iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB Video Card Review

July 18, 2003


  1. Video card's features
  2. Testbed configuration, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Test results: Quake3 ARENA
  4. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
  5. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  6. Test results: Code Creatures DEMO
  7. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003
  8. Test results: Unreal II: The Awakening
  9. Test results: RightMark 3D
  10. Conclusion

The summer has reached its peak, people go on leave and have plenty of time to think about their PCs upgrade. NVIDIA's partners have finally started shipping so long awaited video cards based on the GeForce FX 5900. It's not a problem to find what to spend the holiday fee for :-).

What to choose: RADEON 9800 PRO or GeForce FX 5900? The question is not simple. If you look at the list of our reviews of the NV3x technologies have a closer look at the latest ones.

Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards which concern functional properties of the GPU NVIDIA GeForce FX

The previous review judged NVIDIA and its latest products pretty tough. Well, the Californian company likes to play with cheats in popular benchmarks like 3DMark03/2001.

NVIDIA affirms that video cards based on its processors have no cheats for certain scenes-benchmarks in games. There are only optimizations for games on the whole. Our previous review where we tested the cards with our own demo scenes threw the GeForce FX 5900 off the throne; this card falls behind the RADEON 9800 PRO in many cases though in the standard benchmarks that either are popular or come with respective games the FX 5900 kept the leading position. Was that because of the cheats or something else?

But we can't be fully sure accusing NVIDIA in such cheats. We can just state that the picture has changed. The experts at NVIDIA didn't mention the Code Creatures BenchMark Pro, though the Anti-Detect reveals some cheats. Why exactly cheats, not optimizations? Because there is no such game. This is just a benchmark, though it's based on a gaming engine. It means that any changes made by the driver will contradict to what's planned by the benchmark developers. It also refers to the AquaMark, that is why we don't use this benchmark anymore.

However, we found no cheats for the Unreal II. It's strange because the game was released quite a while ago, and the UT2003 and the Unreal II have the same engine. The UT2003 has "optimizations" according to NVIDIA, and the Unreal II doesn't have such. Isn't it because the Unreal II doesn't have internal and open benchmarks? The UT2003 does have them. Think about it.

Anyway, now the cards are tested in new closed demo benchmarks that protect from cheats but support all useful optimizations made for games on the whole.

Even if the FX 5900 will be a bit slower than its competitor with the prices being equal, users will ask for it anyway, because the name of the GeForce is pretty popular, plus accessories, card design etx If one pays $400-450 for a card, it shouldn't be just a wrapped piece of textolite.

The today's hero has an excellent accessory pack and an interesting cooler.

The company itself was founded yet in 1984. At that time it was named CHUN and dealt with TV technologies. The company gradually expanded its marketplace and opened new branches. In 2002 , when the directors changed, the company was renamed into Albatron Technology. The reestablished company focused on production of mainboards and video cards.

Albatron is pretty young as a video card vendor. But its quality and original devices have gained authority on our market.

Today we have a very interesting card for examination named Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900 128MB


Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB

AGP x8/x4/x2 interface, 128 MB DDR SDRAM in 8 chips on the front PCB side.

Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB

Hynix memory chips of 2.2ns access time, which corresponds to 454 (908) MHz. The memory works at 425 (850) MHz, the GPU runs at 400 MHz. 256bit memory interface.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900

Comparison with the reference design, back view
Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB
Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900

Here are some aspects to be pointed out:

  1. The card is a copy of the reference sample

  2. The memory size was cut down from 256MB to 128MB - on the backside there are empty space for missing BGA chips. But the 256bit bus wasn't shortened because the card has 8 32bit memory chips (256 bits in all). The card just doesn't support the dual-bank memory mode.

Now let's have a look at the cooler.

Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB

The cooler consists of a copper-based massive heatsink equipped with three fans with impellers covered with dye shining in the ultraviolet rays.

The cooler has a LED in the center which can be seen through the drop-like hole in the center of the heatsink cover.

This most interesting feature of this cooler is a three-fan system, with two fans working simultaneously and the third fan being a spare one. On the photo it's on the right. The fan controller turns on all three fans when the PC starts up, but after taking the measurements of the first two fans, it disables the third one. The fan controller (a logic device) is situated in the heatsink's center on a small PCB.

