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Digital-Daily : Video : msi-fx5950-ultra

MSI GeForce FX 5950 Ultra

Date: 16.01.2004

By: Aleksey Burdyko

MSI GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
Memory 256 Mb; Hynix 2.0 ns
Frequencies: 475/950 MHz
Specific features: UltraShadow
IntelliSample HCT
Integrated TV coder
Price: $525 (3Logic)

The gone year 2003 has brought many interesting novelties in the field of 3D accelerators. We witnessed another coil of competition of today's flagship manufacturers of graphic chips: ATI and NVIDIA. Note that the competition is sheer enough and overstepped the limits of traditional comparison of "raw" performances of video cards. Even more than that, the year gave a chance to compete to driver writers rather than technical designers of chips. The former over-fulfilled their plans at releasing their creations. On the one hand, - yes, it is sad because now testers find it quite difficult to give a one-one estimation of performance of a graphic chip for most applications. On the other hand, that was quite expectable - the interpretations of DirectX 9.0 specifications among the parties are varied. That gives rise to numerous arguments and debates regarding NVIDIA video cards and the so-called driver cheats. From our part, we have repeatedly brought up the topic, and in today's review you, dear readers, will get an idea of how things are with the driver cheats in the most recent flagship solution from NVIDIA.

MSI FX5950 Ultra VTD256

The graphics board in question is made by MSI, a manufacturer very well-known in Russia, which enjoys a worthy reputation of a manufacturer that produces high-quality produce. The video card is built on NVIDIA's latest chip - NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (code name NV38). So, what is the new chip like? In fact, it is the same NV35 but with raised operating frequencies of the chip and memory. Production techniques become more polished with time - the yield rate for chips that provide guaranteed operation at higher speeds goes up. Therefore, why not to bring in a new chip on the market especially because ATI has done the same through releasing the ATI Radeon 9800XT which is an "overclock" of the previous flagship solution - Radeon 9800 Pro.

But that seems to be the last "juice drops" squeezed out of both companies' graphic processors operating at the breaking point. New chips are already looming on the horizon, which we are so anxiously looking forward to. The solution of MSI being reviewed is the latest what NVIDIA can offer to date, as good as ATI Radeon 9800XT.

NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (NV38) Chip

Below are the specifications of the new NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra chip, its predecessor NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, as well as the immediate rival from the ATI clan - Radeon 9800 XT (for detail, see the review ASUS on the ATI Radeon 9800XT chip):

Radeon 9800 XT GeForce FX 5900 Ultra GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
Code name R360 NV35 NV38
Process technology 0.15 mk 0.13 mk 0.13 mk
Q-ty of transistors ~107 mln (?) 130 mln 130 mln
Memory bus 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit
Memory bandwidth 23.4 GB/s 27.2 GB/s 30.4 GB/s
Pixel fillrate 3.04 Gpixel/s - Texelrate (Color+Z): 1800 texel/s
- Z-rate (Z): 3600/s
- Stencilrate: 3600/s
- Texturerate: 3600/s
- Texelrate (Color+Z): 1900 texel/s
- Z-rate (Z): 3800/s
- Stencilrate: 3800/s
- Texturerate: 3800/s
Maximum antialiasing mode 16x 8x 8x
Triangle transformation speed 412 Mtriangles/s 315 Mtriangles/s 356 Mtriangles/s
AGP bus 2x/4x/8x 2x/4x/8x 2x/4x/8x
Memory 256 MB 128/256 MB 128/256 MB
Core speed 412 MHz 450 MHz 475 MHz
Memory speed 365 MHz (730 DDR) 425 MHz (850 DDR) 475 MHz (950 DDR)
Q-ty of vertex shader blocks 4 FP array FP array
Pixel pipelines 8 4 (8) 4 (8)
Texture blocks per pipeline 1 2 (1) 2 (1)
Textures per texture unit 8 16 16
Vertex shader version 2.0 2.0+ 2.0+
Pixel shader version 2.0 2.0+ 2.0+
DirectX version 9.0 9.0 9.0
Antialiasing modes Multisampling Multisampling Multisampling
Memory optimization Hyper Z III+ Optimized LMA II
Color compression
Optimized LMA II
Color compression
Optimizations SmartShader 2.1
SmoothVision 2.1
IntelliSample HCT IntelliSample HCT
Q-ty of monitor outputs 2 2 2
Integrated RAMDAC 2 x 400 MHz 2 x 400 MHz 2 x 400 MHz
Bits per color channel 10 10 10
Special features Integrated TV coder; FullStream
Adaptive filtering
Integrated TV coder; Extended Programmability
Adaptive filtering
Integrated TV coder; Extended Programmability
Adaptive filtering

Hardly can we get more comments on the data presented in the table. We see a hackneyed overclocking of the previous-generation chip NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra to frequencies 475 MHz / 475 MHZ (950 MHZ) from 450 MHZ / 425 MHz (850 MHz) in NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra. As we see, although the running in of production and chip yield rate in NVIDIA have improved, the raise of frequencies proved to be not that high as many may have expected.

And nothing supernatural can be expected from the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra - the overclock is not so great to anticipate a radical re-alignment of forces in terms of competition with ATI. ATI is not second to NVIDIA at that - it also overclocks its cards in small bits, so the new flagship is unlikely to solve the major problem of low pixel performance typical of the FX family cards. However strange it may seem, but this problem is more successfully solved with the new ForceWare driver with the re-designed compiler.


  • The NV38 Chip
  • MSI GeForce FX 5950 Ultra Video Card Features
  • Test configuration, overclocking
  • Synthetic benchmarks
  • Gaming benchmarks Final Words

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