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BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB

BFG Technologies has been producing NVIDIA-based video cards for a few generations of NVIDIA’s chips. The company’s latest and highest performing offering is the Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB. It’s a solid performer and has good looks, for a relatively good price. Read the review to find out more about BFG’s topnotch graphics board.

Introduction


Some of our readers may only know of BFG Technologies as this year’s proud sponsor of Bjorn3D’s Hack-o-Lantern contest. In case you fall into that category, here’s a couple sentences from their website that I’m sure they’d want you to know about them:

“BFG Technologies is a privately held U.S. based supplier of premium ASYLUM™ brand 3D video cards based on award-winning NVIDIA graphics technology. The employees of BFG Tech are dedicated to bringing the latest high quality, high-tech multimedia products to PC and gaming enthusiasts at competitive prices.”

Today, we get to take a look at their highest performing product, the Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB. Like many of the other companies offering NVIDIA-based solutions, BFG seems to try to differentiate some of their products with unique cooling solutions. I think this board has their best looking and probably best performing cooler yet. It resembles the one that was on the BFG 5900 board, but this time BFG’s engineers have employed a heatpipe design for more efficient cooling.


Specifications & Features

Besides the specs and features listed below, BFG offers free 24/7 technical support and a lifetime warranty on the products it sells. For more information on these policies check out BFG’s Tech Support web page.

Specifications:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
  • Bus Type: AGP
  • Memory: 256 MB DDR
  • Core Clock: 475 MHz
  • Memory Clock: 950 MHz (effective)
  • RAMDAC: Dual 400 MHz
  • API Support: Microsoft DirectX 9.0, OpenGL
  • Connectors: VGA, DVI, S-Video out

Features:

  • ASYMLUM custom heatpipe with dual lighted fans
  • AGP 8X (compatible with 4X and 2X AGP 2.0 compliant slots)
  • Up to 8 pixels per clock rendering engine
  • Up to 16 textures per pass
  • NVIDIA CineFX 2.0 engine
  • NVIDIA nView multi-display technology
  • NVIDIA UltraShadow technology

Package Contents:

  • Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card
  • Quick Install Manual
  • DVI to VGA connector
  • Installation CD:
    • NVIDIA ForceWare graphics driver
    • NVIDIA Geforce FX and GeForce 4 demos
    • Full installation manual PDF file
    • NVIDIA NVDVD 2.0 multimedia software
    • Windowblinds BFG/Asylum Windows XP skins

Front of the Box

Back of the Box

Driver CD and Other Stuff

Cables and Connectors



Installation


Even though the Asylum 5950 Ultra is a two slot solution, like most (or all) 5900 Ultra and 5950 Ultra boards, it was easy to get the board plugged into the test system. BFG supplied NVIDIA’s latest (at the time the board was released) public drivers (ForceWare 52.16) on the installation disc. Installing these drivers was as easy as it should be, and, with a reboot, everything was ready to go. Below are some more pictures of the board for your viewing pleasure. As you can see the cooling unit is quite nice on this board.

BFG also provides the tech demos NVIDIA likes to use to show off the power of the GeForce line of GPUs. Of course, these are not very useful, but they do provide a “wow, look what my video card can do” factor. Luckily, BFG decided to provide some useful software on this disc as well. There is NVDVD 2.0 for all your DVD (and other multimedia) playing needs and a video capture driver for, well, capturing video that you feed into the board’s video input. I’ve never used or seen NVDVD, so I decided to install it and watch part of “X2: X-Men United” with it. The video looked great, and the audio was just as good. NVDVD can also be used to listen to your digital music library or view your image collections.

Performance


For all the benchmarks in this review, I used the settings in the application every time the appropriate ones were available. In all other cases, I utilized the driver to make the adjustment.

Unfortunately, I did not have a Radeon 9800 XT, the 5950 Ultra’s market competitor, for this review. I decided the next best thing would be to compare the BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra to a board it is meant to supplant and its main competitor. That way you can see what you are getting from the latest and greatest from NVIDIA and BFG.

Test System:

  • Motherboard: Leadtek nForce2 Ultra400 Deluxe Limited (review)
  • Processor: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ (Barton) – overclocked to 3200+
  • Memory: 512 MB Corsair XMS PC2700 DDR-SDRAM (CMX512-2700C2)
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital 80GB ATA100 HDD (8MB Buffer – WD800JB)
  • Optical Drive: Plextor PlexWriter PX-W1610A (16x/10x/32)
  • Video Cards:
    • Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB
    • Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH MyVIVO 256MB (GeForce FX 5900 Ultra)
    • BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB
  • Power Supply: Enermax EG465P-VE(FC) 460W (review)
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP (with Service Pack 1)

Video Card Drivers:

  • ATI Drivers: Catalyst 3.9
  • NVIDIA Drivers: ForceWare 52.16
  • DirectX Version: 9.0b

3DMark03 (version 3.2.0)

Video Card
3DMarks
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB5954
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB5635
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB5652
1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB2734
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB2621
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB2630

Codecreatures Benchmark Pro (version 1.0.0)

I ran the “Official Benchmark” in Codecult’s Codecreatures benchmark. This runs the benchmark using resolutions 1024×768, 1280×1024, and 1600×1200 in a batch to produce the official score.

