By John Grabski and Jeff Bailey - December 18, 2003
NVIDIA's strategy of releasing multiple products that are based on the same graphics chipset serves the enthusiast well. This is especially true in the upper mid-range segment as consumers with a limited budget have a greater opportunity to enjoy the excitement of high-end gaming performance without the killer price tag.
One such example is the GeForce FX 5900SE, which debuted around September of this year. The GeForce FX 5900SE is based on the GeForce FX 5900 and is outfitted with a lower clocked processor that operates at 400MHz and less expensive 2.8ns DDR memory that runs at 350MHz (700MHz effective). Add-in card manufacturers, such as Creative, eVGA, Gainward, and Leadtek jumped on the bandwagon and began offering graphics cards based on the GeForce FX 5900SE at very attractive prices.
Creative 3D Blaster 5 FX5900 - 128MB
Singapore based Creative Labs has adopted a version of the GeForce FX 5900SE, which is presently available in Europe. Creative contacted nV News about four months ago and allowed us to review their high-end GeForce FX 5900 Ultra. Shortly thereafter, they provided us with their 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 - 128MB, which is being reviewed today.
SPECIFICATIONS AND CONTENTS
NVIDIA launched the GeForce FX 5900 in May of 2003, which was a quick refresh of the ill-fated GeForce FX 5800. The GeForce FX 5800 was hampered by hot-running DDR2 memory and an inadequate 128-bit memory interface, which crippled performance when image quality enhancing features such as antialiasing and advanced texture filtering were used at high resolutions. With a 256-bit memory interface and DDR memory, the GeForce FX 5900 helped NVIDIA regain some momentum in the enthusiast community as it contained the necessary memory bandwidth to allow antialiasing and high quality texture filtering to be used at high resolutions.
The following is a summary of the specifications and features of the 3D Blaster 5 FX5900:
128-bit Floating Point Precision Graphics Pipeline
128-bit Floating Point, 64-bit Floating Point and 32-bit Integer Rendering Modes
sRGB Texture Format for Gamma Textures
S3TC Texture Compression
2 Year Limited Hardware Warranty
Creative includes the bare necessities, although the full version of Gun Metal by Yeti Studios is a nice touch.
Creative 3D Blaster 5 FX5900 128MB DDR with TV-out and DVI
Power Supply Splitter Cable
Quick Start Guide
Installation CD with Drivers and NVIDIA Demos (Windows XP)
Full Version of Gun Metal
ABOUT THE CARD
The 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 bears a resemblance to MSI's GeForce FX 5900. Both graphics cards appear to use a similar printed circuit board (PCB) and heatsink design. Although unconfirmed, there has been speculation that MSI may even manufacture graphics cards for Creative. However, you won't find a GeForce FX 5900SE from MSI in the United States just yet, as this particular model looks to be a Creative exclusive for now.
Creative Labs 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 - 128MB
Here's a shot of the 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 compared to a couple of other graphics cards I have been using - an XFX GeForce FX 5600 Ultra and a Radeon 8500. Installation was straightforward, although the 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 is heavier than I expected courtesy of the oversized copper heatsink. I'm fairly confident that the cooling solution is adequate, if not exceptional, and operates at the same noise level as the XFX GeForce FX 5600 Ultra.
GeForce FX 5900, 5600U and Radeon 8500
There was a generous helping of thermal compound between the core and HSF. An added bonus would have been the TwinFlow cooling system that MSI successfully implemented on this same PCB.
The 3D Blaster 5 GeForce FX 5900 lacks heatsinks for the ball grid array (BGA) memory modules, which was probably to a cost-cutting measure. However, memory heatsinks might not be necessary to achieve an optimal overclock since the RAM chips are rated at 2.8ns, which translates to 715MHz DDR. We'll look at how well this particular model overclocked towards the end of the review.
Closeup of Heatsink/Fan
The bottom side of the heatsink is smooth and shiny. The hard-core enthusiast side of me would love to sand off the core markings, lap the heatsink/fan (HSF), throw some shin-etsu thermal compound in there, and fly off to Overclockerland. But I'll save that for another time.