Now that I have my Gainward FX 5800 Ultra up and running, I thought I'd give some of my initial thoughts on this card. I bought the FX because it's an anomaly and something that not everyone will have the opportunity to own.
Having gone from an R300-based card to this, I think I can make some good comparisons.
Let's start with 2D/Desktop quality. The FX is brighter than any NVIDIA card I've previously owned (TNT, GF2 MX, GF2 Ultra, GF3, GF4 Ti4600). As a matter of fact, I had to turn down the brightness of my monitor. That, plus a small bump of the digital vibrance slider has my desktop looking better than it did with my Radeon. 2D clarity for text is about the same from both cards.
3D image quality - using the 43.51 drivers, the control panel defaults to Quality. I tested games using all three methods and anything other than the Quality setting looks like a$$, plain and simple. Textures on performance and balanced look horrid. But using Quality, IQ is quite good. 4xAA and 8xAF on the FX in Quake 3 with Trilinear filtering looks about the same as 4xAA and 8x quality AF on the Radeon. Same deal with UT2003. Image quality is excellent on both cards, and differences are imperceptible to me.
3D performance - The 128-bit bus of the NV30 is a handicap when compared to my Radeon. In the course of playing UT2003 on my Radeon, my framerates were higher overall, using 1280x1024 w/4xAA and 8x performance aniso. On a side note, though, S3TC/OpenGL in the original Unreal Tournament works on the FX, unlike on the Radeon. The Radeon would give me flashing textures and other anomalies that the FX does not exhibit. It did work fine in Direct3D, though. But with OpenGL on the FX, I'm averaging a steady 100 fps at 1280x1024 with 4xAA and 8x aniso so that makes me happy.
Loudness - this is a bit of a sore spot. In 2D work, I don't even notice the fan. But for games, this sucker is loud
. And it's not a loudness I would call pleasant either. I can tolerate it, but I'm not exactly what you'd call happy with it.
IMO, the FX isn't a bad
card. It's just not an R300-beater/killer by any stretch. Good choice for the loyal NVIDIA fan, not so good for everyone else. If you want to spend the money on it, feel free. But there are better choices out there. I'm not going to get rid of my FX, though. I think it's kind of campy - something that not everyone will be able to have.