GeforceFX5600 Personal Cinema Review - Page 3 of 3
By John Grabski - February 7, 2004
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.
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
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...
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
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
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.
"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.
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 3½ stars out of 5 for looks, 4½ for functionality (It's basically a
Swiss Army Knife Video Card), and a 3½ 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.