The package lacks a game bundle of any kind though you do get the now infamous Half-Life 2 voucher for the single player version of the game. However, with the title potentially some six months away this can’t be viewed as much of an incentive to choose the card.
The latest version of Cyberlink Power DVD, version 5, is included. Unfortunately, it’s not the excellent Deluxe version that we recently reviewed but a highly pared down 2-channel only version, so you’ll have to fork out more cash if you want to watch your DVDs in surround-sound.
Speed-wise the card performed as expected, with the 50MHz memory hike advantage over the Asus giving it a slight edge in every test. However it was still firmly outgunned by the AOpen Aeolus FX 5900XT, which turned in significantly higher scores in almost every benchmark. For example in Unreal Tournament 2003 at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x anti-aliasing it was over twice as fast, with 70.2fps to the Hercules’, 30.7fps. This large disparity is down to the 128bit memory interface of the Radeon 9600XT, which limits the card’s potential fill-rate. With a full 256bit interface and a higher memory clock the GeForce FX 5900XT is simply more powerful.
The one test where the AOpen didn’t pull ahead was in Aquamark, where it was only two frames a second faster than the Hercules at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 with all effects on. Aquamark makes heavy use of DirectX 9 Pixel Shaders 2.0, so the scores do hint that ATi is still more efficient at handling DirectX 9 effects. That said the AOpen is still faster, albeit by a slender margin.
In all other games though, including the partly DX9 Tomb Raider test, the AOpen was significantly ahead. With the AOpen being only £20 more, it’s just not possible to recommend the Hercules board – even with its rather nice blue lights.
If you buy it, you’ll find that for the small saving over the nVidia card, it’s likely that come the end of the year when those next generation games appear, you’ll find yourself getting that upgrade itch once again.
A stylish take on the Radeon 9600XT. If you’re set on having ATi on a budget, it’s a good choice but you’ll get better value and performance from an nVidia 5900XT-based card.