By now everyone is waiting for the next generation of nVidia products, but there is still life in the current range as Gainward demonstrates here. The Gainward FX PowerPack! Ultra/1100 TV/DVI is the absurdly long name for Gainward’s attempt to make a “budget” GeForce FX5900 card. However, I’m not entirely convinced there is such a thing as a budget FX5900 card. And don’t get the Ultra in the name confused with an FX5900 Ultra, as Gainward has been using the Ultra name for quite some time now and many of its products feature the Ultra title.
The PCB is finished in Gainward’s trademark red colour and is outfitted with a fairly standard size GPU cooler compared to other FX5900 cards. The PCB differs from the reference design and only has memory on one side, whereas the standard design allows for memory on both sides – even though the extra memory is usually limited to the FX5900 Ultra cards. This is part of the reason that the Ultra/1100 is a low-cost card.
The memory heatsinks are also much more moderately sized than those exhibited by other FX5900 boards. This is made possible by the reduced clock frequencies on the Ultra/1100 which reduces the amount of heat produced and consequently the amount of heat dissipation needed.
The GPU is rated at 400MHz while the memory comes in at 355MHz (effectively 710MHz DDR). This does translate to slower overall performance compared to the standard FX5900 which is rated at 400MHz for the GPU and 425MHz (effectively 850MHz) for the memory.
The Ultra/1100 does however feature the extra power connector that has become synonymous with high-end graphics cards. A power splitter is supplied in the box, just in case you don’t have enough connectors free or if your power loom can’t quite reach.
The card features both DVI and D-SUB connectors, as well as S-Video output.
Gainward also supplies a DVI to D-SUB adapter and an S-Video to composite video adapter. This allows you to connect to various devices including two monitors or a monitor and a TV.
The software bundle is not what you would call extravagant, but there is a copy of InterVideo WinDVD in the box as well as the ubiquitous drivers CD which contains Gainwards EXPERTool for overclocking duties.
But how does this budget FX5900 card perform? Well, looking at the results and comparing them to a standard FX5900 you’ll notice a small drop in performance in both versions of 3DMark, but it tends to be around 100 points which is not a major issue.
You’ll notice that in GunMetal the card seems to perform better with Anisotropic Filtering on. This is no doubt a driver issue and means that the card isn’t actually doing what it’s supposed to do. There is very little difference in SPECviewperf 7.1 and the same goes for Serious Sam the Second Encounter. The gap is slightly wider in Unreal Tournament 2003, although you won’t loose any more than 10fps here in either resolution.
As Aquamark wasn’t available at the time of the graphics card group test – which you can read here – we ran some numbers on the MSI FX5900 card to see how it compared to the Ultra/1100. The Aquamark score came in at 37388 for the MSI card versus 26994 for the Ultra/1100 and this is where it shows that the Gainward card is indeed a fair bit slower. Again the average FPS on the MSI at default test settings – which in Aquamark is with 4x Anisotropic Filtering endabled – came to 37.34fps while the Ultra/1100 only mustered 26.94. This is on the boarder of playable frame rates, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this is a synthetic benchmark, although it is based on a real game engine. It does give a good indication of how well current graphics cards will fare in new and future DX9 titles.
The Ultra/1100 was also tested using X2-The Threat which is another addition to our benchmarks suite and as long as you stick to a moderate resolution and limit the use of filters you’d have no problem playing this game when it launches.
Overall the Ultra/1100 is a quality graphics cards that ca run any current game and shouldn’t struggle too much with the games of tomorrow. There is however one small snag and that is the price. At £233.74 this is still a fairly expensive card when you consider that award winning Connect3D Radeon 9800 only costs £214.