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NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra Performance Review
By Vijay Anand
Category : Graphics
Published by Jimmy Tang on Monday, 23rd February, 2004
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  

NVIDIA’s Renewed Mid-Range Flagship

For the most part of last year, the GeForce FX 5600 Ultra was NVIDIA’s chief mid-range product. Sadly, it wasn’t a spectacular performer partly due to the architecture and partly due to poor drivers at that point of time. From our past reviews, it seems that the NV30 architecture favored GPU designs with eight rendering pipelines as opposed to four on the offspring’s NV31 (FX 5600 series). We believe that inadequate tuning on the NV31 and lack of good drivers (as opposed to the latest available) resulted in the performance that we witnessed. On top of performance matters, the vast majority of the retail FX 5600 Ultra cards were priced way out of its competitor’s solutions which were based on the ATI RADEON 9600 PRO VPU. Combining all these reasons, the FX 5600 Ultra wasn’t every gaming enthusiast’s top choice when it came to selecting a mid-range graphics card.

2003 was definitely not NVIDIA’s favorite year when it came to pushing their mid-range segment, but towards the very end of the year, NVIDIA unveiled updated GPUs for both their high-end and mid-range segments that garnered pretty good feedback. These were the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra for the extreme gamers (which we have covered in our Gigabyte GV-N595U review ) and the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra for the mid-range. While the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra products remained as costly as ever (like all top of the line products), it definitely helped to drive prices down for the FX 5900 and FX 5900 Ultra, both of which are excellent high-end gaming cards too.

Unlike the FX 5950 Ultra, the FX 5700 Ultra went through critical design changes over its predecessor (FX 5600 Ultra). The GPU engine itself is now similar to that of the NV35 (FX 5900 series), which boasts of CineFX 2.0 and Intellisample HCT Technology. Both these technologies enable vastly better performance than the older graphics engine. Also gained from the CineFX 2.0 is the UltraShadow Technology. You can read more of these features from our previous review that highlights the NVIDIA FX 5900 Ultra (NV35) . Although we say that the graphics engine is similar to the NV35 core, the FX 5700 Ultra is a different core design of its own – which is known as NV36. Like its predecessors, it will still be limited to four rendering pipelines to maintain its current die size and is still reliant on a 128-bit memory interface. Besides the core engine modifications, higher GPU and Memory clocks speeds of 475MHz and 900MHz DDR respectively will definitely boost performance no matter the situation. Note that the FX 5700 Ultra utilizes DDR II memory and that should be a further plus point in favor of better performance since DDR II memory fetches four bits of data instead of two bits in conventional DDR within a single clock.

To summarize the improvements made to the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra over its predecessor (the FX 5600 Ultra), here’s a bulleted list:-

  • CineFX 2.0 (optimized Pixel Shaders that nearly double the performance of CineFX 1.0)
  • UltraShadow Technology incorporated in CineFX 2.0
  • Intellisample HCT Technology
  • Core clock now is 475MHz (up from 400MHz in FX 5600 Ultra)
  • Memory operates at 900MHz DDR (up from 800MHz DDR in FX5600 Ultra)
  • Utilizes DDR II memory modules (improved performance due to increased rate of prefetch)

    As you can see, the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra seems to be having all the right ingredients this time plus with the improved drivers of the DetonatorFX 50-series, the card should pose a good challenge to its rival, the RADEON 9600XT. Here are the technical specifications of a standard GeForce FX 5700 Ultra graphics card:-

    NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128MB Technical Specifications
    Graphics Engine
    • NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra GPU
    • High Precision 3D Rendering Engine
      • 4 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 8 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
    • 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: 300/900 MHz (core/DDR memory)
    • Default clock speed in 3D environment: 475/900 MHZ (core/DDR memory)
    • 128-bit  memory interface
    • 14.4GB/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
    • 128MB DDR II SDRAM of 450MHz clock rate (effective speed of 900MHz DDR)
    • 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
    • 1x analog RGB connector
    • 1x mini-DIN connector (for 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 OpenGL 1.5 API and lower suport
    • Complete DirectX support including 9.0 and lower
    Other Information
    • AGP 2.0/3.0 slot required
    • 1 PCI-assigned IRQ Required
    • 1 four-pin power connector
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