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MSI FX5600U-VTD128

You may find this hard to believe, but the box of the MSI FX5600 Ultra gave us a tough time. We held the box looking at what we thought was the front, but when we opened it up the contents fell out all over the bench. It turns out there is a window on the other side of the box through which you can see the graphics card, and the contents are in a tray inside.

We can see why MSI has made a feature of the card's appearance as it is quite striking with a copper coloured heatsink on the GPU and matching heatsinks on the memory. The cooling fan is made from clear plastic and the overall effect is memorable, however we far preferred the look of the Leadtek A310TD.

Once we got over embarrassment of nearly dropping the card, we got on with testing it. We were staggered to see that MSI runs the core at 400MHz and the memory at 800MHz. Compare that to the Abit running at 350MHz/700MHz and then look at the test results and you'll see that the MSI has a 10 percent advantage across the board. This card is comfortably faster than the other mid-range opposition from the Radeon 9600 Pro pack, but take a look at the list price. It's £203 including VAT, although we found it online for £20 less. This is a seriously expensive mid-range graphics card, and for the same price we could get a Connect3D Radeon 9800, which is a far better gaming card in every department.

Luckily MSI isn't trying to compete head to head with the Radeon 9800, and has thrown in quite a few features and extras to make the FX5600U-VTD128 more desirable. For one thing it has VIVO, with the same type of breakout box as the Chaintech. There's also a DVI to VGA adapter and an S-Video extension cable in the box.
Added to that MSI has included its standard software package which is huge and comes on eleven CDs. There's Morrowind Elder Scrolls III, TES construction set, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, MSI Lite collection of seven games, Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, Adobe Photoshop Album, InterVideo WinDVD 5.1, InterVideo WinDVD Creator Plus, MSI Media center, Farstone RestoreIT Professional and Virtualdrive Professional.

That's a great stack of software but we really don't see that it adds more value than the smaller - but more selective - package chosen by Asus or Leadtek, to name but two. That means we still consider the MSI to be over-priced by £20 or £30, but there's no denying that it performs well.

Verdict

The MSI FX5600U-VTD128 performs admirably considering it’s core hardware and the software bundle is generous. However, given the price we’d go for the Connect3D Radeon 9800 instead.

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