Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 1
Introduction

We have looked at some of Gainward's higher-end nVidia cards recently and overall have been pretty impressed. With more and more people wanting good cards for their PC's, as well as wanting better and better value, we thought we would take a look at one of Gainward's lower end GeForce offerings.

The Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7300 GT "Silent FX" is based on nVidia's lower-end 7300 chip. Gainward have implemented a noise free solution on this card, making it ideal for HTPC use or perhaps a more powerful budget office PC where silence is a must.


Packaging

The card came in a surprisingly small package. Perhaps I am used to opening higher-end cards but I was certainly surprised at just how small a box Gainward had managed to fit this card into. This could perhaps be a bonus if you were worried about shipping costs from a retailer, but seeing as most charge flat rates anyway, I would not have throught this would make a difference.

The packaging has Gainwards usual female CGI character on it as well as a limited amount of product information.

ganiward 7300gt

I feel the back of the box could have had some more interesting and relevant product information on it, rather than just some nVidia marketing fluff.

gainward 7300gt

It's an attractive package all in all but I would like to have seen the cards cooling solution pictured somewhere on it.

Inside of the box I was not very impressed with the packaging at all actually. There does not seem to be much to protect the card inside the small box. Having said that, my sample came in perfect condition and the card looks fairly hardy so I cannot envisage this being too much of a problem.

gainward 7300gt

Will the diminutive size of the packaging continue through to the card itself? Let's see...


Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 2
The Card

Let's meet the Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample "Silent FX".

The card is indeed quite a small card and does not take up very much room at all in your case. Gainward have done well by adding a silent cooling solution to this card, especially as this does not take up an extra slot like quite a few quiet solutions do.

gainward 7300gt

Very compact and certainly not noisy! The card looks attractive with its red colour and would be suited to a case with a window.

gainward 7300gt

The back of the card is secured by this clever little mechanism that we have seen before on Gainward's higher-end 7900GT card. It is a good solution and also looks good.

gainward 7300gt

You can see that the heatsink has deep grooves for the air to pass through.

gainward 7300gt

As you can see the card is a pretty small solution. A nice fit for any HTPC.

gainward 7300gt

There are a decent range of connecters on the card, though I always like to see Dual DVI. Still - TV-out, DVI and VGA is a decent range of connecters for any lower-end video card and ideal for HTPC use as I have noted previously.


Quick Features (taken from Gainward's website)

gainward 7300gt specs

Note that this says that the card has a cooling fan - I don't think so!

nVidia Specifications:

NVIDIA® GeForce® 7 Series Specifications

NVIDIA® CineFX® 4.0 Shading Architecture

 

* Vertex Shaders
o Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
o Displacement mapping
o Geometry instancing
o Infinite length vertex programs
* Pixel Shaders
o Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
o Full pixel branching support
o Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
o Infinite length pixel programs
* Next-Generation Texture Engine
o Accelerated texture access
o Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
o Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
o Support for non-power of two textures
o Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
o DirectX and S3TC texture compression
* Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline with native hardware support for 32bpp, 64bpp, and 128bpp rendering modes

64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending

* Delivers true high dynamic-range (HDR) lighting support
* Full floating point support throughout entire pipeline
* Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
* Floating point texturing drives new levels of clarity and image detail
* Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions

 

NVIDIA® IntellisampleTM 4.0 Technology

* Advanced 16x anisotropic filtering (with up to 128 taps)
* Blistering-fast antialiasing and compression performance
* Gamma-adjusted rotated-grid antialiasing removes jagged edges for incredible image quality
* Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling modes boost antialiasing quality to new levels
* Support for normal map compression
* Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
* Fast z-clear

 

NVIDIA® UltraShadowTM II Technology

* Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games

 

NVIDIA® SLITM Technology1

* Patented hardware and software technology allows two GeForce-based graphics cards to run in parallel to scale performance and enhance image quality on today's top titles.
* Quad SLI technology enabled through select System Builders delivers SLI support for four GPUs, providing mind-blowing performance and image quality at extreme resolutions. SLI support for the GeForce 7950 GX2 will be provided through a future NVIDIA ForceWare driver release. See www.slizone.com for details

 

NVIDIA® PureVideoTM Technology

* Dedicated on-chip video processor
* High-definition H.264, MPEG2 and WMV9 decode acceleration
* Advanced spatial-temporal de-interlacing
* Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
* High-quality video scaling
* Video color correction
* Microsoft® Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window

 

