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Chaintech GeforceFX5600 Personal Cinema Review - Page 3 of 3

SOFTWARE

The NVIDIA Personal Cinema drivers install smoothly and correctly detect all attached hardware, although I did find newer drivers later from NVIDIA's website, which also installed correctly. NVDVD also installed without a hitch, updated properly, and produced good results, almost as useable as PowerDVD XP.

Remote software also appeared to install properly. There were functionality issues with some of the buttons, but that will be explained later.

Group Photo
(NVIDIA reference card shown)

The TV feature of this card still seems like it's an unmastered art, even 12 years after Hauppauge's ISA TV-cards hit the mainstream market. There's just something about TV in a window on your pc that's so...wonderfully geeky. With the TV-tuner under my scope, I installed WinDVR 2.0 which is a common standard for the Personal Cinema line itself and also for many stand-alone PCI TV-tuner cards. However, even with the newest Personal Cinema drivers installed, I could not get the intuitive and comfortable feeling from it like I did with my previous multifunction card (an ATI Radeon 8500 AIW-DV).

The basic functions are the same but with refinement. This is apparent during application initialization, channel changing, and shut-down. I also could not get the software to stop auto tuning into the first few channels and going through 10 seconds of static before the tuner reached channel 3. I also came to miss the ability to adjust volume by clicking on the picture and using the mouse button, another ATI feature that did not make it to the newer versions of WinDVR. I have a Dish Network dish setup, so I really had no reason to switch channels. I wish however that there was a bundled TitanTV-like program guide helper/scheduler for dish users, as I've missed out on some features that many have said are quite cool. On the good side of things, recording is easy, the quality options give you many choices as far as audio/video quality, and the user experience is a rather good one when using the base functions of the TV-tuner setup.

Breakout Pod and Card
(NVIDIA reference card shown)

Present-generation NVIDIA Personal Cinema cards are bundled with Ulead DVD Moviefactory 2 and Ulead Videostudio 6 SE DVD. Moviefactory is a DVD authoring tool that burns ripped VOB files, imports Quicktime, MPEG and AVI formats, and features loads of format output/compression control. It falls short in the menus and transitions department, and it's output isn't the best among it's competitors (noticeable artifacting), but it is a decent application that definitely has a use for burning video to VCD or DVD. At times, I found the user interface somewhat perplexing, but once I got the hang of it I was able to get Alien Resurrection burned successfully to VCD. VideoStudio 6 SE DVD is a capturing tool that is primarily meant for the VIVO functions of the card. Time constraints prevented me from going the VIVO route, but I was able to capture from the TV tuner and save in MPEG2 format successfully. It's user interface is similar to DVD MovieFactory, which helped the learning curve substantially.

Connections Schematic

PERFORMANCE

This card is not meant to be a gaming powerhouse, a conclusion easily drawn by the fact that there are no ramsinks on the backside ram chips and the fact that the memory runs at the effective speed of 500MHz. This seriously limits the card's ability to keep up with fillrate demands, and also prevents the use of higher levels of antialiasing and anistropic filtering. Rather than showcasing the card's weakness by subjecting it to tests beyond its capabilities, I've decided to include benchmarks of a few modern games at realistic levels. This (for all but one test) means 1024x768, 0xAA/0xAF and 2xAA/4XAF. The exception is the Soldier of Fortune 2 Demo test, which capably utilized 1280x1024at 0xAA/0xAF and even 2XAA/4xAF. Results were recorded with FRAPS 2.0.

TEST SETUP

  • Epox 8RDA+ ver. 1.1 nforce2 motherboard
  • Athlon XP Barton 2500+ CPU clocked @ 11x200 (3200+ speed)
  • 2x256 Samsung tcb3 DDR @ 200/400mhz
  • SB Audigy1 Sound Card, newest Creative Drivers
  • Maxtor 40GB ATA-133 7200rpm hard drive
  • PowerMagic 450W PSU
  • Widows XP Professional SP1
  • Forceware 53.03 drivers

On to the benchmarks...

