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Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden LimitedDate: 07/08/2004
By: Aleksey Burdyko
NVIDIA made an exceptionally good job of its GeForce FX 5900XT chip. NVIDIA has finally made something really mainstream at absolutely affordable prices for retail boards. Video board manufacturers have also appealed to this mainstream solution of NVIDIA. There are no problems with those cumbersome cooling systems like that in GeForce FX 5950 Ultra because of the low clock speeds, the PCB production is very well made, and the wiring for each component is now so familiar. What else do we need to be completely happy? Perhaps a bit of overclocking - a board based on the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip is bought mainly with the purpose of further overclocking. In the similarly positioned niche, ATI can offer Radeon 9800SE which in turn is also bought for re-making it into a Radeon 9800 Pro, but unlike NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT the purchase of a board on the base of the Radeon 9800SE chip is sort of a lottery in which the user gets a lower-middle video card in case the "revamping" is unsuccessful. That is why we should keep in mind that not all Radeon 98000SE are equally efficient.
Then it's more interesting to examine a board on the base of the most popular NVIDIA chip when it is not merely "just another variation", but indeed something unique in terms of the technical solution. And it is even more pleasant when the uniqueness relates not only to the cooling system but to other components as well. The product by Prolink is just among those which fall within this group. Well, we'll have enough chances to find out what is there so unique or super-smart in what follows, but for now let's look into the traditional table of NVIDIA solutions produced by vendors:
As we can see, the whole spectrum of NVIDIA boards is covered, including the latest based on the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra, NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 chips.
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT Chip
As it is now traditional, let's bring in our detailed table of specifications for the whole top range of the middle-end solutions based on both NVIDIA's and ATI's chips.
We have already repeatedly examined the specifics of each of the presented chips - so there is not much sense in repeating again.
The Board's Features
Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited
Inside the sizeable box of Prolink's traditional coloring, we found a lot of curiosity items:
In view of the specificity of the product - a small LCD monitor - the package bundle proved to be smart enough, however, if you look at the software part of the bundle, we say that it is bottleneck of the Prolink product. No games at all. However, as we already mentioned in our review on the AOpen board built on the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip, that is not a problem for the Russian market (however sorrowful, the situation is just this).
Design and layout
The exterior of the board immediately catches your eye: its design proved to be very similar to that examined in our review on NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Roundup for the Prolink's video card - Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5700 PDF. Of course, it's not the PCB design, but the design of the cooling system.
However, there are several essential differences. The major one is that in the video card Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited in question, there is a temperature monitoring system dubbed PDF, but on the already examined Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5700 PDF board the hardware monitoring system was of version I. We'll tell more about the differences a bit later, but now let's point to the common aspects.
First off, the PCB design in Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited, like in almost all the video cards based on the NVIDIA GeForce FX5900XT chip, has been substantially simplified relative to NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900/NVIDIA GeForce FX5900 Ultra. We have already noted that in our review of the Albatron and AOpen boards based on this chip. Also, the today's Prolink board in question offers somehow low PCB design to arrange a hardware monitoring.
The video card offers a dark blue PCB and 128 MB DDR onboard with a 256-bit data transmission bus (all the 8 memory chips are on the front side of the PCB). Strange is that the board offers blue PCB design, which is not typical of products of such brand. Normally, all Prolink boards are yellow, but here we see a definite departure from the color of the batch. The video card offers the AGP 2x/4x/8x interface and a standard set of outputs: one DVI-I, one analogous, and one TV-OUT.
It should be noted that there is not VIVO chip on the Prolink board, which makes this board aimed at those who buy it only for active gaming and prefer to save money on those features which they are anyway unlikely to use. But anyway there is a space on the board for a VIVO chip - it's not a problem to install a Philips chip on the board.
The signal shaping on the additional connector for digital monitors is performed not with the customary TMDS-transmitter Sil1162 by Silicon Image, but with the THC63DV164 TMDS-transmitter made by THine.
