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Review: AOpen Aeolus GeForce FX5900XT 128MB

by Tarinder Sandhu on 24 February 2004, 00:00

Tags: Aopen Aeolus Geforce FX5900XT 128MB, Aopen, NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qawm

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Card appearance

A look at the card and bundle. We'll talk spec. and probable performance further on.

As is the increasing norm with NVIDIA-based cards, there's plenty of unused PCB space. We feel as if AOpen could have gotten away with a much smaller card, but we also reckon that all Aopen does is have a branded cooler attached on. For all intents and purposes, we could be looking at a reference design, right down to that particular shade of green which is favoured by Flextronics. There's no hunks of pure copper here, folks, and that's a good thing. The cooler is simple and, importantly, doesn't take up a PCI slot. A picture of the back can be found here. Note how RAM modules are only situated on the top side.

A closer look at the PCB shows a distinct lack of Video-In Video-Out (VIVO) ability. The space for the usual Philips-powered encoding/decoding ASIC is left bare. AOpen, we can surmise, is positioning this FX 5900 XT firmly on price. Silicon Image's Sil1162 TMDS transmitter is a useful inclusion, as NVIDIA's integrated version has often been found wanting at 1600x1200. The generic feeling of the PCB is further amplified by Leadktek, amongst others, using an identical base for its 5900XT models. The difference lies in the cooler

The card's name gives a lot of the performance potential away. It's, as we've hinted at already, a cutdown version of a FX 5950, right down to using a TSMC-supplied 0.13-micron manufacturing process and resulting molex-driven auxilary power connector.

The aluminium cooler uses a traditional fin approach to increase available surface area. The cooler's small by high-end NVIDIA standards, and a comparison with the AOpen FX 5950 Ultra, here, shows just how much sacrifice NVIDIA and Aopen have had to make when attempting to hit the Ultra's 475/950 core and memory speeds. The cooler extends over to the BGA DDR2 RAM but then doesn't provide any additional cooling; the fins don't quite make contact with the RAM modules. We're not quite sure why AOpen didn't go with a discrete cooler and RAMsink design.

The Aeolus FX5900XT features 128MB of Hynix 2.8ns BGA memory, split into 8 128MBit modules. Translated into everyday language, that's around 700MHz, and far below the Ultra's 950MHz rated speed, which is to be expected. The absolutely crucial element here is the 5900XT's 256-bit memory interface. The FX5700 derivatives, as you may know, use the more common 128-bit wide bus. Simple maths informs us that the 5900XT has lots more bandwidth - ever so handy in cases when anisotropic filtering and antialiasing are applied.

As the saying goes, "nothing to see here, folks". DVI and VGA connections are sandwiched between good ol' TV-Out. In summary, a design that's saved from reference Hell by an AOpen cooler. The uncomplicated layout is helped by the cooler that won't eat up a PCI slot.