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ASUS Extreme AX600XT vs. MSI PCX 5750: Budget PCI-Express
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Date: Sep 28, 2004
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction To The Cards

 

With much anticipation and fanfare, the next generation in video card interface has arrived.  PCI Express, the successor to AGP, is now available on a number of Intel-based boards starting with the 900 series chipset.  VIA, SiS, and others are sure to follow in the coming months. It's still uncertain when the other OEM solutions will come out with PCI-E (not to be confused with PCI-X), but regardless of potential delays, PCI-E will be universal sooner than later.

The potential benefits of PCI-E over AGP are dramatic, offering peak bandwidth of 4GBps (8GB concurrent), which more than doubles that of AGP 8X.  Initially, PCI-E appeared on the high-end of the scale with NVIDIA's 6800s and ATI's X800 series.  But now we are starting to see the trickle-down effect, with PCI-E hitting the mainstream market.  However, not all PCI-E cards are created equal.

ATI's X700 series of cards offers PCI-E natively and, so far, does not come in AGP flavors.  NVIDIA, on the other hand, utilizes its HSI (High Speed Interconnect) bridge to convert native AGP GPUs to PCI-E, with the exception of the 6600, which is a native PCI Express part.  While each company will argue the benefits of its approach, you should be concerned with added latency whenever a conversion takes place, leaving us to wonder how the NVIDIA's midrange bridged solutions will compare to ATI's pure approach.

Certainly, all of this may be a moot point with the impressive showing from the GeForce 6600 and X700 series.  Nonetheless, while we wait for these two cards to hit store shelves, there are several solutions currently available that may fit your needs. 

Here we offer a side-by-side comparion of an ASUS Extreme AX600XT and an MSI PCX 5750, today's value-based cards.  With newer offerings looming on the horizon, these value-based models may become tomorrow's ultra-affordable PCI-E solutions.  So, depending on your needs, they may warrant a closer look.  Let's take a look at their respective retail packaging, then we'll get more familiar with the cards themselves.


The first of the two packages we'll look at is the MSI PCX 5750.  This bundle's main strong points are the games included with the card.  When it comes to including software with a product, MSI has a knack for piling it on.  What is even more refreshing is that MSI includes a number of current gaming titles, adding to the overall value of the package.  Both URU and XIII are very recent, with the first aimed at the Myst adventure crowd and XIII being a unique first-person shooter with a comic-book feel.  If neither of these titles tickles your fancy, check out the rest of the list. It goes on with a full version of Prince of Persia 3D and demos of such titles as Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising, and IL-2 Sturmvok, to name a few.

  

Certainly, games are not the only thing in the package. MSI also included several Quick User Guides, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, and S-Video cable.  Plus you'll get an MSI case badge and a number of non-gaming software titles, including MSI's own 5.1-channel DVD player.  Below is a fairly comprehensive list of what comes with the MSI PCX 5750, and quite a list it is.

    

 

          Accessories 

  • DVI-to-VGA adaptor
  • S-Video cable
  • MSI case badge

          Software Bundle

  • MSI Media Deluxe Center II
  • Virtual Drive 7 Professional
  • Restore It 3 Professional
  • MSI 5.1-channel DVD player
  • Foreign Language Learning Machine
  • Photoshop Album SE
  • 3D Album SE
  • MSI Live Update Series
  • 3D! Turbo Experience
  • GoodMen
  • LockBox
  • WMIinfor
  • ThinSoft BeTwin

 

          Software Bundled

  • URU
  • XIII
  • Prince of Persia 3D

          14 in 1 Games Collection

  • Praetorians
  • Black Hawk Down
  • YAGER
  • Joint Operations Typhoon Rising
  • Heaven & Hell
  • Comanche 4
  • Divine Divinity
  • American Conquest
  • Etherlords2
  • Commandos Destination Berlin
  • IL-2 Sturmovik
  • Beach Life
  • Splinter Cell
  • Deus EX Invisible War

The next package on our list is the ASUS Extreme AX600XT.  The retail package differs significantly from a gaming standpoint when compared to the MSI bundle.  ASUS was a bit less over the top, offering a modest collection of games and bonus software.  In fact, the ASUS card comes with only one game, Dues Ex: Invisible War, along with several graphics titles such as Ulead Cool 3D 2.0, PhotoExpress 4, and Power Director 3.  ASUS also includes its own flavor of ASUS DVD XP to handle your DVD playback needs. 

