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Appeared on: Friday, October 15, 2004
MSI FX5950Ultra

1. Introduction - Package

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Introduction - Package

MSI is one of the largest manufacturers of NVIDIA chipset based graphics cards. We will be testing MSI's latest product from the FX family, the FX5950 Ultra VTD256. At the same time, we will be comparing it to the state-of-the-art ATI X800XT, since the two cards cost approximately the same amount of money. So the question we are about to answer is not which is the best video card but how big the generation gap between the two target cards is.

Our first impression of the MSI FX5950 Ultra was "absolutely fantastic". MSI ships the card in a huge glossy box, picturing what seems to be a gladiator on the front, besides some stickers with some of its basic features such as the 256Mb DDR. Opening the cardboard cover on the front of the box, we took a first glance at the card's sunflower shaped cooling system and an extended list of details for the FX5900 architecture.

The back side of the box ushered us in what we were about to see inside the box: MSI's excellent bundle. Believe it or not, the bundle includes 10 disks in two portable plastic cases. Five of them for gamers and another five for the regular computer user. Here's a list of the software you get:

Software Bundle
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
- Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Installation disk & Construction Set disk)
- 7 in 1 Game Demo Collection
- MSI Media Center Deluxe II
- Photoshop Album SE & 3D-Album LE 2.03
- Virtual Drive Professional & RestoreIT! Professional
- InterVideo WinDVD 5.1 Channel & Supreme Forteign Language Learning Machine
- MSI Multimedia Beyond 3D ( Drivers & Utilities)

Also included is a really handy notebook (the sort you jot messages in) and the user guide, both decorated with the same gladiator theme as the box cover. We were happy to see an extra 4-pin molex power cable in the box that will make up for the power connection the card draws on from the PC power supply in order to function correctly. Finally, a DVI-I/VGA adapter, an S-to-S TV_Out cable, a 4-port VIVO cable and an MSI computer case sticker complete the bundled set of goodies.

No doubt MSI's bundle is excellent and will satisfy even the grouchiest of users.

Of course the card itself is what matters the most, but a nice bundle is always welcome and can provide an extra dose of enthusiasm with the recently bought hardware.

To discuss this card further or to discuss it with other users, go to our forum.

2. A closer look

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A closer look

The MSI FX5950 Ultra, as we mentioned before, has a sunflower shaped, 2-part radial copper heatsink.

As you can see, MSI continues its tradition with VGA cards, using a red PCB.

On the front side of the card, there's a white, semi-transparent fan that takes in cold air and spreads it in a sophisticated way across the card's surface.

On the rear side, there's a similar "Free-boundle" fan and heatsink to provide the same flow of air over some memory modules. However, in the event the extra fan and heatsink do not allow for easy installation of the card on the motherboard, MSI discretely advises removal of the rear fan and heat-sink. After all, most FX5950 powered graphics cards don't have a rear heat-sink and it was MSI's decision to include it for overclocking purposes, hence the characterization as "Free-boundle".

Without much hesitation, we removed both fans to take a more detailed look at the card's layout.

It seems MSI hasn't changed much of NVIDIA's original reference board design. Here we can see the DDR memory modules spread around the FX5950 chipset.

This is how the card looks with the rear heat-sink removed.

The NV38 chipset is hidden behind nVidia's FX5950 cover which we dared not remove.

One of the sixteen Hynix DDR memory chips.

On board we found a Philips video encoder/decoder chipset for the Video-In-Video-Out interface.

Also a DVI transmitter from Silicon Image.

3. Features

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MSI's Ultra is a typical FX5950 Ultra. It features a 256-bit memory bus for faster data transfer across the board and 256MB of Hynix DDR modules with a latency of 2ns (AF-2).

The default core clock speed is set at 475MHz, like most of the FX5950 Ultra based cards. The memory clock is also set at 475MHz which creates an effective speed of 950MHz, a bit below 1GHz.

With 8 pixel pipelines and the ability to render 2 texture units per pipeline, the card can deliver up to 16 textures per rendering pass. Add to that the full support for pixel and vertex shader 2.0 code and you have a card able to produce almost all of today's games high quality effects.