Benchmark Results

BENCHMARKING NOTES

  • All tests were done with vsync off
  • Savage was benchmarked with pre-2.0 patch
  • Custom detail for Savage means that it was set to high in-game, and then had the vegetation slider turned all the way up. Benchmarking in Savage was done in an empty outdoor multiplayer arena, and the FPS were measured while fighting with the monkeys
  • 3Dmark 2001 was tested in the "best possible score" manner
  • Custom Detail for SOF2 Demo means all Non-Advanced menu options were set at the highest detail
  • For SOF2, the "Seaward Star" mission was selected
  • Sound was enabled in all games, and EAX was used during testing, to give a realistic indication of real-world gaming performance
  • All NVIDIA Control Panel texture and mipmaps are set to highest detail

As seen in the performance chart, it's easy to surmise that this card is not designed for higher resolutions and settings. Though compromises could be made in the NVIDIA control panel by reducing texture and mipmap quality, doing so would not be desirable for the majority of gamers. In Call of Duty, the card shows that it can at least handle the highest detail settings with no AA or AF in the graphically intensive Dawnville and POW Camp demos. Adding AA and AF brings the FPS to a lower frame rates albeit still playable.

Savage, utilizing a very advanced and modern engine, shows that the 5600 runs out of gas with the vegetation (and yet is still fairly playable), but gives us a better showing with the in-game detail set to medium. The game still looks impressive even when set to medium.

With Tron 2.0 once again the card's inability to handle AA and AF, put up good frame rates without, but dropped dramatically with both enabled.

The "best possible score" 3DMark2001 result shows that this card is basically between a GF3ti500 @ stock clocked and a stock GF4ti4200 in terms of DX7/DX8 performance. 3DMark2003 results will not be published in this review due to the use of Forceware 53.03 drivers, which FutureMark has deemed to be invalid as far as benchmark results go. But without advertising the scores (and seeing it run with both 52.16 and 53.03 drivers) I can safely say that this card's DX9 performance is right in line with other stock 5600's, which basically means that this card does not have the sufficient horsepower to run games at moderate resolutions with DX9 shaders enabled. Switching to Pixel Shader 1.1 will increase performance dramatically for this card for games that allow for Pixel Shader version selection.

Wrapping the tests up is the Soldier of Fortune 2 Demo, which is quite a graphically intensive variation of the Quake 3 Team Arena engine. There are many graphical options to modify, and enabling everything possible and turning everything up all the way can still bring even a high end card to its knees at higher resolutions. The Chaintech 5600 puts up a good showing with all Non-Advanced menu options set to highest, and even pulls playable frames with AA and AF enabled.

Overall I'm satisfied with the card's gaming performance but I'm left wishing for more so I attempted some overclocking. Well, right out of the box the most it could muster was 360/520. This is not much of an improvement, and did not help gaming performance. It did create more heat though. I decided to investigate the quality of the heatsink application, when I discovered that the heatsink was barely touching the core at all, completely solving my "why is my core @ 77" question. Reapplication of proper thermal compound (a little more this time to allow for proper contact) and re-installation brought my temperatures down to 60~66. However, the overclocking potential did not change. So, regarding performance it was satisfactory but nothing to write home about.

CONCLUSION

The Chaintech 5600 Personal Cinema definitely proved to be a useful card, with an abundance of features and accessories. The breakout box will definitely see use. The TV tuner has made a part-time TV out of the PC and the nVremote has turned out to be a useful pointing device and application launcher. The software package is comprehensive and NVIDIA definitely has made strides in its WDM driver department to provide the user with an easy way of getting drivers loaded.

Though the software was a little clunky feeling it was functional and useful enough to be used regularly. The gaming performance is sufficient for DX7 and DX8 games, and the potential for overclocking is not very high. So, if you're not a huge gamer but you want to have respectable gaming performance at 1024x768 and also having VIVO features with a TV Tuner, then this card is for you. I give the card 3 stars out of 5 for looks, 4 for functionality (It's basically a Swiss Army Knife Video Card), and a 3 for value (this card does indeed have a lot of features and software for the money).

My overall user experience was "enjoyable". My highest frustration level was "mild" (installation, twitchy encoding, volume control on nVremote). This card will serve well in an HTPC or entry level digital media station. It includes enough gaming power to capably handle the needs of any entry level or most midrange gamers.

Back to nV News

 

Last Updated on February 7, 2004


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