The cooler is quiet, that is why the advertised noise reduction system is not fiction. Besides, the heatsink's cover looks like a flying bird.

The card is equipped with the external Philips 7108 codec to control the Video-In. This model supports the VIVO indeed. But the TV-out is realized in the NV35.

Have a look at the NV35:

It was made on the 20th weak of this year (end of May) after the announcement of the GeForce FX 5900, that is why the codename is replaced with the FX 5900.

The cards of this type are not small

The cooler, though shrinked in all dimensions, can be an obstacle for installation of a PCI card into the first slot:

If a PCI card has peripheral components underside it can't be inserted into the first slot. Besides, such card wouldn't allow for proper cooling of the video card.

Now let's change a little our order of card examination and look at the package and then at what's in the box.

The card comes in a retail package, just look at it!

Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB

This is the first time when the card ships in a black stylish bag (which can be then used for other purposes). It easily turns into a backpack (the straps are in a special pocket behind).

In its largest section is a big chunk of polyurethane foam which encompasses the card itself.

All components are in the other sections.

If you take off the cardboard cover from the bag, you will see the embroidered logo and the company's name.

Now the accessories:

Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB
User Guide, CD with drivers and utilities, PowerDVD, game, VIVO s/w, TV extenders, DVI-to-d-Sub adapter, VIVO splitter.

Testbed and drivers


  • Pentium 4 3200 MHz based computer:
    • Intel Pentium 4 3200 MHz CPU;
    • DFI LANParty Pro875 (i875P) mainboard;
    • 1024 MB DDR SDRAM;
    • Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB HDD;
    • Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0a;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.
    • NVIDIA drivers v44.65.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications.

Cards used for comparison:

  • Hercules 3D Prophet 9800 PRO (RADEON 9800 PRO, 380/340 (680) MHz, 128 MB, driver 6.360).


Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB 400/850 -> 470/940 MHz (excellent overclocking!)

Note that:

  • during the overclocking you should provide additional cooling, in particular, for the card (first of all, for its memory):

overclocking depends on a sample, and you shouldn't generalize the results of one card to all video cards of this trade mark or series. The overclocking results are not the obligatory characteristics of video cards.

Test results

Before we start examining 2D quality, I should say there are no complete techniques for objective 2D quality estimation because:

  1. 2D quality much depends on certain samples for almost all modern 3D accelerators;
  2. Besides videocards, 2D quality depends on monitors and cables;
  3. Moreover, certain monitors might not work properly with certain video cards.

With the ViewSonic P817 monitor and BNC Bargo cable the card showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and clock speeds:

Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB 1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz

In general, the 2D quality is excellent (the quality of this sample in our conditions).

Test results: cards' performance

Conventional signs: ANISO 8xP - Anisotropic 8x Performance (earlier it was called Balanced), ANISO 8xQ - Anisotropic 8x Quality, ANISO 16xQ - Anisotropic 16x Quality.

Test applications:

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703-demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC OFF, the configurations can be downloaded from here
  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703 demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF
  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt0703 demo, test settings - maximum: detailing level - High, texture detailing level - #4, S3TC OFF, smoothness of curves is much increased through variables r_subdivisions "1" and r_lodCurveError "30000" (at default r_lodCurveError is 250 !), the configurations can be downloaded from here
  • Unreal Tournament v.2225 (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality

  • Code Creatures Benchmark Pro (CodeCult) - the game that demonstrates card's operation in DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L.

  • Unreal II: The Awakening (Legend Ent./Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality
  • RightMark 3D v.0.4 (one of game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4).

If you want to get the demo benchmarks that we use let me know by e-mail.

Today we also studied the difference between official release of the drivers v44.03 and latest beta version (WHQL) 44.71.

Quake3 Arena

The drivers show no difference. The FX 5900 wins from the RADEON 9800 PRO in the heavy modes at the expense of AA and Performance-level anisotropy (we compare this anisotropy level of the GeForce FX with the Quality level of the RADEON 9800 because in this case both functions have some reductions: a lower anisotropy degree for certain angles in case of ATI, and simpler trilinear filtering and anisotropy on far textures in case of NVIDIA; that is why their pluses and minuses are more or less balanced, though we also compare Quality levels of both cards for those who are sure that ATI's "crippled" anisotropy paired with the normal trilinear filtering should be compared only to NVIDIA's normal anisotropy).

