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MSI FX5200-TDR128
By Vijay Anand
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Tuesday, 26th August, 2003
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

More On The MSI FX5200-TDR128

The card itself bears resemblance to the old GeForce4 MX graphics cards in terms of size, layout, the use of cheaper TSOP memory (as opposed to BGA memory found on higher end graphics cards) and the lack of a power connector. Basically, the FX 5200 graphics cards hinge upon existing graphics card design of the GeForce4 MX era, hence the development costs for this product was definitely lower than other GeForce FX cards. These are some of the reasons why GeForce FX 5200-based graphics cards are priced quite affordably (apart from the low cost of the GPU itself).

The MSI FX5200-TDR128

T.O.P. Tech II cooling ensures cool and quiet operation of the graphics card.

All of MSI’s current line-up of graphics cards feature T.O.P. Tech cooling that ensures adequate graphics card cooling while maintaining silent operation at the same time. We have seen many MSI graphics cards with T.O.P. Tech in action and neither of the two properties (cooling and silence) is ever compromised while the card is in operation. This is something we really have to commend MSI, as they did put the effort into improving their older graphics card designs since they were known to be among the noisier cards. In fact, the FX 5200 GPU can easily do away with active cooling as heat output is easily managed by an adequately sized heatsink.

MSI generously equipped the card with Samsung’s 4ns DDR memory parts. This greatly aided in overclocking the graphics card as we reveal later in the review.

This space is allocated for a video encoder/decoder chip, but on the TDR128 variant, this chip is left optional.

Even though the video encoder/decoder chip had been left out of the MSI FX5200-TDR128 graphics card, the core itself has TV-output capabilities integrated. Those who require complete VIVO functions from a graphics card of the same class might want to consider the MSI FX5200-VTD128 variant. Focusing back on the product at hand, it comes with a breakout box to give users both S-Video and Composite output options as shown below:

The MSI breakout box that facilitates using either S-Video or Composite connections but you can’t use both at the same time.

The Remote Transceiver stemming from the breakout box.

Besides the breakout box for TV-output connections, it also had a remote transceiver cable (IR receiver) jutting out from it and it is to be used in conjunction with the remote controller bundled with the graphics card.

The MSI Media Center remote controller (batteries included).

The remote controller seemed very feature rich, but its downside was the restricted usage with only the bundled MSI Media Center Deluxe II. The Media Center Deluxe II is a user interface screen that sits on top of the Windows environment and was developed to actually ease PC usage. From our trials with it, we however find the interface clunky and it limits quite a bit of flexibility. It might be useful to prevent very young kids from accidentally causing any harm to your user environment, but that’s about it. When we first saw the remote controller, it quickly reminded us of the useful Chaintech Handigator that seamlessly worked within the Windows operating system and allowed one to do many tasks. It’s just too bad that the MSI remote control only works within the MSI Media Center interface and not elsewhere.

The MSI FX5200-TDR128 also features BIOS redundancy with their Twin-BIOS, which works very much the same way DUAL BIOS works on motherboards. First seen on the MSI G4Ti4200-VTP64, MSI is the first and only graphics card manufacturer to introduce BIOS redundancy on the graphics card level. Instead of utilizing two flash chips, MSI incorporated two BIOS signatures on one flash part. Should your flashing procedure be disrupted or failed for any other reason, you can easily recover your card’s state and retry.

This switch on the breakout box allows you to swap between the two BIOS signatures.

When Twin-BIOS was first introduced, you had to use the jumper on the graphics card to select between the two BIOS signatures (labeled ‘work’ and ‘safe’). Now on their latest graphics card, the FX 5200-TDR128, a BIOS swap function has been incorporated on the breakout box, eliminating the need for jumpers on the graphics card. Looks like the breakout box now has more functions than it was first intended for, hence we advice you to keep this component in a safe location to avoid losing it or better yet, just leave it connected to the graphics card. The procedure to use Twin-BIOS is very similar as documented in our earlier review here .

The entire 10 CDs included in the package.

They are provided in this clear-plastic CD-wallet. Those who wish to store the CDs on the their CD-racks would however prefer the conventional plastic enclosures (which MSI once used).

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