iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB Video Card Review

November 19, 2003







CONTENTS

  1. Video cards features
  2. Testbed, 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. Test results: TRAOD: Benchmarking in paris5_4
  11. Test results: TRAOD: Benchmarking in paris1c
  12. Test results: TRAOD: Benchmarking in paris2g
  13. Test results: HALO: Combat Evolved 
  14. Test results: Half-Life2(beta): ixbt07 benchmark
  15. Test results: Half-Life2(beta): coast benchmark
  16. Test results: Splinter Cell
  17. Conclusion


I wonder if you still remember the Thundra cards from Gigabyte - they were the last graphics cards based on NVIDIA's GPUs (GeForce3 Ti200/500). 

Yet in Autumn 2001 Gigabyte and NVIDIA had very strained relations aggravated by the release of the ATI RADEON 8500 which signified the end of NVIDIA's monopoly (before that ATI's products had been always weaker, and that attempt to catch up with NVIDIA was a success). Starting from 2002 Gigabyte produced only RADEON based cards. What made the company change its mind and return to NVIDIA based cards a year and a half later? There are a lot of various opinions: the company felt hurt because ATI partnered with ASUSTeK, Gigabyte's competitor, or it just followed ASUSTeK which produced both NVIDIA and ATI based cards, or it could be because ATI didn't supply a sufficient number of chips, or another reason could be ATI's dissatisfaction with poor sales. But they were just rumors. We will hardly guess the real reason, but anyway, now both companies produce graphics cards based both on NVIDIA's and ATI's chips (Gigabyte keeps on making RADEON based cards).

So, Gigabyte decided to make a whole line of cards based on NVIDIA's latest GPUs (plus a couple of cards based on NVIDIA's line of the end of 2002). And we are going to look at NVIDIA latest line named GeForce FX.

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

Today we will test the most powerful graphics card from NVIDIA's camp - GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. Gigabyte hasn't yet developed its own version of such card, and to be the first on the market the company simply bought a batch of NVIDIA reference cards and attached its own sticker to the cooler.

Usually Gigabyte's cards ship in big attractive big, and this one is relatively small and says that the card is "Made in Taiwan":




On the card itself you can see the following information:




The GV-N595U trade mark is reserved for three cards: with VIVO; with VIVO and Hardware monitoring; and with a TV-out. We had the last card in our lab.

Card

Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB



 
Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB
The card has AGP x8/x4 interface, 256 MB DDR SDRAM memory in 8 chips on both PCB sides.

Hynix 2ns memory chips (corresponds to 500 (100) MHz), memory clocked at 475 (950) MHz, GPU at 475 MHz. 256bit memory bus.
 





 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra










 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra










 

This is simply a copy of the reference card tested before. 

Note that the cooler takes two slots, that is why you shouldn't count on the first PCI slot.




The cooler is pretty big and consists of a turbine that takes air from outside, drives it through the heatsink and lets it out into the PC case. Since air doesn't change its direction inside the cooler, such system is relatively quiet (though it's incomparable to the FlowFX).

Have a look at the package and accessories. 
 

Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB
Although the box is not big (untypical of Gigabyte), it looks nice. It will apparently have other kinds of stickers notifying about additional features of one or another card of the GV-N595U family.



 
 
Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB
The box contains a user guide, software CD, three games (see the screenshot on the left), and DVI-to-d-Sub and SVideo-to-RCA adapters.






 

 

Testbed and drivers

Testbed: 

  • 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 v52.70.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications. 

Cards used for comparison:

  • ATI RADEON 9800 XT(412/365 (730) MHz, 256 MB DDR, driver 6.396).
  • Hercules 3D Prophet 9800 XT (RADEON 9800 XT, 445-432/365 (730) MHz, 256 MB DDR, driver 6.396).
  • NVIDIA GeForce Fx 5950 Ultra (475/475 (950) MHz, 256 MB DDR, driver 52.16).

One of the aims today is to compare performance on the drivers v52.16 and v52.70. Note that the driver version 52.70 has the same settings as the v52.16.

When overclocked, the card reached 530/1060 MHz. The card is bundled with the V-Tuner but this version doesn't support the FX5950. 

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:

Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz
 

Test results: performance

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

NVIDIA's optimization policy changes the things and we do not know anymore if there are applications where NVIDIA's anisotropy works to its full capacity. That is why we consider that it's correct to compare ANISO 16xQ (ATI) to ANISO 8xQ (NV). Both have their strong and weak points, but in general they compensate each other. 

