The Last Bout of ‘03 – NVIDIA’s GeForce FX 5700 Ultraby Derek Wilson on October 23, 2003 9:30 AM EST
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Our introduction to NV36 in the form of the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra has really been a different experience than we expected. We thought we would see similar gains on the 5600 that we saw the 5950 make over the 5900. We also didn't expect NVIDIA to drop the veil they've had on the technical aspects of their products.
From the first benchmark we ran, we knew this would turn out to be a very interesting turn of events. In going down to San Francisco for NVIDIA's Editor's Day event, we had planned on inquiring about just how they were able to extract the performance gains we will reveal in our benchmarks. We got more than we had bargained for when we arrived.
For the past few years, graphics companies haven't been very open about how they build their chips. The fast paced six month product cycle and highly competitive atmosphere (while good for consumers) hasn't been very conducive to in depth discussions of highly protected trade secrets. That's why we were very pleasantly surprised when we learned that NVIDIA would be dropping their guard and letting us in on the way NV35 (including NV36 and NV38) actually works. This also gives us insight into the entire NV3x line of GPUs, and, hopefully, gives us a glimpse into the near future of NVIDIA hardware as well.
Aside from divulging a good amount of technical information, NVIDIA had plenty of developers present (a response to ATI’s Shader Day, no doubt). For the purposes of this article, I would like to stick to the architectural aspects of the day rather than analyzing NVIDIA developer relations. It isn't a secret that NVIDIA spends a great deal of time, energy, and money on assisting game developers in achieving their graphical goals. But we believe that "the proof is in the pudding" so to speak. The important thing to us (and we hope to the general public) isn't which developers like and dislike working with an IHV, but the quality of the end product both parties produce. Truth be told, it is the developer's job to create software that works well on all popular platforms, and its the IHV's job to make sure there is sufficient technical support available for developers to get their job done.
We should note that NVIDIA is launching both the NV36 (GeForce FX 5700 Ultra) and the NV38 (GeForce FX 5950 Ultra) today, but since we have already covered the 5950 in our previous roundups we will focus on the 5700 Ultra exclusively today.
First let us look at the card itself.