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MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128
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Date: Jun 03, 2003
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: HH Editor
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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 - Page 1

 

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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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 - Page 2

 

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

By: Jeff Bouton
June 3rd, 2003

The Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II
Adding Versatility to the Picture


One of the more versatile items to be included with the MSI GeForceFX 5200 is the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II software.  These two components work together to give the user complete control of the system's multimedia functions, clearly and easily.  The remote control seamlessly maps to the Media Center Deluxe II's major functions and can also be customized to run third party products as well, integrating with a TV and FM Tuner card.  The remote control works in connection with a small infrared receiver that plugs into the FX5200 and can be routed to the front of the PC.  We've seen a number of products hit the market as of late that offer remote control functions and it's hard to argue the benefits of such an item.

The Media Center Deluxe II comes with 8 major components for viewing TV, DVDs, pictures and video clips not to mention easy access to music files and select games and programs.  Compared to other proprietary software we've tested from MSI, the Media Center Deluxe II is by far the most versatile, professional looking and useful we've seen.  When we first loaded the software it became immediately clear that MSI was aiming for a clean, easy to read menu system that could be viewed on a TV or monitor.  Below are a number of screen shots of the major components of the Media Center Deluxe II software.
 


Main Menu

Play Music

View Pictures

Play Video Clips

Watch DVDs

Play Games

Run Programs


After we used the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II software, we were very impressed, but there is still room for improvement.  We found the infrared sensor that connects to the rear of the FX5200 to be tethered to a rather short wire which may be limiting to some users.  This, in our opinion, makes for a strong argument to dispense with the infrared design altogether and move to an RF based design, eliminating the need for lengthy wires and clear line sight.  The other issue is the overall application of the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II software.  We must admit, when we first saw the inclusions of the remote control we were a bit puzzled as to why MSI would include such an item with a card that doesn't have a TV Tuner.  Traditionally these types of features make the best compliment to a TV/Video card, but MSI obviously felt it was still a valuable addition.  This is evident in that the Media Center Deluxe II is highly configurable and is designed to integrate with other TV tuner products.  In the end, we began to see the value in the remote control features, but even then, these features are best reserved for specific applications.  We doubt the average user would have much of a use for the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II with a standard PC setup unless outputting the video signal to a TV is planned.  The strength of the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II lies with users looking to integrate a PC into their home entertainment system.  In a situation like this, the Remote Control and Media Center Deluxe II software is well suited and an invaluable convenience.  The only thing missing is video-in capabilities which would balance out the package a bit.

 

HotHardware Test Systems
AMD All The Way

 

MSI GeForceFX 5200

Detonator 43.45

 

ATI All-in-Wonder 9000 Pro
Catalyst Driver 3.2

 

AMD AthlonXP 2100+

Asus A7N8X Deluxe
512MB PC2700 RDRAM

Western Digital 30GB ATA-100 7200RPM Hard Drive

Creative 52X C-DROM

Windows XP Pro SP-1

DirectX 9.0a

Methodology:
 

We chose to test the MSI GeForceFX 5200 on the Asus A7N8X Deluxe with an Athlon XP 2100+.  The first thing we did when configuring this system was enter the BIOS and "Load Optimized Defaults".  We then configured the Memory CAS Latency and other memory timings to be set by the SPD. The hard drive was formatted, and Windows XP Professional w/ SP1 was installed. After the Windows installation was complete, we installed the nForce chipset drivers and then hit the Windows Update site.  We downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones related to Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components, disabling and removing Windows Messenger.  Auto-Updating and System Restore was also disabled, and we set up a 768MB permanent page file.  Lastly, we set Windows XP?s Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software, defragged the hard drive and ran all of the tests at the CPU's default clock speed.  For comparison, the scores of the GeforceFX 5200 were compared to those of an ATi All-Wonder-Radeon 9000 Pro.

 

FuterMark's 3DMark03
Direct X 9 Benchmark

Lately there have been some questions as to how NVIDIA drivers function with FutureMark's 3DMark03.  Each side has their own take on the issue but in the end it is you and I who have to deal with the doubts on the accuracy of the benchmark.  These questions were serious enough for FutureMark to issue a patch to insure that the scores were accurate which was followed by a response from NVIDIA.  It is unfortunate that this has occurred, but until this situation is resolved the best we can do as reviewers is to make sure the software we test is current and have faith that the scores are fair and accurate.

All in all, the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 put up a fair score, but until we get more value based DirectX 9 hardware in our labs, we have little to compare it to.  Next we'll jump into more familiar territory with some of our trusted DirectX and OpenGL benchmarks.

