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AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT
Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT
MSI FX5900XT

NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT

February 19, 2004








CONTENTS

  1. Video cards' features
  2. Testbed, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Test results: performance comparison
  4. Conclusion

The sector of 3D accelerators is expecting new solutions from ATI and NVIDIA! But we do remember that new-comers mostly belong to the High-End level and have high prices. Today we will test the middle-end solutions, though they are closer to the upper middle-end niche. Exactly such cards are the most popular on the market.

The collage above says that the FX 5900 can be found at $200.. Is that true? Well, yes, it's true though there are some stipulations. But before we proceed have a look at the list of reviews below related with the FX 5900 line and the NV35 architecture on the whole.
 

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

So, can we consider the FX 5900XT a full-functional FX 5900? - Yes! Although NVIDIA's postfix XT sometimes means that a given card is crippled (for example, its memory bus is shortened), in the FX 5900XT it means that the card is equipped with slower memory modules and an updated and simplified PCB. Besides, some cards have their core clock reduced from 400 to 390 MHz, though not all of them, many have a 400 MHz core. 

So, a user can get a full-featured FX 5900 at the price of around $200. The tests at the end will show how the fact that the memory clock was reduced from 850 to 700 MHz affected the performance. However, the most important is that it's the first time in the history of 3D accelerators when 256bit cards are priced at $200 (crippled RADEON 9800SE on the 256bit PCB are still dearer than $220-240)! The RADEON 9700 cards having the same memory bus were closer to this level but they left the market without reaching even $250. Although some companies produced RADEON 9500 based on RADEON 9700's PCB, such cards left the scene long time ago and they were few.

The question is why do they follow such policy? The FX 5900XT throttles its junior brother FX 5700 Ultra which was going to take the sub$200 sector. But who is going to buy it if there's a better option from NVIDIA! The answer is that the sales of FX 5700 Ultra based cards are actually put off in order to sell out FX 5900XT card to empty the stocks of NV35 chips. If you remember, the RADEON 9500 was originally meant for the updated 128-bit PCB, but the problems with the timely delivery of such boards made the board makers either to wait or to produce the RADEON 9500 on 256bit PCBs. The second option was preferable, and during a certain period such cards had the crippled chip but a normal 256bit bus. When the 128-bit PCBs arrived, the card manufacturers started making the weaker cards under the same name of RADEON 9500, and the 256bit ones quickly disappeared from the market, especially because they were very popular as it was simple to make RADEON 9700 out of them.

It might soon happen to the FX 5900XT cards too. Their life is short. When the NV4x is released the previous NV35 based herculeses will drop in price, and the FX 5900XT will disappear at all. That is why those who want a card for $210-220 should hurry. Although the prices for RADEON 9800 PRO were promised to get to the $250 level (which also means that the RADEON 9800 will get cheaper), the FX 5900XT still has some reserve and can drop down to $180. However, the destiny of weaker NVIDIA GPU based cards which currently occupy this sector will be unknown. But this is the marketing.

The tests of FX 5900CP/LX/SE cards that anticipated the FX 5900XT showed that those boards looked inferior to the RADEON 9800 in spite of the 400MHz core, that is why the FX 5900XT must be cheaper than the RADEON to remain competitive.

Today we will test three more production series cards based on the FX 5900XT. 

Cards

 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT


Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT


MSI FX5900XT



 
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT


Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT


MSI FX5900XT



 
 
 
AGP x8/x4/x2, 128 MB DDR SDRAM in 8 chips on top of the PCB.
 
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT; Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT; MSI FX5900XT
Samsung 2.8ns memory chips; it corresponds to 350 (700) MHz which is also the default memory clock. The GPU is clocked at 390 MHz. 256 bit memory bus. 



 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 256MB









Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT






MSI FX5900XT







 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 256MB






Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT



MSI FX5900XT



The cards do differ from the FX 5900 we've seen before. Will this PCB be able to run with the faster 2.2ns memory in order to move the standard FX 5900 (non-Ultra!) to the new base? - It's not clear yet. However, the rumor predicts the arrival of a kind of FX 5900XT Turbo (a curious combination of the suffixes isn't it?), which will have the new PCB combined with the 2.2ns memory. 

