So on to benchmarking. We ran a number of tests on the card, including our new custom Tomb Raider test, designed specifically to determine DirectX 9 performance. The results were pretty impressive beating the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra and a Hercules 9600XT card in practically every test. Starting with 3DMark03, at a default resolution, the AOpen scored 4995 compared to 3180 for the 5700 Ultra and 3679 for the 9600XT. In X2, at an intensive 1,280 x 1,024 with both anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, the AOpen breezed past both the 5700 Ultra and the 9600XT with 26.7 fps to their 19.5 and 20.5 respectively. As you can see from the graphs it also dominated at Unreal Tournament 2003. In the graphics stressing Halo, it was the only one of the three to produce a really comfortable score at 1,024 x 768 with a healthy 42.7 fps. Tomb Raider revealed the same - a generous 51.4 fps compared with to 29.8 fps for the Hercules 9600XT. As for image quality – while the ATi card can render DX9 effects with a greater internal precision, when we ran Tomb Raider on two systems side by side, one with the nVidia card and the other with the ATi and we couldn’t spot any difference while the game was playing.
From the scores, it’s clear that nVidia has firmly staked a claim for the performance crown at the mid-range. In response, the price of the 9600XT has already dropped, but at only £20 difference there seems little point penny pinching. With the news that Half-Life 2 is to be delayed until possibly September 2004, the voucher that comes with the ATi cards is a far less enticing prospect, especially as it’s only for the single player game. However, while nVidia can be satisfied with outpacing ATi, I have to admit to being confused as to where the 5900XT leaves the still paint fresh 5700 Ultra, especially when manufacturers are pricing the former as keenly as AOpen are. If I’d shelled out for a 5700 Ultra last week, I’d be pretty miffed right now.
The good news for the rest of us though, is that with the GeForceFX 5900XT, superb performance can be had for a sensible amount of money. Add the potential for overclocking into the mix, and the ball is very firmly back in nVidia’ court.
nVidia raises the bar on mid–range performance with the very impressive GeForceFX 5900XT. It leaves both the ATi Radeon 9600XT and the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra out in the cold.