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nVidia FX5950Ultra Reference Board

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No more than a few weeks after ATi announced its new range of cards, here we are with another new set of graphics cards, this time from nVidia.
The FX5950Ultra is the new top dog nVidia card which will replace the FX5900Ultra.

The FX5950Ultra is a speed bumped version of the FX5900Ultra in a similar manner to the ATi 9800XT being an update of the 9800Pro. The GPU has been given a small boost of 25MHz up from 450MHz to 475MHz. nVidia has tweaked the core somewhat, but the transistor count remains unchanged, which means that there are no new features on the FX5950Ultra.
The memory speed has also been cranked up by 50MHz which means that the effective memory speed has gone up from 850MHz to 950MHz (425MHz to 475MHz).
The FX5950Ultra is still using 256MB of DDR memory with a 256bit bus, which means that the memory bandwidth has been increased by 3.2GB/s from 27.2GB/s for the FX5900Ultra to 30.4GB/s for the FX5950Ultra.

The most noticeable feature, if you can call it that, is the new GPU cooler. The first thing that came to my mind was that nVidia somehow had managed to repeat history and brought back the FX5800Ultra. The cooler does have a very different design, but it still brings back memories of past days. The heatsink on the GPU is massive and looks like something you’d expect to see as a CPU cooler rather than on a graphics card.
The memory on the front seems to have a somewhat under dimensioned heatsink compared to the back of the card where a comparatively massive heatsink has been fitted.
As with the FX5800Ultra there is a fan placed inside the plastic air ducting, but don’t be frightened, as this time it’s near silent. The fan itself looks somewhat like a paddle wheel on a river boat and functions in much the same way. It seems to be quite efficient, but the card did get reasonably hot after several hours of heavy benchmarking, but it was still nowhere close to the heat produced by the FX5800Ultra.

All this is good news, but there is one small problem with the FX5950Ultra, it is still a two slot solution. And as with all modern high-end cards you need to attach a four-pin power connector to the card. The review samples featured a DVI connector, a standard D-SUB port as well as a nine-pin connector for Video in and out.

By now, we’ve reached the part that everyone has been waiting for, the numbers.
There seem to be some issues with the Detonator 52.16 drivers that nVidia supplied for the testing, as the FX5950 doesn’t seem to offer any huge advantage over the FX5900Ultra. In most of the benchmarks we use, you’ll notice very few performance increases if any at all. This is disappointing, but hopefully this will be fixed until production cards are available. We’ll be able to report back on production performance as soon as a retail board hits the office.

As far as price goes we’ve only been given a US indicator of $499. Running that number through a currency converter gives you a figure of just under £300, but as we all know when prices fly over the Atlantic they often morph into something that doesn’t resemble a currency conversion. If the FX5900Ultra original pricing is anything to go by, we’ll probably see something around the £399 mark, which is a lot to pay for a marginal performance increase.

Verdict

The FX5950Ultra is going to have a tough time fending off the ATi Radeon 9800XT. It is however a relief to see that nVidia has managed to keep the noise level of its new card down to a minimum. We should have retail cards in the next week so we’ll be able to see if there is a performance boost over this reference board.

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