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Chaintech A-FX98

Chaintech supplies its A-FX98 graphics card in a hefty box that comes complete with a carrying handle, and the card itself is quite sizeable too. This is a GeForce FX5900 with 128MB of RAM with a big heatsink sporting not one but two cooling fans. The heatsink is made of copper and the fans contra-rotate (rotate in opposite directions) to keep the whole shooting match cool. The fans are relatively noisy but they're not a problem, particularly when compared to the turbines that were used on the last generation FX5800.

It's no surprise that manufacturers such as Chaintech want to reassure customers that they can keep the FX5900 cool as the FX5800 ran incredibly hot and the two chips are fundamentally very similar. Although the FX5900 does get hot when it works hard, it doesn't cause any problems and we are happy that the legacy of the FX5800 has been laid to rest.

The FX5900 runs its core 50MHz slower than the FX5900 Ultra, but both chips run their memory at a stunning 850MHz. This is slower than the FX5800 but thanks to the 256bit memory controller the chip has 27.2GB/sec memory bandwidth to work with. This is a full 5GB/sec more than the Radeon 9800 Pro, and our tests show that the Chaintech FX5900 runs at the same speed as the Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro with 256MB of memory. Mind you, Chaintech charges a hefty £364 for this graphics card, and there is no doubt that FX5900 and FX5900 Ultra are very expensive chips compared to the Radeon alternatives.

We casually stated that the Chaintech is the equal of the 256MB Sapphire, but you need to take a careful look at our test results as each card has strengths and weaknesses. In both 3DMark tests the Sapphire leads by some 15 percent at all settings, and it also has an advantage of 5-10 percent in Unreal and Gun Metal. The big change comes in our OpenGL tests where the Chaintch has a massive advantage in Serious Sam, and a slight edge in SPECviewperf.

We had hoped that the time had passed when a particular graphics chip would have an advantage in one game or application over another, but it is too simplistic to say that one chip is fast and another is slow.

Chaintech has also gone for the VIVO approach with this card, but in this case the adapter is on a very short cable and all four connections are in a row on a breakout box, so you'll end up fiddling around behind your PC to connect up the extension cables which are included, along with a DVI to VGA adapter.

Chaintech supplies a fair amount of software with three pieces of movie software from InterVideo (WinProducer, WinDVD and WinRip) and six games (MDK2, Age of Wonders 2, Serious Sam 2, Rally Trophy, Max Payne and Tropico), but there’s no overclocking utility.

You pay a high price for this card and though Chaintech includes a decent package we feel that the Leadtek FX5900 Ultra and MSI FX5900 offer better value for money.

Verdict

The Chaintech exibits very good OpenGL performance and a decent selection of software, but it’s expensive and the short VIVO cable makes it awkward to use. Ultimately, if you’re after an FX5900 based card both Leadtek and MSI have better packages.

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