NVIDIA uncorks a budget GeForce 7

— 10:18 AM on January 18, 2006

Seventh-generation GeForce tech is finally filtering down into the budget graphics card realm today as NVIDIA announces the GeForce 7300 GS GPU. The 7300 GS is an all-new chip built on a 90nm fabrication process. It's a budget part, and thus, cards based on it will retail for about $99, perhaps less, depending on the configuration. These cards should offer roughly twice the performance of the GeForce 6200 TurboCache cards that they supplant, and like the 6200, the 7300 GS will use TurboCache technology to allocate system RAM for use as graphics memory.

Generally, GeForce 7300 GS cards will come with a core GPU clock of 550MHz and a memory clock somewhere around 400MHz, although memory speeds tend to vary between implementations. Architecturally, the GeForce 7300 looks very similar to the 6200, with four pixel shader/texture units, three vertex units, and two ROPs. The pixel shader units, however, are of the enhanced GeForce 7-series variety, with additional MADD power compared to GeForce 6 models. Take the GPU clock speed times the vital specs, and you get 1.1 gigapixels per second of single-textured fill rate and 2.2 gigapixels per second of multitextured fill rate. For reference, that puts the budget 7300 GS in the neighborhood of a fairly recent mid-range card like the Radeon X600 XT for multitexturing. The 7300 GS should also have more pixel shader power than a X600 XT, but the graphics goodness will be reined in by limitations on memory bandwidth.

Of course, with TurboCache, memory bandwidth is something of a flexible concept. GeForce 7300 GS cards will come in a couple of flavors initially, one with 128MB of memory onboard and another with 256MB. Both variants will have only a 64-bit path to their onboard memory, and they will reserve some system memory on the host machine for their use, effectively increasing the amount of available graphics RAM. The amount of system memory allocated by each card depends on the size of the card's on-board TurboCache memory and total system RAM. In a PC with 1GB of RAM, the 256MB version of the 7300 GS will appear like a 512MB graphics card to 3D applications. Obviously, these cards won't slice through today's games like a hot SLI rig through, er, a stick of butter, but they should be quite nice for the price.

NVIDIA estimates the 7300 GS's transistor count at 112 million, but cautions that ATI seems to count transistors differently. More importantly, they say, the GeForce 7300 GPU's die size should be "considerably smaller" than the Radeon X1300's.

This product launch stands out from other recent introductions from the green team because it's not accompanied by hardware—neither for us press types to review nor for retailers in North America or Europe to sell. NVIDIA's official explanation is that the launch was pulled forward in time for the holiday buying season in the Asia Pacific region, where the first GeForce 7300 GS cards are being shipped. That's nice, but after giving ATI bucketfuls of grief over product availability at launch, NVIDIA is out on a limb here.

And the limb is creaking.

Limbs are wood. Paper is made from wood. Burn paper and you get smoke, which looks like... vapor.

Anyhow, if you'd like to buy a GeForce 7300 GS card to upgrade your buddy's Dell with integrated graphics, GeForce 7300 GS cards should be available for purchase in the U.S. in early February. These cards will be PCI Express only, as far as we know. NVIDIA still points to the GeForce 6200 as a budget option for AGP systems.

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