Get a graphics edge: FX PowerPack Ultra/760 XP Golden Sample

If you want high frame rates but can't stretch your budget to the high-end FX 5800/5900 cards, the ideal option has always been a GeForce 4600 or 4800 chip. With the FX 5600 Ultra chip, NVIDIA and Gainward hope to lure you with the promise of DirectX 9.0 support.

Games that take advantage of the latest version of DirectX can use the 5600's more sophisticated pixel and vertex shaders. They can also pack images with an almost infinite palette of colours, thanks to the 128-bit quality. Unfortunately, though, we have yet to witness the first batch of games that can take full advantage of DirectX 9.0.

Gainward's implementation of the FX 5600 Ultra uses higher core and memory clock speeds than the original specifications, bumping up both figures from 400MHz to 450MHz. This is justified by the superior component quality and the card showed no signs of instability during testing. The host of extras include a FireWire expansion card, video-in/video-out, a video editing/DVD software suite, and WinCinema.

In our Unreal Tournament 2003 and Quake III tests, the 5600 Ultra averaged a 10-20fps lead over the Ti 4200 8x and Radeon 9500/9600 chips at a resolution of 1024x768. At 1600x1200, the lead increased to 15-25fps.

With the Ti 4600/4800 cards, however, the fight is much closer. If anything, the older 4600/4800 boards will be slightly faster at lower resolutions. But turn up the detail levels and bolt on some anti-aliasing, and the 5600 Ultra's extra memory bandwidth gives it the edge. And, of course, for DirectX 9.0 games the older cards simply won't be able to compete.

In brief: Gainward FX PowerPack Ultra/760 XP Golden Sample
It's only a matter of time before the 5600 Ultra replaces the Ti 4600/4800s, and Gainward's board is an excellent implementation. Strong DirectX 9.0 support should see it looking good in the future and it also works as a replacement for a Ti 4200 8x or Radeon 9500/9600.
Price: $399
Distributor: Hallmark Computer International
Phone: (03) 9540 8555
URL: www.hallmark.com.au

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