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GeForce 7600 cards go head to head

A multitude of mid-range options

WE SPEND A LOT of time covering high-end graphics cards, and while it's nice to ride the bleeding edge, it ain't cheap. Enthusiasts, however, are notoriously cheap. We appreciate the impressive performance feats achieved by high-end products, but we'd rather not pay the price premium associated with having the fastest card on the block. Instead, we seek out the sweet spot—an almost magical blend of price and performance that delivers unquestionable value.

In the graphics card market, there tend to be two sweet spots. The first resides around $300, where watered-down flavors of flagship products deliver great performance for serious gamers. Three hundred bucks is a lot to drop on a graphics card, though. Fortunately, a second sweet spot exists below $200. Here, cards like the GeForce 6600 GT have enjoyed phenomenal popularity by providing plenty of performance at a price that most can afford.

NVIDIA's replacement for the GeForce 6600 is the new GeForce 7600 series. Made up of GS and GT variants, the 7600 line takes over where the 6600 left off, extending the green team's domination of the mid-range market. NVIDIA's board partners have jumped all over the 7600 series, offering flavors that mix higher clock speeds with new cooler designs, VIVO capabilities, lifetime warranties, and attractive software bundles. But which GeForce 7600 is the sweetest? We've rounded up five cards from BFG, Gigabyte, MSI, and XFX to find out.

GeForce 7600 in the key of G
The GeForce 7600 series is based on NVIDIA's G73 GPU, a 178 million-transistor chip manufactured using 90-nano fabrication technology. We're narrowing our focus to partner cards today, so we won't languish too long on the G73's features and capabilities. You can read our GeForce 7600 and 7900 series review for more in-depth coverage of the G73 GPU and how it compares with the G71 graphics chip that powers the GeForce 7900 series.

Although we won't spend too much time on the G73 graphics chip, it's worth taking a moment to briefly outline its architecture. The chip has 12 pixel shaders, 12 texture units, eight ROPs, and five vertex units, and the cards in the GeForce 7600 line keep all of those functional units intact. NVIDIA doesn't disable any of the graphics chip's shader units, ROPs, or other resources to differentiate the GeForce 7600 GS from the GT. Instead, only clock speeds separate them.

Pixel shaders Vertex shaders Texture units ROPs Core clock (MHz) Vertex clock (MHz) Memory clock (MHz) Memory bus width
GeForce 7600 GS125128400400400128-bit
GeForce 7600 GT125128560560700128-bit

There's a 160 MHz core clock speed gap between GeForce 7600 GS and GT graphics cards, with the former running its core at 400 MHz and the latter at 560 MHz. Unlike GeForce 7900 series graphics chips, which run their vertex units a few ticks higher than the rest of the chip, the GeForce 7600 series maintains a consistent core clock speed throughout.

The GeForce 7600 GT extends its clock speed advantage over the GS as we move to memory, with the GT sporting GDDR3 memory chips clocked at 700 MHz. GDDR3's a little indulgent for the more affordable GeForce 7600 GS, which is typically equipped with GDDR2 memory clocked at just 400 MHz. Both GeForce 7600 series chips have a 128-bit memory bus, so the clock speed gap gives the GT nearly twice the memory bandwidth available to the GS.

Varying degrees of sweetness
We've gathered GeForce 7600 GT graphics cards from BFG, Gigabyte, MSI, and XFX. We've also thrown in a GeForce 7600 GS from XFX to represent the more affordable end of the mid-range spectrum. Each card will be detailed individually, but before we take them one-on-one, let's quickly compare a few highlights.

GeForce 7600Core clock (MHz)Memory clock (MHz)Memory size (MB)VIVO?Warranty lengthPrice
BFG GeForce 7600 GT OCGT580725256NoLifetime
Gigabyte GV-DX76T256DB-RHGT560700256No2 years parts, 3 years labor
MSI NX7600GT-VT2D256EGT580750256Yes2 years parts, 3 years labor
XFX GeForce 7600 GS Xtreme EditionGS500450256No"Double lifetime"
XFX GeForce 7600 GT XXX EditionGT590800256No"Double lifetime"

With the exception of Gigabyte's GV-DX76T256DB-RH, all of the cards come factory "overclocked" with higher-than-stock core and memory clock speeds. Manufacturers fully qualify and warranty these cards at their higher speeds, so it's not overclocking in the traditional sense. Of course, you're still free to push the cards beyond their higher factory defaults, and we'll be doing that a little later.

Although each manufacturer covers its factory "overclocked" cards at higher than stock speeds, the length of that warranty coverage varies. BFG and XFX are the clear leaders on this front, offering lifetime or better coverage for North American customers.

Neither BFG nor XFX offers VIVO capabilities on the GeForce 7600 series cards we'll be looking at, though. Gigabyte's GeForce 7600 GT doesn't, either, making the MSI card the only one in the bunch with a video input port.

The above chart is only a quick summary, but further examination reveals that each card has features with unique appeal. We'll give the cards a little individual attention to find out what they each bring to the table.