Chaintech Apogee AA5700U

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Chaintech Apogee AA5700U
Redefining the meaning of mainstream

By Robert Maloney
March 15th, 2004

Closer Inspection of the Apogee AA5700U
Can you say "bling-bling"?

         

         
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

We have usually been impressed with Chaintech's attention to manufacturing detail in the past, and the AA5700U was no exception.  The card was quite hefty, weighed down by the large copper heatsinks placed on both sides of the card.  These heatsinks help cool not only the CPU, but are sandwiched firmly around the RAM as well.  Normally, DDR-II RAM runs a bit hotter than standard DDR, and the solid copper should not only keep them cool, but perhaps give us some headway when overclocking the memory.  The AA5700U is also long, make that very long - in fact, probably the longest card we have had in the labs in quite a while.  While this doesn't necessarily pose a problem in most setups, Small Form Factor (SFF) owners may have some difficulty trying to install this into their cramped confines.

         

The main difference between the newer AA5700U and Chaintech's earlier entry, the SA5700U, was the addition of twin fans that are lit up with blue LEDs.  These provide a steady blue glow, but, unfortunately are pointed downwards so the full effect may be lost in most scenarios (obviously, they wouldn't even be seen at all in non-windowed cases.)  Other than the upgraded cooling, the core and memory speeds of the two cards, and thus the performance, should remain the same.  It might not make much sense then to upgrade to the AA5700U unless you are currently using something older, such as a GF4 based card or a current 5200/5600 owner.  For a new builder or someone who is looking to add a little flash to their rig, however, you couldn't go wrong as the card should provide solid performance while appealing to the eye. 

Comparative Screenshots
Fighting for freedom never looked so good
We had originally chosen the Far Cry demo for some reference screenshots in order to compare the quality of the 5700 Ultra versus the most direct competitor, that being the ATi 9600XT.  After slugging it out on the beaches, and getting what we thought would be a prime view of the shoreline, we were disappointed to find that we could not get anything from the demo when using 4XAA.  Thus, we quickly scrounged through our exhaustive collection of games and settled on EA's Freedom Fighters. We took a few shots of the the "freedom fighters" homebase, with and without 4 samples of anti-aliasing and then again after applying some anisotropic filtering.

Freedom Fighters Screenshots
1600x1200x32 - High Quality Settings

Chaintech Apogee AA5700U
Standard                         4xAA                      4xAA+AF
         

ATi Radeon 9600XT
Standard                         4xAA                      4xAA+AF

         

      
At first glance, the pictures may seem kind of drab and gloomy - hey, they are in a sewer don't you know - but closer examination of the lighting effects and certain elements found in the base made for some perfect quality comparisons.  We're going to direct your attention to two sections in particular.  First, check out the railings and the slopes of the structure on the left, especially where they contrast with the background.  The graphics are consistently jagged with both cards without anti-aliasing, but at 4xAA, each card has smoothed out the lines considerably.  Touches like this add to the realism and ultimately the enjoyment of playing the game.  I would be somewhat concerned if the edge of my desk was just as jagged as the initial screens were.  Adding in the anisotropic filtering "cleans" up some sections, most readily noticed in the grating in the lower left.  Try switching between a 4xAA and a 4xAA+AF screenshot, and you will notice blotchy sections at 4xAA that turn into nearly perfect grids.  It's purely subjective here, but we gave a slight edge to ATi in the comparisons.  At 4xAA+AF, the guy standing in the distance seemed to be just a bit more defined on the 9600XT than on the 5700 Ultra. 

The Test System and our first benchmarks  

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