Today’s trip down GPU memory lane is all about the NVIDIA 7 series that arrived on the scene in June 2005. Where previous GPU designs had heralded major innovations and the introduction of entirely new technologies, the 7 series was more of an update by comparison. The new GPU arrived with a change in nomenclature and notably a change in the way that NVIDIA graphics cards were actually launched – NVIDIA and AIB partners had products shelves on the very same day that the press embargo was lifted. Let’s look at the GPUs and cards that arrived as part of the new 7 series launch, the cards that have since proved to be popular with overclockers on HWBOT and of course, the notable scores that grace our database to this day.
NVIDIA GeForce 7: Overview
The NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX was launched on June 22nd 2005 as the company’s brand new flagship card offering. At launch the card was immediately available in the retail channel, literally the same day, which at the time was largely unheard of. This was seen as NVIDIA more or less giving ATI the proverbial finger, as previous ATI launches had tended to be prefaced with vague ‘coming soon… we hope’ messaging. The 7800 GTX was based on the G70, the successor to the NV4x series that had powered the GeForce 6 series. The change in naming scheme was apparently a marketing decision with GeForce 7 being better represented by G70 than NV47. The NV70 was largely based on the same architecture as the previous generation and the NV30 generation that preceded it. The G70 again used Shader Model 3.0 with support for the DX9.0c and OpenGL 2.1. Nothing new there. The real interest is when you consider the rendering configuration.
The G70 GPU uses a similar architecture to the NV4x, just with bigger muscles. The G70 packs 24 Pixel Shaders(twice that of the NV45), has 8 Vertex Shaders (up from 6) and most impressively, 24 texture mapping units (up from 16 on the NV45). All this additional grunt allowed users to play games like Splinter Cell and Far Cry with all the AA eye candy on full bore without sacrificing frame rates.
The GeForce 7800 GTX card (above) arrived with its G70 GPU clocked at 430MHz. In terms of graphics memory, the 256MB GDDR3 were configured 600MHz (1,200MHz effectively due to the double data rate nature of GDDR3) and used a 256-bit bus interface. Memory bandwidth hits 38.4GB/s, compared with 35.2GB/s on the GeForce 6800 Ultra for example. Cards arrived with dual DVI ports plus the still ubiquitous S-Video port. The reference card used a single slot, featured a new 6-pin power adapter and a reasonably beefy heatsink and fan combo which by 2005, was starting to look much more like a real man’s cooling solution.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the GeForce 7800 GTX at launch was the $600 USD price tag. Previous generations had drawn the line for flagship pricing at $400, so back in 2005 $600 really was considered to be pretty staggering. NVIDIA had again claimed the performance crown and knew that the best from ATI, the X850 XT Platinum Edition card, was significantly behind in terms of raw frames per second grunt. Arguably 2005 was a forerunner for the narrative we find a decade later when again NVIDIA’s substantial performance lead over its sole rival meant that consumers who want the best graphics card on the market are faced with paying higher prices than ever before. The idea of spending $1,200 USD on graphics card components for a flagship, two-card SLI configuration was actually considered somewhat ridiculous in 2005. Today, we have the NVIDIA Titan Xp which itself retails for $1,200. Ridiculous is a standard feature in 2017.
The 7800 GTX was followed up two months later with the launch of the second member of the 7 series, the GeForce 7800 GT. It was launched at Quakecon in August 2005 and featured 4 fewer Pixel Shaders and texture mapping units, a lower clock of 400MHz on the GPU with its 256MB of memory clocked at 500MHz. It was priced at $450 USD at launch. In terms of cooling and card design it was very similar the GTX version as you can tell by this shot of a 7800 GT card from ASUS.
Interestingly, the NVIDIA 7 series marks the last time we saw AGP card offerings. Several vendors offered GeForce 7800 GS and other AGP compatible cards targeting users with older non-PCIe compatible motherboards.
The GeForce 7 series was around for quite a while, at first overlapping with the 6 series on the high-end, then filling out with the cheaper 7600 GT and several other models including GS and LE branded cards. The 7800 GTX was expanded to include a popular 512MB version, but
in March 2006 NVIDIA launched the GeForce 7900 GTX, extending the life of the 7 series with a new G71 GPU clocked at 650MHz and 512MB of GDDR3. The G71 was manufactured using the latest 90nm process (compared to the 110nm of the original G70) which allowed for higher clocks due to improved thermal and power efficiency.
