Well ladies and gentlemen. The time is upon us. What everybody was hoping for and what most people actually already expected weeks after the release of NV30, GeForceFX 5900 Ultra has arrived.
In todays article we are going show you NVIDIA's latest and greatest, the graphics card formerly known as NV35 ... now officially known as GeForceFX 5900 Ultra. I've had this product for about two weeks in my test-lab now, however due to my trip towards the USA the time schedule got messed up a tad. Yes I took the laptop towards the USA and yes I took some results along with me. But the days where long and tiresome. Nonetheless we are going to bring you a nice overview and some good test results of what this product is all about.
As you have noticed NVIDIA wasn't particulary satisfied with NV30 (GeForce FX 5800 Ultra) themselves especially since it did not beat Radeon 9700/9800 and the criticism on FlowFX cooling, therefore they decided to replace NV30 with NV35 as fast as they possibly could. The fact that I already have NV35 in my possesion says two things:
NVIDIA is hurrying up the release, and for good reason. The high-end segment of this graphics card market is like 2% of the entire sales. Beleieve it or not, but NVIDIA is making most of their money from low-end products like GeForce4 MX. It's cheap, is value and sells like candy.
The second reason is that the European marketing team has pushed real hard to get European press in the picture of the American office which I by heart applaud. Andrew, Adam and Luciano .. cheers I know you guys pushed hard for that ;)
So why is it so important to have this rather expensive high-end product on top of your line-up ? Well for a very good reason I believe. The product sets the trend. If your high-end product is to be considered the best then your low- and mid end segment will get influenced by exactly that trend. If your high-end graphics card sells, your other products will do likely better also. It's about reputation I guess.
So what went wrong with NV30 ? Well basically two things in my humble opinion.
NV30 by itself really is a nice product that is performing really well, highly flexible, highly programmable, feature rich, DX9. But the first reason is simple, it did not have a strong edge over the competition due to the lack of memory bandwidth. NV30 was in almost any case a little slower or equal towards Radeon 9700 Pro. Later driver released boosted performance a little and brought it towards Radeon 9800 Pro performance, but by then it was too late and NVIDIA had lost the edge.
The second reason was of course the silly FlowFX cooling design. I'm going to say it again as I did in my review on NV30, FlowFX by itself was a very clever concept ! It made heat dissipate outside the system, and thus functioned as an exhaust. Any current cooling technique dumps the heat from your graphics card inside your case. FlowFX dumped it outside your case keeping the inside cooler. Unfortionately the FX 5800 Ultra ran hot, so hot that FlowFX had to spin so hard you could hear the cooler in the room next to you. And that gutted the product for a lot of you. I've seen the hardest NVIDIA fans walk to ATI due to the two reasons above.
Did NVIDIA learn ? Yes, absolutely .. as I stated I was able to test the product for two days before I had to go on a trip and I was pleasantly surprised already back then. When I got back from the trip I immediately started doing additional numbers which are included into this review.
Ladies and gentlemen, this product is clocked slower (450 MHz core & 850 MHz memory) compared to the previous high-end product and still manages to outperform a Radeon 9800 quite easily when we turn on bells and whistles like Anisotropic filtering (AF) and Full Scene Anialiasing (AA). Memory bandwidth has increased heaps, in fact effectively was doubled as the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra (the most expensive version) now has a 256-bit memory bus. How about FlowFX you ask. Well, it's gone. The cooling solution still is on the big side yet remains at very acceptable noise and sound frequency levels. Combine these three aspects together and you have got the biggest difference lined out between NV30 and NV35.
I can tell you already, if you are a hardcore gamer, the enthusiast gamer, that wants to play his/her games at 1600x1200 with AF and AA then we've got a new winner. At average in this resolution and with these quality settings the product will be 25% to 50% faster then the fastest current product from the competition. And the best thing yet .. it did not crash or behave weird once with any software application we ran ... even with the Beta detonator drivers we used in the GeForce 5900 Ultra review ...
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