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Review: Gainward FX PowerPack! Ultra/1100 XT

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 15 April 2004, 00:00

Tags: Gainward FX Powerpack! ULTRA/1100 XT, Gainward

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaxm

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Introduction

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We're long time commentators on Gainward products over the years, right from when I bought their Golden Sample GeForce 3 and reviewed it for HEXUS, to current times where we review their sound cards as well as their graphics cards, and we help test their products before they hit the market.

It's therefore no surprise to see a review on HEXUS of the following graphics card, as it hits retail in a big way, giving consumers yet another mid-range choice. With Gainward sitting solidly on the NVIDIA side of the GPU fence, at least for the time being, mid-range means NVIDIA's 5900XT GPU, a slowly clocked NV35 part with a 256-bit memory bus.

The slower core frequency than their own 5700 parts means slightly slower pixel and single texturing performance than their original mid-range refresh part, but the memory bus width ensures masses of memory bandwidth for the GPU to chew on, especially when dealing with anti-aliasing and texture sampling.

So in some cases it's going to be slower than 5700 Ultra, but in most it's not, with NVIDIA's NV3x parts enjoying whatever memory bandwidth you can throw at them, for the most part.

It's main rivals in the performance stakes are ATI's Radeon 9600 Pro and 9600XT parts, solid DX9 performers with more general purpose muscle than NVIDIA's products. As mentioned, it also has to compete with 5700 Ultra.

And given the price targets of the aforementioned protagonists, mid-range graphics card shopping means you're spoilt for choice and you don't have to break the bank, getting plenty of performance for your pennies.

With another 5900XT in for testing from a U.K. newcomer, along with NVIDIA's GDDR3-equipped 5700 Ultra hanging around on my test bed making a nuisance of itself, I've got plenty of in-house comparison points for Gainward's card. The showing from the other 5900XT means it has its work cut out to impress, such is the competition for your money in this part of the market.

A quick basic feature comparison with it's main rivals before we turn the page.

Gainward FX 5900XT GeForce FX 5700 Ultra ATI Radeon 9600XT
Core Clock 390MHz 475MHz 500MHz
Memory Clock 700MHz DDR 900MHz DDR 675MHz DDR
Process 0.13u TSMC (80M transistors) 0.13u IBM (80M transistors) 0.13u TSMC (75M transistors)
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit
GPU NV35 NV36 RV360
Pixel performance 1560Mpixels/sec 1900Mpixels/sec 2000Mpixels/sec
Texturing performance 3120Mtexels/sec 1900Mtexels/sec 1900Mtexels/sec
Memory bandwidth 22.4GB/sec 14.4GB/sec 10.8GB/sec
Target cost £135 £130 £120
Traditional render setup 4x2 4x1 4x1

A couple of 5900XT boards from other manufacturers clock their cores at 400MHz, 10MHz up from the reference design and the core frequency that Gainward make use of here. ExpertTool, their in-house overclocking and tweaking utility has an extra set of Golden Sample clocks for you to apply, further increasing performance, but more on that later.

390/700, 4x2 GPU render setup and 22.4GB/sec of memory bandwidth. Should be quick then.