To get a feel for how the 7600GST would perform, I used FutureMark's PCMark05 and 3DMark06 synthetic tests, the demo1 timedemo in Doom 3, the Counter-Strike: Source stress test and a session with Oblivion. The results were not what I was expecting at all. First, a look at the FutureMark programs. All tests were run and the professional version of each program was used to stress the card to the maximum each program allowed.
PCMark05 and 3DMark06 Results
Talk about unexpected! The GST outperformed SLIed 6800GTs in PCMark05 and was just 500 marks shy of the SLI score in 3DMark06. That is some SERIOUS power for a budget-minded graphics card!
Now we get down to business by checking out Doom 3 performance. The benchmark was run at least twice for each setting to make sure textures were cached. The demo was run on each card in 1280x1024 "high" and "low" and 1024x768 "high" and "low." Vsync was off.
Doom 3 Demo1 Results (Avg FPS)
It's no surprise that the SLI scores are what they are, but I was startled to see the 7600GST had almost the same score across the board, regardless of resolution and quality settings. And on top of that, it embarrassed the single 6800GT in all scores except 1024x768 low quality. Unreal!
Wanting to see more of the 7600GST in action, I fired up the Counter-Strike: Source Stress test. As with Doom 3, each card was benchmarked at least twice for consistency and in the case of the 6800GTs in SLI, three times each. Benchmarks were run a 1280x1024 with all settings maxed and 4xAA and 16xAF; 1280x1024 with all settings as low as possible, and the same at 1024x768. Vysnc was disabled.
CS:S Stress Test Results (Avg FPS)
The initial 6800GT SLI results seemed too low and I ran the benchmark two more times at each resolution/quality setting. But there was never more than a 5 frame difference on every score shown above. It was very odd, but looking at the GST, it's clear how much of a powerhouse this card actually is.
Finally, to really see what Inno3D's 7800GST was made of, I put in the Oblivion DVD and took each card on a trip through Skingrad out to an Oblivion gate and into the wilderness for some combat. This is arguably the most taxing of areas in the game, graphically speaking. HDR was enabled and most in-game graphics settings were as high as possible with self-shadows and grass shadows disabled. I played the same gate outside of Leyawiin to keep consistency as close as possible.
Oblivion Performance - 1280x1024 (Min-Avg FPS)
In Skingrad, the average frame rate was near 35 fps while the minimum frame rate dropped into the low 20s during complex scenes. The results were generated using the latest version of FRAPS.
And results at 1024x768, with the same graphical settings that were used at 1280x1024.
Oblivion Performance - 1024x768 (Min-Avg FPS)
Once again, I was surprised at the results. The GST held its own against both the single GT and the SLIed GTs. Of course, Oblivion is probably the most demanding game on the market right now, so comparing the previous generation's high-end card to the current generation's mid-range card would seem to inherently imply similar results in such a case. That being said, there is a factor that was at play in Oblivion that cannot be benchmarked: smoothness. And with the 7600GST, the game felt MUCH smoother than even the SLIed 6800GTs, even when the frame rate dipped low. The GTs got a little choppy and choked, but the GST always had a liquid quality to it.
With CoolBits2 installed, I ran the automatic, driver-controlled overclocking test and after a couple of minutes received a very shocking overclock - 559MHz/1640MHz on the core and memory respectively. That's more than a 10% increase on the core and 14% on the memory from the stock 506MHz/1416MHz. I tested 3DMark06, Doom 3, CS:Source, and Oblivion again at 1280x1024 with the settings high.
Now, the overclocked 3DMark06 score is just shy of the SLI 6800GTs score. I was staring at the results in open-mouthed awe. The CS:S Stress Test scores were higher than the 6800GT (not counting the SLI scores because they were all messed up) and the Doom 3 score was about 8 fps from the SLI 6800GTs score. This card is simply unbelievable! Oblivion was very close to that of the SLI results and the average frame rate in Skingrad was around 37fps--just a little bit higher than the 6800GT SLI score.
Those of you still clinging to their 6800-based cards need to hear this: it's time to upgrade! NVIDIA has taken what we once considered to be "high-end performance" and made that the middle-of-the-road. It's a little disheartening to realize that two summers ago, this performance cost over $400 and now can be had for $250 or less.
I'm still in shock at how incredible the Inno3D GeForce 7600GST performed. It is, on paper, a vanilla mid-range card, but in performance it comes close to the performance of TWO 6800GTs! This card is amazing and I can only imagine how powerful a pair of these overclocked would be. If you're on the fence about upgrading from any card 6x00 series and prior because of cost/performance, do not overlook the 7600GST. It looks meek and mild, but do not let that fool you: it's a force to be reckoned with.
Thanks again to Caroline and Inno3D. You guys have put together an awesome product!