New graphics champ: WinFast PX 7800 GTX TDH, NX7800GTX

Packed with just over 300 million transistors, NVIDIA's latest high-end graphics chip is the GeForce 7800 GTX. Our tests of Leadtek and MSI boards based on the new chip indicate it's the fastest graphics unit we've ever seen.

Running at 430MHz, the new 7800 GTX chip is clocked a bit slower than the GeForce 6800 Ultra - NVIDIA's previous performance champion. NVIDIA boosted the new chip's power in a couple of ways. It added more pipelines for processing pixel and vertex shaders - short programs that the graphics chip runs to create realistic 3D graphics. The 7800 chip has eight vertex shader pipelines and 24 pixel shader pipes, whereas the chip in 6800 Ultra boards has six vertex pipes and 16 pixel pipes.

NVIDIA's engineers also analysed how those pipelines work and optimised them to run typical game code faster than before.

The Leadtek and MSI GeForce 7800 GTX cards that we tested set new speed records in almost all of the PC World Test Centre's gaming tests. In our Doom 3 test with anti-aliasing, both cards posted frame rates of 65 and 42 frames per second, respectively, at 1024x768 and 1600x1200 resolution. By contrast, ATI's Radeon 850 XT Platinum Edition chip, managed only 52 and 31 frames per second, respectively, in those same tests.

In 3DMark2005, the Leadtek posted 7703 with default settings and 5880 with maximum detail settings, while the MSI posted 7754 with default settings and 5891 with maximum settings.

Just as we were going to print, Gigabyte also supplied us with two of its 7800 GTX cards, which are identical to the Leadtek and MSI cards. We ran these cards in SLI mode to obtain a score of 10329 with default settings in 3DMark2005 and 9375 with maximum settings. Currently, all the 7800 GTX-based cards we have seen are reference boards from NVIDIA. Vendors, at the moment, will only be able to differentiate themselves with their software bundles and utility software. Both the Leadtek and MSI cards come with their own overclocking utilities, which allow you to increase the GPU and memory clocks through Windows. The Leadtek card also ships with a couple of games - including Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - as well as Ulead DVD VideoStudio 8SE DVD and DVD MovieFactory 3 SE software packages. The MSI card also ships with one game - Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. The 7800 GTX chips also support HDTV output and both cards ship with component output cables.

Verdict The GeForce 7800 GTX is no doubt the fastest graphics chip on the market. As all cards are currently reference boards from NVIDIA, if you're in the market for one of these cards then which brand you buy should be determined by price and bundling.

Leadtek WinFast PX 7800 GTX TDH

Price: $899 Distributor: BCN Technology Phone: (02) 9648 0888 URL: www.bcntech.com.au Specifications: 24 pixel pipelines; eight vertex shader pipelines; 430MHz GPU clock; 1200MHz memory clock; 256MB DDR3 memory; 256-bit memory interface; SLI.

FEATURES: 8 VALUE: 6 OVERALL: 7

MSI NX7800GTX

Price: $949 Vendor: MSI Computer Phone: (02) 9748 0070 URL: www.msicomputer.com.au Specifications: Identical to the Leadtek (above).

FEATURES: 8 VALUE: 5 OVERALL: 6

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