    

This package has more of a multimedia tone than MSI's gaming approach.  While the AX600XT also sports a User's Guide, DVI-to-VGA adapter, and bonus software, it has a few twists of its own.  For one, ASUS includes an HDTV adaptor that splits video signal to separate R-G-B channels.  A VIVO/S-Video breakout box is also provided for video capture needs, as well as outputting to a standard television.

    

          Accessories

  • Cable/Adaptor
  • 9-pin S-Video-comp VIVO cable
  • DVI-to-VGA output adaptor
  • HDTV adaptor

 

          Software Bundled

  • Free CD case
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War
  • Ulead Cool 3D 2.0
  • Photo Express 4.0 SE (2 in 1)
  • ASUS DVD XP
  • Power Director 3
  • Media Show
  • ASUS Driver and Utilities

Each of these packages targets a different audience.  The MSI PCX 5750 aims to capture the gamer on a budget, offering a modest card and a terrific collection of games with some new and old favorites.  In contrast, the ASUS Extreme AX600XT takes a more multimedia approach, offering HDTV and VIVO options along with video/graphics editing software and one popular gaming title.  Depending on your needs, both cards have something to offer with their retail packaging.  Next, we'll focus on each card more closely, then we'll line them up on the test bed to see how they compare to each other.

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The GeForce PCX5750 From MSI

 

Specifications Of MSI's GeForce PCX5750
Value PCI Express

GeForce PCX5750 Chipset Features
- NVIDIA UltraShadow™ technology
- NVIDIA CineFX™ 2.0 engine
- NVIDIA UltraShadow technology for next-generation games
- True 128-bit precision computation
- Delivers two times the floating-point pixel shader power over previous generation
- Advanced pixel shaders
- 128-bit studio-precision computation
- NVIDIA Intellisample™ high-resolution compression technology (HCT)
- NVIDIA ForceWare™ unified software environment (USE)
- NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
- Compatibility, stability, and reliability
- NVIDIA nView™ multidisplay technology
- Continual performance and feature updates over life of the product
- NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
- DirectX 9.0 Optimizations and Support
- OpenGL 1.5 Optimizations and Support
- NVIDIA nView™ multidisplay technology
- NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0
- Dual 400MHz RAMDACs
- DVI Support
- Integrated TV encoder
- Integrated full hardware MPEG-2 decoder
- 64-phase video scaler
- 0.13-micron process technology
- Crafted for Cg and high-performance gaming
- Utilizes advanced memory technology (including DDR2) or blazing performance
- NVIDIA Intellisample HCT (texture, color and z compression) for screaming performance at high resolutions
- Delivers three times the vertex processing power over previous generation

- Graphics Core: 256-bit
- Memory Interface: 128-bit
- Memory Bandwidth: 14.4GBps (This value is for reference only, depending on the type and size of memory implemented)
- Fill Rate: 1.9 billion pixels/sec.
- Vertices: 356 million/sec.
- Pixels per clock (peak): 4 pixels per clock
- Textures per pixel (max in a single rendering pass): 16 tetures per pixel
- Dual RAMDACs: 400MHz


Operating Systems
- Windows XP / 2000
- Complete DirectX support, including DirectX 9.0 and lower
- Full OpenGL 1.4 and lower

Compatibility
- NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
- Fully compliant professional OpenGL 1.4 API with NVIDIA extensions, on all Window operating systems.
- WHQL-certified for Windows XP / 2000

 

The MSI GeForce 5750 is based on the NV36 GPU sporting four pixel pipelines and two vertex shader pipelines.  The core is clocked at 425MHz and is complemented by 128MB of DDR memory running at 500MHz.  The card comes with dual monitor support, with one VGA and one DVI output powered by dual 400MHz RAMDACs.  There is an integrated TV encoder which handles the PCX5750's TV-out capabilities.  MSI mounted a nice copper, cylindrical-shaped fan that moves air across the the GPU, as well as the entire card.  MSI also included a sink on the HSI chip to help keep temperatures in check. 

    

    

Built on MSI's trademark red PCB, the PCX 5750 doesn't require any additonal power supplementation, which results in a reasonably sized card that is much shorter than higher-end offerings. What the card also lacks is SLI capability, which is only available on the high-end 6800s and 6600s.  For its memory needs, MSI utilizes Samsung K4D261638F-TC36 GDDR modules rated for a maximum data rate of 550MHz. This leaves us with a little headroom for the overclocking segment, which we'll touch on at the end of the review.

