DVM's  GeforceFX 5600 Ultra - Radeon 9600 Pro Showdown


I would boil down my conclusions to four main items:

  1. The GeforceFX 5600 Ultra is a pretty big disappointment. Even with the fastest version available, costing well over $200 and running at borderline insane clockspeeds, this new card technology repeatedly fails to impress. The AA/AF implementation, while a big improvement over the Geforce4 technology, still lags the two Radeon cards in both speed and visual quality. And with AA & AF off, it actually gets beaten by the old GF4 Ti4200 on 3DMark2001 and the UT2003 "Flyby"! (To be fair, the Ti4200 beat the Radeon 9500 in several of these tests, too.) Based upon the results I obtained on this speed-enhanced Gainward Golden Sample card, I extrapolated what kind of performance could be expected for the baseline FX 5600. With the exception of the DX9-based 3DMark03 test, I estimate that it would run about on a par with the Ti4200 overall, and clearly slower with AA & AF off! Not very impressive for a new product, to say the least.

    That's not to say the Gainward card is without its attractive points. The DVI and VIVO features are a plus, and the card is AGP 8x capable. Also, the DirectX 9 compliance is a distinct advantage over the Ti4200. But the Ti4200 isn't the main competition....cards like the Radeon 9500 and 9600 series are, and they sell for $50 or so less. Considering it's speed enhancement and extra features, this would be a very attractive video card in the $150 - $175 range. Too bad it sells for $219 and up....

  2. The Radeon 9600 Pro is a very impressive mid-range card that performs well in almost every test, and overclocks very nicely, too. Powercolor has put together an excellent package with enhanced performance memory and a nice software bundle, and still comes in at a price point $40 below the Gainward "Golden Sample" card. To my mind, the 9600 Pro is the clear pick over the FX 5600 Ultra, if you're shopping for a new mid-range video card.

  3. The older Radeon 9500 product line is still looking awfully strong. The stock 9500 is a worthy competitor to the Gainward FX 5600 Ultra, even though it's 6+ months older and $70 cheaper. If you can still find the even faster 9500 Pro, you can expect to handily outperform the FX 5600. And consider what a bargain the 9500 becomes if you happen to find one that can be modified to run as a 9700! Just don't count on that, because there aren't many of those left....

  4. The Geforce4 Ti4200 has some life left in it yet! Considering that it is arguably two product generations old (keep in mind that Nvidia basically missed a generation with the NV30 delays), it still performs amazingly well. True, it won't handle the new DirectX 9 features, but that's really not a drawback yet. And don't expect to run the latest games at high resolutions with the AA & AF cranked up. But the card still handles basic 3D rendering extremely quickly, and it's a real BARGAIN these days. As mentioned previously, 64MB cards can still be found at a few places at well under $100, and the 128MB cards generally go somewhere in the $100 to $130 range. However, stocks appear to be drying up pretty quickly, so move fast if you want one of these older cards.

Updated Sept. 12, 2003

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