Card Details (as provided by MSI)

256-Bit Advanced Memory Interface
• Wider memory data path with next generation controller technology for superior throughput

• Advanced pixel shaders deliver 2x the floating-point pixel shader performance of previous generations.
• Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 (DX9) pixel shader 2.0+
• Support for DX9 vertex shader 2.0+
• Long pixel programs up to 1,024 instructions.
• Long vertex programs up to 256 static instructions with up to 65,536 instructions executed.
• Dynamic, conditional execution and flow control.
• Architected for Cg and Microsoft HLSL for maximum compatibility with next generation content.
• 128-bit, studio-quality, floating-point precision computation through the entire rendering pipeline.
• Native hardware support for 32-bpp, 64-bpp and 128-bpp rendering modes.
• Up to 16 textures per rendering pass.
• Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures.
• DirectX and S3TC texture compression.
• Optimized for 32-bpp, 24-bpp, 16-bpp, 15-bpp, and 8-bpp modes.
• True-color, 64x64 hardware cursor alpha.
• Multibuffering (double, triple, or quad) for smooth animation and video playback.

Intellisample HCT
• Increased visual quality at higher resolutions through advances in compression, anisotropic filtering, and antialiasing technology.
• Blistering-fast antialiasing and compression performance.
• Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for both color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates.
• Fast z-clear

Ultrashadow Technology
• Accelerates shadow volumes for next generation games.
• Accurately maintains shadows while discarding non-useful information

Advanced Display Pipeline With Full NVIDIA NVIEW Capabilities
• Integrated NTSC/PAL TV encoder supporting resolutions up to 1024x768 without the need for panning with built-in Macrovision
copy protection.
• Dual, integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536@85Hz
• Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters.
• Internal TV support.
• VIP 1.1 interface support for video-in function.
• Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) support for multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window.

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

Advanced Technology
• AGP 8X including Fast Writes and sideband addressing
• 0.13-micron process technology for higher levels of integration and higher operating clock speeds
• Advanced thermal management and thermal monitoring
• 40 mmx40 mm, BGA 1309 flip-chip package

4. Test Specifications

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Test Specifications

Processor Retail Intel Pentium 4 2.8C
CPU Cooler Zalman 7000Cu
Case Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe (firmware 1014)
Memory 2x256MB OCZ PC-4200EL
Hard Disk Drive WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply Levicom 500Watt
OS Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
DirectX v9.0b


Benchmarking Software
3DMark03 Build 340
Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
AquaMark3 v3.0
GLExcess v1.2
RivaTuner 2.0 RC 14.3
GeForce Tweak Utility
Farcry v1.1 Build 1256
Painkiller v1.15
Unreal Tournament 2003 v2225
Unreal Tournament 2004 v3186
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness v49
Halo 1.04



5. 3DMark03

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3D Mark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stress tests the DirectX performance of a VGA card. For testing the performance of each card, we use the 4 game benchmark. The first is a DirectX 7 game, the second and the third use DirectX 8 and the last one stress tests graphics under DirectX 9. A very strong point of 3DMark is that its VGA card measurements does not require any CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance.

3Dmark03 also includes sound and CPU tests as well as some other feature tests. In this page we offer the average FPS for the game benchmarks, having the MSI 5950 Ultra compared with ATI's X800XT.

- Game Test 1 - Wings of Fury (DX7)

This test is a combat flight simulator written for older hardware (DirectX 7). Particles are used a lot in this test - smoke and vapor trails, flak and gunfire, and explosions are produced using point sprites and quads.

There are plenty of planes but their polygon frame rate is low, and single textured background objects are also used. Hence, the average fps (frames per second) are high for all cards.


Not bad at all. The FX5950 card can perform reasonably well with DirectX 7.0 at around 70% the performance of the ASUS AX X800.

- Game Test 2 - Battle of Proxycon (DX8)

This test is a simulation of first person shooter game types. 1.1 and 1.4 Vertex shaders are widely used since all character models are skinned using vertex shaders. This makes this test a good vertex shader comparison for VGA cards.




Vertex shaders brought the worst out of the FX5950U, which couldn't even output half the frames of the ASUS card. Let's see how it runs the DirectX 8.1 game test, Troll's Lair.

- Game Test 3 - Trolls' Lair (DX8)

This test should be the favorite of all RPG lovers. It is a cut scene of a female warrior facing two malicious trolls. Again, the same vertex and pixel processing is used as in game test 2.

