The Nvidia GeForce 7950 GT graphics card was announced along with the GeForce 7900 GS, but was targeted at a higher price category, their recommended prices being $299 and $199, respectively. In the ATI camp, the release of the Radeon X1950 XTX brought about considerable changes into the high-performance product line-up. The mentioned card, priced at $449, became the new flagship with a new type of memory on board, replacing the Radeon X1900 XTX.
The Radeon X1900 XT, a lower-class device, suffered a graphics memory reduction from 512MB to 256MB, but acquired a much lower price, $259, instead. Having the same recommended price, the GeForce 7900 GT thus faced a formidable opponent that had much better technical specs.
Fog of Market War
Nvidia conceived its GeForce 7950 GT as a solution to win the $259-299 sector back. It didn't take much effort to create that graphics card as Nvidia had already had the simple and cheap G71 processor and a PCB to match. The GPU and memory frequencies of the GeForce 7950 GT were easily set at 550MHz and 1400MHz, respectively, whereas the amount of graphics memory was set at 512MB.
As a matter of fact, the GeForce 7950 GT is identical to the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 in its specs, save for the memory clock rate (1400MHz against 1700MHz). You may remember that the 7800 GTX 512 used to be a top-end solution that once aspired after absolute leadership in the premium product class but was very rare due to limited production volumes.
The G71 being a very energy-efficient chip, the increase in the frequency didn't call for any changes in the graphics card design. Thus, it won't be a big mistake to say that the new card, just like the GeForce 7900 GS, is yet another variation of the GeForce 7900 GT model.
The manufacturer's recommended price for the GeForce 7950 GT is set at $299, which is quite affordable for many PC gamers. A curious fact, a performance comparable to that of the 7950 GT could only be had for as much as $649 just a year ago!
The Radeon X1900 XT 256MB looks a dangerous rival to the GeForce 7950 GT, though. Its graphics core not only has a higher clock rate, but also surpasses the core of Nvidia's card in computing power. Practice shows that the 48 pixel processors can indeed be helpful in today's games whereas the small number of TMUs the R580 chip incorporates may be well compensated by the higher frequency they are clocked at. So, ATI's strategy of putting the focus on high speed of execution of mathematics-heavy pixel shaders is bringing its fruit now. This is the result of game developers?making wider use of complex special effects like parallel occlusion mapping. We dwelt upon that topic at length in our reviews of the ATI Radeon X1900 XTX and Radeon X1950 XTX.
ATI's solution may seem to be limited by having only 256 megabytes of memory, but there are not so many games today that need large amounts of it. You may only need that much if you play in high resolutions at extremely high levels of full-screen antialiasing, but in this case $299 products often lack muscle to deliver a comfortable speed (you will see if this statement is true in the Tests section of this review).
So, the $299 GeForce 7950 GT has an advantage in terms of memory amount but is weaker than its market opponent as concerns pixel shader performance.