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

By, Marco Chiappetta
February 12, 2004

After facing some fierce competition from ATi's R3x0 GPUs and fielding a mountain of criticism regarding questionable driver "optimizations", NVIDIA has had to deal with quite a bit of adversity as of late.  They have also had to contend with the fact that multiple, long-time partners like Asus and Abit, for example, broke with tradition and released new video cards powered by rival GPUs.  However, one of their largest and most respected partners, Micro-Star International or MSI, is still on-board.  Tonight on HotHardware.Com, we're going to take a look at MSI's current flagship video card, the FX5950 Ultra-VTD256.  As the name implies, this card is based on NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.  As such, it offers all of the same core features of other 5950s, like 256MB of high-speed RAM, dual independent RAMDACs for multi-monitor support, and a .13 micron GPU that supports Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 pixel and vertex shader 2.0 specifications.  MSI spruces up the package even further with a very efficient custom cooling solution, Video-In and Video-Out (ViVo) functionality and a comprehensive software and accessory bundle.  On paper, the MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256 is a winner, but that means nothing if the card can't hold it's own in the real world.  What do you say we tear into the box, and she what this baby is made of...

Specifications & Features of The MSI FX5950 Ultra-VTD256
NVIDIA's Flagship GPU Architecture

           
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

256-Bit Advanced Memory Interface
  • Wider memory data path with next generation controller technology for superior throughput

Advanced Technology

  • AGP 8X including Fast Writes and sideband addressing
  • 0.13-micron process technology for higher levels of integration and higher operating clock speeds
  • Advanced thermal management and thermal monitoring
  • 40 mmx40 mm, BGA 1309 flip-chip package

NVIDIA CINEFX 2.0 Engine

  • Advanced pixel shaders deliver 2x the floating-point pixel shader performance of previous generations
  • Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 (DX9) pixel shader 2.0+
  • Support for DX9 vertex shader 2.0+
  • Long pixel programs up to 1,024 instructions
  • Long vertex programs up to 256 static instructions with up to 65,536 instructions executed
  • Dynamic, conditional execution and flow control
  • Architected for Cg and Microsoft HLSL for maximum compatibility with next generation content
  • 128-bit, studio-quality, floating-point precision computation through the entire rendering pipeline
  • Native hardware support for 32-bpp, 64-bpp and 128-bpp rendering modes
  • Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
  • Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
  • DirectX and S3TC texture compression
  • Optimized for 32-bpp, 24-bpp, 16-bpp, 15-bpp, and 8-bpp modes
  • True-color, 64x64 hardware cursor alpha
  • Multibuffering (double, triple, or quad) for smooth animation and video playback

Intellisample HCT

  • Increased visual quality at higher resolutions through advances in compression, anisotropic filtering, and anti-aliasing technology
  • Blistering-fast anti-aliasing and compression performance
  • Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for both color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
  • Fast z-clear
Advanced Display Pipeline With Full NVIDIA NVIEW Capabilities
  • Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder supporting resolutions up to 1024x768 without the need for panning with built-in Macrovision copy protection
  • DVD and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i resolutions
  • Dual, integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536@85Hz
  • Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters
  • Internal TV support
  • VIP 1.1 interface support for video-in function
  • Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) support for multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window

UltraShadow Technology

  • Accelerates shadow volumes for next generation games
  • Accurately maintains shadows while discarding non-useful information

Digital Vibrance control (DVC) 3.0

  • DVC image sharpening controls
  • DVC color controls

Operation Systems and API support

  • Windows XP / 2000 / Me / 98SE
  • Complete DirectX support, including DirectX 9.0 and lower
  • Full OpenGL 1.4 and lower

Compatibility

  • NVIDIA Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
  • Fully compliant professional OpenGL 1.4 API with NVIDIA extensions, on all Windows operating systems
  • WHQL-certified for Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000


         

MSI bundled a slew of software and accessories with the FX5950 Ultra-VTD256.  Included with the card, we found an S-Video cable, a Molex power cable splitter, a DVI-to-DB15 adapter for those of you looking to take advantage of the card's dual-monitor capabilities with 2 analog CRTs, and a break-out box that houses the S-Video and Composite video-in and video-out connectors that compliment the FX5950 Ultra-VTD256's ViVo functionality.  On the software front, we found the obligatory driver / utility CD, along with a ton of games and other utilities.  MSI included 10 different games or game demos with the card, including full versions of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  A "7 in 1 Games Collection" CD consisting of The Sum of All Fears, IL-2 Sturmovik, Serious Sam 2 lite, Rally Trophy, Beam Breakers, Zax: The Alien Hunter and Oni was also bundled with the card.

We also found a myriad of other utilities and applications like WinDVD Creator Plus, Photoshop Album SE, and 3D Album SE in the box.  Rounding out the bundle was an MSI case badge and an "MSI FX Series" calendar / notebook.  All things considered, the FX5950 Ultra-VTD256's bundle is extremely capacious.  There were so many goodies included, we could fill a page listing them.  However, MSI already took the liberty.  For a full list of what's included, with some details about each application, take a look at this page on MSI's site.

The Card & Some Screenshots