This test also uses post-processing effects, such as Depth of Field and Bloom effects which are widely used in today's game cut scene sequences.


Another devastating result for the FX family. This test is also based on DirectX 8.1 code like Battle of Proxycon but a bit more GPU intensive as you can see. The X800 outperforms the FX5950 without really trying. However, keep in mind that 3DMark03 is all about GPU power. Should it have been a real life game as with the ones we'll see later on, I think MSI's gladiator wouldn't have had any trouble delivering decent framerates close to the limit your CPU can handle.

- Game Test 4 - Mother Nature (DX9)

This game test represents the level of effects and realism that are possible using 2.0 vertex and pixel shaders, plus some other features that DirectX 9 offers.

We've said before that the Radeon series is known to be slightly more capable, processing vertex and pixel shaders 2.0, according to this test.


No surprises here. The Geforce FX chipsets are well known for their dramatically low DirectX 9 performance. Let's see what the final 3DMark03 scores are.

- 3DMark Official score

If you test your machine with 3DMark, you can post the results at the 3DMark' online result browser. For more information visit futuremark.com.

To tell you the truth, I'd be ashamed to post that on the Futuremark website.
The FX5950 can hardly breathe after this struggle with the X800XT.
Is Fx5950 that bad or is the X800XT such a performance monster?
I think a bit of both would be the correct answer. Keep in mind this was an unfair comparison to start with.

6. Aquamark 3

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Aquamark 3

Since the majority of today's applications and games are compatible with DirectX 9, the need for benchmark applications that use DX 9 has been brought up. The benchmark uses the 3D engine (Krass engine) from the Aquanox game.

Unlike synthetic benchmarks, Aquamark3 allows benchmarking in a real-world scenario with an engine and art assets representing the complexity of current state-of-the-art games. The results you get from Aquamark vary from a general result score (AquaMark Triscore), which is a result of 9 chapters each one utilizing different graphical operations. The AquaMark3 benchmark also delivers scores for specific hardware components, as well as an overall score for the entire system.

The chapters that stress the Graphics performance are the following:

In this section we present comparison charts for the following chapters: High particle count, Vertex and Pixel Lighting and Massive Overdraw

- High particle count

This chapter demonstrates a high number of particles being used for simulating dust and smoke. Each particle is approximated by a mass point with one degree of freedom for its rotation.

The particle system in this test is designed to render a large number of natural, accurately simulated particles as efficiently as possible.


Complicated particles in great numbers were a big challenge for previous GPUs to deal with. But with the latest chipsets released, this is not an issue any more. And as you can see from the above results, there is a big difference between the 2 generations.

- Vertex and pixel lighting

The objects in this scene show a broad range of different material and lightning effects used in modern gaming engines.

Aquamark3 tests two things: It applies many vertex and pixel shader changes straining the graphics hardware and its many texture lookups (determining the lighting contribution and material reflectivity) and also strains the Multitexturing and rasterization components.


Since the release of the Radeon and FX cards, the Vertex and Pixel lighting techniques have been used to greater extent, offering a new perspective on graphics. This part of the Aquamark benchmark renders complicated lighting effects, the very same used in games. We can see excellent performance from MSI's card with only 8 FPS difference from the X800XT.

- Massive Overdraw

This scene demonstrates the application of the particle system for large explosions. The test stresses the graphics hardware with high overdraw of textured areas, since many particles overlap each other. A huge explosion that is included in this chapter, pushes the VGA card to the limits. It's really awesome if you imagine the number of pixels and shaders needed to make such an explosive scene.

This is an important test, because the explosions in games require a lot of vertex and pixel processing. In many games when an explosion occurs, this causes frames to drop suddenly at that particular moment. So this test is a simulation of what to expect from your card when facing explosions and other similar effects in games.

- Aquamark Triscore

The Aquamark Triscore comprises 3 values: the overall system performance, the performance of the graphics system and CPU performance. Keep in mind that this is not the total result of the above tests, but the result of the whole benchmark process including all 9 chapters.

The total Triscore for the MSI card is disappointing. 43256 would be fine for an FX5900XT powered VGA card but not for the Ultra version. We were expecting much more. Let's move on to the Codecreatures benchmark.