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The ASUS Extreme AX600XT
Specifications of the Radeon Extreme AX600XT from ASUS
Another Flavor of Budget PCI Express

ATI Radeon X600XT Chipset Features
- PCI-Express graphics chip with native 16 lane and double the bandwitch of AGP 8X.
- Four full precision pipelines that provide over 2 Gigapixels/sec of unmatched shader power
- SMARTSHADER™ – defines the level of realism in latest 2D/3D games and applications.
- VIDEOSHADER™ - provides seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real-time.
- Microsoft DirectX 9 and OpenGL 1.5 support HDTV support

ASUS Innovation
- ASUS GameFace Live is the world's first multiplayer audio and video chatting solution for PC gamers
- ASUS VideoSecurity Online builds your own security system on PC
- ASUS OnscreenDisplay adjusts your display settings while playing PC games.
- ASUS SmartDoctor for optimum PC performance and safety features.
- ASUS SmartCooling dynamically adjusts your VGA fan speed for a quiet computing environment.

- ASUS HyperDrive provides three ways to dynamically boost graphics card power.
- High-quality TV output for big screen gaming or presentations
Video input supports real-time video captures, high-quality video compression, and vide editing
- DVI output for easy connectivity to digital flat panel display
- Diversified displays connectivity (HDTV / Video-In / DVI-I / TV-Ou
t

 


 

The ASUS Extreme AX600XT is also a two-vertex-pipeline, four-pixel-pipeline solution but with native PCI-E support.  The VPU is clocked at a brisk 500MHz, and like the MSI PCX 5750, the card comes with 128MB of GDDR memory.  ASUS utilizes HYNIX memory clocked at 740MHz DDR, however.  When we cross-referenced the model number, we found the modules rated at 450MHz (900 DDR).  Hopefully, we'll find these chips have a fair amount of headroom when we try overclocking the AX600XT later on.

    

    

The ASUS Extreme comes with its own custom cooler that spans the VPU as well as the memory modules on one side.  Typically, BGA GDDR memory of this type runs relativel cool to begin with, but added cooling is always a welcome sight.  Like its counterpart, the ASUS AX600XT has dual monitor support, but there's a twist:  There is one DVI output, which can be converted to VGA with the adapter provided, as well as TV-out capability.  The last option is purely an HDTV solution, offering a custom output that marries up with the HDTV cable provided in the package to connect to an HDTV with separate R-G-B inputs.

Lining up the specs on paper, the MSI GeForce PCX 5750 and ASUS Extreme AX600XT look to be polar opposites when it comes to features, but their raw power is similar.  Next, we'll line them up on our test bed and see how the two compare.

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HotHardware Test Bed & Image Quality

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested both cards on a Shuttle SB81 i915 chipsest-based motherboard, powered by an Intel Pentium 4 550 @ 3.4GHz CPU. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults." Then we set the memory to operate at 200MHz in dual-channel mode, with the CAS Latency and other memory timings set by the SPD, and then we set the AGP aperture size to 256MB. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the Intel chipset drivers and hit the Windows Update site to download and install all of the available updates. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating, System Restore, and Drive Indexing were then disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 768MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed the benchmarking software, and ran all of the tests.

The HotHardware Test System
Intel Powered Screamer
Hardware:
Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -



Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive -


Optical Drive -

Other -

Software:
Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-

Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz

Shuttle SB81 Motherboard
i915G Chipset

GeForce 6600 GT

ATI Radeon X600 XT
GeForce PCX 5750

1024MB Kingston HyperX PC3500
CAS 2

Integrated SoundMax Audio

Western Digital "Raptor"
36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM

3.5-inch floppy drive


Windows XP Professional SP2 (Fully Patched)
Intel INF v6.0.1.1002
DirectX 9.0c

ATI Catalyst v4.9
NVIDIA Forceware v65.76
Image Quality
Looking Sharp

Before we get into the benchmarking of these two cards, we decided a few screen shots were in order.  Typically, we like to run off a few screen shots to show the image quality potential of a particular video card.  Naturally, we need to take into account the class of card we are reviewing before passing judgement on how good or bad an image looks.  Let's face it, you get what you pay for.

