NVIDIA's Back with NV35 - GeForceFX 5900 Ultraby Anand Lal Shimpi on May 12, 2003 8:53 AM EST
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What stood out the most about NVIDIA was how some of their best people could look us in the eye and say "we made a mistake" (in reference to NV30). When we first saw NV35 running last year we already had a much better taste in our mouths than what had been left after NV30; now after putting it through its paces, we can honestly say that NV35 is everything that was right about NV30 plus everything that was lacking in NVIDIA's first FX GPU.
The combination of a 256-bit memory bus, a more efficient architecture and more mature drivers has made this second round a lot stronger for NVIDIA. The balance of power has been shifted back towards NVIDIA, and with their driver problems solved the potential for NVIDIA to make a comeback across all market segments is quite high.
The Doom3 performance of the NV35 is definitely promising, especially considering that we benchmarked with an un-optimized driver. However a lot can change between now and the release of the game, it will be interesting to see how quickly ATI will incorporate Doom3 optimizations into their current drivers in the event that we get another such opportunity to benchmark Doom3 in the near future.
At a $499 price tag, the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra is extremely hard to justify, but the $299 and $399 parts may be interesting depending on the final clock speeds that NVIDIA decides upon. Quite possibly the most exciting part of today's launch is the release of NVIDIA's Detonator FX drivers that have finally solved the anisotropic filtering issues we were shocked to have with NVIDIA's hardware in the past. Later this week we will bring you a comparative review detailing the performance of all of the anisotropic filtering modes as well as a better idea of exactly how much performance the new Detonator FX drivers will bring you.
The new shipping GeForceFX 5600 Ultra with a flip chip package is also an intriguing possibility, as we expect it to be able to give the Radeon 9600 Pro much more competition than the original 5600 Ultra. This situation where the shipping product is much improved over the originally reviewed product is all too reminiscent of the Radeon 9500 Pro, whose performance changed dramatically after our initial performance preview. We will see in the coming weeks how the final 5600 Ultra stacks up across the board.
From the ATI camp the $499 Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, just like the NV35, is a difficult purchase to justify; even more difficult in this case because the GeForceFX 5900 Ultra does outperform it in a number of tests. The benefit of 256MB of memory is quite small right now, and the price premium is definitely not worth it. We'd also honestly hope that the issues we encountered with our Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB board were limited to our board alone, and aren't representative of ATI running their memory out of spec.
There are rumors of an answer to NVIDIA's NV35 in the works for an introduction in the relatively near future based on the R3xx architecture. We'd assume this NV35 competitor to remain a 0.15-micron part, but with higher core clock speeds and maybe a few micro-architectural tweaks/enhancements to gain the performance edge on NVIDIA.
The next-generation of games are finally on their way, and it looks like we'll have an extremely powerful set of cards to choose from when titles like Doom3, Half-Life 2 and Deus Ex2 hit later this year.