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MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X
Video Card Review

May 4, 2003






CONTENTS

  1. General information
  2. Video card's features
  3. Testbed configuration
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusion

There is a good question: "If prices are so high, does it mean that someone needs it?" This simple phrase carries much sense. If this concerns mainstream products, then it means that traders make money on the poor of the country this question is set is. But what if it refers to something exclusive? 

Would you buy an oncoming product A which is worse and more expensive than similar product B from another company? I think, no. Then why does this A cost an arm and a leg? The question is very complicated. In the Leadtek GF FX 5800 Ultra review Leadtek GF FX 5800 Ultra we started discussing it and today we will continue. But first have a look at the list of reviews of the most complicated NVIDIA'a product, even ill-fated to some degree and looking very tiring for all NVIDIA's partners - NV30 (GeForce FX); the list also covers the reviews of the FX 5200/5600. 

One of our writers has recently raised a question why we feed the industry like blind people or zombies - we throw a great heap of money into the insatiable PC to stuff it with new cards, boards, and other various devices of IT giants. Actually, the DirectX 9.0 is not needed for anyone except the developers. But hardly any user lost the chance of having this API on his or her ... Voodoo3 or TNT2. "Why?" - "Just to have it there". 

The GeForce FX 5200 is not very speedy, it's sometimes worse than even the GeForce4 MX, but it supports DirectX 9.0. Right after its launch the PC-related forums were overfilled with questions like - Should I replace my RADEON 9000? Or even RADEON 9500? No, it's not users' stupidity or incompetence. It's zombieing. The RADEON 9500 fully supports everything the GeForce FX is able of! Besides, the GeForce FX 5200 is slower! "But no! It's still GeForce FX!" It's a deadlock! Barrow! Californian pyramid where mummies of NV1, NV4, NV10 are lying... 

"GeForce be praised!" Huang is a genius... he was able to create a company out of a small group of people who left SGI, and its products are now extolled. Certainly, the RADEON will also become an icon soon for many to pray to. 

"You shall not make for yourself an idol!" This expression was first glorified but then they under the glass in the museum - just like a curious trifle - and kicked off making idols. The presidents of the companies idolized are giving long performances just to make users stuff fire-spitting devices into their PC cases. But the summer is coming closer... And PR agencies have already started complaining that such devices are dying because of overheat... One of them is already embalmed and sent to the iXBT's museum... However, zombieing is stronger... 

We can endlessly speak about the negative effect of the informational pressure, when you get something named VIDEO CARD or 3D ACCELERATOR instead of a fridge which is really needed in your house.  Otherwise, the Unreal won't be so... irrealistic, and 3DMark won't give so high score... Do you really need that all? - Let's go back to the question in the very beginning: "If the prices are so high, then someone needs it". 

If a video card is priced at $500, then either the traders are self-murders willing to go broke, or the cards produced are few, and some will be ready to pay $500 for such an unforgettable (noisy) wonder. 

We can discuss disadvantages of the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra yet for a long time, blame it for its poor drivers, crippled AA in some games, quality/speed options rearranged, victory of the ATI's competitor which runs at the lower speed and heats less, and complain about the price of $500 (on our local market). But this will change nothing. It does sell at such prices. Moreover, there is a certain shortage of this product on the market. 

Now we are moving to one more GeForce FX 5800 Ultra based card. This time from MSI. This Taiwanese company has already gained high authority on the market. 

Card

MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X 







 
 
 
MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X 
The card has AGP X2/4/8 interface, 128 MB DDR II SDRAM in 8 chips on both PCB sides. 128bit memory interface. 

Samsung K4N26323AE-GC1K, memory chips of BGA form-factor. Maximum clock speed is 550 (1100) MHz, hence 1.8 ns access time. The memory works at 500 (1000) MHz in 3D and at 300 (600) MHz in 2D. 





 
 
 
Comparison with the reference design, front view 
MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 







 
 
 
Comparison with the reference design, back view
MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X  Reference card NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra 






 

This is simply a copy of the reference card with the MSI's logo. Just remember that the FlowFX cooler is very noisy, though if you work only in 2D and rarely use scrolling, the cooler won't start at all. If the PC case is not ventilated, the cooler behaves quite interestingly. Although the drivers have chip's and board's temperatures indicated, the cooler depends on the mode rather than on the temperatures - it goes on when 3D is enabled or fast scrolling in 2D is used. 

However, I came across some cases over the Net when such cards failed because the driver didn't recognize a screensaver as a 3D application, and the cooler stood idle. The consequences were awful. Although the chipset's and memory's temperatures exceeded 100 C, the cooler remained indifferent. Thus, the card became one more museum exhibit. 

Well, if there is nothing more to examine on the card... Stop! What about the empty socket for a TV-out processor? Oh, this function is supported by the processor itself. If you remember, they promised the same in the NV25, but then it turned out that the TV-Out was supported only by the GeForce4 MX , and the GeForce4 Ti needed an external TV-coder. 

