MSI are one of the best computer component manufacturers in my opinion. I do prefer Gigabyte for motherboards out of sentimentality, but when it comes to graphics cards I either choose PNY (for their amazing after sales service) or, if it's performance I want, then I go for MSI.
The MSI FX5900 was in my PC until very recently. I've now upgraded to a 6800 - also made by MSI. My husband has two PCI-express graphics cards in his machine - the height of performance and power, but not everyone has the ability to use PCI-express cards, myself included. For those of us with slightly older machines, AGP cards are the only really viable option.
The MSI FX5900 is a nice graphics card. It fits into the AGP slot, which most computers made in the past few years should have. It has an absolutely massive heat sink and fan on it, and some smaller heat sinks covering the memory modules. This card does get very hot, and if you are putting it into your computer you may want to check that there are no cards in the slot next to it to allow more space for ventilation.
The card needs a four pin power connector from the power supply plugged into it for the fan to operate. In theory if you forget to do this, then the computer will not boot at all, although I have seen a computer boot once without this connector plugged in. It was however very unstable and rebooted itself after a couple of minutes. All I can say is be careful and make absolutely sure that you connect the power cable up otherwise you risk melting an expensive card!
MSI, in their usual generous and wise manner provide you with a power splitter, so if your power supply is an older model with very few connectors then you can always unplug one, plug the splitter in, then reconnect everything back up.
That said, if your power supply is old, it might be worth checking first to make sure it can run this card - I would recommend a 350 Watt or above. According to the manual you can run it on less, but from experience I disagree with the manual on that one. The card is now in a spare machine and the 300 Watt power supply in that one didn't like having this card along with multiple drives and a AMD 2400 processor.
This is really a card for gamers. The 128Mb of graphics memory isn't amazing - I would prefer to have 256Mb to allow more for textures for certain games, but it was running everything from Doom 3 to Farcry to Half Life 2 at more than acceptable framerates.
NVidia produced the Dawn and Dusk demos - interactive 'videos' of Pixies that you can tweak, zoom in and out of, and alter the expressions and skin tones of, to show off the power of the 5900 cards. They are absolutely gorgeous and have made many of my non-nVidia owning friends jealous.
For any geeks that are interested, the last benchmark done with this card, which wasn't on a freshly installed system so may be a little low because of all the junk running in the backround, scored about 5000 3DMarks in the 2003 benchmark. The 6800 that has replaced this card got around 8300 on the same system, so while this card was close to state of the art when it came out, it is slipping a bit now.
Again, for the geeks, the core clock runs at 400Mhz - which is actually slower than the 5800, although I'm not sure why and the memory clock runs at a meaty 425Mhz - the memory is DDR 850Mhz. The card is DirectX 9 compatible which is great news for modern games, and it supports up to 8X Anti-Aliasing. If you were playing a game that really strains graphics cards, such as Half Life 2, I wouldn't recommend turning the anti-aliasing on, because it does have some stability problems with the current batch of drivers, and it will create a massive drop in performance. It is nice to see the option supported even so.
This card also has a TV-out connection, although I have never used it.
You get a lot of free software and game samples with this card - including a '3D desktop' which is fun to mess around with but not all that useful, and some DVD software. It all comes in a nice wallet style set so it's easy to keep all the drivers and everything together.
Speaking of drivers, thats one really good thing about MSI. I have their Live Monitor and update software installed because it came with my motherboard. You can use this to automatically update your drivers. MSI are slightly behind nVidia in their releases but their drivers are always stable and I have never had any problems with them. Hassle free updates appeal to me too.
You get some overclocking software with the card - it allows you to overclock the processor of the graphics card, and also the memory. It works in small increments, and you can either set it yourself, or allow the program to push the card to its limits. If the computer crashes, it will restore the card to its default settings so that the machine will work properly. I'm not a fan of overclocking myself so didn't really use this much, although I did try it out once and saw a slight improvement and no drop in stability.
