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Review: NVIDIA GeForceFX 5700 Ultra and FX 5950 Ultra

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 23 October 2003, 00:00

Tags: NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qauj

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Introduction

Today couldn't have come soon enough, post ATI Radeon 9600XT article. We released some performance figures from something that debuts today, that many deemed we used simply to spoil ATI's party that day. I wish that were the case, it would have made the fallout that much simpler to deal with.

As it stands, we simply took advantage of the fact we had the product in question in our possession, and we took it for a spin around the benchmark block, spewing out the numbers over a few graphs.

Rightly or wrongly, using GeForceFX 5700 Ultra numbers in the 9600XT article gave a lot of people a lot to talk about. The stuff that annoyed me most was the allegation that you simply do not use benchmark results from products that haven't had a formal product launch (a single press release will do apparently) and subsequent peer review from the usual suspects.

I can see the point, if you didn't have the card too or couldn't read other reviews, could you trust the numbers? From our side of the fence, knowing we were using the same card everyone else had for reviews that can be published today, using the same drivers that were WHQL'd for release today, with access to information we knew was correct about clock speeds and pricing, we were just first out of the door prior to NVIDIA releasing that all important press statement about the new card.

That press statement comes today. By the time you'll be able to read this, NVIDIA will have issued a statement saying that they are proud to release FX 5700 and FX 5950 into the world, for immediate review and subsequent consumer consumption. Blah blah blah. We just like giving you the numbers, just maybe next time we won't do it so early.

So you know what's been launched, let's talk about them a little before I go nuts with specs, benchmarks and screenshots.

New Blood

If you follow the consumer graphics card market with any interest, you'll know it's fall refresh time. That cosy little period just before the holiday season where GPU makers get to refresh their product lines. The ultimate makeover, turning dog eared old performers with sagging waistlines and slack sales figures into lean, mean fighting machines with fresh gusto and some new tricks up their sleeves. All in the name of the dollar for the parent companies, all in the name of frame rate for us, frame rate with which to play todays games, along with the games that will keep us occupied until the next refresh and fresh evaluation of what's going on.

For ATI, that's meant the introduction of 9600XT and 9800XT, sterling performers that put a small gap between themselves and their Pro siblings, for around the same money. Mid-range and high end performers par excellence, they certainly have given NVIDIA a lot of sleepless nights, whether they'll like to admit it or not. With many questioning NVIDIA's resolve in the run up to spring, and many more questioning the current FX product line with accusations on DX9 this and image quality that, they could have done one of two things for fall refresh and today's announcements.

They did the absolute best thing and came out fighting. The mid-range sees the introduction of FX 5700 and 5700 Ultra to replace the outgoing 5600 part version, with new twists to the silicon, a new driver to make things work and a new partnership with a huge industry heavyweight to create the chips.

The high end sees the introduction of a speed spun FX 5900 replacement, FX 5950. Again in both Ultra and standard forms, it's less of a 5900 overhaul than 5700 is compared to 5600, but nippier nonetheless. Paired with the same new driver and a new appetite for overclocking, it was nicer to see these new parts than NVIDIA with their tails between their legs and nothing new to show.

If anything, it stops ATI getting too cosy, and like NVIDIA or not, nobody will argue that's a bad thing. Onto the cards themselves, before I waffle on too much.