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Five-Way GeForce FX 5950 Ultra Mini-Shootout
By Vijay Anand
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Wednesday, 5th May, 2004


Introduction

We are quite certain most of you have read our recent coverage of the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra Preview and have since been star-struck by its humongous gains in 3D graphics performance. Although many of you would have been expecting four figure price tags from such performance beasts, we are glad to say that it costs no more than the previous top end offering at about US$499 (when it first arrived in the retail channel). Plus, that was just a preview of a reference board with beta drivers, so one can expect even more out of the retail versions where manufacturers might even go beyond the reference specifications.

While some are eagerly anticipating the new GeForce 6xxx series to hit the stores, there's another huge group of PC upgraders who are quietly waiting for its release so that they can chance upon the snowballing price to take effect on the existing GeForce 5xxx series. Well that's how the industry works and that moment isn’t very far from taking place. Many would undoubtedly be eyeing on NVIDIA's 59xx series, so with that in mind we rounded up five GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics cards. These were NVIDIA's best offerings just before the launch of the GeForce 6800 series, so it still has plenty of steam left in them. The five candidates in this GeForce FX 5950 Ultra roundup were from Albatron, Gainward, Gigabyte, Leadtek and MSI.

Below, we have the technical specifications common to all graphics cards in this roundup:-

Common Technical Specifications for NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra GFX Cards
Graphics Engine
  • NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra GPU
  • High Precision 3D Rendering Engine
    • Up to 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: 300/950 MHz (core/DDR memory)
  • Default clock speed in 3D environment: 475/950 MHZ (core/DDR memory)
  • 256-bit  memory interface
  • 30.4GB/sec Memory Bandwidth
  • AGP 8X including fast writes and sideband addressing
  • Advanced thermal monitoring and thermal management
Graphics Memory
  • 256MB DDR I SDRAM of 475MHz clock rate (effective speed of 950MHz DDR)
RAMDAC
  • Dual 400MHz RAMDACs that support resolutions of 2048x1536@85Hz
Video Decoder / Encoder
  • GPU integrated NTSC/PAL TV Encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768 with built-in Macrovision copy protection
  • More information in comparison table
Connectors
  • Please refer to the comparison table
Drivers
  • 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 OpenGL 1.5 API and lower suport
  • Complete DirectX support including 9.0 and lower
Software / Games
  • Please refer to the comparison table
Other Information
  • AGP 2.0/3.0 slot required
  • 1 PCI-assigned IRQ Required
  • 1 four-pin power connector

Note that although all graphics cards share the same core and memory clock speed, the GT-Edition of the Gigabyte N595U has its core clocked at 520MHz by default when installed with Gigabyte's own drivers. The non GT-Edition reviewed here previously adheres to the normal clock speeds. While Gigabyte's GT-Edition is overclocked by default, both Gainward and MSI have their own certified 'turbo' options. We will find out which of them has the best bang for the buck plus many other details in this review.

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