NVIDIA® TurboCacheTM Technology2

* Combines the capacity and bandwidth of dedicated video memory with dynamically allocated system memory to dramatically turbocharge performance

 

Built for Microsoft® Windows VistaTM

* Third-generation GPU architecture built for Windows Vista
* Delivers best possible experience when running Windows Vista 3D graphical user interface
* New OS supported by renowned NVIDIA® Unified Driver Architecture (UDA) for maximum stability and reliability
* NVIDIA® PureVideoTM technology delivers high-quality VMR pipeline for best-in-class video for Windows Vista

 

Advanced Display Functionality

* Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for analog display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536 at 85Hz
* Dual-link DVI capability to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution digital flat panel displays up to 2560x16001
* Integrated HDTV encoder provides analog TV-output (Component/Composite/S-Video) up to 1080i resolution
* Full NVIDIA® nView® multi-display technology capability

 

High Speed Interfaces

* Designed for PCI Express x16
* Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory1

 

NVIDIA® Digital Vibrance Control® (DVC) 3.0 Technology

* DVC color controls
* DVC image sharpening controls

Operating Systems

* Windows XP/Windows XP 64
* Built for Microsoft Windows Vista
* Windows 2000
* Linux
* Macintosh OS X

API Support

* Complete DirectX support, including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0
* Full OpenGL support, including OpenGL 2.0

1 Feature available on select GeForce 7 Series GPUs only.
2 Feature available on GeForce 7300 GS and LE GPUs only.



Package


The package included in the 7300GT is pretty sparse with only:

* Gainward Driver Package (including Gainward Expertool Overclocking facility)
* S-video to Component/composite and S-video out
* DVI-VGA converter
* Quick-Start Instuction Manual

gainward 7300gt

I am aware that this is a low-end card but I think perhaps one piece of DVD software could have been included in the bundle - as this is a card that could well be used in a HTPC.


Cooling

There is not much else you can say about this cooler than has already been said. It is well designed, keeps the GPU cool and is totally silent. Gainward have done very well with the cooling and I am most impressed with the cooler.


Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 3
How we tested

With the pure speed of cards out on the market at the moment I tend to focus on gameplay in my reviews. I will play each of the test suite games on as high settings as I could possibly play them at while maintaining a frame rate that is enjoyable to play at. If the quality of the gaming looks the same at different settings then I will choose the setting with the best FPS. This differs from game to game and person to person but I play a lot of games and have played with a lot of graphics cards so I hope that I can impart a decent opinion.

With this card I am going to try to get the optimal res of most low-mid range TFT's: 1280 x 1024. If this cannot be achieved then I will get the highest settings possible

To offset this angle I also run a test suite of 3dMark03, 05 and 06. These will give you some numbers on what the cards perform like at stock speeds, for comparison. I also ran 3dMark06 after overclocking the cards - to see how much of an effect the overclocking will make. Overclocking is usually performed using the coolbits registry hack and done as in This Thread from the OC3D forums. On this occasion I was not able to do this - the coolbits registry hack did not work. Instead I fired up Gainward's "Expert Tool" and used that.

As this is a low end card I used one of OC3D's low end test setups to bench it.

Hardware:

AMD 64 3200+ Venice (Stock 2.0GHz)
Abit AT8 32x 939 Motherboard
1gb (2 x 512mb) OCZ Platinum Rev 2 2-2-2-5
160gb Hitachi deskstar SATA drive
Onboard HD Audio
AMD Heatpipe cooler
Antec P180B (Fans on medium cooling)

Using nVidia Forceware 91.31

Gainward Bliss 7300GT Golden sample 256mb Clock Speed: 400. Memory Speed: 750 (325)



Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 4
F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c.

It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's GPU's. I fully patched version the game with the latest patch. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

As stated, I tried for the closest to 1280 x 1024 possible while looking as good as possible. Here are the settings used in-game:

fear 7300gt

Here are the general settings I managed to play F.E.A.R. with:

fear settings 7300gt

Here are the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

fear fps

F.E.A.R is a very testing game and I did not quite manage to get the card running F.E.A.R at 1280 x 1024. If you play F.E.A.R. a lot then you will have to consider a more expensive GPU. If, however, you play F.E.A.R. occasionally or maybe just want to know that your GPU can play F.E.A.R. and look good then it definitely does the job.


Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow.

