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NV35 - NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra Revealed
By Vijay Anand
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Monday, 26th May, 2003
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  

NV35 - Cinematic Computing Take Two?

It wasn’t more than three months ago when most hardware review sites received evaluation samples of the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra, a product that had been paper launched at year-end of 2002 with massive hype and marketing going into it. Unfortunate for NVIDIA that its silicon manufacturing partner, TSMC, have had yield problems for the 0.13-micron GeForce FX 5800 Ultra GPU. With very limited quantities of this high-end GPU, most early adopters were left high and dry, as it was extremely difficult to obtain one off the shelf; let alone finding one to drool at.

Building quantities of the GPU was not the only problem at hand as the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra was not an all-round stellar performer that many were hoping it was. While the highly limited GeForce FX 5800 Ultra was going for anywhere between S$1000 - S$1200, ATI’s RADEON 9700 Pro was available at only S$700 at that time and was on average, capable of 75% of the FX 5800 Ultra’s performance and matching it in some situations. This proved to be a more logical purchase a few months ago. The GeForce FX 5800 Ultra’s use of DDR II memory proved to be exorbitant and it is one of the main cost factors besides the GPU, the complex 12-layer PCB and its Flow FX cooling situation. On top of these, many ardent gamers noted that the Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) quality was nowhere near that offered by ATI’s solution and this upset many hardcore gamers since many of them utilize FSAA and AF in these high end gaming cards to enhance their personal gaming experience.

Few months later, on 14th May 2003 which marked NVIDIA’s launch of the NV35 core, the successor to the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra whose core was designated as NV30. By this time, even NVIDIA had admitted that the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra was a lackluster product and had been completely yanked off the roadmap since NV35 is here. Looks like we were right on our speculations in our first article of the NVIDIA GeForce FX where we predicted that the NV30 was just a stepping stone to the more finalized form of the GeForce FX that would be NV35. Of course NV35 is just the code name and during the launch period, it was officially revealed that GeForce FX 5900 is the product name. Like its predecessor, there is a GeForce FX 5900 and a GeForce FX 5900 Ultra model. For the time being, it looks to us that the only variance between them is that the Ultra version would be equipped with 256MB frame buffer while the Non-Ultra version would be outfitted with the usual 128MB frame buffer.

NVIDIA's new mascot for the FX 5900 GPU. Fire and smoke being one of the most difficult elements to reproduce accurately, the FX 5900 Ultra will represent just that as it has the ability to do so.

NVIDIA was able to launch the GeForce FX 5900 GPU without too much delay because they have multiple teams concurrently working on various projects. As such, they are confident that by June, you would be able to land your hands on GeForce FX 5900-based graphics cards in retail. Here are the detailed specifications for the reference NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra product that we have here in our shoot-out:

NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra Technical Specifications
Graphics Engine
  • NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 GPU
  • High Precision 3D Rendering Engine
    • 8 pixels per clock rendering engine
    • Full 128-bit Precision Graphics Pipeline
    • Native support for 128-bit / 64-bit floating point and 32-bit integer rendering modes
    • Up to 16 textures per pass
  • CineFX 2.0 Engine
    • Advanced Pixel Shaders allow floating-point pixel shader operations to run 2x faster than CineFX 1.0 Engine.
    • Support for DX 9.0 Pixel Shader 2.0+
    • Support for DX 9.0 Vertex Shader 2.0+
    • Very long pixel programs up to 1024 instructions
    • Very long vertex programs with up to 256 static instructions and up to 65536 instructions executed before termination
    • Subroutines in shader programs
    • Dynamic flow control
    • Procedural shading
    • Z-correct bump-mapping
    • Hardware-accelerated shadow effects with shadow buffers
    • UltraShadow Technology to accelerate shadow  computations
    • Two-sided stencil
    • Keyframe animation
    • Programmable matrix palette skinning
    • Custom lens effects: fish eye, wide angle,fresnel effects, water refraction
  • Intellisample HCT Technology
    • Loss-less Color Compression and Z Compression (up to 4:1 ratio in real time)
    • Fast Z-clear
    • Adaptive texture filtering
    • Dynamic Gamma Correction
    • Fast antialiasing and compression performance
    • High Compression Technology (HCT) increases visual quality at high resolutions with fast performance
  • DirectX and S3TC texture compression
  • Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768 with built-in Macrovision copy protection
  • Video Mixing Renderer (VMR)
  • DVD and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i resolutions
  • Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters and external HDTV encoders
  • Support for dual-link DVI with resolutions support of 1600x1200.
  • High-performance 2D rendering engine
  • Digital Vibrance Control 3.0 (DVC)
  • nView Multi-display Technology
  • Default clock speed in 2D environment: 300/850 MHz (core/DDR memory)
  • Default clock speed in 3D environment: 450/850 MHZ (core/DDR memory)
  • 256-bit  memory interface
  • 27.2GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
  • AGP 8X including fast writes and sideband addressing
  • Advanced thermal monitoring and thermal management
  • Microsoft DirectX 9.0 optimizations and support
  • OpenGL 1.4 optimizations and support
Graphics Memory
  • 256MB DDR I SDRAM of 425MHz clock rate (effective speed of 850MHz DDR)
  • Dual 400MHz RAMDACs that support resolutions of 2048x1536@85Hz
  • 1x analog RGB connector
  • 1x mini-DIN connector (for Video-in / Video-out)
  • 1x DVI-I connector (for Digital Flat Panel displays)
  • Driver support for Microsoft Windows 95/98/98SE/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP, Linux IA32 / IA64 / AMD64 and FreeBSD
  • NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
  • Fully compliant professional OpenGL 1.4 API with NVIDIA extensions
  • Complete DirectX support including 9.0 and lower
Other Information
  • AGP 2.0/3.0 slot required
  • 1 spare slot next to the AGP port is required.
  • 1 PCI-assigned IRQ Required
  • 1 four-pin power connector

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