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Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB
Golden Limited Video Card Review

June 17, 2003






CONTENTS

  1. Video card's features
  2. Testbed configuration, test tools, 2D quality
  3. Comparison of the cards' performance
  4. Conclusion

How should we write about the GeForce4 Ti a year ago? - It's simple: the card had a decent speed gain (without anisotropy and AA), a dual-monitor support and other advantageous features. How should we write about the GeForce FX 5600 today? - It's not simple: the card has no speed gain without AA and anisotropy as compared to the Ti 4200, and it often works slower. An average user doesn't need the DX9 support yet. All other features were supported yet in the GF4Ti. The FX 5600 shows an advantage only with AA and/or anisotropy enabled. But most users do not know yet how to adjust 3D accelerator's settings.

Nevertheless, ATI and NVIDIA have left the speed race and are now focusing on refinement of graphics quality by launching GPUs able to process AA and anisotropy faster. That is why a user should know the rudiments of 3D graphics if he wants to get benefit from latest solutions.

One need to know that anisotropic filtering is almost the most important function for visual quality in 3D scenes. This function can be enabled in all drivers' settings. See our previous reviews for details.

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

The basic review of the GeForce FX 5800 has some details on the anisotropy. More information can be found in the 3Digest section dedicated to this function.

Anti-aliasing (AA) is also an important function that improves quality of graphics perception and does away with stair-step appearance. The reviews listed above also have some information on AA.

Last time we found out that the FX 5600 came to replace the low-end GeForce4 Ti. The cards based on this processor can have their cost reduced much thanks to a cheaper GPU (cheaper production) and TSOP memory; besides, the PCB itself is not expensive. That is why the current overpricing that appeases the appetite of traders and vendors won't last long.

Owners of the GeForce4 Ti have no reason to replace their cards with the FX 5600, but if you want a card within $150-190 and want to get maximum of it, you can go with the FX.

Besides, it's not an ordinary card among those built on this processor. First of all, it has its chip and memory clock increased (350/300 (600) MHz against 325/275 (550)), and secondly, it has 256 MB video memory instead of 128 MB (though even 128 MB memory is not used in full measure by game developers). Thirdly, it sports the VIVO support.

This unique product is made by Prolink, - a Taiwanese company whose PixelView trade mark is well known on the market. Prolink has been dealing with multimedia solutions for a long time already, and the market offers offers a great deal of its TV tuners. 4 years ago Prolink successfully stepped into the videocard market using only NVIDIA's processors. This prosperous company is NVIDIA's official partner. I must say that some Prolink's cards (like for example Gainward's ones) have quite peculiar features.

Today we are going to test one of such cards. The Golden Limited title lets this card run at higher than rated clock speeds, like the Golden Sample of Gainward. But while Gainward's cards come clocked at their rated values, and they can be lifted by 10-15% with special software from Gainward, the Golden Limited line has the higher frequencies from the very beginning.

Card

Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited



 
 
 
AGP x8/x4/x2 interface, 256 MB DDR SDRAM in 8 chips on the front and back PCB sides.
Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited
Samsung memory chips of 3.3ns access time; it corresponds to 300 (600) MHz. Memory is clocked at the same frequency, GPU runs at 350(!) MHz (25 MHz over the rated value). 128bit memory interface.



 
 
 
Comparison with the reference design, front view
Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600










 
 
 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600










 
 
 

The design looks like the reference one, but there is some difference. The memory and core power supply modules are shifted to the left and right PCB edges. Such memory size is obtained at the expense of more capacious modules (256Mbit), not because the card has more of them. 

Now comes the cooler.
 
 
 

Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited
The cooler consists of a big heatsink mounted above and two small heatsinks for memory chips underneath. The big heatsink equipped with a fan cools the core and 4 memory chips installed above. Taking into account that the GeForce FX 5600 doesn't generate much heat even at the increased clock speed of 350 MHz and the memory running at its rated speed is just a bit warm, such design of the cooler is acceptable, though we always insisted that it's better to use separate heatsinks for memory modules and a core.






 
 
 

The card's bundled with the Philips 7114 codec for VIVO control:




The TV-out functions lie on the shoulders of the GeForce FX 5600 chip (the Philips 7114 is used only for VI). Aleksei Samsonov is currently studying TV-out quality of such cards and soon he will publish the results.

As usual, the GPU GeForce FX 5600 rests under the coolers:




Now let's see what the boxes contain: 

Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited 
User Guide, CDs with drivers and utilities, WinDVD, several obsolete games, s/w for VIVO, adapters and extenders for TV-out (for VIVO as well), DVI-to-d-Sub adapter.



 
 
 

The card ships in the retail package. 

Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited 
The card comes in a big colorful box with all necessary information written on top; even the memory type and clock are indicated.



 
 
 

Testbeds 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 v44.03.

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

Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz (nothing wrong with the quality!)

 
 
 

Test results: comparison of the cards' performance

Conventional signs: ANISO 8xB - Anisotropic 8x Balanced (this mode is currently called Performance), ANISO 8xQ - Anisotropic 8x Quality.

Test applications:

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-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, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF 

  •  
  • Quake3 Arena v.1.17 (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Quaver, 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 Demo (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.

  •  
  • AquaMark (Massive Development) the game that demonstrates card's operation in DirectX 8.1, Shaders, HW T&L.

  •  
  • 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).

Quake3 Arena, Quaver

 
 













Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, Grand Cathedral

 
 













Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer), Checkpoint

 
 













Code Creatures

 
 







Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO

 
 













AquaMark

 
 













RightMark 3D

 
 













We can see again that when the AA and anisotropy are enabled the FX 5600 based card is unmatched among other models of this price range. Sure, the RADEON 9500 PRO can perform even better, but such cards are not produced anymore.

The diagrams do not compare 128MB and 256MB cards based on the FX5600 and running at the same clock speed, but I assure you that there is no difference at all whatever the test. 

Conclusion

The Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited can give you:

  1. a higher speed in AA and/or anisotropy than its competitors (RADEON 9600 or GF4Ti 4200), and a higher performance than other FX5600 based solutions thanks to higher clock speeds; 
  2. potentially a more technological solution with the DX9 support (such games are right around the corner already); 
  3. VIVO support.

The Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5600 256MB Golden Limited is actually the fastest card on the FX 5600 GPU for today!

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

In conclusion let me remind you that the FX 5600 series is a good choice for users who want a card of the GF4 Ti 4200 level but with more efficient AA and/or anisotropy modes, as well as the normal DX9 support. This Prolink card is the right one! Besides, the prices keep on falling down (in the USA the FX5600 128MB is already available at $140 (for the middle of June), and the 256MB cards at $170; in Moscow they are nearing these pricetags). 
 
 
 
 
 

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
 

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