It's not difficult to activate the TV-out function of this card - after you attach all cables and start up the PC, the TV screen will show a copy of the monitor contents up to the OS booting. After that the TV monitor will go off, and the PC display will offer the nView menu with all possible dual-image settings. In the Clone mode you will get a copy of the PC's image on your TV screen. By the way, I don't have to make any settings on my Hitachi TV-set - there are no any black edges (1024x768). 




But the settings are provided anyway. 




In general, the impression is positive. It even reminds the XBOX. Now I'm starting the demo with so popular elf-girl. 






By the way, NVIDIA has made one tricky marketing step when threw into the Net a patch to undress the girl (but do not wait for a screenshot in the high resolution ! :-) 




The rumor has it that when the demo appeared the guys at ATI admitted that the Canadian company lost the battle in marketing its RADEON 9700-9800... Well, it's dull to shave off hair of the monster.. And maybe they don't have the artists who could replace that monster with a girl... :-) 

Now let's go back to our subject and pop into the box: 
 

MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X 
User Guide, S-Video-to-RCA and DVI-to-d-Sub adapters, TV-out extenders and a heap of CDs! All latest MSI's solutions can boast of them. Here you can find Morrowind, Duke Nuken Manhattan Project, Ghost region games, 7 demo versions of games, WinDVD 5.1, 3D Desktop, MSI Media Center, and weighty packs of drivers and utilities. 





 
The card ships in the retail package. 
MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X 
The bag's dimensions are really impressive! The designers have done their best to create a real masterpiece. You can throw back the lid to look at the card through the window; the card description and detailed catalogue of all accessories are supplied; the box itself is perfectly designed. MSI should be praised indeed for such a box! 








 

Overclocking

MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X  The card hardly overclocks because of the memory, - and the overall performance is primarily limited by the memory clock speed. 

 
 
 

Note that 

  • Overclocking requires additional card cooling (for its memory, in particular): 



  • Overclocking depends on a certain sample, and you shouldn't extend single-card results to the entire series or trade mark. Overclocking results are not obligatory characteristics of video cards.

Testbed and drivers

Testbed: 

  • Pentium 4 3066 MHz based computer: 
    • Intel Pentium 4 3066 MHz; 
    • ASUS P4G8X (iE7205) mainboard; 
    • 1024 MB DDR SDRAM; 
    • Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB HDD; 
    • Windows XP SP1; DirectX 9.0; 
    • ViewSonic P810 (21") and ViewSonic P817 (21") monitors. 
    • NVIDIA drivers v43.51. 

VSync off in drivers, texture compression off in applications. Texture detail set to High Quality. 

Test results

As for 2D quality, the card together with the ViewSonic P817 monitor and BNC Bargo cable showed excellent quality at the following resolutions and clock speeds:

MSI FX5800 Ultra-TD8X  1600x1200x85Hz, 1280x1024x120Hz, 1024x768x160Hz 

 

Test results: 3Digest

Test applications: 

  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein (MultiPlayer) (id Software/Activision) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Checkpoint-demo, maximum test settings, S3TC OFF, the configs are available here
    •  

  • Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v.1.05 (Croteam/GodGames) - OpenGL, multitexturing, Grand Cathedral demo, test settings: quality, S3TC OFF 
    •  

  • Codecreatures Benchmark Pro (Codecult) - Direct3D, Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, highest quality

  •  
  • Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo v.1077 (Final Release) (Digital Extreme/Epic Games) - Direct3D, Vertex Shaders, Hardware T&L, Dot3, cube texturing, default quality 

  •  
  • 3DMark2001 SE Pro (MadOnion/Remedy), Game2 "Dragothic" - DirectX 8.0, Hardware TCL, multitexturing, LOW Details, DXTC OFF, double buffering, 24bit Z buffer

  •  
  • 3DMark2001 Pro (MadOnion/Remedy) - DirectX 8.0, Hardware TCL, Game1, Game2, Game3, Game4, Low, High detail levels

  •  
  • RightMark 3D (one of the game scenes) - DirectX 8.1, Dot3, cube texturing, shadow buffers, vertex and pixel shaders (1.1, 1.4). 

February 2003 summary diagrams of videocards performance with the latest drivers

Overclocked cards are marked red, clock speeds follow 'o/c' sign. 

For the summary diagrams we used drivers v42.82 for NVIDIA cards, v6.307 for ATI cards, v3.10.58 for SIS cards and v1.03.01.002 for Matrox cards. 

Conclusion

First of all, I must say that it makes no sense to test such cards separately: the outcome will be the same until new drivers able to change the situation are launched. That is why the information from our 3Digest is enough. 

The box's design and the accessory pack are a good match for such an expensive card. The card itself is just a copy of the reference sample with MSI's logo. Everything that could be said was said in the reviews listed above. The card heats very much, the cooler works noisy in 3D and stands idle in 2D, that is why you should provide the proper ventilation. 

But I want to warn the vendors against hiking the prices because this is not the most powerful accelerator for the beginning of May (in the middle of the month we will get another one). However, the price will be affected by the fact that the GeForce FX 5800 processors are not many in number. 

Highs:

  • Almost the best 3D performance among accelerators available on the market; 
  • High build quality; 
  • Excellent accessory pack (retail); 

Lows:

  • Not widely available and expensive GeForce FX 5800 Ultra. 

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com
 

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