Below we snapped the same sequence of images with each card with various objects in hand.  The images were taken with High-Quality set in game, 4XAA and 8X Anisotropic Filtering enabled in drivers, both consistent with the settings used to benchmark Doom 3 later on.

Screen Shots Of Doom 3 taken with MSI's GeForce PCX 5750
    


Screen Shots Of Doom 3 taken with the ASUS Extreme AX600XT
    

As you can see, both cards were capable of rendering a decent image, but whether the game was playable remains to be seen later in the benchmarking segment.  Overall, each card offered very similar quality.  We'd have to say the screen captures taken using the ASUS card appear slightly brighter by default, but it's nothing a simple tweak to the brightness slider couldn't balace out.

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Performance Comparisons With Final Fantasy XI & Halo

 

Performance Comparisons With Final Fantasy XI Benchmark 2 v1.01
A Classic Console Franchise On The PC

Final Fantasy XI
The Final Fantasy franchise is well known to console gamers, but Squaresoft has since made the jump to the PC with a MMORPG version of this classic. The Final Fantasy XI benchmark runs through multiple scenes from the game and displays a final score every time a full cycle of the demo is completed. Although the demo is meant to check an entire system's readiness to play the game, the number of frames rendered scales when different video cards are used. Lower scores indicate some frames were dropped to complete the demo in the allotted time. The scores below were taken with the demo set to its "High Resolution" option (1,024 x 768), with anti-aliasing disabled.

While there is no shortage of MMORPG games on the market, Final Fantasy XI appears to be one of the few that offers a benchmark based on the acutal game engine.  When the test completed, we found the ASUS EAX 600XT took a firm 1500 point lead over the PCX 5750.  We'll watch to see if this imbalance continues as we progress through our testing.

Benchmarks With Halo
Halo - All Patched & Ready To Go!

Halo
For many gamers, the release of Halo for the PC marked the end of a long wait, since it was originally released as an Xbox exclusive a few years back. No additional patches or tweaks are needed to benchmark with Halo, as Gearbox has included all of the necessary information in its README file. The Halo benchmark runs through four of the cut-scenes from the game, after which the average frame rate is recorded. We patched the game using the latest v1.04 patch and ran this benchmark twice, once at 1,024 x 768 and then again at 1,600 x 1,200. Anti-aliasing doesn't work properly with Halo at the moment, so all of the tests below were run with anti-aliasing disabled.

With Halo, the tides shifted in favor of the PCX 5750 at 1,024 x 768, with the MSI card taking a slight 3FPS lead.  When we increased the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200, however, the pendulum swung back to the ASUS card, which returned to the lead with a 6FPS lead.

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Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell

 

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell
Stealthy Combat

Splinter Cell
Splinter Cell's version 1.2 patch includes three prerecorded demos and incorporates a previously unavailable benchmarking tool. The demos included with the patch are somewhat limited by CPU performance, however, so we opted for the Oil Rig demo created by the folks at Beyond 3D to test with this game.  Shaders are used to render realistic-looking ocean water surrounding an Oil Rig in the demo, as well as simulating a night vision effect for a brief period. Also note that anti-aliasing doesn't work with Splinter Cell. Due to this fact, we do not have any AA scores listed in the graphs below.

Splinter Cell was the X600XT's game, topping the GeForce PCX 5750 by nearly double at both resolutions.  Being a game that relies heavily on shaders for its water and night vision effects, the X600XT offered the best overall performance, benefiting nicely from its higher overall clock speeds.

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Head-to-Head Performance With Tomb Raider: AOD

 

Head-to-Head Performance With Tomb Raider: AOD
The Anti-Greatest!

Tomb Raider: AOD
Although Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness won't be winning any "Game of the Year" awards, it is one of the more advanced DirectX games currently available. We've recorded a custom demo of Lara jogging through an indoor garden area in 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 the sense of depth and size. We ran our custom demo at a resolution of 1,024 x 768 and then again at 1,600 x 1,200, using both the Pixel Shader 1.4 and 2.0 code paths (with and without 4x anti-aliasing in the PS 2.0 tests).

With Tomb Raider, the ASUS card held the lead, although the PCX 5750 put up a better fight at times.  Clearly, the added MHz the ASUS enjoys over the PCX 5750 comes into play here.  The X600's higher peak fill rate and increased memory bandwidth help it pull way ahead of the PCX 5750 in our custom Tomb Raider benchmark.

