iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 128MB

February 18, 2003

As usual, before we proceed to analysis of the new accelerator we recommend that you read the analytic article scrutinizing the architecture and specifications of the NVIDIA GeForce FX (NV30)


  1. General information
  2. Peculiarities of the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 128MB video card 
  3. Test system configuration and drivers' settings 
  4. Test results: briefly on 2D 
  5. RightMark3D synthetic tests: philosophy and tests description
  6. Test results: RightMark3D: Pixel Filling 
  7. Test results: RightMark3D: Geometry Processing Speed 
  8. Test results: RightMark3D: Hidden Surface Removal 
  9. Test results: RightMark3D: Pixel Shading 
  10. Test results: RightMark3D: Point Sprites 
  11. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE synthetic tests 
  12. Additional theoretical information and summary on the synthetic tests
  13. Information on anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing
  14. Architectural features and prospects
  15. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game1 
  16. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game2 
  17. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game3 
  18. Test results: 3DMark2001 SE: Game4 
  19. Test results: 3DMark03: Game1 
  20. Test results: 3DMark03: Game2 
  21. Test results: 3DMark03: Game3 
  22. Test results: 3DMark03: Game4 
  23. Test results: Quake3 ARENA 
  24. Test results: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter 
  25. Test results: Return to Castle Wolfenstein 
  26. Test results: Code Creatures DEMO 
  27. Test results: Unreal Tournament 2003 DEMO 
  28. Test results: AquaMark 
  29. Test results: RightMark 3D 
  30. Test results: DOOM III Alpha version 
  31. 3D quality: Anisotropic filtering
  32. 3D quality: Anti-aliasing
  33. 3D quality in general
  34. Conclusion 

Architectural features and prospects

So, let's sum up performance of the various units of the NV30 with the synthetic tests and peep into the future. 

Weak points Strong points
Narrow memory bus (affects FSAA) High speed of vertex calculations where it does nothing with loops and conditions
Low speed of pixel calculations High texture sampling and filtering speed
Low speed of vertex calculations in case of loops and transitions as a cost of flexibility Markedly accelerated anisotropic filtering

First of all, NVIDIA should eliminate its weakest point - the throughput of the 128bit bus. Probably, the next top solution - NV35 - will have a 256bit DDR2 bus, and only this fact can boost up performance in real applications in FSAA modes by 1.5 times (!). And the low speed of pixel calculations will likely be put an end to only in the NV40 - no fundamental changes in the architecture of the pixel pipelines of the NV31/34 or 35 are expected. Probably, they will use the same units. 

We can praise NVIDIA for two things - extremely effective texture units which perfectly sample multiple textures, and more effective anisotropic filtering. One more pleasant thing is a working HSR technology. 

But there are no freebies. Additional functional flexibility in vertex processors (dynamic transitions and loops) and pixel processors (long shaders and a great number of constants, as well as predicates) is achieved at the expense of performance. While in case of vertex processors it is not noticeable, in case of pixel ones it can turn into a bottleneck in future applications. On the other hand, only such flexibility of pixel processors can help this chip get into Hollywood (realistic effects and almost real-time rendering). I hope the new drivers will be able to improve the situation with pixel shaders. As well as with VS 2.0. It will be important for all chips of the NV3x architecture the mainstream models of which (NV31/34) will become widely popular for a long time. 

3D graphics, 3DMark2001 game tests



3DMark2001, 3DMARKS

Sometimes the GF FX loses in the tough AA modes, but on the whole the NVIDIA's solution is ahead, especially in the toughest one: AA + anisotropy. Well, the faster anisotropy helps a lot. 

3DMark2001, Game1 Low details

Excellent scores in case of anisotropy, a marginal lead without loads and a perfect victory over the R9700Pro in the toughest mode of AA + anisotropy. The AA 6xS revealed the weakness of the memory bus of the NV30. 


3DMark2001, Game2 Low details

In spite of the victory with the anisotropic filtering, the lead is very small, and in high resolutions it even loses in the tough modes (probably, because of the defeat in the AA mode). 


3DMark2001, Game3 Low details

It's similar here. 


3DMark2001, Game4

Here NV30 performs well (except the situation with AA 6xS - it's because of the combination of the fast MSAA and very slow SSAA). 

In general, in the 3DMark2001SE the NV30 scores good results. Of course, we expected more taking into account the difference in the cores' frequencies, but the bottleneck of the NVIDIA's solution doesn't let the things be so bright. Where is the promised frame buffer compression in case of AA and hyper speeds? At present, you can see it only at 4x. But this mode is enough for today. And quality will be examined later. 

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Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)
Alexander Medvedev (unclesam@ixbt.com

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