GeForce FX 5900 Ultra core
With NVIDIA’s GeForce FX 5900 Ultra providing the brawn behind MSI’s NBox N5900 Ultra, you’re probably pretty familiar with the guts behind this video card, but just in case we’ll provide a quick recap.
The GeForce FX 5900 Ultra is built on NVIDIA’s NV35 core, which is based largely on the NV30 core powering the GeForce FX 5800 family; the key addition being NV35’s 256-bit memory interface, twice as wide as its predecessor. The new interface is capable of providing up to 27.2GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth to the graphics processor, and is outfitted with 256MB of DDR memory operating at 425MHz (850MHz effective).
NV35 is equipped with four pixel pipelines, with two texture units per pixel pipeline. This 4x2 architecture means that NVIDIA sacrifices some pixel fill rate in preference for texture fill rate. As most of today’s games utilize multi-texturing, this design decision isn’t as big of an issue as it was initially made out to be, but ATI can correctly claim that they’re the only manufacturer with a true eight pixel pipeline graphics architecture on the market. To help increase yields, NVIDIA lowered the clock speed of GeForce FX 5900 Ultra to 450MHz (from 500MHz in GeForce FX 5800 Ultra) so technically the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra takes a step back in overall fill rate (4 Gigatexels/sec in GeForce FX 5800 Ultra versus 3.6 Gigatexels/sec in GeForce FX 5900 Ultra) but the added memory bandwidth more than makes up for the difference, allowing the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra to shine in high resolution and/or environments with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.
The final addition to GeForce FX 5900 Ultra is NVIDIA’s UltraShadow technology. When supported by the developer, UltraShadow reduces the workload on the graphics processor by preventing it from rendering regions of the shadow that are unnecessary. Think of it as occlusion culling, but for shadows exclusively.
MSI's N5900 Ultra (bottom) and FX5900U-VTD256 (top)
Physically, the NBox N5900 Ultra looks like a dramatic departure from NVIDIA’s reference design. For starters, you’ve got a massive copper cooler cooling the graphics core and memory. A similar cooling system is also employed on the underside of the card, although the fan is slightly smaller. And of course, as an MSI graphics card, the NBox N5900 Ultra is donned with MSI’s fire engine red PCB.
However, if we take a closer look at the board, we see that MSI has implemented NVIDIA’s reference board layout to the letter. The card even ships with the Philips SAA7108AE video encoder/decoder chip. This addition brings video input capabilities to the NBOX N5900 Ultra.