NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - HotHardware

NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

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NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
NVIDIA's immediate answer to the 9600 XT

By Robert Maloney
October 23rd, 2003

GeForce FX 5700 Ultra Driver Control Panels
NVIDIA's ForceWare 52.16 Drivers

Since we were going to test two new cards for today, we figured that we would give users a quick look at the latest release of NVIDIA's drivers, version 52.16, now dubbed ForceWare.  With each revision, NVIDIA attempts to simply the configuration options, while increasing quality and performance.  While others may say otherwise, we find that NVIDIA's take on the control panels is more straightforward than those found with ATi's Catalyst drivers.  Rather than flip through tab after tab, and trying to remember which ones have been clicked on as they shift position, NVIDIA's drivers have a submenu pop-up that one can use from top to bottom to alter all of the settings for the GeForce FX.  NVIDIA's drivers are also well known for their UDA, or Unified Driver Architecture, meaning that only one driver is needed for all NVIDIA GPU's.

Change Resolutions
 Color Correction 
 Temperature Settings
 NView
2D Standard Clock

 
3D Performance Clock

The Change Resolutions tab is just that; it allows the user to set the screen resolution, color quality, and refresh rate all from one tab.  While this doesn't offer any major benefit than setting them directly from Display Properties, one can set custom display configurations in the lower half of the screen and only choose from amongst those that have been added.  Color and gamma levels are modified in the next tab, Color Correction, and the Digital Vibrance Controls allow the user to adjust the color digitally to compensate for ambient lighting conditions.  The latest drivers also read the temperature from a thermal diode in the GPU, which can be seen in the Temperature Settings.  Should a defined temperature threshold be met, a warning can alert the user to possible danger.

One new addition to the ForceWare 52.16 drivers is the new and improved NView multi-display wizard.  Users can also divide the monitor into separate regions and quickly reposition and resize application windows.  Also, more robust profiles let you customize the driver settings for specific gaming environments.  Also noteworthy was the two speeds that the graphic core was clocked at, which we were able to see by applying the Coolbits registry hack.  At 2D (sitting at the desktop), the 5700 Ultra clocks in at 300MHz, thus running cooler and putting less wear and tear on the GPU.  Start up a 3D based application and the 5700 ramps up to 475MHz.  The memory stays clocked at 906MHz, however.  We could also use these "unlocked" tabs for overclocking the GPU and memory by moving the slider to higher frequencies.

Quality & Performance

Direct3D

OpenGL

Unlike ATi's Catalyst drivers, which require that anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering be done on a one-on-one basis for Direct3D and OpenGL, a single slider on the Quality and Performance controls both with NVIDIA's cards.  Each device can be left at application-controlled, or set to as high as 8 samples for each.  Gone from past driver versions was the checkbox for texture sharpening.  Further optimizations for Direct3D and OpenGL games can be made on the individual tabs for each, such as defining the mipmap detail in Direct3D and disabling Vertical Sync in OpenGL.

Screenshots With The GeForce 5700 Ultra
Sure it can put up the numbers, but what about the quality?

Before we get to the benchmarks, we wanted to compare screenshots from the Radeon 9600 XT and a GeForce FX 5700 Ultra, two video cards geared toward mainstream users.  In this day and age, it doesn't make much sense to invest into a high-power graphics card unless you plan on playing your games at higher resolutions and optimizing the display by enabling AA or Anisotropic Filtering.  Faster frame rates are great, especially during multiplayer romps online, but image quality should never be sacrificed in order to obtain them.  We took two new games that hit the retail shelves recently to see how the two cards compared when viewing identical locations.
 

Max Payne 2 Screenshots 1280x1024x32
 
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra ATi Radeon 9600 XT

No AA

No AA

4X AA

4X AA

6X AA

6X AA

4X AA + 8X AF

4X AA + 8XAF

      
Max Payne 2 is short on game-play, but long on graphics.  We originally attempted to take these screenshots at 1600x1200, but were quickly alerted when we applied 4 samples of anti-aliasing that there wasn't enough memory on either card to draw the scene (each card has 128MB, while at least 140MB was required).  So we settled for 1280x1024 with 32-bit color and all graphical settings set to "High".  We compared the two sets of screenshots side-by-side, at no AA, 4XAA, 6XAA, and finally 4XAA plus 8X anisotropic filtering.  We would have to say that the quality of both cards was very close, and the "jaggies" that were so prevalent in the original pics (check the window shades for the best example) are both cleaned up so nicely that at 6XAA on both cards we saw almost straight lines.

TRON 2.0 Screenshots 1600x1200x32

NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra ATi Radeon 9600 XT

No AA

No AA

4X AA

4X AA

6X AA

6X AA

4X AA + 8X AF

4X AA+ 8X AF

As we mentioned in the 9600 XT review, TRON 2.0 is one of the games that comes with the tagline, "NVIDIA, the way it's meant to be played".  Started in 2002, it has picked up some steam with NVIDIA expecting over 100 titles by the end of 2003 to carry this line including some big names like Electronic Arts, Microsoft Game Studios, and Activision.  Understandably, this has caused a minor uproar, since gamers claim the way a game looks should be the same for all players regardless of what video card they own.  One only needs to look back a few years to see that this is actually nothing new, as games used to carry tags that touted "3dfx optimized", "3DNOW! ready", and the like.  Getting back to the present, we checked out screenshots from TRON 2.0 from both cards.  We said it before, and we will say it again, as far as we are concerned the tron-like glow looks the same on both cards, so we don't know what all the fuss is about.  What we did notice, however, is how the quality has improved from our last look at this title.  At 4XAA and 6XAA, the GeForce card has definitely tightened up the edges, coming darn close to the Radeon 9600 XT, which we feel still has the slight edge. 

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