The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
NVIDIA's Flagship GPU, MSI Style...

By, Marco Chiappetta
February 12, 2004

When NVIDIA originally announced the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, MSI quickly released a card that adhered strictly to NVIDIA's reference design, right down to the green PCB and dual-slot cooler.  The card we'll be looking at today strays a bit from NVIDIA's reference design though.  With the "red PCB" revision of the their FX5950 Ultra-VTD256, MSI gave the card ViVo capabilities and they installed a serious custom cooling solution...

The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
A Tour Of MSI's Red PCB

           

           

           

Other than its bright red color, the FX5950 Ultra-VTD256's underlying PCB doesn't stray from NVIDIA's reference design.  The component layout and connector placement is identical, and the default core and memory clocks are also in-line with NVIDIA's recommendations (2D = 300MHz / 950MHz  |  3D = 475MHz / 950MHz).  The coolers...yes, that's plural...however, look nothing like the dual-slot monsters found on some other 5950 Ultras.  The TOP Tech. (Thermal Obviation Protection) cooling solution installed on this card consists of three copper plated components.  The front of the card is equipped with a one large, finned heatsink / fan combo, that covers the GPU and front mounted memory chips.  The rear of the card is also equipped with a heatsink / fan combination over the backside of the GPU, with a "U" shaped heatsink covering the remaining memory chips.  Both fans are connected to a single header on the PCB, so they concurrently spin up and down depending on what mode the card is operating in.  While in 2D mode, the fans spin very slowly, but when a 3D application is launched they spin faster to ensure the GPU and memory is kept cool.  We found MSI's TOP Tech. setup to be very effective - after hours of benchmarking, GPU temps remained in the lower 40C range.  While idle, temps remained in the mid-30s.

WinDVD Creator
Bundled Video Editor

         

As we mentioned earlier, the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 has ViVo (Video-In / Video-Out) functionality.  To help take advantage of this feature, MSI included a few useful utilities and applications.  The most notable of which is Intervideo's WinDVD creator.  With WinDVD creator, users can Capture, Edit and Author video clips using a single, relatively simple interface.  WinDVD creator also gives users the ability to burn their movies directly to DVD, but we weren't able to test this specific functionality with our video test system because it was not equipped with a DVD burner.  The screen shots above represent WinDVD Creator's "Capture", "Edit" and "Author" menus.  As you can see, the interface is very straightforward, and should be easy to navigate for anyone familiar to working with this type of app.
 
In-Game Screenshots With The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
Unreal Tournament 2004 is Almost Here!

For comprehensive image quality comparisons between a Radeon 9800 XT and GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, Click Here.

         
Unreal Tournament 2004 Demo Screen Shots
1024x768 | 4X AA | 8X Anisotropic Filtering

The main reason for buying a high-end graphics card like the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 is, of course, gaming!  Before we get influenced by its benchmark scores, we like to install the video card we're reviewing into our test system, and just play some games.  We spent some time playing Need For Speed: Underground, Prince of Persia - The Sands of Time, and as of last night we were able to squeeze in a couple of hours with the Unreal Tournament 2004 demo.  We thought the MSI FX5950 Ultra performed excellently with all of the games we played.  A High-Res (1600x1200) gaming setup with all of the "bells and whistles" enabled was completely playable, as was gaming at lower resolutions with 4X AA and 8X Anisotropic filtering.  Whatever your preference, you'll probably be more than pleased with the FX5950 Ultra...

The Test System, AquaMark3 & Halo