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Albatron GeForce FX5700 Ultra 128 MB DDRII

The Albatron FX5700 Ultra is probably the best-looking video card I’ve ever had the privilege of reviewing. It’s a full DirectX 9.0 card, and it’s a good performer with a street price under $200 US.

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Introduction


The Albatron FX5700 Ultra is probably the best-looking video card I’ve ever had the privilege of reviewing. It’s a full DirectX 9.0 card, and it’s a good performer with a street price under $200 US.

This baby has 3 fans, 2 of which run all the time, and the third, temperature-controlled fan acts as a safety backup in case either of the primary fans conks out or the GPU begins overheating. It’s nice to see some innovation (even if it’s just the cooling system); so many video boards are just plain “reference cards” these days.

The Albatron box is covered with shiny foil which is hard to photograph, but I think this shot turned out well.

The box is sturdy, and the contents were well protected. What more can I say? Let’s open the box and take a look inside…

This card comes with a reasonable bundle too. There are 4 CDs: A driver disk, WinDVD Creator, Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, and a GAMEPACK CD which includes demos of the following games: Age of Wonders II: The Wizard’s Throne, Max Payne, Zax, BeamBreakers, and Rally Trophy. Not many people buy video cards for the games, but it’s nice to get a few freebies anyway. Besides, I haven’t played several of these games yet, so I might actually try one or two the next time I get bored.

Of course there’s a manual, and it’s really decent. It covers the Albatron’s entire FX line, hardware and software installation. It’s written in both English and Chinese (I think). The best part is that the English section is written by someone who can actually speak English. That’s a refreshing change from some of the manuals I’ve read lately!

There’s a good selection of cables: S-Video, RCA video, and a S-video to RCA female adapter cable. A case badge rounds out the bundle. Unfortunately, there’s no DVI to VGA adapter, so you need to buy your own, if you plan to hook up 2 analog monitors to this card.

Specifications


GPU:

GeForce FX 5700 ULTRA

Memory Size:

128MB DDR II

Memory Bus:

128bit

Engine Clock:

475MHz

RAMDAC:

400MHz

Max. Resolution:

2048×1536@85Hz

Bus Standard:

AGP 8X / 4X

VGA Output:

Yes

TV Tuner:

No

TV-out:

Yes

VIVO(Video-in.Video Out):

No

DVI:

Yes

Click HERE for the full specs. You may be wondering why the memory clock speed was omitted from the table above. So am I. It was not listed in the official specs on Albatron’s web site. According to the NVIDIA drivers, the memory clock frequency defaults to 906 MHz. Since that value is doubled due to the DDR memory, the actual memory clock is 453 MHz.

Features


  • Powered by NVIDIA GeForce FX5700 Ultra GPU
  • CineFX 2.0 Engine supports DirectX9.0 & OpenGL1.5
  • NVIDIA Intellisample High-resolution Compression Technology
  • NVIDIA UltraShadow Technology
  • AGP 8X with AGP Texturing and Fast Writes
  • Integrated Full Hardware MPEG-2 Decoder
  • D-Sub, TV-out and DVI Ports
  • Supports nView Technology

The Card


The Albatron FX5700 is one fine-looking card. The 2+1 fan cooling system makes this card really stand out. There are 3 quiet fans, two of which run all the time, while the third is temperature-controlled and acts as a backup if one of the other two fans ever dies. The ‘extra’ fan powers up when the temperature exceeds 55 degrees Celsius. It also means that this board should be a good overclocker, which I’ll examine later in this review. This card looks mighty cool too (if you’ll pardon the pun), especially when installed in your case and the blue LED lights up.

The board is sturdy and well-built. There are plenty of large capacitors to regulate the power input from the extra molex (hard drive type) connection on the right. Like many of today’s higher-end video cards, the Albatron requires more power than the AGP slot can provide.

That’s one heck of a heat-sink on the front of the card! However, there’s a very thick layer of thermal material between the RAM and the front heatsink. A better design would bring the heatsink closer to the RAM, since too much thermal material can act as a thermal insulator.

The fans on the front keep the front side of this card do keep it nice and cool, but what about the back?

There are RAM heatsinks on the back, as expected. The rear heatsinks are not just for show; they do get fairly warm (but not too hot to touch). That’s to be expected since it’s using DDRII RAM. There is no fan on the back side of the card, however, it’s not really necessary since the RAM does not get hot enough to actually require a rear fan.

Installation


Here’s a shot of the board, just after I installed it. Notice that this board only requires a single slot. While I recommend that 1 or 2 of the PCI slots adjacent to the AGP (video card) slot are left empty (so that ventilation is maximized), it’s nice when the video card does not actually occupy two slots. One slot is a definite plus for those who have a small / cramped case.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that I initially neglected to attach power to the molex connector on the right. Luckily, if you forget to install the extra power connection, the drivers will remind you to hook it up.

