The Card in Detail
What kind of review would it be from us if we didn't give you a look at the new nVidia offering?
First off we have a look at the card itself. This is by far the largest card nVidia has ever produced. Using a 6 layer PCB, the reference FX5900 Ultra is defiantly a card you need a lot of space for. nVidia has confirmed that this is not the final size and retail cards will come out smaller than the one we have here, this is defiantly good news.
With the size of the card and the heatsink unit, the reference card is a lot fatter than most, in fact users of the ABIT OTES systems will understand. The unit takes up one PCI slot so your will loose PCI1 on most motherboards. The unit also requires you to place screws in the AGP and PCI1 backplane lock downs. This lets you know you can't use PCI1 at all.
nVidia have done this as protection for users. According to Steve Sims in our conference call with nVidia, they've purposely taken up PCI1 to stop users shorting out their cards. Since you could probably squeeze a card in PCI1 the chances of it touching the FX5900 Ultra are high.
The cooling solution which nVidia uses on the FX5900 Ultra while as large as the NV30, it is far quieter than its predecessor. Producing around 38db it is much quieter than the 70db that the 5800 Ultra cards produced. The heat that the NV35 core generates is much higher than any previous chip that nVidia has released. This required a much larger cooling solution on the GPU. Taking up an extra PCI slot is one of the disadvantages of this solution, however, 90% of users out there don't populate PCI1 so it won't be a big issue for many.
The cooler itself if a three piece unit - First on the front of the card you have the fan area, this is held onto the card with push pins, removal of these reveals the NV35 GPU as pictured below. On the back of the card you have four screws holding the rear heatsink onto the memory which screws into the front Ramsinks to hold them in place, once removed this shows the bare essentials of the card.
Under the massive heatsink is the largest GPU core we have ever seen from nVidia. From our photo you can see that the core is only a reference sample with NV35 printed on it rather than GeForce FX 5900. Designed on the Flip Chip design this core now is able to dissipate heat much more efficiently than the 5800 Ultra which should be seen as a delight to all of us.
Totalling 256MB of memory onboard, 16 TinyBGA memory modules are included which is the most we have ever seen on any card in the past. nVidia uses Samsung 2.2ns TinyBGA DDR-I memory in a 256bit interface to accomplish a huge bandwidth boost over the FX5800 series - finally something done right.
Power consumption of the FX 5900 over the 5800 has increased very slightly. nVidia provides a four pin Molex connector to allow you to give the card the extra power it requires. Onboard you can see some very serious power regulation schemes put into place to deliver a clear signal to the FX 5900.