MSI FX5950 Ultra VTD256

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The MSI FX5950 UltraVTD256 - Page 6

The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
NVIDIA's Flagship GPU, MSI Style...

By, Marco Chiappetta
February 12, 2004

Head-to-Head Performance With Tomb Raider: AOD
Lara is Back! As Crappy as Ever!

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 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 the sense of depth and size.  We ran our custom demo at a resolution of 1024x768 and then again 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).

When using the PS 1.4 path, the MSI FX 5950 Ultra performed well, losing by only a few frames per second at 1024x768, but pulling way ahead at 1600x1200 thanks to its memory bandwidth advantage.  However, when using the PS 2.0 path, NVIDIA's well documented DX9 performance issues really hold the MSI FX5950 Ultra back.  Although the gap between ATi and NVIDIA has gotten much smaller.  If you take a look at these numbers from a few months ago, it's clearly evident that NVIDIA's driver team has made some serious progress. (Then: 46.8% delta at 1024x768  |  Now: 24.6% delta at 1024x768)

Overclocking With The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
Fast is Good.  Faster is Better!

MSI's Overclocking

Our overclocking efforts yielded some interesting results.  MSI included a proprietary overclocking tool, dubbed 3D! Turbo Experience, with the FX5950 Ultra, but we didn't have much luck with it.  This tool seems to have been developed before NVIDIA's GPUs were clocked differently in 2D and 3D modes.  As you can see in the screenshot to the left, 3D! Turbo Experience is reporting a core clock speed of 300MHz, which is what the core is clocked at in 2D mode - in 3D mode that number jumps up to 475MHz.  If you overclock the core in 2D mode though, the fans cooling the card don't spin-up, which is a very dangerous situation.  We tried the latest release of 3D! Turbo Experience that was posted on January 7th, and found the same issue.  In short, we'd recommended steering clear of this application until the kinks are worked out.  Luckily, enabling the CoolBits registry tweak still unlocks clock frequency controls within NVIDIA's drivers, so we still have some overclocking results to share with you.  After enabling CoolBits, we slowly raised the FX5950 Ultra's core and memory clock speeds until we begun seeing visual artifacts while gaming.  In the end, we settled on a respectable 524MHz core clock speed, with the memory clocked at a health 1.03GHz (Default = 475MHz / 950MHz).  The core would actually overclock much higher without locking up the system, in the neighborhood of 550MHz, but there were massive amounts of visual artifacts at these speeds.  We re-ran the Gun Metal benchmark while the card was overclocked, and saw an approximate 10% performance gain.

There are a lot of things we liked about the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256.  MSI included a very comprehensive bundle with this card, in fact it's one of the most comprehensive bundles we've seen in a while.  The FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 also sports ViVo functionality, something not commonly found in a high-end gaming card.  The TOP Tech. (Thermal Obviation Protection) cooling solution installed on this FX5950 Ultra is extremely effective as well, which is a huge plus in our book.  This card ran cooler than any other GeForce FX 59x0 we've worked with.  Even with the complete bundle, extra features and great cooler, MSI has priced this card competitively with other 5950 Ultras.  This card can be found at various on-line retailers for about $440 U.S.  Unfortunately for MSI, Radeon 9800 XTs are available for about the same price, and in our opinion the 9800 XT is still the current 3D King.  NVIDIA fans, however, will be hard pressed to find a better GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.  The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD has earned itself an 8 on the HotHardware Heat Meter...

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Tags:  MSI, MS, Ultra, x5, fx, ULT

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