This card is AGP 8X, which means it will be nice and fast in very modern motherboards, although it will work in older ones. As I said it is now in a spare machine, and that machine is a rather old one that only has a 4X AGP port - it worked straight away, and although it isn't as amazing in games it can still run pretty much everything at an acceptable rate.
The biggest problem with this card is its age. We are now up to the 6000 range, and although this card should beat the lower range ones like the 6600 any day, it is not as good as a normal 6800 or even an Ultra. For those who are not a fan of nVidia, I will also concede that the rival graphics manufacturer, ATI have superior cards out now, although the prices may be higher.
If you have any problems, there is a decent manual, and also tech support from the MSI web site. Sometimes the site is busy and you get an error message accessing it, but the knowledge base is very good. I haven't had cause to contact tech support about this card, but have for a motherboard and they were fairly helpful - not quite up to the standard of PNY , but they solved the problem promptly which is all that matters.
I went to check the current price of this card on scan.co.uk and found that it was still retailing for around 200 pounds. A check of eBuyer found one for 109 pounds which is more realistic.
If you are on a budget but want some decent power, I would recommend this card over the newer budget cards like the 6600. To simplify, from benchmarks at least it seems like the top end older cards outperform the low end newer cards.
I've had my card for a long time now - almost a year I think, and it is still going strong. I would probably recommend anyone who could afford it opt for a higher end card than this - perhaps its big brother the 6800, but if you need power at a low price this is a great card too.
I'm recommending it - just remember this isn't the newest, and it isn't the best, but it's still a great option. Four stars simply because it is an older card now.
Overview ***************** Today I will be reviewing the latest addition to my customized PC setup ? MSI?s Geforce FX5900XT-VTD128 graphics card (bit of a mouthful, that one!) The board is manufactured by a company called MSI (Micro-star International) that many of you will have heard of. For those that haven?t, MSI are a massive computer electronics company, and manufacture all kinds of computer-related kit ? from a vast range of motherboards and graphics cards, to optical drives such as CD and DVD readers/writers. My DVD writer is made by MSI ? as is my motherboard (K7n420Pro, reviewed here on dooyoo). They make decent products at a decent price, and I am very happy with my purchases. This particular graphics card is built using NVIDIA?s Geforce FX5900XT chipset - more about that below? Chipset ***************** The Geforce FX5900XT is the latest in NVIDIA?s Geforce FX product line-up. Sporting a full implementation of Microsoft?s DirectX9, the card supports all the latest graphical features in today?s games, as well as up-and-coming titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom3. The FX5900XT version is essentially a slightly slower variant of the vanilla FX5900 chipset, with the memory running at a ?clock speed? 700 MHz (as opposed to 800/850 MHz). In addition, the main chip is clocked slightly slower (390 vs. 400 MHz) on some models. For those that aren?t too technically minded, this basically means that the FX5900XT has been equipped with some cheaper (slower) memory, in order to bring down costs. In reality, however, this has lit
tle affect on real-world performance ? which is even more surprising when you consider that the ?XT? version is currently retailing for about £50 less than it?s faster-clocked counterpart. The card itself comes with 128MB of memory on-board, which allows for large, crisp textures in your games. 256MB cards are about, but this is largely overkill and makes little difference in any of today?s games. Essentially, the Geforce FX5900XT is designed as a performance card at a mainstream price ? and for this reason makes an extremely attractive purchase for the average gamer. Bundle ********** Upon excitedly opening up the box of my new card, I was greeted by a generous assortment of bundled extras. These were: ~Kit~ The card itself was (fortunately) present, in an anti-static bag. Also included was a DVI-to analogue adaptor (for connecting a second analogue monitor to the DVI connection), a power supply cable, a 2m S-video cable, and a converter for S-Video/Composite In/Out connections. ~Games~ Morrowind ? One of the best Role Playing Games ever made Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project ? A basic but fun platform/shooter Ghost Recon - A Special Forces action game ~Software~ WinDVD Creator ? Video editing / DVD creation software MSI Utilities ? An assortment of utilities for tweaking your card, updating your system etc. In all, the bundle is simply excellent. While you may not enjoy all the games, they are all quality titles and you will no doubt find something of interest there. I haven?t used WinDVD creator yet, but I have a DVD writer and a digital camcorder so I am sure that it w
