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BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
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Date: Dec 12, 2003
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 1

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

As 2003 comes to a close, we have to wonder if NVIDIA is looking to 2004 with eager anticipation.  The last year has been tough for them, to say the least, with a number of nagging issues plaguing the embattled graphics giant.  The once king of the graphics market is still struggling to set the record straight on the whole "optimization" topic, as ATi has strengthened their position in the market with a number of very successful product releases, solidly challenging the GeForce FX line.  To top it off, there has been a number of OEMs jumping ship on NVIDIA, unable to weather the current storm of negative press.  Nonetheless, all of these trials and tribulations didn't keep many OEMs, from allying with NVIDIA, since they obviously are still very much a dominant force in 3D Graphics.

BFG is a relatively new graphics card company that has opted to offer NVIDIA based video cards.  "Built by gamers" and with former team members from Visiontek, the company is taking a different approach to the market, offering lifetime warranties and free 24x7 technical support for all of their products.  Instead of focusing on overly flashy packaging, with countless copies of yesterday's gaming titles, the company aims to win new customers over by letting them know that they stand behind their products 100%.  This may prove to be a worthy tactic that gives users confidence they are buying the right product.  Today, we are going to take a look at the first BFG product to grace the HotHardware labs, the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128.  Let's take a look and see what BFG brings to the game.

CLICK IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

Specifications & Features of the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128
NVIDIA's newest partner
Specifications
? GPU NVIDIA® GeForce? FX 5700 Ultra
? Bus Type AGP
? Memory 128MB
? Core Clock 475MHz
? Memory Clock 900MHz (effective)
? RAMDAC Dual 400MHz
? API Support Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0, OpenGL
for Microsoft® Windows®
? Connectors VGA, DVI, S-Video out
? 356 million vertices/sec.
? 14.4GB/sec. memory bandwidth

Minimum System Requirements
? Intel Pentium®III, AMD® Duron? or Athlon? class processor or higher
? 128MB of RAM
? A minimum 250W system power supply
? An available hard disk drive power dongle (smaller floppy disk drive connector is not sufficient)
? CD or DVD-ROM Drive
? 10MB available hard disk space (50MB for full installation)
? Microsoft® Windows® 95 OSR2, 98 or higher, ME, 2000, XP, NT4.0 with service pack 5 or 6
Features at a Glance
? AGP 8X (compatible with 4X and 2X AGP 2.0
compliant slots)
? Up to 4 pixels per clock rendering engine
? Up to 16 textures per pass
? NVIDIA® CineFX? 2.0 engine, NVIDIA® nView? multi- display technology and NVIDIA® Forceware? unified software environment (USE)
? NVIDIA® UltraShadow? technology enhances performance of bleeding-edge games that use
complex shadows Included in Box
? Asylum? GeForce? FX 5700 Ultra graphics card
? Quick install manual
? DVI to VGA connector

Driver CD, which includes;
? NVIDIA® ForceWare? graphics driver
? NVIDIA® GeForce? FX and GeForce?4 demos
? Full installation manual .pdf
? NVIDIA® NVDVD? 2.0 multimedia software
? Windowblinds? BFG / Asylum Windows XP skins

The BFG 5700 Ultra's package includes a Quick Installation Guide that covers the details of setting up the card, while the Setup CD provides all the necessary drivers and software to get the job done.  The package also included a Y Molex connector.  For those looking to run more than one VGA monitor with the Asylum 5700 Ultra, a DVI to VGA adapter is provided as well to convert the cards DVI output to a standard VGA connection.

The menu of the install CD is clean and clear, offering one-click links to the entire contents of the disk.  The package is streamlined, and not loaded with the "fluff" commonly found with other products, although for a company that is built by gamers, a newer gaming title would have been a nice bonus.  The disk did include drivers, a copy of Adobe Acrobat, NVIDIA's NVDVD, DX9 and some 3D demos.  Along with that, we found a copy of Windowblinds with several custom BFG and NVIDIA skins that lets you change the look of your desktop. 

While this could be classified as "fluff", we found the skins sharp, adding a style of their own to the Windows desktop.  Included was a subdued BFG skin and the more radical BFG Asylum skin that adds more color and attitude to the layout.  Lastly, was an NVIDIA skin that was appealing in its own right.  If skinning Windows is your thing, this little gem might get you tweaked.

