IntroductionAOpen Aeolus GeForce FX5900XT 128MB
The enthusiast is fervently waiting for the next iteration of graphics accelerators from ATI and NVIDIA. Codenamed R4xx and NV4x, summer 2004 should see the introduction of the fastest-ever consumer accelerators. Moore's Law, it appears is equally applicable to the GPU market. Increases in gaming framerates will not come about with some exceptional leap in underlying technology, unfortunately. The newer cards will be, for the most part, steroid-filled incumbents. Scary amounts of memory bandwidth and greater pixel-pushing power is the way forward, for now at least.
Today's 3D graphics cards espouse the mantra of photo-realism over sheer speed. Games are looking good, helped in no small part by the use of DX9 and HLSL adherence and compilation. The pleasing aspect is that low- and mid-range cards currently benefit from the same technological specification as the range leaders. The difference now is not in what a modern 3D card can display, but how fast it accomplishes the task. So, if we continue this line of thought a GeForce FX 5700 Ultra is able to run everything an FX 5950 Ultra can, albeit more slowly.
The midrange sector is often the most interesting. Manufacturers have to decide just how much speed can be sacrificed in the name of cost. The current approach for the £120 - £150 sector has been, generally speaking, to halve the pixel-pushing and memory bandwidth available on the highest-specified models. The ATI Radeon 9600XT and GeForce FX 5700 GPUs are currently those midrange cards, with both supporting 4 rendering pipelines and 128-bit memory interfaces. NVIDIA, however, is intent on upsetting the apple cart. It's decided to change the rules by introducing, in effect, the power of the range-topping FX 5900 range at a far more attractive pricepoint, which, incidentally and coincidentally, will place both the 9600XT and FX 5700 derivatives in danger.
AOpen impressed us recently with its FX 5950 card. Ryszard took it for a run here. Now its the turn of the curious FX 5900XT, a cutdown version of the aforementioned card. It looks interesting on paper, especially at the ~£150 asking price. Let's now investigate its merits in closer detail.