Nvidia's GeForce 7950 GT graphics card

One more spin on the G71
— 8:00 AM on September 14, 2006

THESE DAYS, VIDEO CARDS ARE like shark's teeth: one pops out, and another one moves up to take its place. The most recent GeForce to come loose is the 7900 GT; it was dislodged by last week's launch of the GeForce 7900 GS, which offers the same performance for about a hundred bucks less. The 7900 GT's demise leaves Nvidia with a hole it its lineup at around $299, and so the GeForce 7950 GT makes its debut today as the 7900 GT's replacement.

Like a host of GeForce 7900 and 7950 cards before it, the 7950 GT is based on the G71 graphics processor, which Nvidia has been milking like nobody's business. You can buy a whole line of graphics cards based on this chip situated at different price points, with performance finely attenuated to match—all the better to separate you from your money. The GeForce 7950 GT makes hitting that "submit" button at Newegg even easier because it promises substantially better performance than the 7900 GT it replaces.

Of course, this is a technology product we're talking about, so the decision about what to buy can never be simple. The GeForce 7950 GT's life is complicated by one very strong rival: the 256MB version of the Radeon X1900 XT that ATI introduced earlier this month. Like the 7950 GT, the X1900 XT 256MB is slated to go on sale at online retailers today. This new ATI card packs half the memory of the 7950 GT, but sports ATI's exceptionally powerful R580 GPU with a daunting 48 pixel shader processors. Oh, and the ATI card's price tag is a tad bit lower, too.

That means we have the opportunity for at least one more head-to-head matchup between the green and red teams before ATI melts into AMD, changing the landscape forever. Can the newest GeForce fend off a feisty competitor from ATI, or has the balance of power in graphics shifted? More importantly, what video card actually makes sense to buy these days? Read on for the answers.

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