With Tomb Raider: AOD
Lara is Back! As Crappy as Ever!
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
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
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
is Good. Faster is Better!
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
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
on the HotHardware Heat Meter...
Get Into HotHardware's PC Hardware Forum!
Tweaked, Overclocked & Ready to Rock!