The Albatron FX5700 Ultra looks very pretty when its fancy heatsink is lit up by its blue LED. If you have a case window and are looking for an attractive graphics card, this board certainly deserves your consideration.

The Albatron FX5700 Ultra is a much larger card than the 9600 Pro that I’ll be benchmarking it against. It requires an extra power connection too. Since it uses more power, it also puts out more heat. It’s also nearly twice as heavy: The Albatron weighs 11.2 oz (319 g) vs. the Radeon which only weighs 5.6 oz (161 g). That’s something you might want to consider if you plan on lugging your system to LAN parties.

Both of these cards were easy to install; however, the Albatron does require one extra step. It’s an easy step, but it’s also easy to forget. Like many of the newest graphics boards, there is a molex (hard drive type) connector, which must be plugged into the system’s power supply. The right angle connector is a better design than some of the boards out there, which use a somewhat awkward forward-facing design. Make sure you have a spare molex on your power supply or pick up a Y connector when you buy this card.

Both of these boards are fairly quiet. I cannot hear either one over my other case fans, once the computer case is closed.

Benchmarks / Performance


System Configuration

The video cards in this review are:

The video drivers used in this review are:

  • ATI Catalyst version 3.10 drivers, TRUEFORM was set to the default (OFF)
  • NVIDIA Detonators version 53.04, the latest publicly available for Windows ME

All benchmark scores were rendered at the highest quality settings (in the game/benchmark and in the video card drivers), with 4x antialiasing, 8x anisotropic filtering, and sync to vertical retrace turned off, unless otherwise noted. Many of the following scores were gathered using BenchemAll, an excellent benchmark utility program.

No synthetic benchmark is a perfect substitute for running real games (and other applications) on your own system, but personally, I do believe that synthetic benchmarks fill a few legitimate needs, such as running antialiasing and filtering tests in a highly repeatable environment. However, real game benchmarks are the best test of real-world performance, so I ran some of those too.

3DMark2001SE Pro – Build 330

1024×768 – 4xAA/8xAF
 GPU
 3DMarks
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 7902
Connect3D Radeon Pro 6467

The Albatron FX5700 Ultra wins the first challenge, 3DMark2001 SE (at 1024×768 4xAA 8xAF).

AquaMark version 3.0 Final

1024×768 – NoAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 26.92
Connect3D Radeon Pro 24.86
1280×1024 – NoAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 20.34
Connect3D Radeon Pro 18.55
1600×1200 – NoAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 15.75
Connect3D Radeon Pro 13.99

AquaMark

1024×768 – 2xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 22.50
Connect3D Radeon Pro 22.75
1280×1024 – 2xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 16.38
Connect3D Radeon Pro 16.81
1600×1200 – 2xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 12.41
Connect3D Radeon Pro 12.28

AquaMark

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 19.24
Connect3D Radeon Pro 21.02
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 13.80
Connect3D Radeon Pro 15.52
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 10.54
Connect3D Radeon Pro 10.22

The Albatron FX5700 Ultra starts off with a small lead when antialiasing is turned off, but the Radeon wins most of the 2x and 4x antialiasing benchmarks. At 1600×1200 2xAA and 4xAA, it’s basically a tie.

Unreal Tournament 2003 – ver. 9/14/2002 – Flyby

1024×768 – 4xAA/8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 89.166225
Connect3D Radeon Pro 78.046967
1280×960 – 4xAA/8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 61.722281
Connect3D Radeon Pro 55.111996
1600×1200 – 4xAA/8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 42.465305
Connect3D Radeon Pro 25.901670

The maps used for the UT2003 tests were Antalus and Asbestos.

Unreal Tournament 2003 – Botmatch

1024×768 – 4xAA/8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 56.370920
Connect3D Radeon Pro 51.735796
1280×960 – 4xAA/8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 45.077950
Connect3D Radeon Pro 38.141471
1600×1200 – 4xAA/8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 31.913169
Connect3D Radeon Pro 18.904220

The FX5700 Ultra is the obvious winner in the UT2003 benchmarks.

NASCAR Racing 2003 Season Demo – ver 1.0.0.1 (average FPS determined by FRAPS ver 1.9D)

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 20.567
Connect3D Radeon Pro 20.828
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 14.039
Connect3D Radeon Pro 14.737
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 12.777
Connect3D Radeon Pro 14.249

This is interesting, the Radeon takes the lead in NASCAR.