The pinnacle of 7 series performance was extended however by the GeForce 7900 GX2 card (below) which combined a pair of G71 GPUs. The card was based on two PCBs ultimately offering 2x SLI with one card. It took the flagship mantle with a retail price of $600 USD. It was updated to the GeForce 7950 GX2 in June of that year.
Here’s a shot of a pair of GeForce 7950 GX2 cards in an SLI configuration, the first time that enthusiasts got to play around with four GPUs.
The Most Popular NVIDIA GeForce 7 Card: The GeForce 7600 GT
Let take a peek at the HBOT submission numbers for the GeForce 7 series.
- -GeForce 7600 GT – 9.09%
- -GeForce 7900 GT – 8.93%
- -GeForce 7900 GS – 7.58%
- -GeForce 7800 GTX (256MB) – 7.20%
- -GeForce 7800 GT – 5.59%
- -GeForce 7900 GTX – 5.59%
- -GeForce 7950 GX2 – 4.96%
- -GeForce 7950 GT – 4.63%
- -GeForce 7900 GTO – 4.14%
- -GeForce 7300 GT (DDR2) – 3.60%
Bearing in mind that the HWBOT database was very young back in 2005 / 2006, most of the submissions using GeForce 7 series cards are from members revisiting the series much later on. What we can see is that there is quite a spread of different models being used with no really dominant model. As with the previous generation 6-series, the mid-range GeForce 7600 GT is the most popular model. This is perhaps because the 7600 GT was enormously popular with gamers and enthusiasts who wanted good frame rates on the latest titles without breaking the bank. It’s popularity as a whole most likely accounts for it being the most used 7-series card.
Here’s a shot of an EVGA GeForce 7600 GT with 256MB of GDDR3:
In fact the GeForce 7600 GT didn’t actually replace the popular GeForce 6600 GT until March of 2006. 256MB versions arrived for an asking price of just under $200 USD, supported SLI and offered similar performance to that of the ATI Radeon X1800 GTO. Not bad at all in terms of bang for buck. It was based on the G73 GPU which had half the TMU count and fewer Vertex Shaders. Its arrived with a default GPU clock of 560MHz with memory at 700MHz.
NVIDIA GeForce 7: Record Scores
We can now take a look at some of the highest scores posted on HWBOT using NVIDIA GeForce 7 series cards.
Highest GPU Frequency
Although technically speaking, GPU frequency (as with CPU frequency) is not a true benchmark, it does remain an important metric for many overclockers. Looking through the database, we find that the submission with the highest GPU core frequency in the HWBOT database comes from GraduS (Russia). He pushed a GeForce 7900 GTX to 1,070MHz, a massive +64.62% beyond stock settings. His graphics memory was configured at 1,060MHz (+32.50%). The rig used also included an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 ‘Wolfdale’ processor clocked at 5,280MHz (+66.72%).
You can find the Aquamark submission from GraduS here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/770887_gradus_aquamark_geforce_7900_gtx_254770_marks
The highest 3DMark03 score submitted to HWBOT using a single NVIDIA GeForce 7 card (we’ll leave SLI and dual chip cards out of things for now) was made by Romanian overclocker poparamiro. He pushed a GeForce 7900 GTX card to 980MHz (+50.77%) on the GPU core and 1,035MHz (+29.38%) on the graphics memory. With this configuration he managed a hardware first place score of 38,751 marks. The submission was actually fairly recent, happening in December 2016 .The rig he used was based around a water chilled Intel Core i7 4770K pushed to 5.5GHz.
Here’s a close up of the phase-change cooled card in action.
You can find the submission from poparamiro here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/3403225_poparamiro_3dmark03_geforce_7900_gtx_38751_marks
In the classic Aquamark benchmark we find poparamiro is again top dog. This time his GeForce 7900 GTX card was clocked a little lower at 950MHz (+46.15%) with memory boosted to 950MHz (+46.15%), hitting a score of 277,707 marks.
You can find the submission from poparamiro here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/3403226_poparamiro_aquamark_geforce_7900_gtx_277707_marks
Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of the GPU Flashback Archive series. Come back next week and join us for a look at the iconic NVIDIA GeForce 8 series of graphics processors and cards.