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

By, Marco Chiappetta
February 12, 2004

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM:

We tested the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 on an i875P based MSI 875P Neo-FIS2R motherboard, powered by an Intel Pentium 4 3.2CGHz CPU.  The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and load the "High Performance Defaults".  Then we set the memory to operate at 200MHz in dual-channel mode, with the CAS Latency and other memory timings set by the SPD, and set the AGP aperture size to 256MB. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP1 was installed.  When the installation was complete, we installed the Intel chipset drivers and then hit the Windows Update site to download and install all of the available updates. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components and Windows Messenger was then disabled and removed from the system. Auto-Updating, System Restore and Drive Indexing were then disabled as well, the hard drive was de-fragmented and a 768MB permanent page file was created. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed the benchmarking software and ran all of the tests. The benchmarking was done with ATi's and NVIDIA's drivers configured for maximum visual quality. ATi's "Quality" anti-aliasing and Anisotropic filtering methods were employed throughout our testing, while the Performance slider available on NVIDIA's "Performance and Quality" driver tab was set to "Quality".  For the "4X AA + Aniso" tests listed in our graphs, we enabled 4X anti-aliasing and 8X Anisotropic filtering in both NVIDIA's and ATi's driver panels.

HotHardware's Test Setup
Intel Powered - 3.2GHz System

Hardware:
Processor -

Mainboard -


Video Cards -




Memory -

Audio -
Hard Drive -

Optical Drive -
Other -

Software:
Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers -


Intel Pentium 4
3.2GHz
MSI 875P Neo-FIS2R
i875P "Canterwood" Chipset


MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
ATi Radeon 9800 XT
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra
 

1024MB Kingston HyperX PC3500
CAS 2
Integrated SoundMax Audio
Western Digital "Raptor"
36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA
Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM
3.5" Floppy Drive



Windows XP Professional SP1 (Fully Patched)
Intel INF v5.1.1.1002
DirectX 9.0b


ATI Catalyst v4.1
NVIDIA Forceware v53.06
Performance Comparisons With AquaMark3
DX8 and DX9 Shader Ops


Aquamark 3

Aquamark 3 comes to us by way of Massive Development Massive's release of the original Aquanox in 1999 wasn't well received, but it was one of the first games to implement DX8 shaders, which led to the creation of Aquamark 2 - a benchmark that was used by many analysts. Since the Aquamark benchmarks are based on an actual game engine, they must support old and new video cards alike.  Thus, Aquamark 3 utilizes not only DirectX 9 shaders, but DirectX 8 and DirectX 7 as well.  We ran this benchmark at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1600x1200 with no anti-aliasing, then again with 4x and 6x AA.  Throughout all of these tests, 4X Anisotropic filtering was enabled from within Aquamark 3's control panel, which is the default setting for this benchmark.

We used the latest Forceware drivers (v53.06) available on MSI's website, and the latest Catalysts (v4.1) to test the MSI FX5950 Ultra and its ATi based competition.  [ed. Of course, new drivers get released just as we're posting!]  It's no secret that NVIDIA has quite a bit of work to do with regard to their DX9 class shader performance, and while they have definitely made significant progress, the above graphs show that there is still some work to be done.  At both resolutions, regardless of what level of anti-aliasing was used, the MSI 5950 Ultra was outpaced by both of the Radeons we tested.

Benchmarks With Halo
Halo - No Xbox Here!


Halo

For many gamers, the release of Halo marked the end of a long wait, since it was originally released as an Xbox exclusive a few years back.  No additional patches or tweaks are needed to benchmark with Halo, as Gearbox has included all of the necessary information in their README file.  The Halo benchmark runs through four of the cut-scenes from the game, after which the average frame rate is recorded.  We ran this benchmark twice, once at 1024x768 and then again at 1280x1024.  Anti-aliasing doesn't work properly with this game at the moment, so all of the test below were run with anti-aliasing disabled.

All three of the cards performed similarly in the Halo benchmark, but the Radeon 9800 XT was the clear victor at both resolutions.  The MSI FX5950 Ultra wasn't very far behind, however.  At 1024x768, it fell behind the 9800 XT by less than a single frame per second, but the gap widened at 1280x1024 where it slipped behind the 11-month old 256MB Radeon 9800 Pro.

Unreal Tournament 2003 & Splinter Cell Testing