7. Codecreatures

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Code Creatures is a synthetic 3D benchmark that is a good reference for VGA performance comparisons. This is a high-end 3D benchmark that also requires DirectX 8 hardware, making a good tool for measuring the potential of DirectX 8 game performance.

The Code Creatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and PixelShaders, popular on next generation 3D accelerators.

The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. The score is a geometric mean of those three resolutions called the Code Creatures number.

For this Benchmark, I grabbed average FPS results for the following resolutions: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200.

The FX5950U did very well here. If Code Creatures is run on a P4 2.8GHz at 60fps at 1024x768 resolution, compared to the X800's performance, then the MSI FX5950 Ultra's performance is tolerable at 52fps. At higher resolutions however, the performance is not satisfactory, especially when compared to the ASUS AX X800 which remains fairly constant.

- Code Creatures number

The Code Creatures number is the resultant score of the total benchmarking process which includes some other measurements except for a plain sum up of the fps results. MSI's card lags behind the Asus X800XT by a difference of 1550 Code Creature points. It could have been worse so I'm pretty much satisfied with the result.

8. GLExcess

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GL Excess is a very good tool for measuring the performance of VGA cards with OpenGL applications and games. This benchmark consists of 12 scenes grouped in 4 categories (3 scenes in 1 category). Each category stress tests different OpenGL graphical sequences. The overall result named XSMark is the sum of the first scene of each category. All scenes were run in the 1024x768 resolution at 32bit.

- Category 1

The first category includes scenes 1, 9 and 12. Nothing specific is stressed in these scenes. Just average use of general OpenGL techniques.

The picture you see from scene 12 is made of three shifting and rotating layers, which are textured in 4 blending modes. Nice effect!



- Category 2

Scenes 3, 5 and 6 stress the card's 3D particle and polygon processing. Particles are widely used in games and you see them for example when you fire with a laser beam or when you light up a torch.

All 3 scenes are made with a particle system that stresses the card's polygon count and video memory. The spaceship you see in the picture is made of a very large number of polygons


- Category 3

The third category sums up scenes 4, 10 and 11 that test the blending ability of the card. Blending is the mixture of the graphics layers that result in complicated textures and effects.

The fill rate of each card is also stressed in these scenes. So this test should be a reference as to the quality of each card.


- Category 4

Scenes 2 and 7 that constitute this category, having to do with multitexturing effects. Multitexturing is the process of applying two or more textures to a single polygon or pixel, in order to provide spectacular images.

Scene 8 uses a sphere map that is mixed to a simple texturing technique in order to give reflection effects. The reflection and shadow effects you see in games are accumulated in the stencil buffer.

XS Marks

XS Marks is the score of the GL Excess benchmark. Keep in mind that this score doesn't sum up the results of all 12 scenes but the score of each category's first scene. The XS Marks you get with your card can be posted on the GL Excess web site to compare it with other scores.

The MSI FX5950 Ultra comes up with an incredible performance in this OpenGL benchmark. If you check out the Category 4 benchmark for multitexturing effects, you'll see an unbelievable chart. There, the FX5950U outperformed the Asus X800XT by a total of 250 marks!

I have to admit I didn't see that coming. ATI's support for OpenGL code is well known, being well behind, but fortunately for ATI owners the company is aware of this and has promised a lot of progress over the following months.

9. Doom 3

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Doom 3

Massive demonic invasion has overwhelmed the Union Aerospace Corporations (UAC) Mars Research Facility leaving only chaos and horror in its wake. As one of only a few survivors, you struggle with shock and fear as you fight your way to Hell and back, in an epic clash against pure evil.

Activision made it's miracle again with Doom 3, which is said to be the best-looking game ever, thanks to the brand-new 3D graphics engine used to generate its convincingly lifelike, densely atmospheric, and surprisingly expansive environments. If you are a fan of the previous Doom games, then you will get many flashbacks with this 3rd edition, since you will find re-conceived versions of almost every monster from both Doom and Doom II.

In this test, the framerate is limited by CPU power. But a P4 running at 2.8GHz is much faster than the CPU of the average game player so you can rest assured that the FX5950U gives you more than you need.