3DMark2001SE and UT2003

 

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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 - Page 3

 

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

By: Jeff Bouton
June 3rd, 2003

Benchmarking with Quake III
Tried and True!

As far as OpenGl benchmarking goes, Quake 3 is the most prolific test of them all.  In the fast paced technology market where products can become obsolete just as quickly as they are released, Quake 3 has managed to keep itself firmly in the mix.  This is most likely due to its long history that has allowed its scores to become commonplace, which most anyone can relate to.  In this round, we ran the DemoFour at 1024x768 and 1600x1200.

In the first test the MSI card had no problem posting a firm 166FPS.  In fact, even after we turned up the resolution to 1600x1200, the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 maintained frame rates well above the 60FPS cut off.

So we've determined that the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 can run the veteran Quake 3 without much trouble with high quality settings enabled in the game video options.  Next we'll see how the card handles the load when we increase the visual quality in the video card drivers.  First up, Anti Aliasing...
 

More Quake III
2X FSAA

In this test we turned on 2X Full Screen Anti Aliasing to smooth out some edges and improve the overall image.

At 1024x768 we saw the scores for the MSI GeForceFX 5200 TDR128 drop roughly 50FPS with 2X FSAA enabled.  At 1280x1024, it was still able to sustain frame rates over 70, an adequate amount for that resolution.

More Quake 3, Serious Sam and the Wrap-up...

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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 - Page 4

 

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

By: Jeff Bouton
June 3rd, 2003

More Quake III
2X FSAA & Maximum Anisotropic Filtering

In our last Quake 3 test, we left the Anti Aliasing settings at 2x and set the Anisotropic filtering to maximum.  This combination offers decent picture quality while keeping the hit to performance reasonable. 

At the conclusion of this benchmark we found the performance of the MSI GeForce FX 5200 TDR128 to be pretty good.  While enabling Anisotropic filtering on top of 2X anti aliasing, we saw a 14FPS drop in performance at 1024x768, maintaining triple digit frame rates.  When the resolution was increased to 1280x1024, we saw a lesser decline equalling roughly 4 frames, managing to keep ahead of the minimum 60 FPS threshold.

 

Serious Sam-TSE
Causing a "Little Trouble"

Another excellent OpenGL benchmark is Serious Sam The Second Encounter.  This is one of the few games that can be configured to run under OpenGL or DirectX, although we find it to be more suited for OpenGL testing.  This is a fairly intensive test that severely taxes a video card even at lesser resolutions.  In this round of tests, we opted to run the benchmark at 1024x768 and 1280x1024.  Scripts were run to insure both cards were run with the same settings.

It seems as though Serious Sam was a "serious" challenge for the GeForce FX5200.  At 1024 the card wasn't capable of breaking triple digit frame rates as the Radeon 9000 Pro could.  As we increased the resolution to 1280x1024, the performance hit was even more severe, dropping below the 60 FPS minimum.  Keep in mind these tests were run with Maximum Quality settings and would certainly improve with a "Normal Quality" setting.

From a performance perspective, the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 shaped up to be a decent low cost video card.  Throughout our tests the card maintained respectable scores for an entry level product, proving it to be a capable little card.  When we take into account the hefty bundle of software and hardware that accompanies this graphics card, the overall package is quite attractive.  MSI is clearly focusing on giving a lot of value for the money with an impressive bundle of software and remote control.  While we did have mixed feelings as to the usefulness of the remote except under specific circumstances, we think in the end it will be up to the individual.  When tested, the remote control worked quite well and the Media Center Deluxe II software was extremely functional and easy to use.  We also found the price point attractive as well.

We looked up the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 on pricewatch and found the card selling for a little over $100.  That's a very affordable price for a card with so many extras.  We found Radeon 9000s selling in the $75 price range, but they don't include a remote control nor AGP 8X and entry level DirectX 9 support. 

From a "budget" perspective, we give the MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of a 8.5 



 

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The MSI GeForce FX5200 TDR128 - Page 5

 

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

By: Jeff Bouton
November 4th, 2002

 

Serious Sam-TSE
Causing a "Little Trouble"

To give you another perspective on what can be expected with OpenGL games, we loaded up CroTeam's Serious Sam - The Second Encounter.  With this test we used the Beyond3D scripts commonly

As we said when we started out, ATi has been doing the TV card thing for quite some time and their experience shows with hj yjrtyj each new product release.  We are continually impressed with the packages

We give the All-In-Wonder Radeon 9000 Pro from ATi a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of a 9. 



 

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