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7800 GT performance characteristics

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Hello Geeks To Go;

I have recently put together the following system (with a little help from you guys a couple of months ago - thanks again)

MSI K8N Neo4/SLI motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3700+ San Diego 1GHz FSB Socket 939 Processor Model ADA3700BNBOX
eVGA 256-P2-N517-AX Geforce 7800GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 Video Card
CORSAIR XMS 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered System Memory x 2
Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200KS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
PLEXTOR Black IDE DVD Burner Model PX-740A/SW-BL

Monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc.

Although I use it a little bit for work, I'm not really kidding anyone - it's primarilly for gaming.

Recently, I've notice that the graphics are a little choppy in first person shooters. Not all the time, just every now and again, and only when the action is particularly intense/complex. It could have been like this all along as well, just didn't notice initially.

So, I went and downloaded the 3DMark06 program and ran it to seen how I stacked up (you can compare how you did with others with similar systems on line). I was surprised (to be read as horrified and embarassed) to find that for comparable systems with 7800GT cards, my FPS was about half as good!

I have read/heard that poor performance can be due to an underpowered system. I have checked the voltages for the system in the bios setup (I'm not sure if I'm calling this the right thing - but it has a system health option that lets you see all of the voltages and temps), and it appears that the 12V rail (? right word) is at 11.85. It doesn't appear to flucuate while I'm sitting looking at the bios screen. Also note that the power supply has a power connection that goes straight into the card (I can't remember how many volts this is - it doesn't show up in the system health utility).

With all that I have three questions:

1. Does it sound like the poor performance is a voltage problem and how can I investigate this more thoroughly?

2. If not voltage any other ideas?

3. What are the appropriate benchmarks for a 7800GT graphics card? And, more importantly, shouldn't it be able to handle most games out there without a problem (fear, HL2, etc) ?

4. Why couldn't I accept an occassional stutter? Why did I run that darn 3DMark6 program in the first place? And why am I now obsessed with numbers surround performance?

(question #4 is more for personal introspection... Feel free to comment, if need be)

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