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MSI FX5600-VTDR128: We have a look at MSI's latest mainstream video card offering. Is it a suitable replacement for the Ti4200? That's what we'll try to determine today.
Date: June 23, 2003
Catagory: Video Cards
Written By:

When I went to a tech conference in New Orleans, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the computer industry's perception of how the market for computers is progressing; instead of being the pyramid it had once been (a small demand for enthusiasts, a large demand for power users and an even larger demand for the casual computer user,) it is now believed that the market is more of an hourglass. Computer enthusiasts and power users make up about just as much demand as the casual user, and this trend has caused many companies to spawn more than one budget solution for their products. nVIDIA was one of the companies that I believe have noticed this; they have spawned the GeForce FX5200, FX5600, FX5800, and FX5900 - cards aimed for low end, middle-end, high-end, and enthusiasts consumers . At the aforementioned event, I was privileged with the opportunity to gawk at the FX5900 and it's stunning visuals - I was impressed by what I saw, to say the least. I hope those good impression lasts through the GeforceFX product line, as I am reviewing the MSI GeForce FX5600-VTDR128 today.

As of late, nVidia has ramped up their image quality after being criticized by the community for their inferior quality in their cards. At the conference I attended, nVidia spoke about how they now have an entire team dedicated not to squeezing the best FPS out of every card, but instead are focused on getting the best image quality, thereby allowing nVidia to make a more conscious decision as to the ratio of performance to image quality. I'll be comparing this GeForce FX5600 to the ATI 9700 Pro to ascertain which has better image quality.

But first, the GeForce FX5600's Specifications:

CineFX Shading Architecture
o Support for DX 9.0 Pixel/Vertex Shader 2.0+
o Very long pixel programs up to 1024 instructions
o Very long vertex programs with up to 256 static instructions and up to 65536 instructions executed before termination
o Looping and subroutines with up to 256 loops per vertex program
o Subroutines in shader programs
o Dynamic flow control
o Conditional write masking
o Conditional execution
o Procedural shading
o Full instruction set for vertex and pixel programs
o Z-correct bump-mapping
o Hardware-accelerated shadow effects with shadow buffers
o Two-sided stencil
o Programmable matrix palette skinning
o Keyframe animation
o Custom lens effects: fish eye, wide angle, fresnel effects, water refraction

High-Performance, High-Precision, 3D Rendering Engine
o 4 pixels per clock rendering engine
o 128-bit, studio-quality floating point precision through the entire graphics pipeline
o Native support for 128-bit floating point, 64-bit floating point and 32-bit integer rendering modes
o Up to 16 textures per pass
o Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
o DirectX and S3TC texture compressio

High-Performance 2D Rendering Engine
o Optimized for 32-, 24-, 16-, 15- and 8-bpp modes
o True-color, 64x64 hardware cursor with alpha
o Multi-buffering (double, triple or quad) for smooth animation and video playback
o True-color, 64x64 hardware cursor with alpha

Intellisample Technology
o Blistering-fast antialiasing performance
o Adaptive texture filtering
o Support for advanced loss-less compression algorithms for both color and z data
o Fast Z-clear

Advanced Display Pipeline with Full nView Capabilities
o Dual, 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536@85Hz
o Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder support resolutions up to 1024x768 without the need for panning with built-in Macrovision copy protection
o Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full quality and features in each window
o DVD and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i resolutions
o Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters and external HDTV encoders
o Support for dual-link DVI for compatibility with next-generation flat panel displays with resolutions greater than 1600x1200 without the need for reduced blanking

Digital Vibrance control (DVC) 3.0
o DVC color controls
o DVC image sharpening controls

Rocket Science For a System-Level Solution
o 0.13u process technology for higher levels of integration and higher operating clock speeds
o Copper vias and wiring
o Advanced thermal monitoring and thermal management
o AGP 8X including Fast Writes and sideband addressing

Operation Systems and API support
o Windows® XP / 2000 / Me / 98 / 95
o Complete DirectX support, including DirectX 9.0 and lower
o Full OpenGL 1.4 and lower

o GPU Core Clock: 325MHz, Memory Clock: 550MHz
o Memory Bandwidth: 11.2GB/sec.
o Fill Rate: 1.4 billion texels/sec.
o Vertices per Second: 88 million

The FX5600 has all the pixel and vertex shaders that the FX5800 and FX5900 has and is also manufactured at the 13 micron level, allowing the FX5600 to play with the big boys… At a significantly diminished performance. The FX5600 only has 80 million transistors in it, as opposed to the 125 million transistors in its bigger brother, the FX5800. The FX5600 also has a smaller pipeline than the FX5800 and FX5900, as well as a less advanced memory controller. This, in addition to the use of DDR memory (as opposed to DDRII memory that the FX5800 and FX5900 use) catapults the FX5800 and FX5900 above the FX5600 in both performance and price.

All in all, the package that MSI puts forth is pretty jam packed with software and hardware extras; including games, utilities, a remote control, VIVO (Video In, Video Out,) a DVI to VGA converter for use in a dual head setup, and a Quick User's Guide.

First let's take a look at the actual card.

Next Page - The Card

Shop for the MSI FX5600-VTDR128.

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