Prolink GeForceFX 5200 Video Card Review

We've been hearing about the new nVidia GeForceFX boards for some time now, but what about those who just can't afford to go without a month's rent to get the latest and greatest? Come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he shows the way of the "Budget GeForceFX", namely the Prolink GeForceFX 5200. It offers the new technology at a bargain basement price, but can it do what we want it to? There is only one way to find out!
Published Sun, May 25 2003 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 85%Manufacturer: Prolink
IntroductionFor several years Prolink has been in the market of manufacturing components aimed at graphics and multimedia. Whether you're looking for a TV card, a new graphics board with the latest nVidia chipset or accessories for your PDA, odds are good that Prolink has something for you.With all the buzz going on regarding the new GeForceFX based video boards, we saw performance numbers soar to heights that have only been dreamed of in the past...and all for the price of a month's wages or more. What about the user who wants workable 3D performance but doesn't have the cash to give up rent for a month?Enter the Prolink GeForceFX 5200 video board. It claims to be able to bring 3D graphics to the masses at a cost that won't leave you wondering where your next meal is going to come from. So sit back and we'll see if it can live up to this concept.
In The Box
When we first heard about the GeForceFX, we didn't realize that there would be a budget line in this new technology. With all the talk concerning DDR-II memory and 1GHz operating speeds, the thought of this coming in a value range just wasn't even a consideration. But the folks at nVidia realized that not everyone could afford this new marvel in graphics performance. As a matter of fact, MOST folks wouldn't be able to afford it. So they created a more reasonably priced graphics chipset that was still based on the newer technologies, but also offered standard memory and features that would keep it in line of what the majority of buyers could afford.With this in mind, manufacturers jumped aboard the GeForceFX bandwagon and began making graphics cards using all of these new GPUs to keep the public in the loop of the latest and greatest designs being offered.Prolink has long been manufacturing boards using the nVidia graphics, so it came as no surprise when the FX5200 came into existence. But when you think of a value board, you tend to think that it will be nearly as bare as a white-box item. But this isn't necessarily the case with the Prolink board. As you can see above, we get a good deal more software than we would plan to see in this type of product as well as added cables that will enable you to use the TV-Out features available with this board.
And speaking of the software package, lets take a closer look. You get a driver disk (of course), WinDVD v4, V-Rally 2 Expert Edition and two disks containing some demos from Infogrames. And while the demos are available online, it is nice not to have to spend the time to download them. After all, with these demos going as high as 300+MB in size, there is a definite time element saved here.Included in the demo pack are UT2003, Monopoly Tycoon, Deadly Dozen 2, Neverwinter Nights and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. And you can expect to see these games in all their 3D glory if you have the system specs to run them.
The Card
When looking at the front of the board, it looks similar in nature to many other video boards that I have seen from the Prolink production lines. This actually is a good thing since you won't have to worry about the sound of a vacuum cleaner inside your case. Since this was one of the biggest downfalls to the new GeForceFX line, it is good to see that it won't be an issue with this model.
It was also good to see that the ports that normally adorn Prolink boards are all still intact. We have seen in the past that just because a certain chipset technology supports a feature, this in no way implies that every manufacturer will use it. You will have full access to a standard 15-pin monitor port, a digital monitor port to handle those chores if you have gone the way of the LCD, and an S-Video port to allow you to port the images from your system to a television. This has become quite popular when used in conjunction with a DVD player. Toss the movie in and port the image to a big screen TV set.
Looking at the memory shows us some Samsung modules offering no less than 128MB of onboard graphics memory. And while the memory used is only of the 4.0ns variety, we have to remember that this is a budget video card and not designed to run at breakneck speeds.
One thing that has changed is the presence of memory modules on the back of the video board. Whether there are concerns of cooling or just the desire for a cleaner look, the Prolink FX5200 has gone "Old-School" and put all of the modules on the front of the board.
