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GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis
Date: Mar 10, 2003
Author: HH Editor
GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis - Page 1

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis
Detailed Benchmarks With NVIDIA's Value Gaming Card

By - Marco Chiappetta and Dave Altavilla
March 12, 2003

Last week's Game Developers Conference was pumped up with lots of hype and excitement, regarding not only the software behind next generation game engines, but also the hardware that will power them.  Both ATi and NVIDIA announced DirectX 9 capable Graphics Cards, that will deliver fantastic levels of realism in upcoming titles like Doom 3.  As we know, in the land of PC Gaming, Graphics Cards are sort of like that tricked out engine you had in that '88 Mustang GT, back in the day.

While ATi decided to launch a new high end card, NVIDIA took the mainstream route and unveiled their new GPUs for the masses.  NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5600 and 5200 series cards, that we showed you here, have price points that range from $199 to $99.  We've covered the features and architecture of all the new GeForce FX products last week.  Today, we bring you a benchmark and performance analysis of the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra, which weighs in at the ever popular price point of $149.

Here's a quick refresh of the specs and then we'll just dig right into the numbers!


Specifications & Features of the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 GPUs
That's it! No more specs for you!! (insert Soup Nazi accent) On to the benchmarks!

Cinematic Shading for the mainstream
  • Full GeForce FX feature support ? including DX9 vertex & pixel shader 2.0+
  • High precision rendering ? up to128-bit floating point color


  • 2X GeForce4 MX performance
  • DX9 optimizations and support
  • AGP 8X enables up to 2.1GB/sec bandwidth

Best-in-class features and reliability

  • Industry-renowned unified driver architecture (UDA)
  • Integrated TV-encoder, TMDS transmitters
  • Dual integrated 350 MHz RAMDACs
  • Integrated full hardware MPEG-2 decoder
  • HDTV Support

Engineered for compatibility with the latest gaming and multimedia software

  • First and only DX9 part in its price category



HotHardware's Test Setup
A Mainstream Pentium 4 System


Common Hardware:

Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (2800MHz) 533MHz FSB
Soyo P4X400 DRAGON Ultra Platinum

VIA P4X400 Chipset w/ AGP8X

512MB Corsair PC3500 Platinum DDR RAM C2

On-Board NIC

On-Board Sound

Maxtor 30GB ATA/133 7200RPM HD

Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional with SP1

VIA "Hyperion" 4-in-1 Drivers v4.45


ATi Radeon 9000 Pro

ATi Catalyst Drivers - Version 3.1


NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra

Detonator Drivers - Version  42.68

Benchmarks / Comparison With 3DMark2001 SE (Build 330)
Synthetic DirectX 8 Performance

Our first batch of testing was done with DX8 driven 3DMark2001 SE.  This test utilizes Remedy's "MaxFX" game engine, so the thought process here is that it is perhaps a little less "synthetic" per say, than the new 3DMark03.  Regardless, it's a good relative performance metric on Direct 3D capabilities of the graphics subsystem.


Here the playing field is leveled.  Both cards are capable of DX8 Pixel and Vertex Shader effects, as well as Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering for improved image quality.  However, the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra shows it's more up to the challenge here, besting the Radeon 9000 Pro at all resolutions and AA/Aniso settings.  As you read our graphs, keep in mind the Radeon 9000 Pro can only run 2X AA up to 1280x1024, and 4X AA up to 1024x768, hence all of the empty spaces on some of the graphs...

Next Up, 3DMark03, Comanche 4 & UT2003... 


GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis - Page 2

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis
Detailed Benchmarks With NVIDIA's Value Gaming Card

By - Marco Chiappetta and Dave Altavilla
March 12, 2003


For our next test, we used Futuremark's controversial benchmark, 3DMark 2003.  NVIDIA's concerns over the validity of 3DMark03 are well documented, so we won't rehash the arguments here.  With that said, however, over 2.5 million people have downloaded this benchmark since its release last month.  Two and a half million people can't be wrong...can they?

Benchmarks With 3DMark03
The Controversial Synthetic DX9 Benchmark

Don't read into the overall 3DMark score, the individual game results and feature tests tell the real story.  In the DX7 Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury, the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra just barely missed breaking the 100 FPS barrier.  From that point forward though, things took a dramatic turn for the worse.  In game tests 2 and 3, the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra couldn't hit 10FPS, and in game test 4, 10.1 FPS was the average.  So what does this mean?  Well, it's too early to say.  If future games come out using the rendering methods employed by Futuremark, the 5200 Ultra may not be very future proof.  The more important point to make is that ATi's current offering of budget graphics cards can't even complete all of the tests that comprise 3DMark03.  The Radeon 9000, 9100 and 9200 are only DX8 parts.  NVIDIA should be given some praise for bringing the full DX9 feature set to such an affordable price point.

Head-to-Head / Performance With Comanche 4
DirectX Helicopter Combat Sim

Novalogic's Comanche 4 Benchmark, although highly CPU bound, can show significant variances in performance, at higher resolutions, especially when AA and Anisotropic Filtering are enabled.  We've stuck to 1024X768 and above here, for our testing purposes.  This benchmark utilizes DirectX 8 Pixel and Vertex Shader effects as well.


