Our first nVidia chipped card is the Abit Siluro FX5600 Ultra DT. As the name suggests, the Abit uses the FX5600 Ultra GPU, which is effectively half of a GeForce FX5800 chip as it has four pixel pipelines, one texture pipeline and a 128bit memory controller.
With the previous generation of Ti4200/4400/4600 chips and then the AGP 8X versions, the difference between a high-end chip and a mid-range was simply the core and memory speeds. With FX5600/5600 Ultra the chip is completely different to the high-end FX5900/5900 Ultra, so there is a limit to the performance of even the fastest FX5600 Ultra card.
On paper the FX5600 Ultra doesn't look too promising, yet even though the core runs at a lowly 350MHz, in our tests the FX5600 Ultra compares very well with the Radeon 9600 Pro.
The FX5600 Ultra requires a Molex power connector of the type used on a hard drive, but if you forget to connect it the PC will still start up. Part of the Detonator drivers called nVidia System Sentinel reports that the power connector is unplugged and the card runs at reduced settings of 250MHz core/500MHz memory. This seems like a better approach than the way ATi cards refuse to start up at all.
Abit has surrounded the FX5600 Ultra chip with a fairly basic graphics card with an unusual shroud over the aluminium heatsink that is shaped something like the cross-section of an aerofoil. There's a flashing blue light on the fan that you can see through the slits of the shroud. As a matter of personal taste we're not keen on flashing lights inside our PCs, but if you have to go down that route the Abit is fairly understated and looks pleasant enough.
There is precious little software in the package apart from a copy of Window Blinds and a couple of game demos, so you can effectively ignore that little lot. You also get the Abit Graphic Max2 overclocking utility, so naturally we gave it a go to see what difference it made.
On stock 350MHz/700MHz settings we got a 3DMark03 score of 2,843. With the overclocking utility, you can adjust and test the core and memory speeds independently of each other. The utility also allows you to elect to run the settings at start-up or to revert to standard settings. We set the speeds at the maximum 375MHz/875MHz and despite successful tests 3DMark03 locked solid. Dropping the memory speed slightly to 375MHz/850MHz we got 3,009 marks, so it would seem that the memory was marginal in those last few MHz.
That's an improvement of six percent, which is well worth having, but it's fairly unimpressive compared to a Radeon 9600 Pro.
The performance differential between FX5600 and FX5600 Ultra is quite small, and the Ultra premium doesn't really seem worth paying
The Abit offers decent performance and fair value but the features are lacking compared to the competition. Itâ€™s a reasonable card but you can get more for you money elsewhere.