NVIDIA'S GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

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NVIDIA'S GeForce FX 5950 Ultra - Page 7

NVIDIA'S GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
NV38 takes flight propelled with a new driver set

By David Altavilla
October 23,  2003


Overclocking With The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
Hot enough to fry an egg on it but stable on the bench

We'll save the flowery intro here and once again cut to the chase for you.  We enabled overclocking with the "coolbits" registry tweak for the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.  We also enabled the recently added "OverDrive" feature on the Radeon 9800XT and then overclocked further in another round of testing at its max stable clock speed, driven by PowerStrip.  Here are the results.

The Radeon 9800XT manages to hold the lead, just by a hair (well within normal margins of error for this benchmark, by the way) with it's max overclock of 455MHz core and 800MHz DDR on the memory.  However, the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra shows and impressive capability to maintain stability at overclocked levels of 550MHz core and 1GHz memory speeds.  Yes, the card was completely stable.  Is this a locked and delivered guarantee for your own experience, if you purchase a new 5950 Ultra, absolutely not.  This was just our experience with the card and you know the standard disclaimer for overclocking full well.  Finally, also yes, the green RAM heat sink on the GFFX 5950U was piping hot obviously and we don't advise anyone to run this card at this speed, without at least one external fan blowing on the card from a case panel or bracketed fan assembly of some sort.



Just as we strived to cut through the chatter with our introduction of this HotHardware article, we'll bring this test drive of the new GeForce FX 5950 Ultra to a close, with an observation that sums up our feelings about NVIDIA's current situation and this new round of cards, with only a few simple words... "it's all about the drivers".   The introduction of the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra was squarely targeted at taking the wind out of the sails of ATi's Radeon 9800XT.  We also saw NVIDIA engage in some fairly desperate measures, allowing Anandtech the ability to show benchmarks with beta drivers in their "fall refresh" piece (which was really a Radeon 9800XT launch article), and the card itself, while the rest of the press were held on NDA, until today.  In the end, all the marketing spin, positioning and attempts to foil the competition, usually is seen through fairly clearly in the public eye.  We feel that move was a bit of a kick in the teeth for us here, as we all were working hard, with our hands tied behind our backs, while one site was allowed to run free (and there was one other in the UK as well actually, cant' forget the Euro market boys!).  However, we always remain objective here and we've grown some fairly "thick skin" over our years in this business.  Unfortunately for NVIDIA, it just was another fly in the ointment for them, on the level of professionalism.  Bad move guys, let's put our thinking caps on in the future OK?  We'll end the editorial here on that note.

Today, we've shown you what NVIDIA's new high end card is all about and what it can do with NVIDIA's best driver set offering currently.  The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, with the Detonator 52.16s driving it, is a formidable opponent to be sure for ATi's Radeon 9800XT.  It won some and lost some in our series of benchmarks, with its strength being more legacy game engines and its weakness, at the moment in certain DX9 and AA/Aniso Filtering enabled, gaming situations.  However, NVIDIA's new Detonator FX 52.16 drivers, along with their 50 series compiler for the Game Dev community, have made great strides for NVIDIA's product line, in both image quality and performance.  We're sure you'll see even better DX9 numbers from NVIDIA in the future, as they re-order shaders, and optimize code via their drivers and new compiler efforts.  Of course, now that we've all come clean (the whole industry pretty much) on the image quality game, it is a given that rendered output quality has to be top notch and comparable, otherwise the high frame rates that go with those images, will have a lot less of an impact on the press and general public's opinion.

So in short, (and we've tried to be succinct throughout here), the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra "is what it is".  It's a bit faster than the 5900 Ultra, but like the Radeon 9800XT, not earth-shatteringly faster.  The card runs hot as a pistol, at least with the current reference design.  However, the cooling system is most definitely quieter and somewhat more elegant, albeit less effective at cooling the RAM it seems.  Once again however, we are hopeful that various third party OEMs will improve on the reference design with their own better cooling solutions.  In this scenario, if you are in the market for a $500 (street price will drive lower eventually, so sit tight for now) one of the cards out of Taiwan may be the way to go. 

Is the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra a better choice than the Radeon 9800 XT?  It all depends on whether you want to hedge your bets on NVIDIA's ability to execute on future driver releases.  Our personal opinion, with all the physical design efficiencies at the PCB and GPU level, that the Radeon 9800XT brings to the table, the answer currently is "not quite".  However, in the next few months, when/if Doom3 is released and as NVIDIA's drivers and compiler improve, the game could change once again dramatically.  There is no doubt, we are SIGNIFICANTLY more impressed with the GeForce FX 5950 and 5900 for that matter, since we've gotten a hold of NVIDIA's new 52.16 drivers.  As always, no rest for the weary.  We'll be here to give you the play by play and we'll also keep trying to beat down the marketing weasels in the process.

By the way, NVIDIA also launched their answer to the Radeon 9600XT, the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra today.  Check out Rob's article on that one.  I hear it's an impressive solution at a more reasonable price point!


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