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Performance Comparisons With AquaMark 3

 

Performance Comparisons With AquaMark 3
DX8 and DX9 Shaders

AquaMark 3
AquaMark 3 comes to us by way of Massive Development. Massive's release of the original Aquanox in 1999 wasn't very well received by the gaming community, but it was one of the first games to implement DX8-class shaders, which led to the creation of AquaMark 2 - a benchmark previously used by many analysts. Because the AquaMark benchmarks are based on an actual game engine, they must support old and new video cards alike. Thus, the latest version of AquaMark, AquaMark 3, uses not only DirectX 9-class shaders, but DirectX 8 and DirectX 7, as well. We ran this benchmark at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,600 x 1,200 with no anti-aliasing and with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled together.

The AquaMark 3 scores continued to favor the ASUS X600XT as with the other tests.  The X600's superior fill rate, memory bandwidth, and shader performance helped propell it way ahead of the MSI GeForce PCX 5750 in this test, especially at the higher resolution when AA and Aniso were used.  At 1,600 x 1,200 with 4XAA and 8X Aniso enabled, for example, the X600 was a full 51% faster than the 5750.

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Benchmarks / Comparisons With Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

 

Benchmarks / Comparisons With Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Q3 Engine-Based Freebie

Wolfenstein: ET
We also ran through a batch of time demos with the OpenGL game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the excellent Return to Castle Wolfenstein that was released a few years back. It uses a heavily modified version of the Quake 3 engine, which makes it a very easy-to-use benchmarking tool. We created our own custom demo and used the built-in time demo feature to check each card's frame rate. The tests below were run at 1,024 x 768 and again at 1,600 x 1,200, without anti-aliasing, and lastly with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

With an older game like Wolfenstein, the two cards kept things within a few FPS at 1,024 x 768, with the ASUS model holding the top speed.  At 1,600 x 1,200, the gap widened a bit, especially with 4XAA + 8X Aniso enabled, where the PCX 5750 took a severe hit.

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Head-to-Head Performance With Unreal Tournament 2004

 

Head-to-Head Performance With Unreal Tournament 2004
Epic's Next Smash Hit!

Unreal Tournament 2K4
Epic's "Unreal" games have been wildly popular ever since the original Unreal was released in the late '90s. Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and then Unreal Tournament 2003 rapidly became some of our favorites for both benchmarking and for killing a few hours when our schedules allowed it! Epic recently released the latest addition to the franchise, Unreal Tournament 2004. We used the demo version of the game to benchmark these cards at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,600 x 1,200, without any anti-aliasing, and with 4X AA and 8X aniso.

The scores in UT2004 were in line with what we would expect from both cards and their respective clock speeds.  At 1,024 x 768, the ASUS Extreme managed to top the PCX 5750 by almost 20FPS but dropped the lead to 10FPS with 4XAA and 8X Anisotropic Filtering enabled.  At 1,600 x 1,200, the lead was still ASUS's by 11FPS with no AA enabled and over 3.5FPS with 4XAA and 8X Aniso tests.

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Benchmarks & Comparisons With Far Cry

 

Benchmarks &Comparisons With Far Cry
DX9 effects galore.

Far Cry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene, you probably know that Far Cry is one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Far Cry gives us a taste of what is to come in next-generation 3D Gaming on the PC.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this review with a custom recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint at various resolutions without AA or Aniso Filtering enabled and then with 4X AA and 8X Aniso enabled together.

FarCry proved to be a challenge for the PCX 5750.  This time around, the ASUS card went back to doubling the score as we saw earlier on.  Nonethless, neither card was up to the task at 1,600 x 1,200, both in dire need of reducing in-game image quality to maintain playable frame rates at higher resolutions.

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Benchmarks & Comparisons With Doom 3

 

Benchmarks &Comparisons With Doom 3
The Wait is Over!.

Doom 3
id Software's games have long been pushing the limits of 3D graphics.  Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3 were all instrumental in the success of 3D accelerators on the PC.  Now, years later with virtually every new desktop computer shipping with a 3D accelerator, id is at it again with the release of the visually stunning Doom 3.  Doom 3 is an OpenGL game using extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows.  We ran benchmarks with Doom 3 set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,600 x 1,200 without AA or Aniso Filtering enabled and then with 4X AA and 8X Aniso enabled.

