MSI has a good reputation in the graphics card market for providing solid products with some extra goodies in the box. However, in light of recent product updates from nVidia, MSI seems to have lost some of the edge it used to have and it also looks as though MSI has been suffering somewhat with too many products refreshes. This is made clear when you look at the box that the FX5950Ultra comes in, as itâ€™s more or less the same as the older FX5900Ultra with an identical bundle.
This is a little disappointing, especially as the games bundle supplied is getting very outdated. So what do you get? Well, a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. There is also a CD with seven game demos, but these are all old now and donâ€™t show off your new graphics card to any degree. On top of this there is a fairly comprehensive software bundle that consists of MSI Media Center Deluxe II release 2, Virtual Drive 7 Pro, Restore It 3 Pro, WinDVD Creator Plus, MSI 5.1-channel DVD Player, Photoshop Album SE and 3D Album SE.
As with the Leadtek card the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 is capable of video capture as well as video output. You get a small dongle that attaches to the graphics card. It gives you the option of S-Video or composite inputs as well as outputs. There is an additional S-Video cable in the box as well as a DVI to D-SUB adapter. All in all this is what you would expect to find in the box of a high-end graphics card.
The card sent to TrustedReviews was not a final MSI board, but the standard nVidia reference design, however most cards sold in the UK should be of MSIâ€™s own design.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options here, just as with the Leadtek card. The main reason for having the reference design is the hot air exhaust which allows for the hot air from the GPU to be blown out of the case. This is not so with the MSI cooler which is identical to that of its FX5900 range of cards. This does however mean that the card takes up less space in your case, but donâ€™t expect to be able to use the adjacent PCI slot as the card will be leaning on the edge of it. It does however open up the option of having one of the motherboard brackets in the slot just below the graphics card. Another thing to look out for is the space above the graphics card, just below the processor, as MSI has seen fit to place a second fan here which doesnâ€™t fit all motherboards. The reason for this is that it takes up to much space between the AGP slot and the motherboard chipset heatsink. This fan can be safely removed according to MSI so it shouldnâ€™t cause any major problems. But then you have to ask yourself why the fan is there in the first place.
It would be hard to miss the MSI card on a retail shelf, as it comes in one of the biggest boxes I have ever seen. Thereâ€™s only one small problem here though; MSI is not a brand that you would find in most computer shops, as it doesnâ€™t have a big retail presence in the UK. This might be different in other parts of the world, but if you want one of these cards youâ€™d better go looking for an online retailer that stocks it.
So how does the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 perform? Well, as I mentioned in the Leadtek review it is very much neck and neck with the MSI card being just that little bit faster in most benchmarks. One thing worth commenting on here is MSIâ€™s newly added D.O.T. (Dynamic Overclocking Technology) which will come with MSIâ€™s own driver. However, for some reason this feature refused to appear in our reference machine setup. I would rather have a separate install for any overclocking utility as it gives you the opportunity to use it with any drivers of your choice rather than limiting you to the manufacturerâ€™s drivers. These are usually not the latest version and it takes a while to get these updated.
But the final blow to the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 has to be its price, as itâ€™s over Â£70 more expensive than the Leadtek card. It is among the more expensive FX5950Ultra cards out there, and the performance isnâ€™t far enough ahead of the Leadtek to recommend it.
This couldâ€™ve been a great package, but an outdated software bundle and the high price lets the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 down.