Along with this, on the front side of the PCB you can see a connector for additional power supply which is necessary for video cards on the base of NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT. You don't have to apply additional power onto the board, but in this case the card will run at reduced speeds, of which it will honestly report on Windows start-up.
There is an advanced BGA-packaging for memory chips made by Hynix (HY5DU283222A). The access time for the memory chip is 2.8 ns, which is equivalent to 350(700) MHz at which the memory runs. The GPU operating frequency amounts to those 390(!) MHz as per the specifications.
If we dismantle the whole cooling system of the board, it would be unfair not to look inside the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip. The chip is covered with a lid and, as is seen on the photo, it was manufactured on the 29th week of the year 2003 and has revision A1.
The cooling system for NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip on the Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited board is very well made. The lid with which the whole board is covered (like armory for the card) does nothing for cooling, and does not allow using the adjoining PCI-slot. But it looks very nice and of good quality anyway. The radiator on the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip is decent enough - together with the superb fine, its efficiency arouses no doubts, but I think many agree it wouldn't be bad if the memory were covered with lids (for instance, take the Albatron).
The difference of the new proprietary PDF II technology is the ability to turn the monitor which displays the core temperatures and rotational speeds of the fan on the corners up to 180 degrees.
The cap for the 5.25" compartment together with the extended wire to connect to the video card - it's simply a miracle for those who have no PC casing with the lateral transparent wall. It's a pleasure to watch the readings on the LCD monitor.
Apart from our today's "guinea pig", there were the following video cards tested:
All the direct and indirect competitors are there.
Operating system, test software, drivers and settings
We removed all the decorative "niceties" out of the Windows GUI and set the operating system to maximum performance.
Disabled the Vsync forcedly via the drivers both in OpenGL and in Direct3D applications. The S3TC texture compression was also disabled.
Prior to giving the estimate of image quality achieved by Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited video card, we again and again remind it that to date it is impossible to give more or less impartial estimate of this parameter for a series of video cards, since the 2D quality strongly depends on a particular specimen, and it is impossible to check all the cards for known reasons. The 2D quality also depends on the monitor and connection cable which in turn results in a lack of impartial estimate into the methodology of assessing a given parameter.
The 2D quality shown by the board at 1024x768x85Hz and 1280õ1024õ60Hz resolution can be characterized as superb. No noticeable deviations in the image quality were found.
Following the tradition, we start with our substantially amended benchmarking package.
3DMark 2003 v340
Real-world gaming applications
From synthetic applications, we are now moving on to analyzing the performance of the graphic boards in real gaming applications.
Unreal Tournament 2003
Unreal II: The Awakening
Call Of Duty
X2: The Threat
Gun Metal Benchmark 2
HALO: Combat Evolved
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
Half-life 2 Leaked Beta
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
The results of performance tests do not add any new information - the frequencies of Prolink PixelView GeForce FX 5900XT Golden Limited are standard for a board built on the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT chip, so there is nothing more to add regarding the alignment of forces among the existing solutions - all is clear.
But the attraction of this board is not in that. The smart solution in the form of a small LCD monitor to keep track of the graphic chip temperature and the rotational speed on the GPU fan - that's what makes this card stand out among other similar but featureless products of other manufacturers. This novelty is a real spice which makes the card worth of buying. But will there be enough people willing to buy this solution? For evident reasons, the price of the board is within the reasonable price tag for a board built on the GeForce FX 5900XT chip - and we are very well aware that manufacturers and sellers did not miss a chance to add to extra charge for the novelty. Nevertheless, the pleasure of using such a device should overlap all the price shortcomings - the manufacturing quality is on par, the card showed good stability during 3D tests for long hours, and of course it offers a fantastic exterior with the monitoring options.
VGA Roundup `2003:VGA Roundup (joint tests)
NVIDIA VGA Roundup `2003
ATI VGA Roundup `2003
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