Now have a look at the coolers.
 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT
This cooler is similar to Leadtek's one; the sink's "paws" are decorative as they are not tightly pressed against the memory and they do not embrace all the chips.

It looks like a cooler from the FX 5700 Ultra (at least, the sink design is very similar). 







Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT
The company used a cooler which is similar to those formerly used for GeForce4 cards: it consists of a closed sink through which the fan drives air. The fan is shifted off the center of the core. The memory chips have their own sinks (though they are not that needed)











MSI FX5900XT
MSI's traditional sun! A copper-like roundish sink with a fan in the center.





All the cards except MSI's one have chips of the same size as FX 5900 and marked "XT". MSI's solution has the FX 5900 chip.




By the way, MSI's card supports VIVO through the Philips 7114 codec:




However, the TV-tuner is realized through the GeForce FX5900. The other cards feature only the TV-out.

The box contents.
 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT 
User manual, DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, software CD and WinDVD.


Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT
User manual, S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-d-Sub adapters, TV extension cords, an external power supply splitter, and a software suite shown on the right.





MSI FX5900XT
User manual, VIVO adapter/splitter, external power supply splitter, software suite shown on the right.






 

Here are the boxes:
 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT 
The box is made of thick cardboard (without a cover), with the decoration traditional of this company.


Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT
It's just the same except the fact that the box is larger (though such size is not needed).


MSI FX5900XT
The box is made of white cardboard with a glossy cover. The box decoration is typical of MSI, it looks effective and stylish.



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 9.0b;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors.
    • NVIDIA driver 53.03.

  • Athlon 64 3400+ based PC:
    • AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (2200 MHz = 220 MHz*10);
    • MSI K8T (VIA KT8); 
    • 1024 MB DDR400 SDRAM; 
    • Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 SATA 80GB; 
    • Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0b;
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21").
    • NVIDIA driver 53.03.

VSync off, S3TC off in applications. 

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 cards showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and clock speeds: 

AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX 5900XT  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x100Hz
Chaintech GeForce FX 5900XT 1600x1200x75Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x100Hz
MSI FX5900XT 1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x100Hz, 1024x768x100Hz
 

Test results: performance

Test applications:
 

  • Unreal 2: The Awakening (Infogrames), DirectX 8.1, multitexturing, tested with Bench'emAll! 2.5beta
  • RightMark 3D (one of the game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 
  • Test settings: pixel shaders 1.1, shadow buffers OFF.
     
  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) - DirectX 9.0, two different demos (ixbt07 and coast). Tested with anisotropic filtering enabled.
    Note! Since this is the leaked beta version, the test results can be just of conditional interest.
     
  • 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. AA doesn't work in this game. 
  • Call of Duty (MultiPlayer) (Infinity Ward/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, ixbt1203demo, test settings - maximum, S3TC ON 
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v.49 (Core Design/Eldos Software) - DirectX 9.0, Paris5_4 demo, test settings are shown here.  

 

If you need the demo benchmarks please email me. 

Performance

Conclusion

The diagrams show that these cards justify their price, considering that the RADEON 9800 is still overpriced. But what's going to happen in the future is unknown.

A user's choice within the FX 5900XT family will be based on the price, accessories and unique features one or another card possesses. MSI's solution has an excellent accessory pack, and it actually looks a winner compared to two other cards. AOpen's card is very modest and doesn't have any distinguishing features. Chaintech's board has a pretty good package contents but its cooler doesn't suit for overclocking needs.

By the way, I didn't publish the overclocking results of each card because it can depend on a sample, and it can change from 420 MHz to 470 MHz. Memory overclocking depends on what memory chips a given manufacturer uses for a given board. But I must say that most FX 5900XT cores are able to reach the level of the FX 5900 Ultra. The memory scores will be lower.

All the cards tested ran steadily during the tests and didn't overheat. MSI's card makes noise least of all, Chaintech's is the loudest, though it didn't reach the threshold after which noise gets on nerves.

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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