iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB Video Card Review

September 1, 2003


  1. Video card's features
  2. Testbed configuration, test tools, 2D quality 
  3. Test results: Quake3 ARENA

  1. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
  2. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  3. Test results: Code Creatures DEMO
  4. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003
  5. Test results: Unreal II: The Awakening
  6. Conclusion

The IT experts say that the relationship between ATI and NVIDIA is getting tougher. Yet two years ago ATI Technologies had funds 3 times as small as NVIDIA's ones and buggy products but then it pulled its together. NVIDIA, on the contrary, made some serious mistakes.

As a result, both companies are going on a par today. Multiple tests prove that. Who remembers Tseng, Trident, Rendition, PowerVR, S3, 3dfx?.. We have ATI/NVIDIA as venerable manufacturers of 2D/3D accelerators, SIS trying to maintain this sector by flooding it with cheap products which are though not always successful, and Matrox who is on its way out of the 3D market (modern functions do not help slow cards to make a good showing).

Unfortunately, the chip makers are diminishing in number. The prices therefore grow up from one High-End generation to another. That's good that both companies remain equal competitors because it actually prevents the takeover.

The accelrators' race is very exhausting. ATI and NVIDIA are violently fighting though the demand is getting weaker and the market is shrinking. What's now? Monthly announcements? Who will make the cards? No one sober card maker would do it as he would lose income from the previous solutions.

No sooner had the FX 5600 reached the market than the improved NV36 appeared from round the corner. 

But it's the manufacturers' problem. Not ours.

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

NVIDIA's partners have to look for the ways of selling new cards though they may be not that popular. Fortunately for NVIDIA, ATI stumbled over the same stone when laucnhed the RADEON 9600/9600 PRO which was slower than its predecessors. They are quits now, but it makes no difference to users.

But prices keep on falling down with time, and sooner or later the 5600 will look more attractive. Plus, fast anisotropy the GF4 Ti could only dream about.

Besides, every card maker does his best to think out something original, interesting and attractive.

The today's card does have some unique technologies. It's not the first time when AOpen makes its presence felt. We do remember its OpenBIOS, interesting mainboard designing solutions etc.

So, meet the AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB card.


AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB
AGP x8/x4/x2 interface, 256 MB DDR SDRAM in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 

Hynix memory chips of 3.6ns access time, which corresponds to 275 (550) MHz. The memory works at 250 (500) MHz, the GPU runs at 325 MHz. 128bit memory interface.

Comparison with the reference design, front view
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600

Comparison with the reference design, back view
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600


The AOpen uses its own design. According to the specs, the model marked S possesses the following technologies:


This is just an improved monitoring technology. It  monitors core and memory voltages, as well as conrols them. By the way, the same technology can help if the mainboard has problems with AGP power supply (for example, if the voltage is a bit lower than the default one).

AOpen also offers an overclocker (the new version of the utility can define the maximum cooler's rotational speed):

The voltage and fan's rotatinal speed are stored in the card's flash memory, and rebooting thus does not change them.

This system controls the rotatinal speed and temperatures:


You can either set the cooling fan speed yourselves or let the card control it through the ACS technology. By the way, in 2D the fan remains idle almost all the time (if a certain rotational speed is not set forcedly).

But the most interesting inovation is


These are card's status LEDs. You can find out whether the core and memory voltages are within the limits, define the AGP mode, and card's mode (2D/3D). Also, if any parameters deviate from the default values (for example, cooler's rotational speed), the LEDs will let you know.

Here is how beautful it looks:

But you would hardly enjoy all those lights even in a transparent PC cases as the LEDs are attached to the card undernearth. The developers should think about moving them to the top. 

Here's the cooler.

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB
This is a usual cooler but with a powerful fan able to rotate at 5000 rpm.


The card is not equipped with an external TV codec, and the TV-out is realized right in the NV31.

Here is the processor:

It was made on the 20th week this year (in May).

The box contains the following stuff.

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB 
User manual, CD with drivers and utilities, WinDVD, TV extenders, DVI-to-d-Sub, S-Video-to-RCA adapter.

Take a gander at the package:

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB 
A stylish box in dark colors. The CPU clock is indicated.


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 v45.23.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications. 

Cards for comparison:

  • MSI FX5600-VTD (GeForce FX 5600, 325/275 (550) MHz, 128 MB;
  • Sapphire Atlantis RADEON 9600 (325/200 (400) MHz, 256 MB, driver 6.368);
  • Connect3D RADEON 9600 (325/200 (400) MHz, 128 MB, driver 6.368).

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: 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5600S 256MB  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x120Hz

Test results: performance comparison

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 2003 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

  • If you want to get the demo benchmarks that we use let me know by e-mail. 
  • Quake3 Arena

    It was expected that the card would perform such way as compared to the 128MB FX 5600 card coming with the faster memory, as well as that it would beat ATI's solutions. 

    Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

    Here the RADEON 9600 takes the lead, and only in 1600x1200 (when the speeds are not playable at all) the FX 5600 outsores it. 

    Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)


    Just the same. 

    Code Creatures


    Now the FX 5600 leads the group and only in 1600x1200 it falls behind the pack.

    Unreal Tournament 2003


    The picture is like in Serious Sam: TSE & RtCW. 

    Unreal II: The Awakening


    The FX 5600 is smashed to pieces.


    Well, this is an average card based on the FX 5600. I already mentioned before that such cards do not need extra 128 MB at all.

    But from the standpoint of a unique product, this card has some interesting features. Overclcokers would be glad to have memory with the speed reserve, changeable voltages, a utility with the temperature control and warning LEDS. 

    This is a pleasant find for those who like experimenting and overclocking.

    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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