All right, enough of the chatting. Lets get down to the business of performance.
Before we get deeply into the numbers that we all so eagerly wait for, lets take a quick peek at the test system:
Motherboard: Soltek SL-75MRN-L (nForce2 chipset)
Processor: Athlon XP 1800+ @ 1870MHz (Thoroughbred)
Memory: 1024MB Crucial PC2700 DDR
Display: Hitachi SuperScan 814 21" CRT
Hard Drive: Western Digital 80GB HDD
With all of the tests available, I try to maintain a small but workable inventory of benchmarking utilities. On top of that, I do my best to make sure that anyone can get these programs at no cost so that they can run the tests themselves on their own systems to gauge their own levels of performance with the test system. This allows us to be able to compare directly and help us when it comes down to making buying decisions. After all, don't we keep up with the latest and greatest in the hopes that it will be in our personal system some day?
Testing will include a trio of programs/utilities that are all available at no cost to anyone with an internet connection. This will include the tried and tested 3DMark2001SE from Futuremark (formerly MadOnion), the two benchmarking utilities available within the Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo and the newly released 3DMark03 from Futuremark. While the 3DMark03 benchmark isn't being weighed too heavily in this article, it is included for comparison sake to help give a more complete picture of the capabilities of the video board being tested.
Results - 3DMark2001SE
The victory by the Radeon board is expected as it is being used only as a reference point, but I was a little surprised to see such a large gap between the FX5600 board and the Ti4200. After all, this new FX5600 series is supposed to be the upgrade to this Ti series chipset.
But then, when it comes down to graphics rendering, we always revert back to the Nature test in this very testing suite. Shall we take a gander and see if the FX5600 is still outclassed?
While not a huge margin of victory, the FX5600 does manage to show that it isn't a total loss. With the sheer power needed to render the Nature scenes from this benchmark, we can see that there is promise for this board yet.
Results - 3DMark03
I include this particular benchmark just for completeness sake. With all the scathing remarks going around the web concerning the nVidia vs Futuremark fiasco, we won't put a whole lot of weight on the newest 3DMark program. But to omit it completely wouldn't be fair either. We want to show as complete a picture as possible where these new video boards are concerned, so we'll use the results and let the reader make up their own minds on how heavily to weigh the results.
That said, we see that while the DirectX 8 Ti4200 board scores terribly, there is a large gain between the budget FX5200 board and the middle of the road FX5600 board. As a matter of fact, the difference ends up being a very impressive 56.3% boost in overall scores. And debates about drivers aside, these two boards were tested using the same driver set so the results carry some merit. Is it possible that this FX5600 isn't the slug that it is being reported as being?
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
When you download the UT2003 Demo, it comes complete with a pair of built-in benchmarks. The first is called the Flyby Benchmark and consists of two demos that record a virtual tour of the levels. It is similar to being in Spectator Mode in the Quake series of games. During the virtual tour, it records the frames per second of each map and then gives you an average.
The second test is called the Botmatch Benchmark and consists of another pair of demos, this time with bots having a fragfest. Since there is movement involved with the characters on screen, this test will have a more drastic effect on the frame rates. This particular test also uses the best graphics settings it can to give the board a good workout. After the two demos have run, the program again calculates the average frames per second and displays the result.
Testing with the two methods above will be done at a resolution of 1024 x 768 x 32-bit color depth.
Results - UT2003 Demo Flyby
Again, we see that the older Ti4200 board handles the chores of Unreal Tournament with a bit more ease than the newer FX5600 counterpart. But then, this is strictly maps with no moving characters on the screen. So lets take a look at the Botmatch test to see if this becomes a trend.
Results - UT2003 Demo Botmatch
Here is a bit of a surprise, the FX5600 beating out even the Radeon 9700 Pro! It looks like there really is a bit of an advantage to having a whopping 256MB of memory after all.