Due to the fact that NVIDIA was fashionably late with sending us a GeForce 7800 GTX we’re not going to bother with running the same set of benchmarks all other online publications have already done. And to be honest, even if we’d had gotten a sample in time we’d probably have taken a different approach anyway, as we usually do. The majority of these publications use a system that’s outfitted with parts that you won’t find in any run-of-the-mill PC anyway, for example FX-series AMD Athlon 64 processors and the fastest memory available. We won’t be using any of that in this particular article as we realize that most of you are not running top-of-the-line parts but rather a mid-range configuration. What we set out to do here is to give you a few ballpark figures on how the GeForce 7800 GTX performs in a mid-range configuration.
So we settled on an AMD Athlon 64 3500+, 1GB of DDR400 memory, the popular Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard, the latest 77.72 WHQL drivers and proceeded to test the GeForce 7800 GTX against a single GeForce 6800 GT, two 6800 GTs in SLI, a single GeForce 6800 Ultra and of course two 6800 Ultras in SLI. We realize that two GeForce 6800 Ultras in SLI might be a bit overkill for a Athlon 64 3500+, or your budget, but the idea is to see whether a single GeForce 7800 GTX comes close to matching that performance level, and which is the better investment if you already own a single 6800 Ultra. For similar reasons we’ll omit 7800 GTX SLI testing for now.
Ideally we’d like to have run a whole slew of gaming benchmarks but that would mean that this article would be delayed even more, so we'd like to reserve that for a detailed article on the performance of the GeForce 7800 GTX in SLI, both on the Intel and AMD platform. That’s why we’ve decided on using Futuremark’s 3Dmark03 and 3Dmark05 for now, so as to get an impression of what the above mentioned configurations are capable of. This should give you a good indication of actual performance across the board. Only with specific games, for example those that use a lot of shaders, performance will vary a little, favoring one configuration over the other. Regardless the configuration that consistently turns in the highest scores will be fastest overall. So without further ado let’s take a look at the benchmark results below.
As can be seen from the benchmarks the GeForce 7800 GTX is well ahead of either the GeForce 6800 GT or Ultra, respectively 38% and 21% in 3Dmark03 and 54% and 32% in 3Dmark05. Things change when a second GeForce 6800 GT or Ultra is added in SLI configuration. Suddenly the GeForce 7800 GTX quickly loses ground as two GeForce 6800 GTs in SLI clock in 23% faster and two Ultras 36% faster in 3Dmark03. 3Dmark05 paints a similar picture with two GeForce 6800 GTs leading by 18% and two Ultras by 27%. So although the GeForce 7800 GTX clocks in with impressive single card numbers, putting two previous generation cards in SLI still turns in better numbers.
However there’s a discrepancy between the results we’ve seen with these two popular benchmarks and actual gameplay. As although SLI turns in impressive numbers here actual performance with games depends on whether a game has a profile in the NVIDIA drivers and gets an identical boost in performance as we’ve seen here. Performance could be as low as a single card, or well over the scores listed here, depending on the game. At the end of the day owners of a GeForce 6800 GT or Ultra and a SLI capable motherboard are usually better served by buying a second 6800 GT or Ultra, which will be a lot cheaper as well.
All in all the GeForce 7800 GTX has raised the bar once more, not only in terms of performance but also in terms of heat production, noise and power consumption. The GeForce 7800 GTX is the best performing, coolest running and quietest graphic card on the market today. It however comes at a price premium though, as with a price tag of around $599 you can also pick up two GeForce 6800 GTs which will buy you better performance in most cases. If you absolutely need the best possible performance from a single card then the GeForce 7800 GTX delivers on all counts, enabling high-resolution gaming with full graphic detail settings on the majority of games.