly in the lower resolutions and slightly lower in the higher resolutions.

Doom 3

Doom 3 shows better results with the Nvidia cards. The 7800 GS shows good results all the way to the highest resolutions.

Call of Duty 2

The performance between the 7800 GS and the X800 XL are quite similar and only start to differ in the higher resolutions, this can be attributed to the newer architecture of the 7800 GS. Also note that the 6600 GT had problems with the higher resolutions and that may explain the conflicting results shown.

Far Cry

The 7800 GS again shows good performance, just under the 7800 GT and slightly above the X800 XL.

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

The 7800 GS handles the Splinter Cell Chaos Theory benchmark quite well and shows performance similar to the 7800 GT. Also note here that the 6600 cannot handle the higher resolutions of the game and therefore could not complete the last resolution.

Conclusion

Quite simply, NVIDIA has delivered a very good product. As we can see from the results the 7800 performs around where it should in regards to the Nvidia 7800 series. While scoring slightly under the 7800 GT in all results it is just above the 6800 GT which fulfills its destiny as NVIDIA's new flagship AGP product.

The parallelism, increased performance, and new architectural changes of the 7800 series have helped to move 7800GS above the 6800 GT in our test results, if sometimes only by a small margin. As resolutions are increased and features enabled, the 7800 GS expands the gap between the two cards noticeably. The performance is very good considering that the card is priced in the lower range of Nvidia's Flagship 7800 series.

A word about the 6600 GT for the many of you already have a card of this performance class. The 6600 GT, while still a good card, can only really compare price-wise. Those of you used to the performance of the 6600GT will have noticed the huge gap in performance between that legacy card and the 7800GS flagship, especially in some tests where the results appear unplayable at all. Keep in mind that our tests are designed for the high end spectrum of cards, which means that not only is the 7800GS an excellent performer, it is a very good upgrade for AGP users who have the CPU power to take advantage of it. Owners of more powerful AGP cards may hesitate to upgrade however. In most aspects the 7800GS is a higher performer, but there are cards which have performance close enough to question this as an upgrade. If you already own a 6800GT, X850XT PE, or even an X800XL/XT you probably won't consider upgrade FROM one of those cards to the 7800GS, unless you really must have SM3.0 and transparency antialiasing. If you are considering an upgrade TO one of those performance cards, the 7800GS makes a lot of sense.

From what I have witnessed with this card, it sits quite well with Nvidia's flagship 7800 series. This is very good news for the majority of us that still use the AGP format and are not yet convinced that the move to PCI-E can yet warrant the upgrade costs involved. For the top graphic performance available for the AGP, this is the card you want. That said, keep in mind that this card would require a beefy setup, to see any real performance gains over the current crop of high end AGP cards.

And yet even with the release of the 7800GS there's still the PCI-E Upgrade conundrum. AGP is still pretty much a dead upgrade pathway - we probably won't see many more generations of AGP video cards released and buying into a high end graphics card in this platform will have to mean you are committed to keeping your system for a while yet. Keep in mind that the street price of the higher performing 7800GT PCI-E is around $300-$350, which falls in the expected range of the 7800GS AGP. This means that those who have already moved to PCI-E still get a better performance bang for their buck, and should give those considering a 7800GS upgrade or an outright system overhaul some food for thought. And that's without factoring in the 7800GT SLI upgrade pathway a little down the road.

The 7800GS should be widely available on etail and some select retail stores by Monday, February 6 for $299-349USD and roughly just under $400Canadian. We've talked to some etailers and know they will have stock to ship, so again, this is a hard launch.

This card is an amazing addition and a very welcome release for the many hardcore gamers who are still using, and committed to staying with an architecture that's seemingly been abandoned by most manufacturers. Something that many of us who have moved onto the PCI-E architecture tend to forget is that AGP is still very much a part of the consumer base. Like we said, not much more than 1 week ago there was mention of how 55% of the channel is still currently AGP (according to The Inq). And let's not forget how often Neoseeker has published a review of the latest generation PCI-E graphics card only to have the first few email feedback start with the phrases "Is an AGP version going to be released?". Well one has been released now, and for those upgrading from a mid performance card such as a 6600GT, this card is very much worth the wait.

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