Video Card
Official Score
4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB1958
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB1892
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB1880

AquaMark3

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB43.4
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB39.5
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB42.3
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB38.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB34.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB37.3
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB32.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB28.0
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB31.6

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – Quality Level 3 AA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB30.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB32.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB30.1
1280×1024 – Quality Level 3 AA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB23.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB24.6
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB22.5
1600×1200 – Quality Level 3 AA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB18.2
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB19.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB17.5

Since the BFG 5950 Ultra is a later generation board than the other two in this comparison, it would seem fair to expect it to be the top performer in all of these benchmarks. However, that is not the case. The RADEON 9800 Pro still is the top dog when it comes to AquaMark3 with anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing enabled. In every other test, the BFG board comes out ahead; however, in most of them, I would have liked to see the performance lead be a little bigger. Maybe the 5950 Ultra will prove itself better in the game benchmarks.


Performance


For all Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmarking, I used HardOCP UT2K3 Benchmark version 2.1 and performed the “High Quality” benchmark each time. If you look at the Gun Metal charts below, you’ll notice the omission of the usual AF setting. That is because anisotropic filtering is always turned on in Gun Metal and cannot be disabled. Check out the developer Yeti Studios’ Gun Metal Benchmark FAQ for more information on this benchmark.

Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo – Antalus

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB175.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB178.2
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB178.9
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB155.1
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB142.5
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB151.3
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB116.8
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB101.4
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB112.5


Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB119.6
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB125.5
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB115.0
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB80.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB85.4
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB77.4
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB54.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB59.3
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB52.3

The results for the BFG 5950 Ultra in UT2K3 as compared to the RADEON 9800 Pro follow the same pattern that the 5900 Ultra did. The 5950 Ultra leads over the 9800 Pro until AA and AF are turned on. And remember, this is not even a 9800 XT, which would post even better numbers.

Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo – Asbestos

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB207.6
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB214.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB211.7
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB201.8
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB193.3
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB201.4
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB171.5
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB153.9
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB166.4


Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB165.0
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB173.5
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB161.2
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB118.1
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB119.6
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB113.4
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB86.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB87.8
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB82.5

Again, the 5950 Ultra leads in UT2K3 performance until AA and AF are turned on.

Gun Metal Benchmark 1

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – 4xAA
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB29.5
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB26.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB28.3
1280×1024 – 4xAA
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB24.1
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB20.3
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB23.1
1600×1200 – 4xAA
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB19.4
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB16.4
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB18.8

BFG’s 5950 Ultra extends the lead that the 5900 Ultra already had over the 9800 Pro. Nothing surprising at all.

X2 – The Threat Rolling Demo

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB59.4
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB54.0
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB58.5
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB41.1
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB35.4
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB40.5

For this benchmark, I simply turned off AA in the game settings and set AA and AF to application preference in the driver. Basically, in the game AA can only be turned on or off, so that is what I used to control AA for this benchmark.


Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – AA on / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB49.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB47.4
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB48.0
1600×1200 – AA on / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB33.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB29.7
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB32.2

Papyrus NASCAR 2003 Demo

Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB62.9
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB56.8
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB62.9
1280×1024 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB57.8
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB56.0
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB57.3
1600×1200 – NoAA / NoAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB50.7
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB54.2
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB49.7


Video Card
FPS
1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB32.3
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB52.7
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB31.4
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB22.5
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB56.1
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB21.8
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra 256MB16.1
Crucial RADEON 9800 Pro 256MB39.0
Leadtek A350 Ultra TDH 256MB16.3

I said this in my last review that featured these benchmarks (but not the 5950’s), but it’s worth repeating. I’m not sure if these numbers are accurate. I am simply reporting what was recorded using FRAPS, and I’m wondering if it was working right on these benchmarks. I repeated these runs, and got near the same results every time, so the results are repeatable, but I don’t know if they are reliable. I guess that’s the price we pay for relying on a third party tool. Even though I’m questioning the results, I decided to leave them in this review for reference.




Overclocking


I spent a little bit of time overclocking the BFG Asylum 5950 Ultra, and I was able to increase the stock clock speeds (core – 475 MHz, memory – 950 MHz) to 500 MHz for the core clock and 1.0 GHz (effective) for the memory clock. Not an astonishing overclock, but it stretches the performance of this card a little farther. With these settings, the BFG 5950 Ultra was able to hit 19.3 FPS in the AquaMark3 benchmark with Quality Level 3 anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering enabled at a resolution of 1600×1200. This is a 1.1 FPS, or about a 6% increase, which is about what we should expect from a 5% overclock. It also hit 25.5 FPS in Gun Metal Benchmark 1 at a resolution of 1280×1024, which is also about a 6% increase.

Conclusion


Performance

BFG’s Asylum GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB performs like a slightly overclocked 5900 Ultra, and that’s basically what it is. In most cases, it performs better than its older brother, the 5900 Ultra, and its (the 5900U’s) archrival, the 9800 Pro. A price search at the time of this review shows this board going for around $410. That’s a lot of money for a video card, but it’s a relatively good price for a topnotch video card that was recently released. For that much money, you get one of the highest performing video cards around. Not too shabby. One other important thing about this board is that this performance does not come at the expense of noise. As far as I could tell, the cooler on the board was not audible above the other noises in my case.

Bundle and Features

BFG gives the consumer everything they need to watch videos (DVD and other formats) and capture video. Of course, this just means cables and NVIDIA’s software, so it’s not exactly a big bonus. Unfortunately, the bundle does not include any games or anything fun really, unless you count NVIDIA’s demos as fun. The hardware features are a bit more exciting though. The cooler on this BFG board looks good and seems to perform adequately.

Pros:

  • Cool cooler
  • Fairly quiet
  • Not too bad of a price for NVIDIA’s and BFG’s top performer

    Cons:

  • Would like to see even better performance
  • Still a two slot solution (not that using the first PCI slot is a good idea anyway, but that’s beside the point)

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