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Review: ASUS v9520/TD GeForce FX 5200 128MB

by Tarinder Sandhu on 7 July 2004, 00:00

Tags: Asus V9520/TD Geforce FX 5200 128MB, ASUSTeK (TPE:2357)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaxf

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NV34 and the card itself

GeForce FX 5200 GPU (NV34)

The GeForce FX 5200, as mentioned, contains NVIDIA's CineFx engine, which translates to support for Microsoft's DX9 API's vertex and pixel shaders version 2.0, There's also high-precision colour (128 bits- 32 bits for red, green, blue and alpha) for more accurate rendering, although the performance toll for enacting it is probably too much for the GPU to handle.

Given the £50 street price in retail form, what's had to give is clock speed. Regular GeForce FX 5200s clock in at 250MHz core and 400MHz memory. Pure clocks don't tell the full story. Cards higher up the range benefit from memory bandwidth-saving techniques such as lossless (compressing and decompressing without losing any original detail) colour and Z-compression, so 400MHz RAM speed doesn't infer the same kind of performance as 400MHz memory on, say, a GeForce FX 5700. Sacrifices have to be made to somewhere. Not having lossless compression is a big one, and one that's likely to effect the card's ability at churning out framerates when image enhancement is turned up a few notches. Think of the FX 5200 GPU as an underpowered motor car that's hampered, in performance terms, by having to tow a caravan called 'no compression'.

In terms of design, the FX 5200 is a regular 4x1 setup that's based on a 0.15-micron manufacturing process. The GPU will showcase well, by running the latest demos at PCWorld nationwide. The buyer then may be a miffed at the lack of real performance, but what do you expect for £50?.

ASUS' card

A plain Jane card. There's no hunks of copper or AGP slot-breaking weight to contend with. We're adamant that ASUS could have made cooled the 45-million transistor GPU with a larger passive heatsink, which is an obvious benefit for OEM systems and purveyors of quiet systems everywhere. The PCB is small, yet we feel that ASUS could have economised on PCB space further. Just to the left of the cooler is where a VIVO chip, had it been incorporated, would have sat. The back of the card can be seen here. It replicates the front's 4 TSOP RAM modules.

Speaking of which.... ASUS' V9520/TD carries 128MB in 8 128M bit chips. They're nominally rated at 400MHz DDR. It's strange to think that system RAM is now much faster, with Corsair and OCZ producing DDR550 modules.

Notice the low profile of the cooler. It seems to be there for more show than real usage. It's just a shame that ASUS didn't pursue the passively-cooled route. Also notice how there's no auxillary power ports. That's the intrinsic beauty of lower-rated cards. 250MHz core and 400MHz memory speeds aren't going to tax an AGP slot's ability to provide the necessary current, even though it's a 0.15-micron design.

No VIVO functionality infers that the S-Video socket is used for outputting signals only. An internal TMDS drives the DVI hookup up to UXGA (1600x1200) resolution, and in combination with the HD15 hookup or S-Video output, users can run dual displays through NVIDIA's excellent nView software.

ASUS' buying power ensures that even low-end cards arerecipientss of reasonable bundles. Morrowind, Black Thorn, and Worms Blaster make up full titles. There's further demos that include Battle Realms and IL2. Not cutting-edge games but still better than opening the package and finding just a card inside. ASUS also includes a branded DVD software player that carries ASUS name but is Cyberlink's PowerDVD underneath. The main installation CD carried the Detonator 44.03 driver set and also claimed to have Microsoft's DirectX9.1 API. We'd like to see that. The CD's generic in nature - it includes capture drivers that have no place in this bundle.

Like most of ASUS' documentation, the main manual is informative and concise. Cabling is kept to a minimum. There's a single S-Video-to-RCA lead and the obligatory DVI dongle. £250 cards have often been packaged with less of a bundle, so ASUS' is above average in the sub-£100 sector.