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Review: MSI GeForce FX5600 Ultra

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 1 October 2003, 00:00 4.0

Tags: MSI

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For this reviewer, the mid-range sector of consumer graphics is the most interesting. I love the high end hardware, and it's a priviledge to run such cards in my personal machine, but the mid-range is where it's at, so to speak. Given that the large majority of graphics cards sold are from that sector, the appeal is apparent.

So, it was good to look at the two main competitors for your money in that sector recently. Both reference boards, NVIDIA's GeForce FX5600 Ultra (revision 2) and ATI's Radeon 9600 Pro, they went head to head for the title of fastest mid-range card. NVIDIA emerged victorious, an inspired increase in clocks over the original 5600 Ultra, along with a pseudo-crippled 9600 Pro from ATI (compared to 9500 Pro, a quicker solution), conspiring to hand NVIDIA the win.

And so it goes with reference boards, retail samples from board partners will hopefully appear not too long after. MSI are the first to oblige as far as retail FX5600 Ultra v2's go (we'll have a special Triplex 9600 Pro for you soon, to cover ATI's base), so it's that board I get to take a look at today.

As with recent card reviews, here are the two boards up against each other, spec wise, along with the older 5600 Ultra for good measure.

New FX5600 UltraOld FX5600 UltraRadeon 9600 Pro
Render pipelines 4 4 4
Texture units per pipeline 1 1 1
Shader units per pipeline 1 1 1
Core clock 400MHz 350MHz 400MHz
Memory clock 800MHz DDR 700MHz DDR 600MHz DDR
Memory bus width 128-bit/16-byte 128-bit/16-byte 128-bit/16-byte
Memory bandwidth ~12.8GB/sec ~11.2GB/sec ~9.6GB/sec
Pixel fillrate 1600Mpixels/sec 1400Mpixels/sec 1600Mpixels/sec
Texel fillrate 1600Mtexels/sec 1400Mtexels/sec 1600Mtexels/sec

The raw figures tell most of the story. Of course, both GPU's employ a variety of techniques designed to maximise all available performance. NVIDIA call their set of, mainly Z-buffer and colour, optimisations the catchy title of Intellisample. ATI call theirs HyperZ, itself part of a bigger umbrella of optimisation technologies.

So, with card specs, mid-range ideals and catchy optimisation techniques firmly in hand, let's see what MSI do with their FX5600 Ultra.