With an average of 50fps at 1024x768 resolution, gameplay is smooth even in the most demanding scenes.

Let's see what happens when we enable 4x for AA and 8x for AF.

Now things have changed. Sure, gameplay can still be smooth at 45 fps, but that's for the 800x600 resolution. Increasing it to 1024x768 drops the framerate to 32 which means that when the scene is full of monsters, it will drop below 25, so play would get irritating after a while as you keep on missing frames.

10. Far Cry

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Far Cry

You are Jack Carver running your own boat charter business in beautiful Micronesia. With a past best left behind you, you'll be focusing on your present assignment: escorting an ambitious journalist named Valerie Cortez to the Island of Cabatu. It seems like a piece of cake, but you'll soon learn: paradise can be hell.

Farcry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that the CryEngine offers.

A great advantage and strong point of the CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in very realistic ways.

With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the viewing distance to 2km, these features make Farcry a perfect action game and also a referable benchmark to speak of.

- Benchmark Settings

We made our own demo with Farcry for benchmarking the VGA cards. For the demo we picked the Fort map and positioned the character on the top of the mountain where the whole island can been viewed at an unbelievable distance of about 2 kilometers. It's a really stressing benchmark for VGA cards since we used the high quality settings for all tests. We were careful not to use many bots because the advanced AI system of the game consumes a lot of CPU power.

The latest patch (1.2) was used for our tests which updates the game's graphics engine to use the Shader model 3.0. Unfortunately, this is supported for the 6800 series only.

The resolutions we ran the demo under are the following: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. The first test was conducted with Anti Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) features off. In the second test, we upped the AA level to 4x and AF to 8x. Keep in mind that this test is the most stressing of our whole game benchmarks series.

With the 1.2 version of Farcry, the 3D engine has been updated and supports the latest shader model 3.0 giving an even better visual perception in the breathtaking natural enviroment of the game.

MSI's FX5950 Ultra performs satisfactorily, ensuring that you get to enjoy this wonderful game with all its optical delites enabled, which wouldn't happen with an FX5900XT or older card.

First-class performance from the X800. On the other hand, playing with the FX5950U while having Anti-Aliasing at 4x and Anisotropic Filtering at 8x, gaming is too hard or even impossible. It can't keep the FPS counter from dropping below 25fps which is a little disappointing.

11. Unreal Tournament 2004

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Unreal Tournament 2004

Unreal Tournament 2004 is a multiplayer first person shooter that combines the kill-or-be-killed experience of gladiatorial combat with cutting-edge technology.

Ten game modes - both team-based and "every man for himself" -- provide even the most hardcore gamer with palm-sweating challenges through unbelievably detailed indoor arenas and vast outdoor environments.

As the ultimate techno-gladiator of the future, players will take their fates into their hands, battling against up to 32 other players online in action-packed, frag-filled arenas

- Unreal Tournament 2004 Benchmark

Many new features and maps are available in Unreal T. 2004. Also, the gameplay has changed in many of its game types. For example, there is the "Onslaught" game type where you have to take over the enemy base using war-machines and vehicles in a massive map. For this reason, we included an Onslaugh and a Capture The Flag (CTF) map.

As with the other games, we conducted the benchmark using our time demos in the 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. All tests were done with the maximum detail settings selected. 2 bots were used on the Ons-Torlan map and 8 bots on the CTF-Bridge of Fate map. First, let's see the Onslaught game type test on the Torlan map.

Here, MSI's Ultra managed to keep a low profile but with a stable performance under all three resolutions.

Enabling the Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings, the FX5950U keeps the performance above 65 with 1024x768 and 1280x1024, but finally collapses to 45 when the resolution is upped to 1600x1200. Even though that is still acceptable, it's almost half the rate of the X800XT.

Except for the Onslaught game type, unreal T. 2004 also has the following game types: Assault, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Double Domination, Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion and Last Man Standing. I also used a Capture the Flag time-demo with the same high quality settings.The CTF map I picked is the Bridge of Fate with 8 bots.

Both cards here performed equally well. With the framerate hovering at around 110, nothing can prevent you from having a nice Capture the Flag match with your buddies. We'll increase the image quality and re-examine the performance.

Excellent performance by both cards. With a small decrease of around 8 fps under 1024x768 and a framerate of 70 at 1600x1200, there's nothing you can do to bring the FX5950U to its knees.