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

No difference between the drivers again (note that the 3DMark03 demonstrates a noticeable difference. Think again what the 3DMark03 measures indeed). Again, the FX5900 outdoes the RADEON 9800 PRO in the heavy mode with the AA and performance-level anisotropy, but loses to the latter in the light modes.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)

If you remember, all GeForce FX cards were much behind their competitors starting from the drivers 43.00 to 44.03, and only with the drivers 44.65 the programmers have cured that. Note that the rise wasn't caused by the cheats in the standard Chechpoint demo because in our case the scores grow up as well.

In the fight against the RADEON 9800 PRO NVIDIA's baby wins again only in the modes with AA and Performance-level anisotropy.

Code Creatures

The difference in the drivers is considerable. Up to the driver v44.71 the anisotropy didn't work in this test. I demonstrated that last time. Starting from the v44.71 this function works correctly, hence such a performance drop. By the way, it shows the approximate performance consumed by this function in this test. It looks verisimilar because there are a lot of polygons and surfaces to be processed (but maybe it's better to optimize it as one would hardly notice anisotropy on the vertically growing grass).

The card beats the RADEON 9800 PRO only in case of AA and a little in case of the AA+Anisotropy Performance.

Unreal Tournament 2003

The new version has lifted up the scores a little.

The RADEON 9800 PRO takes the lead in all modes except the Performance-level anisotropy.

Unreal II: The Awakening

There is no difference between the drivers, and the FX 5900 is far behind its rival in all modes.

RightMark 3D

RightMark, a packet richest in shaders, demonstrates how weak shader units are of the FX 5900. No difference in the drivers.


We can see that the guys at NVIDIA do listen to the testers and reviewers. The performance level in the RtCW is lifted up and anisotropy in the Code Creatures is repaired.

In the fight of the FX 5900 and the RADEON 9800 PRO NVIDIA's solution loses in most cases but both cards can be considered more or less equal.

Why equal? As I mentioned already, for $400 a user wants a high-quality and perfectly packed and equipped product. ATI's products are usually deprived of such nice frills. It's still very pleasant to get a video card with an interesting and useful cooling system, owners of transparent PC cases will be glad seeing a radiating card; also it's nice to get a bag instead of just a wrapped card! Note that many other NVIDIA partners equip their cards with so splendid accessory packs and packages.

Also remember that none of the RADEON 9700/9800 based cards have the VIVO support.

The Albatron Gigi GeForce FX 5900PV 128MB can give you:

  1. Very high speed in 3D; it's equal to the RADEON 9800 PRO only in the heavy AA and anisotropy modes (the prices are equal at that);
  2. A finished modern technological solution with the DX9 support (such games are right around the corner already), though the shaders are slower compared to the ATI's solution;
  3. VIVO support (in contrast to its competitor);
  4. Pleasure from such high-quality product.

Let me point it out once again that the FX 5900 and RADEON 9800 PRO cards are approximately equal. It's for you to choose. In future complicated shader-filled games ATI's cards can have more prospects, but when should we expect such games? When the FX 5900 and R9800PRO become the mainstream solutions? At that time the difference will be lacking at all. Besides, the pricecut rates should be also accounted for. If the FX 5900 is cheaper than the RADEON 9800 PRO, the choice won't be so difficult.

In closing I should say that the reviewers are not guilty that ATI and NVIDIA have released similar products with their advantages and disadvantages. That is why do not try to accuse us of any adherence using our "for" or "against" comments. It's typical of fans but not of honest reviewers. I can't choose between the RADEON 9800 PRO and the FX 5900 or recommend one or another processor. As to cards, I like everything beautiful. That's my weakness. Like in the review of the Hercules 3D Prophet 9800 PRO I voted for this card because it's a real masterpiece among all R9800 models. And I like this Albatron's very much. I'm sure many of those who use High-End products would support me (I again reproach those vendors who pay no attention to accessories, package types and cards' design. Except Hercules RADEON 9800 PRO we have seen no cards from ATI partners which would have a design different from the reference one.

In our 3Digest you can find full comparison characteristics for video cards of this and other classes.

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

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