ill come in handy. As for MSI?s utilities ? some of these are of little use, but the tweak program is easy to use and allows you to ?overclock? the card with ease (run it faster than it is supposed to, for greater performance). MSI also include a utility called ?Live Update? which helpfully scans your computer for all MSI-related software/drivers etc ? and updates them. Connectors ***************** The board has the standard analogue connection for a monitor, as well as a DVI connector for flat TFT screens, etc. An S-Video connection also provides Video-In or Out functionality. All necessary adapters are included. Installation ***************** Installation was easy. I will not go into how to install/remove a graphics card here in depth, as it depends on your system and there is an installation guide included. Like almost all new graphics cards, you will need an AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot. In simplest terms, I uninstalled my existing graphics drivers, switched the PC off, installed the new card, switched on, and then installed the drivers from CD. I would recommend for the latest performance and stability improvements that you download the latest drivers from NVIDIA?s website. The board itself uses quite a lot of power, so needs to be connected directly to the power supply. An adaptor is included for this if you don?t have enough connectors. For this reason, a 350w power supply is recommended as a minimum. Quality ***************** ~2D~ First off, when booting into windows, it was plain to see that NVIDIA have not cut any corners in building their latest chipsets, and MSI have done a great job of implementing the
m without problem too. 2D graphics quality is outstanding, and everything is noticeably sharper than with my old Geforce2MX. Worth noting is the comparison of 2D quality between NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards ? where NVIDIA have often been disappointing in the past. I have used an ATI Radeon 9700Pro (had to send it back because of problems) and I can safely say that NVIDIA has clearly caught up on the 2D front. In fact, I would go so far as to say that fonts seamed to appear sharper with the NVIDIA board? ~3D~ Quality in 3D games is similarly top-notch. Textures are noticeably sharper at default settings than my old Geforce 2MX, and all-round image quality seems directly comparable to the latest Radeons, like my old Radeon 9700Pro. I have to add, though, that NVIDIA seem to do a better job of lighting in some games. In Need for Speed Underground, for instance, the lights seem to ?glow? a lot more realistically than with the Radeon? Still, for a brand new graphics card, I was expecting the latest in graphics quality, and I was not disappointed. The one of many advantages brought about by Microsoft?s DirectX9 (and DX8) standards is ?pixel shaders?. These allow the programming of realistic skin, hair, facial expressions etc ? as well as realistic environments. Basically, all these latest technologies (which lets face it, sound a little boring) add up to create game worlds that are more realistic than ever before! ~DVD~ DVD playback is another area where NVIDIA was repeatedly beaten by ATI. I watch a lot of DVD?s on my PC (in my room, with my gir
lfriend), so this was a big selling point for me. However, I am pleased to find that NVIDIA have improved markedly in this department as well ? and their DVD playback is now on a par that can compete with that of ATI?s latest Radeon lineup. ~Enhancement~ There are two main methods of enhancing quality in 3D Games that are supported by the hardware of this card. These are known as ?Anti-Aliasing? and ?Anisotropic Filtering?. Anti-aliasing (AA) is a technique for smoothing out jagged lines in your games. It makes a nice difference, and gets rid of the shimmering ?staircase? effect from edges in 3D scenes. There are several modes (2x 4x 6x 8x etc) which smooth the jagged edges out more and more. However, the 4x mode is generally the best balance of quality and performance, and removes almost all noticeable jagged edges. It has to be said, though, that ATI does a better job of eliminating all the ?jaggies?? Anisotropic filtering (AF) is a technique for sharpening the ?textures? in your games. This means that surfaces in the distance (i.e. a brick wall, the floor etc) remain sharp and in focus even in the distance. NVIDIA gets the top trump in this department, because even though their Geforce FX cards are a little slower at it, they provide a better quality image as the end result. I generally use ?8xAF? mode, which makes all the textures look nice and sharp, even at a distance Performance ************* Performance with this card is excellent. It performs very similar to my old Radeon 9700Pro, perhaps edging a little faster in many tests (comparable to a Radeon 9800Pro in some). When ?Anti-aliasing? is enabled, the card is on a par with its rivals in the ATI camp,
