Whether you are an enthusiast looking for a new video card to play the hottest games or just an average Joe who wants to do a little bit of everything, you need a video card. Today we will be looking at a card that offers mid-range performance comparable to that of the Radeon 9600 XT, while remaining competitive in cost, the XFX 5700 Ultra Dual DVI.
We have reviewed several cards based on GeForce FX technology, so this is not a technology briefing. If you want info on the technology behind the GeForce FX, sites like Anandtech have covered it extensively.
XFX is not a new company by any means, but they are certainly not a household name. They are a division of Pine, a long time manufacturer of graphics cards and other PC components. XFX have been very easy to work with and they seem to be a good bunch of people trying to emerge in a very crowded market. Several talks with them have led me to believe that they are a company on the rise and I am looking forward to this review quite eagerly.
Keep in mind that this isn't the fastest card on the market and isn't marketed as such. We will be comparing this card against the ATI Radeon 9600 XT, another mainstream card.
GeForce FX 5700 Ultra
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The XFX 5700 Ultra Dual DVI
XFX packages their card in a very striking X-shaped box. If there is one thing that will put a manufacturer ahead of the competition in a retail storefront it is unique or advanced packaging. Major props must go to the guys at XFX who came up with this design, because while it doesn't add anything to the performance or quality of the card itself, it definitely portrays XFX as a company catering towards the extreme crowd who are looking for something different.
The card itself is based on an attractive, albeit standard, blue PCB. XFX isn't the only manufacturer calling for a blue PCB on their 5700 Ultra card, as several other manufacturers have gone this route as well. I think that blue is referred to as "calm" or "relaxing", personally I think enthusiasts just want a card that doesn't look like ass and the XFX 5700 Ultra is a good looking card.
The cooling mechanism on the board is based on the reference NVidia design. It is a small aluminum-based cooler with a medium-speed fan attached. The cooler isn't as loud as other NVidia-solutions, but it is certainly louder than that of the 9600 XT or 9800 Pro. I will talk about the effectiveness of the cooler under overclocked conditions shortly. Note that XFX uses thermal pads on the memory rather than paste, which will certainly inhibit heat transfer.
On the upper right hand corner of the card you will find the molex connector used to plug in the external power plug of the card. This plug has become standard fair for high end graphics cards from both ATI and NVidia. Rather than having the molex connector face towards the bottom of the case it is parallel to the card, which makes far better sense than having it face down. My sample card was missing the necessary power cable so I was forced to use one from another card I have. I am not sure if XFX overlooked including the cable or what, but it should be brought to their attention either way.
The back panel of the 5700 Ultra tells you why this card is special. Dual-DVI capabilities are certainly welcome, although you may use an SVGA monitor with the included adaptor, of course.
I found the Dual-DVI function to work quite nicely. Profiles are setup within the NVidia drivers. Unfortunately, I was only able to test DVI functionality for a short time due to the fact that I was using a friend's monitor to complete testing. There is also an S-Video out port. TV-out functionality was respectable, though not as good as the TV-out provided with cards by ATI.
Now that we have taken a look at the cards functions and features, let's look at performance and how it compares to the 9600 XT under normal and overclocked situations.