Electronic Design

Video Adapter: MSI Computers 7800GTX

NVidia’s 7800GTX PCI Express video adapter is the fastest thing around on a PC with the possible exception of two 7800GTX systems. NVidia has used its Scalable Link Interface (SLI) architecture for years to provide incremental upgrades. nForce4 SLI is the latest version and has been used on prior products like the 6800.

The SLI architecture requires a matching pair of boards because each handles every other scan line of a frame distributing the load. Each board essentially executes the same procedure on different data. An SLI cable connects the two boards and both boards are driven by the PC through x16 PCI Express connections. Most PCI Express motherboards have only one x16 PCI Express slot but SLI boards like the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe have two.

The 7800GTX supports two DVI outputs. A pair of VGA adapters are included. A single output is used in SLI mode but a pair of video cards can handle four monitors when not using SLI mode. The 7800GTX also composite video and S-Video outputs for playing on a projection system or TV.

MSI Computers 7800GTX is built around NVidia’s 7800GTX framework so it is almost identical to other vendor’s 7800GTX. MSI Computers’ implementation supports overclocking. In theory, any pair of 7800GTXs will work together, but do check out the on-board memory. The 7800GTX can drive up to two DVI-based displays.

The 7800GTX has a 24-pixel pipeline with 128-bit precision. The board employs NVidia’s Intellisample high-resolution compression technology that delivers higher resolutions and faster antialiasing. An advanced anisotropic engine provides true anisotropic filtering for better quality images. The UltraShadow II hardware handles complex interaction between multiple light sources and objects in an image providing extremely realistic images.

NVidia’s CineFX 4.0 Engine includes a floating-point pixel shader. This allows Hollywood-quality special effects. A new vertex shader unit reduces the time to set up and perform geometry processing. The texture unit incorporates new algorithms and better caching to speed filtering and blending operations.

The cooling architecture is as impressive as the video architecture. There is a heavy-duty fan that cools the integrated heatpipe system.

The MSI Computer package comes bundled with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Developer’s Cut. It is an M 17+ rated, first person game that emphasizes shooting, fighting, and stealth. Our audio and speaker system really helps too because audio cues can be important especially when trying to be stealthy.

MSI Computer also includes a dynamic overclocking application. This turns up the speed for applications that take advantage of the added performance such as games.

This combination of hardware leads the competition in video benchmarks like 3DMark as well as Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 performance numbers commonly used to compare gaming video adapters. The 7800GTX architecture can handle up to a gigabyte of memory. Most current systems are being delivered with 512 Mbytes, assuming you can get one. Demand is ridiculously high for a rather expensive board.

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