The Card & In-Game Screenshots

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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 2

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128
Up Close and Personal

The GeForce FX 5700 Ultra is based on the NV36 core, which is the first of NVIDIA's GPUs to be manufactured by IBM.  This is a recent partnership between the two companies and so far it looks like a good collaboration.  IBM is manufacturing the GPUs at .13 microns, reducing the overall size of the chip as well as reducing power consumption and heat.  The core is clocked at a peppy 475MHz and is complimented by 128MB of DDR2 memory clocked at 450MHz (900MHz effective).  Boasting 14.4GBps of bandwidth, we should see some significant performance gains over previous mid range FX cards.

BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

One might think that a newer company might opt to simply re-brand a standard NVIDIA reference card and sell it as is, but this was not the case with BFG. BFG is pushing an image of attitude with their current media and packaging, and it would be quite a let down if they didn't keep that attitude with the card. The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra is built on a bright blue PCB instead of the de facto green NVIDIA reference version. Knowing that the end-user will most likely be overclocking the heck out of the card, BFG also added some extras to help keep temperatures in check. Along with an improved cooler over the stock model, BFG also tacked on some heat spreaders to the RAM on both sides of the card. When we removed the cooler from the GPU we found a nice application of thermal paste to help the cooler conduct the heat away from the GPU.

In-Game Screenshots With the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128
Need for Speed: Underground

Naturally, no video card review would be complete without some gratuitous gaming screenshots, showing off the cards video rendering prowess.  In this case, we opted to use the recently released Need For Speed: Underground from Ubisoft.  This is the latest game to grab the attention of several HH writers, proving to be a helluvalot of fun.  Aside from being fun and challenging, the graphics quality of the game is superb.  With all of the in-game graphical options set to their maximum, the environment is extremely realistic.  To give you an idea of what the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra could do, we maximized the video options in the game, set the video drivers to best quality with 4X AA enabled, and snapped a few pics.

In the image at the upper left, we locked up the brakes and put the pedal to the floor to see the realism of the smoke as the tires burned rubber.  While the quality is somewhat degraded because of JPEG image compression, the realism is clearly very good and excellent in actual game play.  The upper right image spotlights the sparks that can fly when the car bottoms out in a dip.  The lower left image does a great job at capturing the vehicle reflection in the road, with the tail lights and tail pipe easily distinguished in the reflection.  The last image captures a sweet power slide that shows the entire car in the reflections as well as the front right tire laying down some rubber.

In actual game play, we've tried this game with both the BFG Asylum GeForceFX 5700 Ultra and an ATi All-In-Wonder 9600 Pro and it was impossible to tell the two apart.  We did find that there was minor chugging in extremely complex screens with all graphical options maximized in-game and in the drivers, but we knew we were pushing it.

The Test System, AquaMark3 & Halo

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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 3

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

Benchmarks With Unreal Tournament 2003
DX8 Performance


Unreal Tournament 2003

We continued our DirectX benchmarking with a completely patched, retail version Unreal Tournament 2003.  When testing with UT2003, we use a utility that ensures all of the cards are being tested with the exact same in-game settings and "High-Quality" graphical options. We ran the UT2003 benchmarks at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1600x1200, without anti-aliasing and again with 4x and 6x AA enabled.  We kept Anisotropic filtering disabled here because NVIDIA and ATi aren't doing the same level of trilinear filtering when aniso and trilinear are enabled together.

              BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

With UT2003, we saw a similar pattern to what happened with the AquaMark3 test.  This time we saw a very close trend, with the BFG 5700 Ultra topping the 9600XT with No AA and staying within 2 FPS with 4X AA enabled.  Only once 6X AA was enabled did we see a major drop in performance in favor of the 9600XT.  It looks like while the memory of the 5700 Ultra is much faster than the 9600XT, the XT's fill rate advantage shows its worth at the most extreme end of testing.

              BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Interestingly enough, the 9600XT's fill rate advantage is much less of a factor at 1600x1200 resolution.  Here we see the BFG card maintain a firm lead over the 9600XT, most notably with the 4X AA pass, where the 5700 Ultra increased memory bandwidth shows its mettle.  Once 6X AA was enabled, the tests balanced out again.

