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MSI NBox FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra Videocard Review
MSI NBox FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra Videocard Review  - PCSTATS
Recently there seem to have be a videocard renascence developing. Many manufacturers are now overclocking their cards right from the get go.
 89% Rating:   
Filed under: Video Cards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: MSI Jul 30 2003   C. Sun  
Home > Reviews > Video Cards > MSI FX5900U-VTD256

FX5900 Ultra Technology

Behind the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra

It seems like history has a sense of irony... 3dfx was finished off by nVIDIA when the company missed a product cycle. nVIDIA is not about to fall into the pages of history so easily though, and that's mainly thanks to a large and loyal OEM base (a safety net 3dfx never had). On the retail side, things were quite different - even die hard nVidiots are switching to ATi in droves.

Probably the biggest issue gamers had with the GeForceFX 5800/5800 Ultra surrounded fact that the NV30 could only render 4 pixels in one pass in single texture games. On the other hand, ATi's R300/350 and even nVIDIA's own GeForce4 Ti line could render 8 pixels. In multitexture games the NV30 could render 8 pixels though.

The second issue with the NV30 that really irked the hardware community was the relatively narrow 128bit memory bus between the GPU and memory.

Because the GPU would only render 4 pixels in single texture environments, coupled with the restrictive memory bus, the GeForceFX 5800/5800 Ultra was actually quite slow. On a side note, because of the higher core speed (500 MHz for NV30, 450 for NV35), the GeForceFX 5800 Ultra has a higher theoretical fill rate than the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra. However, the FX 5800 Ultra is bandwidth limited so ultimately the FX 5900PV Ultra is indeed faster.

nVIDIA did not "fix" the single texture issue as modern games all take advantage of multi-texturing. The memory bus did get an overhaul however. With the NV35, nVIDIA doubled the memory bus from 128bit to 256bit, and despite having the memory run slower (1 GHz DDR2 on the NV30, 850 MHz DDR for NV35) the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra has more bandwidth (16GB/s vs 27.2 GB/s).

If you'd like to see some image quality comparisons between GeForceFX 5900 Ultra and Radeon 9800 Pro, please take a look at our Albatron GeForceFX 5900PV videocard review.

Overclocking the nBox:

Knowing the overclocking results we witnessed with the Albatron GeForceFX 5900PV we expected similar speeds from the MSI FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra, after all a GeForce is a GeForce is a GeForce.

Starting at 450 MHz core speed I slowly raised the core speed 5 MHz at a time, and easily passed 475 MHz. While overclocking the core alone we actually got up to 510 MHz! However, as with the Albatron GeForceFX 5900PV, when we overclocked the memory it decreased our max core overclock.

Because the MSI FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra uses the same 2.2ns Hynix BGA DRAM as the Albatron GeForceFX 5900PV we were expecting similar results from it on the memory side of things. Amazingly, the memory reached 1 GHz by itself.... however once we included a core overclock it severely slowed the memory down.

I know nVIDIA mean with their thermal management, but it makes finding the maximum speed of any given FX5900 much harder. After about an two hours of frustrating tinkering we found that if we clocked our card at 489 MHz core and 951 MHz memory we'd get optimal performance.

pcstats test system specs:

computer hardware:


pentium 4 2.8 ghz

clock speed:

21 x 133 mhz = 2.8 ghz


msi gnb max-fisr




ati radeon 9800 pro (380/680)
ati radeon 9700 pro (325/620)
albatron geforcefx 5900pv (400/850)
msi g4ti4600-td (300/650)
gigabyte radeon 9600 pro (400/600)
albatron geforcefx 5600p turbo (325/600)
msi nbox fx5900u-vtd256 ultra (450/850)

msi nbox fx5900u-vtd256 ultra (489/951)


2x 256mb corsair xms3500 cas2

hard drive: 40gb wd special ed.
cdrom: nec 52x cd-rom

panasonic 1.44mb floppy drive

heatsink: avc sunflower
powersupply: vantec 470w stealth psu
software setup

windowsxp build 2600
intel inf 5.10.1012
catalyst 3.5
detonator 44.03

workstation benchmarks

commanche 4
gun metal 2
quake iii arena ver 1.17

aa test, af and aa+af test
quake iii arena

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Contents of Article: MSI FX5900U-VTD256
 Pg 1.  MSI NBox FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra Videocard Review
 Pg 2.  The nBox FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra
 Pg 3.  Cooling the FX5900U-VTD256 Ultra
 Pg 4.  — FX5900 Ultra Technology
 Pg 5.  Benchmarks: 3DMark
 Pg 6.  Benchmarks: AquaMark 2.3
 Pg 7.  Benchmarks: Comanche 4
 Pg 8.  Benchmarks: Gun Metal 2
 Pg 9.  Benchmarks: Quake III Arena
 Pg 10.  Benchmarks: UT2003
 Pg 11.  Benchmarks: 3DMark2001, QIII Arena w/AA
 Pg 12.  Benchmarks: 3DMark2001, QIII Arena w/AF
 Pg 13.  Benchmarks: 3DMark2001, QIII Arena w/AA + AF
 Pg 14.  Expensive, but what do you expect?

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