MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128

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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128
A Budget Card with a Little Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
June 3rd, 2003

If there is one thing that is certain, it's that there is no other channel of the PC hardware industry more heated in competition and embroiled in controversy than the graphics sector.  This is a fierce market consumed with debates over whose video card is on top.  Those of us who follow the industry often find ourselves glued to our monitors with both great interest and excitement in the daily goings on.  While most PC Enthusiasts are interested in what the best video card available is, that doesn't mean that all of us have the money to buy such a card.  It is analogous to the love affair we have with the automobile.

Certainly each and everyone of us know someone who follows the auto industry incessantly.  You know who I'm referring to, that one person who knows the name of each and every model car that passes by on the road.  When the latest Lexus or Acura drives by they begin to overflow with envy and can rattle off all you ever wanted to know about that particular model's horsepower and top speed.  Now let me ask you this, most of the time when you think of a person like this, do they actually drive a car like that?  I think the answer is most often "no".  The same can be said for the video card market, there are the BMWs and Porches and then there are the Hyundais and KIAs.

Today we are going to set the hype aside and focus a bit more on the practical side of the video card market.  We're going to take a look at the latest "value" minded card to come out of the MSI camp with a review of the GeForce FX5200 TDR128.  This is an affordable, yet capable video card that has some extras one would expect to find with a "sportier" model.
 

Features of the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128
Something Familiar with a Little Extra



 

Chipset Features
? 0.15u process technology
? Advanced thermal monitoring and thermal management
? AGP 8X including fast writes and sideband addressing

CineFX Shading Architecture

?
Support for DX 9.0 Pixel/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
? Full instruction set for vertex and pixel programs


High-Performance, High-Precision, 3D Rendering Engine
? 8 pixels per clock rendering engine
? 128-bit, studio-quality floating point precision through the entire graphics pipeline
? DirectX and S3TC texture compression
High-Performance 2D Rendering Engine
? Optimized for 32-, 24-, 16-, 15- and 8-bpp modes
? True-color, 64x64 hardware cursor with alpha
? Multi-buffering (double, triple or quad) for smooth animation and video playback


Advanced Display Pipeline with Full nView Capabilities
? Dual, 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536@85Hz
? Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768 without the need for panning with built-in Macrovision copy protection
? DVD and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i resolutions
? Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters and external HDTV encoders


Digital Vibrance control (DVC) 3.0
? DVC color controls
? DVC image sharpening controls

 
The Card

Unlike its predecessor, the GeForce 4 MX, the GeForceFX 5200 appears well equipped for a budget class video card.  The MX series was almost immediately over shadowed by the lower end Ti models, leaving it a bit lost in the budget video card market.  This time around, the FX5200 comes with a more refined and mature GPU that's clocked at 250MHz. and supports both DirectX 9 and AGP 8X.  We were pleased to see that 128MB of 400MHz DDR Samsung TSOP II memory is available which will come in handy with more graphically intensive games.  The card offers both DVI and VGA connections and is capable of dual monitor output powered by dual 400MHz RAMDACs.

The GPU is outfitted with MSI's Top Tech II cooling system which is designed to adjust its speed according to the temperature of the GPU.  To handle the cooling more efficiently while keeping fan noise to a minimum, the fan speed is throttled based on the mode in which the card is running.  In 2D mode, for example, the fan defaults to 2000RPM and can increase to 4200RPM.  In 3D Mode the range is 5000RPM to a top speed of 6500 RPM.  The purpose of the TOP Tech II is to provide acceptable cooling while minimizing noise.  When running at an idle 2D mode, the fan noise is a mere 8db while under extreme 3D load it tops out at 26.5, still well below the majority of cooling packages available.

For an entry level video card, MSI put together a decent package with the GeForceFX 5200 TDR128, offering a fair array of features and power to handle the needs of the average user.  However, while the GeForceFX 5200 TDR128 is the main attraction, there is more to this package than the card itself.


Bonus Items

Complimenting the GeForceFX 5200 TDR128 was an excellent bundle of additional hardware and software.  This has become a common sight with MSI products, where the manufacturer aims to please in all areas.  Accompanying the MSI GeForceFX 5200 TDR128 was a infrared remote control which expands the overall functionality of the card.  A 9-SC TV-Out Connecting Cable + Remote Receiver is included which provides standard TV out capabilities as well as an infrared receiver for the remote control.  A DVI-I to VGA adapter is provided to connect a standard CRT monitor to the second video output.  A Quick User's Guide is also provided which covers all of the cards features and proper installation of the hardware and drivers.

MSI wants to ensure that the budget user need not have to run out and buy a bunch of games to enjoy their new card.  Several full version games are included such as Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, & Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project.  The package also included lite versions of such titles as The Sum of All Fears, IL-2 Sturmovik and Serious Sam 2 to name a few.  Along with a hefty collection of popular gaming titles, the MSI GeForce FX 5200 TDR128 also comes with a good collection of versatile utilities.  Such titles as MSI 3D Desktop, Virtual Drive 7 professional and Restore It 3 professional offer a wide range of features such as a 3D World Desktop, Virtual CD-ROM drives and restoring system configuration to original settings.  MSI also includes their 5.1 channel DVD software and several other titles.

The Remote, 3DMark03 and More...

 

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