12. Hitman Contracts

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Hitman Contracts

Agent 47 is holed up in a hotel somewhere in Paris. He has been shot and is heavily doped up on painkillers. He's in a ghastly state and is both hallucinating and suffering from nightmarish flashbacks. This is where the missions in Hitman: Contracts come into play, as each one is designed to be a flashback to a previous hit from 47's past.

Every mission in the game uses a structure that's similar to those in past Hitman games, thus giving you multiple objectives and multiple ways to achieve them. At his disposal, 47 has more than 30 firearms and a host of new melee weapons and attacks, including new sneak attacks for stealth killing.

To be honest, I expected more from the 3rd revision of this game. Even though I really enjoyed Hitman 1, I found boring and awkward the next 2 sequels. But Hitman: Contracts differs from the previous games for its awesome graphics. You have to play this game to see what I mean. I was staring in awe those fabulous weather effects, the likes of which I haven't seen in any other game.

But the real reason I drafted Hitman: Contracts into our benchmark suite is it's very requiring Post Filtering quality setting. This game uses a unique post filtering system with complicated blurring effects. And as you can see for yourselves, it really strains even the latest GPUs making it a very good benchmark.

- Benchmarking Settings
Unfortunately, the game doesn't have a decent benchmark process or a demo recording capability. Thus, I played manually a part of a stage that I found suitable. The stage is named "Beldingford Manor" and it has very spectacular rain effects. For the sake of VGA benchmarking, Agent 47 storms at a Scottish manor eliminating whatever gets in his way.

Firstly, I played the stage in 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions without having the quality settings (post filtering, anisotropic) enabled. I played again the same stage doing the same thing, but this time with Anisotropic and high Post filtering settings enabled.

The FX5950 Ultra shows some of its quality in this benchmark. It can even output quite high fps at 1600x1200 resolution. Compared to the Asus beast, it's still close enough, which makes amends for some of the previous tests.

Here, the FX card shows it can keep up and give some good framerates at 1024x768 and 1280x1024. Both playable with average fps of over 25 in contrast to 1600x1200, where you can almost count the frames as they refresh on the screen.

13. X2: The Threat

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X2: The Threat

Trade your way through the space lanes and achieve mogul status.
Fight your way through dozens of interlinked missions within an all-new storyline.
Build your empire of stations and ships across the Universe.
Think if your next move could be your last as the Universe reacts to your actions.

A first person space experience designed for today's game players with sound and graphics to match.
Discover new worlds and races, become a trader, bounty hunter, pirate, miner or a cunning combination of them all.
The uneasy peace that befalls the Universe is about to be broken...
Can you meet the Threat head on?

Yes, this game is as good as it sounds. If you enjoyed freelancer, then you will fall in love with X2: The Threat. Apart for it's vast universe environment, perfectly suitable for countless space explorations, this game also includes a very remarkable 3D engine. Also, it's full support of Antiliasing and Anisotropic filtering settings makes it a good reference for testing the capabilities of latest generation VGA cards.

For our tests, I used a benchmark of X2 that I found on the net, and believe me, it is very demanding even for the high-end chipsets currently available.

Here, we got similar performance for both cards with the difference between ranging between 11 up to 18 fps.

When we increased the quality settings for X2: the threat, we noticed a drop of exactly 18 fps with the FX5950U. Yet, we're still satisfied since it never fell under 25fps.

14. Halo

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Halo is a sci-fi shooter that takes place on a mysterious alien ring-world. Packed with combat, Halo will have you battling on foot, and in vehicles, inside and outdoors with Alien and Human weaponry. Your objective: to uncover Halo's horrible secrets and destroy mankind's sworn enemy, the Covenant.

The game supports the latest shader technology of pixel shaders 2.0. Of course the graphics are somewhat better on a PC than an Xbox, since most of the game's shader effects have been redesigned to support the latest 2.0 shaders in DX9. Having in mind that there are few games supporting 2.0 pixel shaders, Halo is a good test for VGA card performance with shader technology.

A prominent disadvantage of the game, is its lack of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering support. If you get the strange idea to enable these settings via the control panel of your card, you will experience no difference in graphics quality as well as slowing things down and losing performance.