And now for an OpenGL benchmark:

Return to Castle Wolfenstein – ver 1.31 MP – Checkpoint.dm_67

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 97.2
Connect3D Radeon Pro 84.6
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 78.4
Connect3D Radeon Pro 61.8
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 59.5
Connect3D Radeon Pro 43.3

The Albatron is clearly in the lead again, when running games like RTCW, which are based on the Quake 3 game engine.


Visual Quality

Both of these cards have very good visual quality; however, the Radeon had better frame-to-frame texture consistency, compared to NVIDIA’s FX5700. What I mean is that there is less texture “shimmering” and “crawling.” Both of the boards have similar AA at 2x, but ATI’s rotated grid 4xAA is clearly superior to NVIDIA’s ordered grid arrangement, especially on near-horizontal and near-vertical angles. ATI’s 6x antialiasing looks smoother than NVIDIA’s 8x too.

ATI’s anisotropic filtering, at 16x, generally looks better than NVIDIA’s 8x implementation. The one place that the Radeon is worse is at 22.5° angles, which is a technical issue in the rendering design. I actually noticed this effect in the NASCAR test below. In that game, because of the banked tracks, the FX5700 renders much nicer-looking textures on the race cars.

The Windows 2D desktop looks identical to me on both of these cards at 1280×1024, 32-bit.


Overclocking


Using the “CoolBits registry hack”, I enabled the Clock Frequency tab in NVIDIA’s video driver properties. I first noted that the Albatron FX5700 Ultra defaults to a core speed of 475 MHz and a clock speed of 906 MHz in “Performance (3D)” mode. I then clicked the Auto-detect button. The drivers settled on a core frequency of 543 MHz and a memory frequency of 1.04 GHz. I cranked up 3DMark 2001SE and quickly saw some tearing-triangle video artifacts, so I immediately lowered both frequencies. I finally settled on 535 core / 1.03 mem for my overclock. These frequencies were 100% stable throughout my overclocking tests.

Speaking of stability, I’d like to mention that, overall, NVIDIA’s drivers are still more stable than ATI’s drivers, at least in WinME. Don’t get me wrong, ATI’s drivers have improved greatly in the last few years; they just quite haven’t reached the level of stability that I see when using NVIDIA’s drivers.

3DMark2001SE

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 3DMarks
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra (default 475/906) 7902
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 500/1000 MHz 8455
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 MHz 8663
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 543/1040 MHz Failed due to artifacts

Increasing the core by 12.6% and the memory by 13.6% results in a 9.6% increase in the score.

AquaMark Overclocking – NoAA

1024×768 – NoAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 26.92
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 30.18
1280×1024 – NoAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 20.34
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 22.98
1600×1200 – NoAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 15.75
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 17.83

Overclocking provides an increase of 12.1%, 12.9%, and 13.2%, respectively when antialiasing is off.

AquaMark Overclocking – 2xAA

1024×768 – 2xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 22.50
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 25.36
1280×1024 – 2xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 16.38
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 18.65
1600×1200 – 2xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 12.41
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 14.20

Overclocking provides an increase of 12.7%, 13.8%, and 14.4%, respectively at 2xAA.

AquaMark Overclocking – 4xAA

1024×768 – 4xAA / 8xAF
 GPU
 FPS (Avg)
 
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 19.24
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 20.73
1280×1024 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 13.80
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 15.65
1600×1200 – 4xAA / 8xAF
Albatron FX5700 Ultra 10.54
Albatron FX5700 Ultra @ 535/1030 11.97

Overclocking provides an increase of 7.7%, 13.4%, and 13.6%, respectively at 4xAA.

Looks like a good solid 7%-14% increase when overclocked, depending on application/game and antialiasing mode selected. This is reasonable overclocking performance, although I was hoping for better results given that this card ships with DDRII RAM and a fancy 3-fan heatsink. I’m guessing that the thick layer of thermal compound between the front RAM chips and the heatsink is limiting the performance somewhat.

Conclusion


All in all, this is a very nice card. It performs well and looks great, especially when it’s installed and lit by the blue LED inside the cooling assembly. If you’re in the market for a video card in the “under $200″ category, I can definitely recommend that you give this card a closer look.

Pros

  • Performs well
  • Well built
  • Has emergency backup cooling
  • Overclocks well
  • Does NOT use the adjacent PCI slot
  • Looks great
  • Fairly quiet
  • Uses stable drivers
  • Has a street price of $180 US, which is quite reasonable for an FX5700 Ultra with 128 MB of DDRII RAM
  • 3-Year warranty

Cons

  • Larger and heavier than a Radeon 9600 Pro
  • Runs hotter too
  • Visual quality is not quite as good as a Radeon 9600 Pro
  • Requires an extra power supply connection

I’m awarding the Albatron FX5700 an 8.5 out of 10 and the Bjorn3d Seal of Approval!

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