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Gigabyte GeForce FX 5950 Ultra - Embracing nVidia, again

For our first review of 2004 we take a look at Gigabyte's very newest video card, the N595U based on nVidia's GeForce FX 5950 Ultra GPU. It has been quite some time since we've seen an nVidia based video card from Gigabyte ever since ATI turned up the heat around about 12 months ago. Gigabyte once again has embraced nVidia; let's see what they have come up with!
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Published Wed, Dec 31 2003 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Introduction

IntroductionIt is quite well known that the 3D battle for not only speed but market acceptance is now in full swing and with this we have the good news as well as bad news scenario for both the consumer and the manufacturer.While just a year ago, the only card to choose was an nVidia powered card - ATI, S3 and 3DFX were just not up to the standards. Now ATI has come into its own, S3 is in partnership with VIA and quitting the high-end video cards and well, 3DFX is now owned by nVidia. Quite simply, at this time it is a choice of either Radeon or GeForce FX in the high-end graphics department.Gigabyte has been one of my favourite up and comers in the hardware community, why? Simply put, they are diverse. Rather than put all their push onto the one product or chipset, Gigabyte give each a chance. If it doesn't perform, it doesn't make the final cut. This makes Gigabyte a much more diverse company then the likes of ASUS or ABIT who stick to the one make, rather than testing all of what is available.Gigabyte's graphics segment has been more a one sided affair ever since the GeForce 3 did not perform as well as expected, and ATI were looking for partners. Since then Gigabyte has pushed its ATI Radeon based card, today Gigabyte is expanding into the nVidia market.Seeing the original NV30 based core cards were more of a flop, it has taken the NV35 and NV38 cores from nVidia to convince Gigabyte to try nVidia again. Today they have taken the challenge nVidia has laid down to ATI with the GeForce FX 5950 GPU. Today in our first review for 2004 we take a look at Gigabyte's first nVidia card in over two years - Introducing the N595U from Gigabyte!

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Specifications

Specifications of the N595UChipsetnVidia GeforceFX 5950 Ultra GPUMemory Size256MBMemory Type256bit DDR2Cooling SystemVented External Cooling SystemMemory CoolingLinked RAMsinks actively cooled by GPU FanVideo InterfaceDVI, CRT, TV OutputSoftwareTomb RaiderRaven ShieldWill RockPower DVD 5.0Power Director 2.55

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Features

Features of the N595U- Package and Contents
Gigabyte is not using the Maya name for its nVidia based cards. Instead they are simply named GeForce FX under the new N5xxx name. The boxes are now in a creamy pink colour with one of the new fairies painted on the box with the model number on the front.Inside you get all you need in order to get yourself up and running. What you get is your User Manual, Driver CD, PowerDVD CD, Power Director CD, Game CDs, DVI to CRT converter and TV out cables for both S-Video and RCA.
- The CardGigabyte has based the N595U directly on the 5950 Ultra (or NV35) reference design in its PCB size and cooling design. The only major difference is the memory modules used.The nVidia 5950 Ultra reference cooling method is rather well designed. In fact it resembles something of the OTES cooling system ABIT introduced without the heatpipe system. A duct is placed over a rather odd looking fan and placed over the back of a heatsink sitting atop the NV35 core. This fan draws air from the case across the heatsink and is then vented out through the back of the case. This prevents a build up of heat inside the case and cools the GPU much more quickly than previous efforts.- The CoreWith all the heatsinks removed the unit looks almost identical to the original 5900.
In our first look at the 5950 reference card we were a bit surprised by the fact that the core was labelled 5900 Ultra. Now we see why. The package the GPU is encased in is identical to the 5900 Ultra. This means that it was just as simple for nVidia to use the 5900 GPU package for the 5950 core. This new revision has been marked properly and we are pleased to say performs above the reference design with some work by the folks at Gigabyte.
- The MemoryLike 99% of all video cards today, memory modules are located on both sides; this allows for more RAM to be added. The 5950 Ultra comes with 256MB of DDR2 memory in a 256-bit array. This means there are 8 modules on the front side and 8 on the back (which are passively cooled). On the back, the same memory plate is used that was first introduced on the 5900 Ultra. It is large with quite a few ridges to catch passing air to cool the modules more efficiently.The introduction of the 256-bit memory bus on the 5900 has been carried across and increases the memory bandwidth greatly over the 128-bit configuration that has served us in the past. Using DDR-2 memory allows for a faster memory interface as well as greater memory bandwidth. Unlike the nVidia reference card, Gigabyte has opted for the more popular and overclocker friendly Hynix memory modules. In DDR arrays it has shown to overclock much better than Samsung modules that were used on the reference cards.
With all this extra memory and higher clock frequencies, the 12v rail on the AGP bus isn't able to keep up with the power requirements. To combat this, the 4 pin Molex connector is included to deliver up to 20 amps directly from the PSU.
- TV OutputTV output has become a must have requirement for all video cards these days. Once only a luxury, it has now become a major flaw for removing the feature, and can result in a no sale. Gigabyte includes a Phillips and Silicon Image controller chip pair to give the best quality video output for TV output.Now that we've had a run down over the features, let's jump to the benchmarks!