As stated, I tried for the closest to 1280 x 1024 possible while looking as good as possible. Here are the settings used in-game:

7300gt

Here are the general settings I managed to play CoD 2 with:

cod 2 7300gt

Here are the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

cod 2 fps 7300gt

I was highly impressed that the 7300GT attained the target resolution and played the game so smoothly. This is a very challenging game and still looks great even with some features turned down a bit.
fear fps 7300gt

Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 5
Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that has not always ran so well on ATI hardware, being an OpenGL game. I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 and took the average of all my readings from this. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.


As stated, I tried for the closest to 1280 x 1024 possible while looking as good as possible. Here are the general settings I managed to play Quake 4 with:

quake 4 settings

Here are the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

quake 4 fps

The card managed Quake 4 very well and the gameplay was very smooth and enjoyable. nVidia have a great record with the doom 3 engine and the 7300GT did extremely well at playing Quake 4. I reached the target resolution with this game and it was on High Quality settings which looked excellent.


Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the 7300GT. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card. This benchmark really tests today's cards and nVidia has not come out of this so well in previous reviews.

As stated, I tried for the closest to 1280 x 1024 possible while looking as good as possible. Here are the settings used in-game:

oblivion 7300gt

Here are the general settings I managed to play Oblivion with:

oblivion 7300gt

Here are the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

oblivion 7300gt

Oblivion is the most testing of my game suit. The card managed to run the game at 1024 x 768 with HDR enabled. This is highly impressive and anyone who has played Oblivion can attest to how good HDR looks in the game. Although I didn't reach the target 1280 x 1024 I felt that the game ran very nicely. With a bit more time and tweaking of settings Oblivion should look even better. I did have to turn down the view distance as once outside the FPS took a bit of a drop.

Now onto some quick benchmarks...



Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 6
Benchmarking

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all four of the cards. I used 3dMark 03, 05 and 06. All benches were performed at stock speeds for this section. I ran all benchmarks from the stock settings just like the free versions to give you a good comparison of scores. I am grouping all three benchmarks together on one graph as this card is not really a "benchers card". The individual benchmarks do however have their own use.

* 3DMark03 This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the cards will run on games that rely on DX 8.
* 3DMark05 This benchmark requires some more features of directX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.
* 3DMark06 3dMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0. This benchmark is very taxing for the card and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark.


Results

Here are the results obtained:

3dmark results 7300gt

In my opinion the card performed very well in these benchmarks and I was thoroughly impressed with the scores obtained. 1664 is a very reasonable 3DMark06 score, especially for a card that is meant to be low end.


Overclocking

As stated before, I could not get the coolbits registry hack to work with this card. Whether it was my own fault, or the card simply not being enabled for this in nVidia's drivers I do not know. Not giving up I fired up Gainward's excellent "Expert Tool" and used the overclocking facility on this. This worked a treat and the card proved to be a great overclocker, despite only having passive cooling!

overclock 7300gt

487/417 is very good considering the stock clock on this card. That ramps the memory speed up to 834 - pretty high above stock. I ran a 3DMark06 to test whether this would affect the cards 3D performance:

7300gt overclocked 3dmark06

That's a pretty impressive score over stock. The card was a very nice overclocker. Remember this is with stock silent cooling and no volt-mods at all!



Gainward Bliss 7300 GT Golden Sample Page: 7
Conclusion

After reviewing the top-end cards from both ATI and nVidia it is quite refreshing to get my hands on a low end, well performing card. Gainward have made a very nice card that is totally silent and performs incredibly well. The card is ideally suited to an ultra-quiet rig such as an HTPC or a Media PC.

Playing all of the latest games at very decent resolutions ajnd details settings this card is certainly a performer. It overclocked incredibly well and I take my hat off to Gainward for taking the nVidia reference 7300 and making it work.

The downside of this card is pricing and availability. I have searched around all the usual places I buy my hardware and cannot find this card at all. Even an EBay search brings up nothing at all. I can only assume that Gainward will use similar pricing to it's competitors at around £60. I have contacted Gainward about this and wait to hear back from them.

If the card steps into the category then it is only £10 more for an X1600Pro. This card performs better in games than the 7300GT. However you would have to put up with an incredibly noisy cooler and so Media PC use would be out of the question.

I will give this card an OC3D Recommended 70%. The lack of bundle leaves somewhat to be desired and with pricing thought to be at £60, you can buy faster cards, albeit louder ones.

gainward 7300 gt oc3d recommended

Pro's

* Silent
* Plays games well
* Overclocks very well
* Looks good

Con's

* Pricing and availability Issue's
* Close to other more powerful cards
* Bundle lets it down

Thanks to Gainward for supplying the review sample

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