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MSI GeForce 7900 GT card

NX7900GT-T2D256E, to be precise

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First UK Review It has now been a few days since Nvidia announced its latest range of graphics cards and stocks are already running low at most retailers. In Nvidia's defence, there were cards available to buy from day one, although some online retailers charged a fair amount extra for the cards. The first board to arrive at Reg Hardware's office is MSI's not-so-snazzily named NX7900GT-T2D256E, based on the GeForce 7900 GT GPU...

MSI_7900GT_3d

Let's start by taking a look at what has changed from the 7800 series to the 7900 series. The least noticeable change - but an important improvement nonetheless - is that 7900-class GPUs are manufactured using a 90nm process. This results in cooler-running chips that draw less power, which in turn means that they can be clocked faster. It also means that there's no need for big noisy coolers, as ATI has found out with the X1900 series which can get very noisy.

Amazingly, the transistor count has been lowered as well, from 302m to 278m. That's not what you'd expect - normally the transistor count goes up in a new and faster part. For the 7900 GT, the stock clock speeds have increased quite substantially. The core has been bumped up from 400MHz to 450MHz - the same as most 7800 GTX retail cards. The vertex engine is running even faster: 470MHz, compared to the 7800 GT's 440MHz. Memory speeds have also been increased, from an effective 1GHz to 1.32GHz, which is also a fair speed increase.

The improvements don't stop there. Nvidia has increased the number of pixel shaders from 20 to 24, and the vertex shader count has been increased from seven to eight. This puts the 7900 GT ahead of the 256MB 7800 GTX, something that is likely to upset a lot of 7800 GTX buyers as the 7900 GT is rather cheaper.

The rest of the 7900 GT specs are much the same as those of the 7800 series, and I won't bore you with all the details. However, Nvidia is touting the 7900 series as having been designed for what it calls XHD - Extreme High Definition - gaming. I have to say that I'm not quite following Nvidia's reasoning here. Although the 7900 GT is more than able to run games at high resolutions, most affordable TFT screens - read that as 17 and 19in models - are limited to 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. Sure, you can get high-resolution widescreen displays cheaper than ever, but the quoted price of sub-$400 for a 1,680 x 1,050 display might be true in the US, but you can't find them for that on this side of the pond.

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