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Gainward FX PowerPack! Ultra/1800 XP Review - Page 1 of 9

INTRODUCTION

Don't you hate it when you read a review about a video card that's been out for a while yet the reviewer makes it sound like he's the first (only) person on earth to lay eyes on it? Suffice it to say, this review will most definitely not be like that.

Gainward's FX PowerPack! Ultra/1800 XP

You all know that this particular card has been out for a few months now...and you know that NVIDIA and ATI will likely be releasing their next generation cards sometime this spring. So, we'll try to find out what would, or would not, compel you to purchase this video card with this timing issue in mind (more on that in the conclusion of this review).

If you want to know all the nitty gritty particulars about the NVIDIA 5950 Ultra then I highly recommend that you head over to Mike's always thorough preview of the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. So, now that you've read that there's no need in re-hashing it all again here. We're going to focus on what's hot and not about this Gainward product and see how much more overclocking we can squeeze out of it in particular.

Gainward's FX PowerPack! Ultra/1800 XP
Click for hi-res image ~965KB

This is a review of just this single Gainward card and not a head-to-head review. I do not have an ATI 9800XT for comparison but I will mirror a few of the benchmarks from Mike's preveiw article for some form of comparison to the NVIDIA reference design (of which Gainward diverts from in some improved ways).

Let's dive in. I'd like to touch on the obligatory specs, software bundle, Gainward quality and then a few benchmarks.

Quick Facts

  • NVIDIA GeForce™ FX 5950 Ultra GPU
  • 0.13-Micron Technology (TSMC)
  • 500MHz Core Clock
  • 500MHz DDR Memory Clock (1000MHz Effective)
  • 256-Bit Memory Interface
  • 30.4GB/Sec Memory Bandwidth
  • 3.8 Billion Texels/Sec Fill Rate
  • 356 Million Vertices/Sec
  • AGP 8X
  • Supports DirectX®9 and OpenGL®1.4
  • Single Slot Fansink

Large Product Box
Large Box

TESTING CONFIGURATION

System Specifications

  • AMD Athlon XP 2800+ @ ~2.1GHz
  • ABIT NF7-S v2.0 Motherboard w/DualDDR Memory
  • BH-5 Winbond Chips DDR CAS2 RAM - (2) 256MB DIMMs - 512MB Total
  • Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 40GB 7200RPM ATA-133 Hard Disk Drive (2)
  • Hitachi CM721F CRT Monitor - 19-Inch
  • Vantec iON 400 Watt PSU
  • Gainward FX PowerPack! Ultra/1800 XP GeForce FX 5950 Ultra - 256MB - 500MHz/1000MHz
  • NVIDIA Forceware Graphics Driver Version 53.03
  • 32-Bit Color / Vsync Disabled / 85Hz Refresh Rate
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 / DirectX 9.0b

BIOS Settings

  • Turbo Memory Setting
  • 166MHz Front Side Bus
  • Memory Timings 2-2-2-4

Synthetic Benchmarks

  • 3DMark03 Build 340
  • AquaMark3

Games Tested

  • Call of Duty
  • Halo Combat Evolved
  • Unreal Tournament 2003
  • X2 The Rolling Demo
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Notes

  • All overclocking was done via the provided Gainward EXPERTool utility.
  • All applications tested were patched to their latest version.
  • All test were run at the default "Enhanced Mode" of 500/1000 and further overclocked settings of 555/1050. Any exceptions are noted in each benchmark section.
  • Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering were always configured using the NVIDIA driver control panel.
  • Gameplay tests were conducted with in-game sound options set to each games default settings.
  • Gameplay tests were conducted with in-game graphics options set to their highest quality. Any exceptions are noted in each benchmark section.
  • FRAPS was used to capture average frame rates for some benchmarks.
  • Halo does not support antialiasing.
  • All framerates shown are the average frame rate, or the framerate reported by the games' timedemos.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all games' video settings were maxed out to the highest values/levels.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all games' audio settings were left at their default values.

Gainward's Golden Sample™ Edition
Gainward Golden Sample
With hand picked 3D graphics processor and carefully qualified high-quality memory chips, Gainward's famous Golden Sample™ products feature "enhance mode" with factory-preset, over-clocked graphics core and memory speeds. Each Golden Sample™ product is guaranteed to outperform NVIDIA standard reference design with rock-solid stability.

NOTE: This sucker in "enhanced mode" is at 500MHz core clock and 1000MHz (25 and 50MHz faster than the reference design respectively). This may be news to some of you that read earlier reviews based on an earlier BIOS. My contact at Gainward informed me that some very early BIOS versions were set to 485/970. The latest version "V32GDD00.ROM" (in all current retail packages), however, is at 500/1000 in enhanced mode. What's great about Gainward's enhanced mode with Golden Sample products is not only the increased (and stable) speeds but you are still fully under warranty in doing so.

 

Comparison Between Standard and Golden Sample
Comparison Between Standard and Golden Sample

As you can see from the chart above, this piece of hardware pushes all of the current bounds of video cards.
 

Next Page: Packaging and Software Bundle

Last Updated on February 1, 2004


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