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3GHz (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x Kingmax 256MB DDR-400 (Supplied by Kingmax Australia)Hard Disk: Western Digital WD80 7,200 RPM (Supplied by Techbuy)Motherboard: Gigabyte 8KNXP (Supplied by Gigabyte)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers: nVidia DetonatorFX 52.16Older nVidia drivers were used because we no longer have the nVidia reference card in our labs. Our apologies!3DMark033DMark 20003 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
The Gigabyte card pulls ahead of the nVidia reference card.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Code Creatures

Code CreaturesCode Creatures is a Synthetic benchmark based on Direct X 8 which gives users the chance to see another highly involved benchmark program. Focusing on 2 elements Grass and Water video cards are stressed to the limit resulting in quite low scoring benchmarks. Users get to see a more intensive side of DirectX 8 thanks to the engine behind Code Creatures.
Here we see the two cards on a more even score.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Comanche 4

Comanche 4Comanche 4 is a helicopter simulation using the DirectX 8.1 graphics interface. It is used to test the memory and 3D sub systems of a motherboard and video processor. Any weaknesses will show up through this intensive benchmark.
Gigabyte leads again.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Quake 3 Arena

Quake 3 ArenaQuake III Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a wide range of different products. Quake III is getting very old, but is still the best way of testing video and PC systems for any instabilities and best performance.
Quake 3 shows Gigabyte has put a great deal into its latest card offering.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Aquamark3

Aquamark3Aquamark3 is Massive Development's latest creation. This is the first time we have actually used any Aquamark benchmarks in our reviews. Aquamark3 is designed to run on the new DirectX 9 API's.
As the resolutions push on, the Gigabyte card pushes even further ahead.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Halo PC - Combat Evolved

Halo PC - Combat EvolvedHalo is another real world game/benchmark that is based on DirectX 9 API's.
Here there isn't as much of a difference between the two cards.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
Again the competitors are too close to call.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight onto the 3D and memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
Here the Gigabyte card wins out again.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Benchmarks - High Detail

High DetailAll tests were run with 4 times FSAA and 16 times Antistrophic Filtering enabled with the screen resolution set to 1024 X 768 @ 32 Bit.When running these aggressive detail settings in 1600 x 1200, games really do become unplayable and if people are after image quality they will have to drop the resolution back down to reach playable levels. 1024x768 was chosen as it is still the preferred playable resolution with these settings enabled.Aquamark3
Halo PC - Combat Evolved
Unreal Tournament 2003
Once again the crown belongs to Gigabyte.

Gigabyte 5950 Ultra - Conclusion

ConclusionIt has been hard for us to get excited by an nVidia card for quite some time. However, both 5950 and 5700 based cards seem to be doing a good job, and competition between ATI and nVidia gives us more of a chance of picking up a card at a cheaper price with plenty of power to boot as they both battle it out for number one spot.We have found the new N595U from Gigabyte to be a power house with a better optimised BIOS and a much better overclocking result. We managed a core speed of 630MHz DDR and a memory speed of 1.03GHz DDR without breaking a sweat - with some better cooling, who knows what can be achieved.Overall the power and the features of this video card from Gigabyte are great, but the 5950 Ultra does carry a big price tag. If you have deep pockets, the N595U is the one for you.- ProsFastHighly overclockableGreat games and software bundle- ConsExpensiveRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Performance Award

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