Author Topic: NVidia GeForce FX 5200  (Read 1104 times)

Offline Chandler

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NVidia GeForce FX 5200
« on: May 18, 2003, 12:15 PM »
Galaxy Zeus 5200 128MB DDR

My nVidia Vanta 16MB AGP (made by Joytech) was giving me stability problems in Windows XP and eventually in Windows 98 too so I decided that it was time to replace it with something more up to date (it had been in the 2000 Quantex since it was made).

Having researched my options, I decided that I would get either a graphics card based on either the nVidia GeForce 4 MX chip or the nVidia GeForce FX 5200.  Given that the FX 5200 was newer, I decided on that, especially given that the GeForce 4MX is actually only a souped up GeForce 2 MX.

The next problem was finding which card to actually buy!  The FX 5200 is also available as the FX 5200 Ultra (which is clocked higher, there's also FX 5600, FX 5600 Ultra and FX 5900) but just looking at the FX 5200 there are many variants.  There are 64MB cards with 64-bit SDRAM memory, 64MB with DDR, 128MB cards with 64-bit DDR memory and finally the 128MB 128-bit DDR which I decided to go with (there's no point crippling a decent chip with SDRAM!).  Even given that decision, there's cards with active cooling, cards with passive cooling and small heatsinks, cards with passive cooling and massive heatsinks, cards with VIVO (video in, video out) capability and even cards that come with a remote control.

Eventually I decided on the Galaxy Zeus 5200, which has VGA, TV (Composite & S-Video), and DVI outputs and comes with 128MB of 128-bit DDR memory and a gigantic heatsink which covers nearly the whole card, althoughthe card itself is still standard sized.  Still, it dwarfs the OEM Vanta that it replaces.

Installation was painless (it took longer to unplug all the computer's peripherals than it did to install the drivers) and after removing the Vanta and putting in the FX 5200, Windows XP instantly recognised it and asked for the driver CD.  Galaxy have been up to date by including the latest (at that time) 43.45 Detonator XP driver.  The drivers installed first time and the card was ready to work instantly.

Windows XP feels a lot more responsive with this card than the Vanta ever did, and can even handle the transparency effects in hardware (the Vanta would do it in software).  The cursor shadow works correctly, even over videos due to a full hardware cursor.  There are no delays when the XP Luna interface is doing it's graphical wizardry anymore.  The nVidia drivers also install extra features which for example allow windows to go transparent when moved around the screen.  Pointless, but nice to show off to your friends!

There have been no problems with my system, even with the VIA Apollo Pro 133A chipset and Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! sound card, which often do not work well in conjunction with faster graphics cards.  There were no problems noted with any of my other PCI cards:  Promise Ultra100TX2, Lucent Winmodem, 3Com Etherlink III and Hauppauge WinTV PCI NICAM.  In fact the RFI problems which used to plague the TV card seems to have cleared up, so it must have been the old video card which was sending noise across the motherboard.

Being a video nut I tried out the new video acceleration features first.  PowerDVD detected the Nvidia Hardware Acceleration on the FX 5200 (which includes adaptive de-interlacing - if you understand what this means you know how great it makes DVDs look on a monitor) and as a result, CPU usage has dropped from around 90% to barely 10% when watching DVDs.  The picture quality is also greatly improved, thanks no doubt to proper filtering and deblocking, something which the Vanta didn't do.  DivX and MPEG files played back in Windows Media Player also play back at much higher quality now, so deblocking is probably being applied here too.  The colour scaling is definately better, before on DVDs, the red text on the copyright warning was blocky, now it's smooth.

TV output works faultlessly with the two PAL TVs and PAL VCR (all with 21-pin Euroconnectors) that I tried out.  I used an S-Video to SCART adapter (not included) and switched the FX 5200 to Composite output (my TVs don't support S-Video over SCART).  The image quality was perfect both for general 2D work and for films (3D also works through the TV output).  A nice feature is that you can assign one output to be a full-screen video device.  So, it's possible to have a video clip playing full screen on the second monitor (in this case a TV) and continue working as normal on the primary (monitor).  The video doesn't have to be on top on the monitor, just as long as it isn't minimized you can hide it behind other windows and it will always play full screen on the TV.  The only problem appears to be when you play back a video which does not match the frame rate of your TV standard.  For example I played some NTSC MPEGs full screen on my PAL TV and the FX 5200 syncs up the TV picture fine, but drops the monitor refresh rate to 43Hz.  This doesn't happen when watching PAL videos (and probably won't happen watching NTSC in an NTSC country).  Anyways, it's still better than having a rolling and/or black and white TV picture.

The first game that I tried was GTA3, something which was absolutely unplayable at even 640x480 16bit with the lowest detail settings with the Vanta.  First of all I tried 1024x768 16bit (I didn't want to push my luck, after all this was a cheap card) and the result was silky smooth textures and frame rates.  Pushing up the detail levels to full didn't phase it whatsoever.  So, I exited the game, launched it again this time at 1024x768 32bit colour.  Still frame rates were high.  In fact, I was able to run at full detail level and decent frame rates all the way up to 1280x1024 32bit.  If I reduced the drawing distance slightly the game was still playable at 1600x1200, which frankly I never expected from this card.  And, this coming from a lowly Pentium III 650MHz.  Other modern games that I tried out showed the same results.

So there you have it, this sub-?80 card is capable of turning a once pathetic 650MHz Pentium III machine into something which will handle just about any game you throw at it.  It shows that you don't need a fast processor to play the latest games, just a decent graphics card.

If you're looking for a cheap and fast upgrade, consider the nVidia GeForce FX 5200!

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« Last Edit: Feb 03, 2004, 10:32 AM by Neon »