Head-to-Head Performance With Splinter Cell
Stealth Pixel Shading


Splinter Cell

Splinter Cell's version 1.2 patch includes three demos in addition to a benchmarking feature.  We used the custom Oil Rig demo created by the folks at Beyond 3D to test with Splinter Cell.  This demo removes two CPU intensive routines while increasing dependence on Pixel Shader performance.  Shaders are used to render the realistic looking ocean water surrounding the Oil Rig in the demo, as well as simulating a night vision effect.  As we've mentioned in the past, anti-aliasing doesn't work with Splinter cell (at least with the current version).  Due to this fact, we do not have any AA scores listed in the graphs below.

                BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

                BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Splinter Cell has a history of performing well with ATi graphics cards, although, this time around the performance deltas were slim at best.  Again we saw a tight race with all cards staying within a small percentage of each other.  With Splinter Cell, we have to tip the favors to the ATi competitors.  Next up, Final Fantasy and Gun Metal...

Final Fantasy & Gun Metal Tests

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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 4

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

Performances Comparisons With Final Fantasy XI Benchmark 2 v1.01
Chocobos on the PC


Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy is a title that is well known to console gamers, but it appears that Squaresoft is ready to make the jump to the PC, with a MMORPG version of the classic. The demo version comes bundled with a benchmark, which displays a final score every time a full cycle is completed.  Although the demo is meant to check an entire system's readiness to play the game, the number of frames rendered in the demo scales well with different video cards installed.  Lower scores indicated some frames were dropped to complete the demo in the allotted time.  The scores below were taken with the demo set to "High Resolution" (1024x768), with anti-aliasing disabled. 

             BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

With Final Fantasy, the BFG Asylum 5700 Ultra took a more commanding lead over the Radeon 9600XT, besting it by 260 points, a lead of approximately 6%.


Benchmarks / Comparison With Gun Metal
Transformers? Thexder? or is it Gun Metal?


Gun Metal

We continued our testing with the DX9 based Gun Metal benchmark developed by Yeti Studios. This benchmark, like all of the others used in this review, is based on an actual game engine. Gun Metal uses Vertex Shader 2.0 and Pixel Shader 1.1 ops in the creation of the game world.  This test is heavily GPU limited, and because Yeti's intent was to stress all modern 3D accelerators, anti-aliasing (2x) and Anisotropic filtering are enabled by default, and cannot be disabled.  We ran this test at 1024x768 and again at 1280x1024.

                BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

              
                BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

At both resolution, the BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra held a significant lead over the Radeon 9600XT in the Gun Metal tests.  When it comes to the higher-end models, however, the test results were virtually identical.

Next Up: Comanche 4 & Wolfenstein

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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 5

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

Performances Comparisons With Novalogic's Comanche 4
Combat Helicopter Sim


Comanche 4

We used Novalogic's combat helicopter simulator Comanche 4 for our next batch of DirectX benchmarks. Comanche 4 uses DX8 class pixel and vertex shaders to produce some of the realistic visuals used throughout the game. Unlike some of the previous tests, this benchmark is heavily influenced by CPU and system memory performance, especially at lower resolutions. However, when the resolution is raised and anti-aliasing and Anisotropic filtering are enabled, the current crop of video cards tend to slow down quite a bit.

               BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Comanche 4 proved to be a stressful test for all cards involved.  While typically considered a benchmark that is CPU limited, once features are enabled in the video card's drivers, it does a good job of making a video card work hard to push every pixel.  The CPU limitation can easily be seen with the No AA test where all cards tested hovered in the low to mid 60 frames per second.  Once we enabled 4X AA we began to see a slide with the two mid-range cards, with each slipping roughly 10FPS.  When we enabled Anisotropic Filtering and 4X AA, both cards dropped significantly, although the slippage was more so with the 5700 Ultra, falling almost 23FPS.  When we switched to 6X AA, the 5700 Ultra regained some ground, besting the 9600XT by 8FPS.  It looks like the only card to take on all tests without breaking a sweat was the Radeon 9800XT.

               BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Once we increased the resolution to 1600x1200, the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra did well.  With the No AA pass we saw a lead of 3FPS over the 9600XT, but once we enabled anti-aliasing, the trend shifted significantly.  The 9600XT did gain some ground in the 4X AA + Aniso test, but ultimately could not keep up with the 5700 Ultra.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Q3 Engine Based Freebie


Wolfenstein: ET

Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which was released a few years back.  It uses a heavily modified version of Quake 3 engine which makes it a very easy to use benchmarking tool.  We created a custom demo and used the built-in timedemo feature to check each card's frame rate.  The tests below were run at 1024x768 and 1600x1200, with out anti-aliasing, with 4X AA and again with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering.

               BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

              BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

The Wolfenstein: ET benchmark typically run well with GeForce video cards.  In all phases of the tests, regardless of resolution, the 5700 Ultra from BFG held a firm lead over the Radeon 9600XT.  At the maximum setting of 4X AA with 8X Anisotropic filtering, the BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra pulled ahead of the 9600XT by over 20 FPS.

Tomb Raider: AOD, Overclocking & Our Final Analysis

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The BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra - Page 6

The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
128MBs, AGP 8X, and the Muscle to Get the Job Done!

By, Jeff Bouton
December 11, 2003

Head-to-Head Performance With Tomb Raider: AOD
Same Old Lara!


Tomb Raider: AOD

Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness is one of the more advanced DirectX games currently available.  We've recorded a custom demo run of Lara jogging through an indoor garden area of the "Prague3" map. When using the Pixel Shader 2.0 code path, this area of the game utilizes a DOF (depth of field) blurring effect to enhance your sense of depth and size. We ran our custom demo at 1024x768 and at 1600x1200 using both the Pixel Shader 1.4 and 2.0 code paths (with and without 4x anti-aliasing in the PS 2.0 tests).

              BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

In the Pixel Shader 1.4 tests, the BFG 5700 Ultra came within 3.5 FPS of the 9600XT.  In the Pixel Shader 2.0 test, the gap widened, leaving the BFG card running 10FPS behind the ATi card.  Once 4X AA was enabled, both cards dropped a fair share of frames, with the Radeon 9600 XT still maintaining the lead by 5 frames per second.

              BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Once we increased the resolution to 1600x1200, the scores evened out somewhat, with the Radeon 9600 XT holding the lead by a much tighter margin overall.
 

Overclocking With The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128
Fast is Good.  Faster is Better!

Overclocking the BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra yielded some decent performance gains.  With our particular card, we managed to hit a maximum of 537MHz for the core speed, increasing a solid 12%.  With the memory speeds, we managed to increase the default 906MHz to over 1.03GHz, a gain of 14%.  We re-ran the Gun Metal benchmark at 1280x1024 to give us an idea of what effect these gains had on overall performance.

               BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

As you can see, Gun Metal benefited nicely from the increased clock speeds.  What was interesting was the 12-14% increase in GPU and Memory respectively resulted in an increase in performance of over 24% in Gun Metal.

As we rounded out our testing, we've concluded that The BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra is an impressive mid-range video card.  With improved DirectX 9 capabilities and a refined .13 micron manufacturing process, the card is both efficient and powerful.  It's performance was quite competitive compared with the Radeon 9600 XT, which should help to restore some faith in NVIDIA based products, for the mainstream segment as well.  The card offered good gaming performance and surprised us with equally good overclocking potential.  Physically, the card was sharp, with quality cooling and RAM sinks added for improved heat dissipation.  The bundle that accompanied the card was fair, although the lack of a current gaming title was a bit of a let down, from a company that claims to be building cards "built by gamers".  Keep in mind that ATi recently upped the ante by offering Half-Life 2, when it becomes available, which may be a deciding factor for some users.  For BFG however, their ace is that they offer unlimited 24/7 support and a full lifetime warranty on all of their products.  This can be a real attraction in the end for some.  What if the card fails after it is formally discontinued as a product offering?  Users may end up with not only a replacement card, but an upgrade.  We wonder what the replacement card would be if the card failed in 5 years?  Maybe we'll check back in 2008 and find out!

We are quite pleased with the quality and performance of the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra and think it is a wise choice for those looking for an affordable DX9 solution.  This model can be found for less than $200 online and can provide great performance at a modest price point. 

As a result, we'll give the BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 8.5

 

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BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra Page 7


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