- Halo Benchmark

For the Halo benchmark, I set the default settings with pixel shaders 2.0 in the following resolutions: 1024x768, 1280x1024 and the awesome 1600x1200. I used the time-demo command to execute the default benchmark sequence and here are the results.



On Halo, the X800XT seems almost undisturbed by the successive increase in resolution, whereas MSI's Ultra drops significantly, just staying above 25 fps. Still, gameplay is very smooth with the first 2 resolutions and you'll get to enjoy every part of the game.

15. Tomb Raider: Angel of darkness

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Tomb Raider: Angel of darkness

A series of grisly murders brings Lara into conflict with a sinister Alchemist from the past, and a secret alliance of powerful individuals shrouded in mystery. Accused of the murder of her one time mentor, Werner Von Croy, Lara becomes a fugitive on the run. Pursued by the police, she follows the Alchemist into a dark world of blood, betrayal and vengeance where it is up to her to defeat this unholy alliance, and stop them from unleashing their incredible powers on the world.

Angel of Darkness employs a brand new engine with Lara now made up of over 5,000 polygons as opposed to just 500 in previous Tomb Raider games. The range of special effects create a batch of cool visuals.

From the many types of water (mercurial liquid forms, good surface texturing, and realistic pools of water) to fire (heat blurs and colorful, fiery pits), to the game's many light effects (lots of shadowing, multiple light sources and effective reflections), Core mixes more realistic settings with special effects to create a well-rounded whole. It is worth mentioning though that Tomb Raider: AOD, uses pixel shader 2.0 technology to a higher extent than Halo does.

- Tomb Raider:AOD Benchmark

I recorded a time-demo on the Paris stage. The particular scene where the time-demo was recorded, is full with complicated fire effects. This benchmark stresses a lot the cards pixel shading processes and I believe it is the most stressful pixel shader 2.0 game benchmark.

We grabbed the fps from the time-demo twice. Once with the Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering off (Trilinear was used instead), and once more with AA at 4x and Anisotropic Filtering mode enabled from the game's settings console.

The game is only playable under 1024x768 with the FX5950 which shows how badly it processes pixel shader 2.0 effects. Let's see if it can keep that above 25 fps with 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering.

Yes it did, barely. 27 fps might not be enough to enjoy playing the game, but then again you can opt out some quality settings like turning off AA and choosing 8x for AF.

16. Overclocking

MSI FX5950 Ultra - Page 16


The MSI FX5950 Ultra edition isn't much of an overclocker. It's not that we didn't get the clocks to run much faster, but the difference we got in Doom 3 and Far Cry benchmarks was not so great. Using RivaTuner, we pushed the core speed from 475MHz to 540MHz and the memory clock from 950MHz to 1.04GHz. Let's see the results:

Doom 3 got a boost of around 4 frames per second

Far Cry performance improved by 3fps.

I knew the memory would go beyond 1GHz but I had a false hope that suddenly the FX5950U would surprise us somehow by being a really good overclocker. Instead, whenever I set the clocks higher than 540MHz and 1.04GHz, the card would get unstable and lock up the system for some time (indicating a way too high core speed) or produce artifacts (too fast a memory clock).

I guess the flower-like heatsinks that are provided, do not do such a good job, other than keeping the card cool only at the predefined range of frequencies, which is fair enough. However, it makes up for it by being an ultra-quiet solution.We have to give credit to MSI for that. Even though the computer case that we ran our tests on was open all the time, we couldn't discern any noise at all coming from the AGP card.

17. Conclusion

MSI FX5950 Ultra - Page 17


The generation gap between the MSI FX5950 Ultra and the new generation graphics cards is obviously huge. The FX product line reached a dead end and now the future belongs to Geforce 6 for NVIDIA.

MSI's FX5950U simply doesn't justify the amount of money it costs (around $450) when compared to a product with an FX5900XT chip on board.

However, it's still a very good graphics card that can probably deliver more than your computer can handle on some of the most popular games.

Sure, the packaging is nice and the software bundle is very impressive, but let's face it: when the user is looking to buy a new VGA card, he wants to get the most bang for his buck and the FX5950 Ultra is really not worth as much as it costs.

To discuss this card further or to discuss it with other users, go to our forum.

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