The Doom 3 Single Player benchmark, using our custom "HHSite3" map, showed both cards struggling at both resolutions tested.  Certainly, the ASUS model held the lead as it did throughout most of the tests, but the results were still quite low.  In order to play Doom 3, users will need to ease off the image quality in game, as well as lower the resolution.

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Benchmarks & Comparisons With Doom 3 (Continued)
Benchmarks &Comparisons With Doom 3 (Continued)
OpenGL Doom & Gloom

Doom 3 Single-Player is only half of the Doom 3 experience.  Although it leaves users wanting more, Doom 3 Multiplayer is a fast-paced shoot'em-up that does prove to be a challenge, if not crowded at times.  Let's see how the multiplayer tests turned out.

Relatively speaking, the results were much closer than previous tests.  The X600XT model managed to hold a minor lead throughout most of the testing, with the PCX 5750 managing to win one with 4XAA/8X Aniso at 1,024 x 768.  Again, with a little in-game image quality tweaking, these frame rates should be improved, but you will miss out on some of the game's awesome graphics.

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Overclocking & Conclusion

As with most of our video card reviews, we like to see how much we can squeeze out of a video card once all the standard tests are run.  Sometimes a modest card can be hiding a lot of extra muscle with a little tweaking here and there.  Next, we've lined up both cards and have given them a go at overclocking.  Let's see how each fared.

Overclocking The MSI PCX 5750
Making Fast Faster...

The MSI GeForce PCX 5750 proved to be a pretty good overclocker.  The GPU managed to run up to 503MHz, 78MHz faster than the stock 425MHz.  This ended up being a gain of more than 18% over stock speeds.  The memory managed to hit 664MHz, 164MHz higher than the 500MHz default speed.  This gain added up to just short of 33%.  In the end, we realized an actual performance increase of 31%, pushing the PCX 5750 ahead of the ASUS model by 1.1FPS.

Overclocking The ASUS Extreme AX600XT
Making Fast Faster...

With the ASUS Extreme AX600XT, the overclocking was less impressive.  The VPU managed to top an additional 22MHz over stock, resulting in a gain of 4.4%.  With the memory, which was rated for 900MHz DDR by the manufacturer, the top speed was 802MHz, resulting in an 8.4% gain.  In the end, this boost gave the ASUS card the chance to edge out the overclocked MSI card by a mere 0.2FPS, leaving the MSI GeForce PCX 5750 as the best overclocker by far of the two cards.

As we bring this review to a close, we are faced with a bit of a quandry.  On the one hand, we have the ASUS Extreme AX600XT, which managed to win most of the tests by a large margin.  On the other hand, we have the MSI GeForce PCX 5750, which had a great retail package with an excellent software collection and turned out to be a decent overclocker.  Then, we have to factor in the GeForce 6600 and X700 releases, each of which offers the best overall performance to date out of any PCI-E value-class cards on the market today.  So where does that leave us? 

If you're in the market for a new value-class PCI-E card, you should seriously consider the timing of your purchase.  You may want to wait to see if the prices of these two cards drop considerably after the newer 6600s and X700s hit store shelves.  Currently, the MSI GeForce PCX5750 retails for $122, which is a good value when you add up the gaming titles included.  The ASUS Extreme AX600XT retails for a pricier $166 and has HDTV output and better performance but offers a lot less software.

When we looked at the MSI PCX5750, we found a fair value-based video card with excellent overclocking potential.  When we factor in the gaming bundle, we could easily spend the price of the card on just two or three of those titles on the retail market.  So, while it wasn't the fastest card of the bunch, it is a good value overall.  The price is low enough to justify buying it today if $200 for a 6600GT is out of your reach.

The MSI PCX 5750 scores a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of 7.

 

The ASUS Extreme AX600XT is a little harder to justify at the moment because of the impending arrival of the 6600 and X700 at a similar price point.  Even though it did have the best overall performance compared to the PCX 5750, it comes at a higher price and has a more conservative software bundle.  When you factor in the fact that the GeForce 6600GT and X700 series are going to be offered for a mere $40 more, we think it is well worth waiting for the next-generation cards.  That is, unless the ASUS X600's price takes a nose dive upon the retail release of either the Radeon X700 or GeForce 6600 series or cards.

The ASUS Extreme AX600XT scores a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 7.5.

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