NVIDIA vs ATi Grahics Card Shoot-out

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Graphic Card Roundup
A comparative look at what's out there now

By Robert Maloney
March 29th,  2004

Let's face it - we've all done it at least once in our lifetime.  We've all wanted to go out and put down this month's rent payment on a new all-powerful video card that can play our favorite games at mind-numbing speeds.  When some sense of sanity finally returns (usually after checking for non-existing space left on a credit card), we decide that maybe starting at the top isn't for everybody, and start looking for the next best option.  Obviously, most manufacturers are well aware of this, and for every "high-end" product they release there's also a mid-range and/or value model that gets a more modest approach.  With so many cards out there to choose from, where does one start?

With that thought in mind, we decided to cover the latest offerings from the two largest, and most influential companies in the PC graphics world today, NVIDIA and ATi.  After stumbling out of the gate a bit with their early GeForce FX models, NVIDIA's newer 5700/5900 line has been received quite warmly, putting up some comparative numbers to the competition.  However, that "competition" comes from what is arguably considered the leader at the moment, ATi's Radeon 9600/9800 line of cards.  Over the last half of 2003, each of these companies has at one time or another, "one-upped" the other, with new cards.  It's all a matter of keeping in the public eye, and maintaining the upper hand.

Today, we'll be looking at six cards, three each from NVIDIA and ATi.  We've covered the ins and outs of each of these in detail in the past, and you can review those articles if needed, but for now we've got some quick specs to refresh your memory...

A briefing on each of the cards
How they stack up against each other

Feature

GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

GeForce FX 5900 XT

GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

CineFX? Engine

2.0

2.0

2.0

Intellisample? HCT

Yes

Yes

Yes

DirectX 9.0

Yes

Yes

Yes

AGP

8X

8X

8X

Clock Speed (MHz)

475c/950m

400c/700m

475c/950m

Pixels per Clock

4

8

8

Pixel Fillrate

1.9 billion pixels/sec

3.2 billion pixels/sec

3.8 billion pixels/sec

Memory

DDR2

DDR

DDR

Memory Interface

128-bit

256-bit

256-bit

Vertices/sec.

356 million

300 million

356 million

 

Feature

ATi Radeon 9600XT

ATi Radeon 9800 Pro

ATi Radeon 9800XT

SMARTSHADER?

2.0

2.1

2.1

SMOOTHVISION?

2.1

2.1

2.1

DirectX 9.0

Yes

Yes

Yes

AGP

8X

8X

8X

Clock Speed (MHz)

500c/600m

380c/680m

412c/730m

Pixels per Clock

4

8

8

Pixel Fillrate

2.0 billion pixels/sec

3.04 billion pixels/sec

3.3 billion pixels/sec

Memory

DDR

DDR

DDR

Memory Interface

128-bit

256-bit

256-bit

Vertices/sec.

 250 million

380 million

 412 million

 


Each chart translates to a good, better, best scenario.  For NVIDIA, we start at the 5700 Ultra with it's fast core and memory speeds, switch over to the similarly priced 5900XT, and end up with the heavy hitter, the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, basically a revamped 5900 Ultra with a more elegant yet powerful cooling design.  The basic technology used with all three cards remains similar, with the Pixels per clock being the main difference between the 5700 and 59XX models.  ATi's three Radeons follow the same relative breakdown - the 9600XT is the fastest of four 9600 variants and has the highest core speed of any card listed here, but it's four pixels per clock keep it behind the powerhouse 9800/9800XT combo.  The 9800 and 9800XT are identical in structure, with the 9800XT receiving a modest speed increase in both the VPU and memory speeds.   

So, there we have it.  Six cards, all meant for performance, but aimed at specific areas of the market. We'll move things along by getting a closer view of each card, for those more viscerally inclined.

NVIDIA's GeForce FX Family   

Tags:  Nvidia, ATI, Car, shoot, card, SHO, ICS, RAH, id, AR

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