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Things never stay still for very long in the graphics business but even I was surprised by the speed with which nVidia released its latest chip. Though the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra appeared only a few weeks ago, nVidia has already released another chip out into the wild.
What’s even more surprising is that the GeForce FX 5900XT is evidently aimed at the same mid-range market as the GeForce FX 5700 series. Indeed the XT moniker is a clear sign that nVidia intends to steal the thunder from ATi’s Radeon 9600XT.
Architecturally the differences between the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra and the GeForce FX 5900 are interesting. The former uses DDR2 memory running at a blistering 900MHz, while the GPU operates at an impressive 475MHz. The GeForce FX 5900XT, meanwhile, features less impressive numbers – only 700MHz DDR1 memory and 390MHz for the GPU. Its secret though is its internal 256bit data bus, derived form its bigger 5900 brother, as opposed to the slower 128bit interface used in the 5700 Ultra. This 256bit bus delivers a maximum potential 22.4GB/s second of memory bandwidth. This is up from the 14.4GB/s available to the 5700 Ultra and significantly eclipsing the Radeon 9600XT 9.6GB/s. As we’ll see, this brain versus brawn approach pays serious performance dividends and gives lots of headroom for running anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering at high resolutions.
Though many manufactures have started producing ATi-based boards, there’s still no shortage of partners churning out products showcasing nVidia’s talents. AOpen is one such manufacturer. With the FX5900XT it has taken a bare bones approach but that’s no bad thing. There’s no outrageous card design or heatsinks on the RAM and no box filling bundle. However for most people that’s going to be just fine. No need for a bunch of half-baked utilities and demos of games you’ll never play. All that’s in the box is a driver disc and a copy of Intervideo WinCinema consisting of WinDVD4 and WinRip – an MP3 encoder and organiser. There’s also a simple colour guide to help those who might not have upgraded their graphics card before.
The card itself features an interesting looking fan, which might be of interest if you’re of the transparent case brigade. Noise levels are reasonable. It’s not as quiet as the MSi GeForce FX 5700 Ultra, but at least the days of nVidia cards sounding like jet engines are long gone. The rear of the card sports a DVi port with a D-SUB adapter provided. There’s also a second D-SUB port so you can hook up two displays. As you might expect at the price, there’s no ViVo functionality but there is a TV-Out, with an S-Video to composite adapter in the box.