A time consuming part of this preview was spent on measuring performance during game play. Using FRAPS to record average and minimum frame rates, I played a variety of games that included first person shooters, flight and race sims, and role playing titles. Most of the testing involved playing in three to five minute sessions with various high quality graphics settings enabled in order to get a "feel" for the performance of the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.
Although game play results are not as accurate as playing back a fixed-path benchmark, I've invested a great deal of time repeating game play scenarios in order to increase their accuracy during subsequent runs. There are times when a game play scenario can't be repeated, such as a bot match in Quake or Unreal Tournament. But results from subsequent matches should be close to those obtained from the initial match when the same graphics settings are used. While variations in performance will occur, they tend to have a greater impact on the minimum frame rate. I am confident that these results will be representative of the performance one would obtain with a GeForce FX 5900 Ultra on a similarly configured system.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to provide comments on game play results. However, with the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering can be enabled at 1024x768 or higher in all of the games I tested and a fluid frame rate obtained.
Finally, game play testing can reveal issues that can be system, driver, or hardware related. With the exception of antialiasing not functioning in Age of Mythology and Morrowind, the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra was rock solid.
Age Of Mythology - v1.05
Dungeon Siege - v1.11
IL2-Sturmovik - v1.2
Morrowind - v1.2.0722
Need For Speed 2 Hot Pursuit Demo
Quake 3 Arena - v1.30
Raven Shield Single Player Demo - v1.0
Return To Castle Wolfenstein Single Player Demo - v1.0.1
With the combination of high quality textures and real-time shadows, the graphics in Unreal 2 are splendid. The style of game play reminds me of Aliens vs. Predator where you never know what's around the corner or on top of a building. Upon completing the demo, the internal frame rate counter registered an average of 61 frames per second. The graphics settings I had enabled were 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering at a resolution of 1024x768.
While the Unreal 2 screenshots I provided are high quality PNG format, they don't represent the excellent image quality you can achieve with the NV35. Frankly, I find the continued bickering from comparing image quality from one graphics card to another amusing. While one might be able to spot marginal differences when viewing static images, it's a different story when comparing images that are being rendered at 30 or more frames per second.
As for NVIDIA, the NV35 puts the company firmly back as a major player in the high-end graphics market. The GeForce FX 5900 Ultra with 256MB of RAM will have a suggested retail price of $499 and will be available toward the end of June. Follow-on products will include the GeForce FX 5900 with 128MB of RAM at $399 and the 128MB GeForce FX 5800 at $299.