whereas it performs a bit slower with ?Anisotropic filtering?. However, this is partly because NVIDIA filters at a higher quality than ATI. In general though, the FX5900XT has plenty of muscle for all the latest games, even with the above image enhancement modes turned on. I have played Raven Shield, Max Payne 2, Morrowind, Need for Speed: Underground and several other graphics-intensive games - and all are playable with full detail settings. I can even have any jagged edges filtered out with sharp textures, and still get good speeds in many games :) Of course the performance of the card depends on the rest of your system. I am currently using an Athlon XP 1800+ with 512MB of RAM ? and although it is not state of the art, my PC can still keep up! Features ***************** As well as the afore-mentioned DirectX9 capabilities, AA and AF image enhancement, DVD playback and all the other standard features of the Geforce FX5900XT chipset - the MSI board also offers another very useful feature: VIVO (Video In/Video Out). This allows you to output from your graphics card to a TV ? or input from VHS, Sky/Cable or camcorder. This is very handy for recording or editing video from an analogue source, and the WinDVD creator software is provided for this. The TV-output is a great feature. You can play games on your big telly, or perhaps even put a DVD on the TV screen while you browse the web on your monitor. There is also a DVI (digital) connector for some monitors, namely flat-panel TFT screens. You can use any two screens at once (analogue monitor/DV
I/TV). The NVIDIA drivers allow you to spread your desktop across both screens, or to display different things on each. Cooling/Noise ***************** This factor was my reason for choosing the MSI version of this board above the many others that are available. MSI have developed a unique excellent cooling solution for the card, which uses a quality heatsink (basically a lump of metal) and a low-noise fan for dissipating heat. The end result is a card that runs cool and quiet ? quieter than all its competitors according to online reviews. This is very significant to me as my PC is in my bedroom! Noise is probably about the same as my previous Hercules 9700Pro (which also featured an excellent cooling system) and does not noticeably increase the noise of my PC. In addition, the capable heatsink/fan combination gives the possibility of ?overclocking? your graphics card (raising the clock speeds to make it run faster, but hotter). However, I would recommend that you don?t overdo this, and to check out guides online beforehand if you want to overclock this board. Overclocking used to be something done by performance-hungry enthusiasts, and wasn?t a venture that I would like to risk ? but it is now officially supported by many manufacturers. The back of my MSI box even goes so far as to say that the board is guaranteed up to 10% faster clock speeds. This won?t necessarily make your games run 10% faster, though :) Value for Money ***************** I have come to the conclusion that the Geforce FX5900XT is the best value-for-money graphics chipset currently available. Offering almost all the performance of its non-XT big brother, and yet significantly cheaper, this chipset looks set to rule the mainstream sector in the w
ay that the Geforce 4 Ti4200 did a couple of years ago (anyone remember that!?) I purchased my MSI card for £140 from eBay.co.uk (the seller shipped from America for free), but I have seen FX5900XT cards from other manufacturers going for as little as £125-130. If you aren?t as concerned about the quiet cooling solution and Video-Input that MSI provide, then you may wish to shop around for a Geforce FX5900XT board from a different manufacturer. Overall ***************** This is an amazing card. A phenomenal price/performance ratio, with all the latest features for state-of-the art gaming. Although beaten to the top spot in the performance stakes by its larger siblings in the NVIDIA product lineup, and ATI?s flagship offerings, the Geforce FX5900XT offers most of the performance you would expect from a high-end graphics card ? at a mainstream price. Not to mention the brilliant implementation by MSI ? with a generous bundle, VIVO functionality, and an excellent cooling solution ? this card is a very attractive package for anyone looking to upgrade their PC for the latest wave of games ? without breaking the bank. I am very happy with it, and thus it comes highly recommended! Thank you for reading, I hope you found this interesting :) Dave Eversden. Dave_UK.