As much as we can all drool when we look at the impressive benchmark numbers from some of the high end cards, reality sets in when you checkup your bank account numbers just before shopping. If you decide that you can try going without food for a couple weeks, that's probably a good indicator that the 300FPS monster is not for you.
By the same token, your current video card is starting to choke, so an upgrade is in order. With games like Half-Life 2 on the horizon, your old GeForce 3 isn't going to play the game the way the developers meant it to. Although a FX5200 supports the effects, it simply lacks the raw power to play at acceptable framerates.
The GeForce FX5600 Ultra is likely one GPU that can get the job done. On paper, it appears to have what it takes to handle some of the more strenuous games, and the price isn't terribly prohibitive. Today, we'll be taking a close look at the XFX FX5600 Ultra and determine if it's a card worth picking up.
nView Multi-display Technology
Digital Vibrance Control (DVC)
Unified Driver Architecture (UDA)
Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 Optimizations and Support
OpenGL® 1.4 Optimizations and Support
Integrated TV Encoder
Integrated Full Hardware MPEG-2 Decoder
New 64-phase Video Scaler
Architected for Cg
You can grab the .
The XFX GeForce FX5600 Ultra
For those of you unfamiliar with XFX, they are the graphics division of Pine. All their current video cards ship in a nifty "X" shaped box. Cover art will vary depending on the card, but the animal tends to look more aggressive as you move up in graphics power. A nice touch is the box window to let you see the card. The main benefit is if you're wary about getting the card you're paying for, a quick look will show you what you're getting. Nothing will stop an unscrupulous reseller from swapping heatsinks, but XFX has done their part to help prevent fraud.
The XFX FX5600 Ultra is a rather large card, though not as big as some of nVidia's past mid to high-end cards. The grey/blue PCB sets itself apart from the generic greens we're used to seeing, and the silver heatsinks stand out rather nicely.
A rather larger heatsink covers the FX5600 Ultra GPU. The finish of the heatsink is quite nice, and kudos to XFX for installing a matching silver coloured fan as well. Heatsinks cover all the ram modules on the card, though I'm unsure why smaller (or lower) heatsinks were used on the ram modules on the back of the card.
As with most higher end cards, be it from ATI or nVidia, you'll need to plug in a power source to use the card. A standard molex connection is all you need, though XFX does not include any molex splitter. This could be a problem if you're out of connections, but given that most of the modern PSUs provide more than enough of these connections, this shouldn't be a problem. A 300W PSU is the minimum XFX suggests, but as we always say, more power won't hurt, but the quality of the PSU is of importance.
We did run into an odd snag with the ABIT NF7-S v2.0 and an Antec TruePower 350W PSU where system would not boot two times out of ten. It ended up that a slight bump in AGP voltage to 1.6v remedied the situation, and we experienced no problems after. I can't say if this is going to be the case for all similar setups, as it could have easily be any one of our components, but it's something for you to keep in mind.
You got your standard I/O options here. There is a DVI connection for LCDs, a 15-pin VGA connection, and a TV-Out connection. nView Multi-display Technology is supported (based on the GPU technology, and XFX's packaging setup), so multi-display users are fully covered here.
Plenty of cables are provided, along with a DVI-to-VGA adapter incase you only have two CRTs. You also have a couple manuals, and a driver CD. There is no game package included. Whether this bothers you or not depends on your current game collection. This saves XFX and yourself some money, and in my experience, most games included with cards are something most gamers already have.