After surrendering the high-end segment of the 3D graphics market to ATI for consecutive quarters, the big green machine known as NVIDIA is finally back with its GeForce FX 5900 line of graphics cards. NVIDIA isnít coming halfway either, the company plans to offer three GeForce FX 5900 cards, with retail prices at $300, $400, and for the gamer who must have it all, a 256MB GeForce FX 5900 Ultra at $500 (the other GeForce FX 5900 cards ship with 128MB of memory, although this may change with second generation cards).
Weíve already taken a look at eVGAís e-GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, the first GeForce FX 5900 Ultra card to hit retail shelves, and MSIís 128MB GeForce FX 5900 card (you must check out the dual-sided copper cooler this card boasts!), the FX5900-TD128. Today weíre evaluating MSIís GeForce FX 5900 Ultra board, the FX5900U-VTD256.
MSI has earned a well-established reputation for building innovative NVIDIA-based graphics cards, their T.O.P. Tech coolers are quiet, yet highly effective, and MSI has gone so far as to include remote control units with some of their graphics cards! Because of this, we were eager to see what MSI has come up with for their GeForce FX 5900 Ultra board.
FX5900U-VTD256 and NVIDIA's
reference Ti4600 card
eVGA and MSI GeForce FX5900U cards
If you recall, the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra sets itself apart from the $400 GeForce FX 5900 in memory size (all Ultra boards ship with 256MB of DDR memory) and core clock frequency. While the GeForce FX 5900 core clocks in at 400MHz, NVIDIA has bumped the core clock frequency for Ultra boards to 450MHz. Physically, both chips are the same, supporting the same array of features (2.0+ pixel and vertex shaders, as well as full-floating point precision and a 256-bit memory interface among the highlights). NVIDIA simply verifies that 5900 cores that operate at 450MHz successfully become Ultras, 5900s arenít tested as thoroughly but may be just as capable of hitting this clock speed.
NVIDIA has been doing this speed binning for years in products dating all the way back to their RIVA graphics line. Consumers like it, because they can often overclock regular cards to Ultra levels without any problems, while NVIDIA is able to charge a premium for the high-quality Ultra parts, which can often be very worthy overclockers as well. For instance, eVGA is shipping their e-GeForce FX 5900 Ultra at 500MHz core/900MHz memory, 50MHz over NVIDIAís reference specification in both regards. This gives them a performance advantage over other GeForce FX 5900 Ultra cards. GeForce FX 5900 cards arenít quite yet capable of hitting 500/900 consistently, much less the 520/951 clock speeds we ultimately overclocked the e-GeForce FX 5900 Ultra to.
Wondering how high we were able to overclock the FX5900U-VTD256? Read on to find out!