The crucial factor though is performance. Here it seems that for the first time in a long while, nVidia has got it right. In all our game-based benchmarks the MSi outpaced the Asus 9600XT TVD. At Unreal Tournament 2003, a game that uses a mixture of Direct X 7 and 8 effects, the nVidia based card won out at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 4x anisotropic filtering, with 37fps to the 9600XT’s, 26fps. The same was true in the other tests, with 40.6fps to the 9600XT’s 32fps at Serious Sam.
However the jury is still out on DirectX 9 games. In the synthetic 3DMark03 benchmarks, which are weighted heavily on DirectX 9 performance, the GeForceFX 5700 Ultra scored only 3180 to the 9600XT’s 3644. Conversely it was faster at the DirectX 7 based 3DMark 2001. The only game benchmark we tested with that uses DirectX 9 is Gun Metal but this is written using the nVidia created CG language rather than the DX9 standard HLSL. As I expected the MSi outperformed the 9600XT.
We are currently in the process of updating our graphics card tests and will hopefully have a wider range of real game benchmarks soon with which to test future cards.
If you want to squeeze more out of your card, you can use the overlooking utility buried away on one of the numerous CDs included with the card. Unfortunately though, rather than a simple application it sports an absurd Macromedia Flash based virtual 3D interface in a web browser. However, it does enable you to increase the core clock and memory speeds. MSi also offers a thermal protection facility so you don’t have to worry about melting your card, while there’s also a useful auto update tool for obtaining the latest drivers and BIOS updates.
With a number of manufacturers offering cards, MSi adds some extras to its package. Unfortunately these aren’t worth getting too exited about. The three full games included are Morrowind, Ghost Recon and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, but these aren’t as appealing as the Half Life 2 voucher included with the Radeon 9600XT cards. There is however, a full 5.1 channel version of WinDVD included.
As a package the MSi is a good card, based on an impressive chip and memory architecture. It makes it possible to play recent games at resolutions as high as 1,280 x 1,024 with some image quality enhancements. I also tried Deus Ex 2, a recent title and found that for very smooth frame rates with 4x AA and 4xAF enabled resolution I had to drop to 800 x 600.
This card is a good performer and the package is reasonable. For DX9 performance ATi still has the edge, but on the whole the MSi GeForceFX 5700TD Ultra is a solid mid-range card.
If you’re after an affordable graphics card to handle current games the MSi GeForceFX 5700TD Ultra definitely fits the bill.