TestingSo you want to see how well this low cost alternative board performs when playing? Well so do we! But first we'll look at the testing methods and platform.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.But before we go any further, its time to look at the test rig.Motherboard: Soltek SL-75MRN-L (nForce2 chipset)Processor: Athlon XP 1800+ @ 1870MHz (Thoroughbred)Memory: 1024MB Crucial PC2700 DDRDisplay: Hitachi SuperScan 814 21" CRTHard Drive: Seagate Barracuda IV 40GBResults - 3DMark2001SE
So far it seems that the FX5200 board is falling behind even the older technologies, but remember, this is a budget board so it would be unfair to think that it can beat out everything else out there.
One test that I have grown fond of in this little package is the Nature test. It is one of the best ways to attempt to drown out a video board with sheer data. Considering that many games are coming up with frame rates approaching (and beating) the 300 FPS mark, it is a pleasant surprise to find something that can't go that high simply because there is too much data to display at one time.So we look at the Nature test and see that while the results still lag behind other boards available, it still ranks at a level that isn't totally beyond the realm of consideration.Results - 3DMark03
One nice thing about this particular graphics chipset is the native support of DirectX 9. As you'll surely remember, the GeForce4 line didn't support this, not even the highly vaunted Ti4600 boards. So it wasn't unexpected that the lower horsepower of the FX5200 board was still able to achieve a higher overall score in the newest 3DMark utility to hit the streets.Unreal Tournament 2003 DemoWhen 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
Here we begin to see what we can expect in an actual gaming environment. While it is obvious that it isn't the fastest thing on the block, it also shows a very playable frame rate during the testing. If you happen to be on a tight budget and still want playable frame rates, there looks to be something to be said for the FX5200.Results - UT2003 Demo Botmatch
When we began testing with this benchmark, we were seeing that the higher settings and movement on screen was doing a good job of forcing a card to work at its highest level. Considering this concept, we can see that the difference in actual frame rates is marginal at best when we throw the kitchen sink into the mix. The Botmatch benchmark uses all the best settings to make the visual experience everything that it can be. Not too shabby.
OverclockabilityBeing on a budget doesn't necessarily equate to cheap. With modern components and the art of Overclocking, we can often get a good deal more performance out of our toys when we tweak them a bit. Using the CoolBits registry hack, I was able to easily overclock this card to give it a little better performance.If you'll recall my thoughts on overclockability, you'll remember that I only go as high as the board allows without any graphical artifacts. This means that when I give you overclocking results, this is the highest that I was able to attain without any sort of visual glitches of any sort.That said, this FX5200 board from Prolink was able to run at a 310MHz core speed and a 585MHz memory speed. This is up from the default 275/500MHz speed from the factory. This shows an almost 13% gain on the core and an even 17% increase to memory speeds.ConclusionWe've talked about this graphics board being in the budget category, but we haven't yet talked about the actual price. Doing a little research I was able to find this same FX5200 board for as low as US$79! Unless you are looking for a no-name OEM board, you would be hard pressed to find one of the 128MB Ti4200 boards for less than US$120, so we are talking about a decent amount of savings.Performance wise, we did notice that the numbers are a bit lacking, but then this board wasn't designed for those looking for the highest possible frame rates. It was built and created for those who are looking for a reasonably decent performing 3D graphics board at a more affordable price.One item of note, however, is 2D quality. When comparing quality of text between the nVidia line and the ATI line, the nVidia boards always seem to be a bit lacking. Not that the quality is terrible, but you won't get the same level of crispness to the text.Bottom line...If you are looking for 3D graphics that offers DirectX 9 compatibility, workable frame rates and a low price, then the Prolink GeForceFX 5200 is worth your consideration. While it won't give you blistering frame rates, it will be more than capable of meeting the needs of a gamer on a budget.- ProsExceptionally low priceGood 3D colorDirectX 9 compatibilityDecent software package- Cons2D quality a bit lackingFrame rates still far behind from Ti seriesRating - 8.5/10

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