The test system is basically the same one that I used for the MSI K8N Diamond Plus motherboard review with the addition of the MSI NX7950GX2 graphics card. I also increased the FSB to 218MHz, which upped the clock speed of the AMD X2 4200+ CPU to 2.4GHz. Today's high-end GPUs perform at their best with the fastest CPUs.
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 / DirectX 9.0c
Graphics Card and Drivers
MSI NX7950GX2-T2D1GE - 500MHz Core/600MHz Memory
ForceWare WHQL Driver 91.31
Best Quality Image Setting
Far Cry v1.33 Build 1395
Doom 3 v1.0.1
Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering were configured in-game when available. Otherwise they were set via the driver control panel.
Using NVTweak to activate CoolBits, I was able to gain access the overclocking applet, which can determine the optimal core and memory frequencies. The detection ran successfully and determined that the optimal overclock was 700MHz for the memory and 550MHz for the GPU. I began to slowly increase the frequencies manually and ended up with a respectable 21% overclock at 726MHz memory and 603MHz core.
Although I did not fully test the overclocked setting with my usual extensive gaming sessions, they did pass stability testing. The optimal frequency of 550MHz/700MHz was used for the overclocked results in this review, mainly because each time I detected the optimal frequency, a result of 550MHz/700MHz was provided. In the past, I haven't put much faith in such automated overclocking software, but this case certainly sparked my interest. I plan to keep a closer tab on this feature's accuracy as this seems to be a positive improvement.
Dishing out the extra coin for a factory overclocked graphics card may not always be worth it when you consider what the MSI NX7950GX2 was able to achieve. I have come across reports of memory frequencies reaching 800MHz, although overclocking success is often based on the luck of the draw. Still, what I achieved with the NX7950GX2 does show that NVIDIA left sufficient headroom with the reference design frequency timings that MSI adhered to.
I personally do not place that much emphasis on synthetic benchmarks to provide real-world game performance. However, I do rely on programs such as 3DMark05 to test a variety of graphics and system settings. Increasing performance is admirable, but stability is imperative when it comes to gaming. Over the years, I have found that synthetic benchmarks can reveal system problems which can be addressed before you get caught in a system crash or BSOD in the middle of a game.
With 3DMark05, the overall score, which is derived from the results of three synthetic game tests, is shown below with no AA, 2X AA, and 4X AA at resolutions ranging from 1024x768 to 2048x1536. Texture filtering optimizations were disabled by having set the image setting to best quality.
You begin to appreciate the sheer power of the NX7950GX2 as doubling the resolution from 1024x768 to 2048x1536, with 4X antialiasing, only resulted in a 34.5% decrease in the overall 3DMark05 score.
Note that a maximum GPU temperature of 75C was recorded while benchmarking 3DMark05.