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 
  • RightMark 3D v.0.4 (one of the test scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4).   
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, three demo scenes, maximum quality, Depth of Fields PS20 off. The settings are equal for all the cards tested.


If you need patch 49 which is not easy to find and the demo benchmarks let me know by email. 

     
  • HALO: Combat Evolved (Microsoft) - Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, high quality

  •  
  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) - DirectX 9.0, two different demo (ixbt07 and coast). Tested in anisotropic filtering mode and in the heavy mode with AA and anisotropy enabled.

  •  
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell v.1.2b (UbiSoft) - Direct3D, Vertex/Pixel Shaders 1.1/2.0, Hardware T&L, Very High quality; demo 1_1_2_Tbilisi

  •  

Attention! Since this is a leaked beta version, we won't take into account the cards' scores obtained in this test.

Let me remind you that we are going to compare the ForceWare driver 52.16 and 52.70. The Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra will be compared with the Hercules 3D Prophet 9800 XT as it's the fastest RADEON 9800 XT based card for today. Both cards have adequate prices. 
 

Quake3 Arena
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: on the 52.70 the performance is lower and the FX5950U loses to its competitor.

AA enabled: the card wins in 1024x768 but loses in 1600x1200.

Anisotropy enabled: the card is just slightly outscores its competitor.

AA & anisotropy enabled: there are both victories and defeats but on average it's a draw game.
 
 

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: the leadership is not convincing.

AA enabled: the scores are noticeably higher.

Anisotropy enabled: the breakaway of the FX5950 is not great again.

AA & anisotropy enabled: the FX5950U wins at the expanse of AA.
 
 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: the card falls a little behind.

AA enabled: the same

Anisotropy enabled: the FX5950U loses again

AA & anisotropy enabled: defeat.

The card is less speedy on the 52.70 compared to the 52.16. Probably, they have finally corrected the artefact of lighting of some objects.
 
 

Code Creatures
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: parity

AA enabled: FX5950U keeps the lead

Anisotropy enabled: the victory turns into a defeat.

AA & anisotropy enabled: parity.
 
 

Unreal Tournament 2003
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: it falls a little behind, though generally it looks like parity.

AA enabled: the card looks even worse.

Anisotropy enabled: the FX5950U loses again

AA & anisotropy enabled: defeat.
 
 

Unreal II: The Awakening
















Light modes without AA and anisotropy: defeat

AA enabled: the same

Anisotropy enabled: the same

AA & anisotropy enabled: fiasco.
 
 

RightMark 3D
















Well, the test uses a lot of shaders, and the Hercules R9800XT easily wins.
 
 

TR:AoD, Paris5_4 DEMO







The shaders again help the RADEON 9800 XT gain the leadership.
 
 

TR:AoD, Paris1c DEMO







The same.
 
 

TR:AoD, Paris2g DEMO







This scene uses much fewer shaders, that is why the NV38 comes very close to the 9800XT.
 
 

HALO: Combat Evolved










Light modes without AA and anisotropy: the card is a bit behind its competitor.

This game doesn't support AA.

Anisotropy enabled: the Hercules R9800XT is far ahead!
 
 

Half-Life2 (beta): ixbt07 demo

 










Since the game is unfinished, the data obtained are not analyzed.
 
 

Half-Life2 (beta): coast demo

 










 

Splinter Cell










Light modes without AA and anisotropy: parity

AA doesn't work here. 

Anisotropy enabled: the Hercules RADEON 9800 XT keeps the lead.
 

Conclusion

The performance doesn't speed up with the driver version 52.70, sometimes it even falls down; however, the developers removed the bug in the RtCW.

As to the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra card, this is just a reference solution: it wins and loses right the same way. In the shader tests the NVIDIA card mostly loses the battle. The price will be a determining factor! If it's $70-80 cheaper than the top RADEON 9800 XT, the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra can be a success (but remember that the cooler is pretty bulky and not that quiet). 

The experience shows that such boxes will be further used for Gigabyte's own cards. I don't know how they are going to look and what features they are going to have. It looks similar to the situation with the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra based cards from Leadtek and MSI as the first lots also contained only reference cards. Only the next lots contained the two-cooler cards from Leadtek and bright red MSI's cards with copper sun-like coolers.

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




 
Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com
 


Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


25

Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.