An interesting and clear picture is painted here for the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra.  Without Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering enabled, the Radeon 9000 Pro took the lead and began to walk away at higher resolutions.  However, enable these image quality enhancements and the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra takes the lead handily.  This brings to mind a couple of issues with the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra, namely, immature drivers and or perhaps, less robust pixel and vertex shader engines.  Frankly, neither of these two cards handle this benchmark all that well but at 1024X768, the game is playable.  A 2.4GHz Pentium 4 should be enough horsepower for this benchmark as well, so we're confident that is not the issue.  Finally, the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra does show us here that it has a significantly better optimized AA engine, such that it can almost double the Radeon 9000s performance with AA enabled.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Unreal Tournament 2003
Maximum Eye Candy

With Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering disabled, the Radeon 9000 Pro held a significant lead over the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra.  We can't say how that performance deltas would have changed with AA and Aniso enabled, however, because we could not complete a round a of time-demos with the Radeon, with AA and Aniso turned on.  The benchmark would cause a BSOD about a minute into the test.  We were using a completely clean system with a fresh install of Windows XP, and the latest Catalyst drivers...  It seems ATi still has a bit of driver tweaking to do as well.  Like all of the other tests, we suspect the GeForce FX would have run away with these settings, once AA and Aniso was enabled.  We can't say that officially until we can complete a round of benchmarks with the 9000 Pro though...


Sammy Pays Us A Visit! 

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis - Page 3

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis
Detailed Benchmarks With NVIDIA's Value Gaming Card

By - Marco Chiappetta and Dave Altavilla
March 12, 2003


Now it's time for a few time-demos using the ol' standby, Quake 3 Arena.  This benchmark has been around for quite some time, and as a result, even "entry level" hardware tears right though this test.  In an attempt to keep things up to date, we installed the latest point release and ran the benchmarks with all of the in-game graphical options set to their maximum.

Benchmarks / Comparison With Quake 3 Arena v1.32
This is the song that never ends...

Games based on the Quake 3 engine always seem to run very well on NVIDIA hardware, don't they?  In this test, the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra smoked the Radeon 9000 Pro across the board.  With Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering disabled, the GeForce FX holds onto the lead by a comfortable margin.  When AA and Aniso are enabled, the FX 5200 really spreads its wings and outpaces the Radeon 9000 by as much as 180%!  It's great to see a sub-$150 video card posting playable frame rates at 1600x1200 with AA and Aniso enabled.

A Few Screenshots & The Conclusion... 

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis - Page 4

GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis
Detailed Benchmarks With NVIDIA's Value Gaming Card

By - Marco Chiappetta and Dave Altavilla
March 12, 2003


We have only had a GeForce FX 5200 Ultra in our possession for a relatively short period of time, so we have not been able to assess its visual output quality as thoroughly as we would have liked.  What we have for you below is a quick look at Quake 3 Arena, with and without Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering.  These shots were taken at 1024x768, with Quake 3's in-game graphical options set to maximum.  We used the Radeon's Quality 4X AA setting and the GeForce FX's "Balanced" 4X AA method.  Anisotropic filtering was maxed in both sets of drivers but remember ATi's older products, like the R9000 we used here, cannot process Trilinear filtering when Anisotropic filtering is enabled.  The Radeon 9000 will drop back down to bilinear filtering, in this situation.

In Game Screenshots with Quake 3 Arena
Quick and Dirty





As you look through the above screen captures, please keep in mind that some quality is lost, when the images are converted to JPEGs, although we used very low compression.  The second, smaller images at the right, are the upper right corner of the screen, enlarged 700%.  Without any Antialiasing or Anisotropic filtering, both shots look very similar.  However,  we would have to give a slight edge to the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra.  The textures in the distance just seem to be slightly sharper in our opinion.  When we enabled AA and Aniso, however, our feelings are mixed.  The GeForce FX 5200 Ultra clearly does a better job than the Radeon 9000 at eliminating jaggies, but in the process, textures get blurred significantly.  NVIDIA has stated that the GeForce FX's Anisotropic filtering capabilities and performance will change in future driver releases, so expect these screen shots to be irrelevant in the near future.  We'll explore the GeForce FX's image quality, when the product has some more time to mature.

Also, we should note that the Radeon 9000 is driving ATi's legacy AA Algorithm, that does not offer the higher quality Gamma Corrected AA methods of their R9500, 9600, 9700 and 9800 product lines.  These R9000 screenshots are representative of the same sort of AA quality you would get from a legacy Radeon 8500, for example.  However,  ATi does have a mainstream / value product coming down the pipe, as we've already shown you.  So a Radeon 9500 or 9600's AA quality would be a more apples to apples comparison here.  We'll have more on this subject, as we get ATi product into the lab for evaluation.


As we mentioned earlier the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra will debut at an MSRP of $149, and you can currently find Radeon 9000 Pro 128MB cards for less than $125 at various on-line resellers.  Keep an eye on both of these products however, because things should be dropping off sharply, once the 5200 Ultra actually gets into the channel.  We expect the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra's "street" price to be much lower than suggested retail price however, which would make this DX9 capable card, currently the most feature rich product at its price point.  Overall performance was good for a mainstream part, especially with AA and Aniso enabled.  However, GeForce 4 Ti4200 or Radeon 8500 owners itching for an upgrade will probably want to look elsewhere.  First time system builders looking for a decent gaming card would be well served by a GeForce FX 5200 Ultra.  In addition, we suspect this card will find its way into many of the pre-built PCs offered by most of the large OEMs, the same position the GeForce 4 MX is in now. 

Adding DX9 capabilities and greater performance, without significantly increasing cost will make the GeForce FX 5200 very popular with the OEMs.  NVIDIA may be struggling at the high-end, but they're mainstream parts should put up a good fight.  When we finally get our hands on ATi's new R9200 and R9600 product, we'll be able to paint a clearer picture of where each company stands in the mainstream market.  One thing is for sure, there should be a fairly competitive 3D Graphics landscape for the next few quarters.


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GeForce FX 5200 Ultra Performance Analysis Page 5

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