World Exclusive : MSI™ NBox N5900 ULTRA Wins 4.5 out of 5 Stars (Excellent) Award from HardwareZone.

Latest Update: Thu, 17 Jul 2003

MSI™ is one of those rare graphics card manufacturers who kept revising the bundled software and game titles for their graphics card packages. With relatively current game titles such as Morrowind and a couple of other very decent full games and demos, MSI™ has by far the best software/game bundle in the graphics card arena. Not resting on their laurels, MSI™ had recently conjured a rather potent game bundle for some of their best graphics card offerings in the form of the NBox. Sounds interesting? Follow up in the next few pages as we unravel the NBox and its armada of bonus items within.

Click here to see NBox's Specification

The cool, neat outer box packaging of the MSI™ NBox N5900 ULTRA.
The clever design is such that it attracts attention to itself.

The MSI™ NBox Promotion

The NBox is a special limited edition offering that consists of MSI™'s graphics card packaged with some of the most sought after games in present timeline. The game titles may not be fresh out of the oven, but they certainly are in the list of the most desirable games that any true gamer should possess. There are two variations of the NBox series and the table below will detail what would be offered in both of them:

Items / NBox package
NBox Pro
NBox Plus
Unreal II: The Awakening
Battlefield 1942
Command & Conquer: Generals
MSI Optical Aluminum mouse with 800 dpi resolution
Deluxe Inner Box Design
Graphics Card Models Applicable
MSI GeForce FX 5900 Ultra / 5900 / 5600 Ultra
MSI GeForce FX 5600 / 5200

You just got to love the NBox for these premium full-version game titles that take advantage of your modern graphics hardware. This could probably be the most modern game bundle ever made for any graphics card at the point of launch. Although they do not use DirectX 9, these games certainly do tax both your system and graphics hardware, especially when FSAA and AF are utilized. For the NBox, these new games replace the older game bundle provided in the normal MSI™ graphics cards.

Games such as Command & Conquer:
Generals and Unreal II even included the materials that come with the full game packages such as the manuals and supporting materials.
Battlefield 1942 didn’t come with any, but we can’t be for sure since ours was an evaluation sample.
Lets hope the retail versions do have it all.

The NBox that we have here for review today is the MSI™ NBox N5900 ULTRA, which ships with the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 graphics card in an NBox Pro package. We will discuss more on the graphics card itself on the next page, but first let us show you more pictures of the NBox packaging where we can see how much effort MSI™ has put into.

With the outer box cover off, this it the inner deluxe box design.

With the box cover off, you can see the MSI FX5900Ultra-VTD256 very safely secured with thick black foam packaging around it.

Lifting the top portion via a handle revealed all the goodies in store for the graphics card from cable accessories,
to games and drivers. Even the aluminum mouse is bubble-wrapped in there as well.

The MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256

The MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 was neatly packed within the NBox N5900 ULTRA, and it is currently the most powerful gaming card that MSI™ has to offer. Based on the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra GPU equipped with a huge 256MB frame buffer, gaming can't get any faster on the NVIDIA® camp. The card was also fitted with a Philips SAA7108AE video encoder/decoder chip and with the right drivers installed, you could feed video through the graphics card and perform video captures. This won't be the least bit troublesome since MSI™ has provided all necessary drivers, utilities and software for this purpose.

The pretty front side of the MSI FX5900Ultra-VTD256.
Note that the card length is now shorter than the reference card and is now equivalent to a GeForce4 Ti 4600.

Initially, we were expecting a stock reference card, but as shown here, the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 is definitely MSI's own design using their custom red PCB, massive slabs of copper heatsink styled like a Sunflower and an innovative cooling solution known as TWIN FLOW. The MSI™ TWIN FLOW solution is dual fan cooling solution with one mounted on the front while the other is seated directly opposite the GPU. This directly addresses the heat issue of the GPU since it is designed to keep the entire card cool from both sides of the card. For a long time, hardcore overclockers have experimented with backside cooling using different heatsink contraptions, but we've not seen a card with such a cooling mechanism (perhaps there are others we didn't know of).

The rear of the card is also heavily fitted with the elaborate copper heatsinks just as the card’s side did.
The rear fan keeps the temperature at the rear of the GPU in check.


We bet the next issue on your mind is the fan noise level and we can confidently say that if you do hear anything at all, it has got to be anything but the graphics card. Both fans spin at low RPM and are whisper quiet. MSI™ can afford to mount such fans because of the huge copper heatsinks that cover most of the card's surface. They absorb heat rapidly from both sides of the card while the dual fans aid in exhausting heat off the card. Overall, operating temperatures were low considering the speed at which the graphics card operates and you can once again attribute this to MSI's TWIN FLOW cooling system.

The customized cooling design allows the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 to occupy only one expansion slot,
which is unlike the case if it had adopted the reference design.

The TWIN FLOW does however have one minor drawback. This can be witnessed in tightly designed motherboards where you'll find components or the motherboard's chipset heatsink blocking the TWIN FLOW's rear fan. This will consequently prevent you from installing the card properly in the AGP slot (and even if you could get it in, the tight spaces might harm proper air flow). Is this a problem to a potentially good graphics card? Not at all, because MSI™ had anticipated this issue all along and had designed the card to tackle this issue. In the manual, MSI™ has dedicated two pages with pictures to aid end-users in dismantling the rear fan. Note that the rear heatsink and fan design differs from that in front as the RAMsinks can remain but the heatsink and fan in the center is detachable separately.

As can be seen in this picture, the rear fan of the GPU can be dismounted independent of the RAMsinks surrounding it.
MSI™ has indeed designed the TWIN FLOW system smartly and prevented compatibility issues.

With the rear fan detached, we see a huge thermal pad that interfaces directly with the rear of the GPU.

More On The MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256

Once the rear fan is dismantled, you should be able to insert the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 into almost any motherboard. The cooler at the GPU rear isn't mandatory and the card can perform just as normal. A pity that some motherboards would not be able to handle MSI's TWIN FLOW, but that is the price to pay if you want to save a PCI slot. Another note is the weight of the graphics card; due to all that thick copper heatsinks, the card weighs a hefty 0.5kg. Do make a mental note to screw the card firmly in place to prevent stress on the AGP slot. Here are more pictures of the card:

MSI™’s well-known Video-In / Video-Out breakout box for Video Captures and TV-Output.
Accompanying it are a 1.8m S-Video extension cable and a S-Video to Composite converter.

Wondering what software to use for the video capture?
Send your worries away as MSI™ bundles InterVideo’s WinProducer
and WinCoder for a complete video-capture/editing/authoring solution.

Additional items in the package are shown as this picture shows a DVI-I to analog VGA converter and a Y-power cable to power up the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 should you not have any more spare power connectors on your system.
It is recommended that you have a good 300W PSU at least to power both your system and the power hungry graphics card.

Test Setup

For more information about test setup, please refer to at


High-end graphics card packages feel most complete to end-users when they are bundled with appropriate game titles. After all, graphics cards of that caliber are mainly advantageous to games, hence they are often referred to as "gaming cards". Unlike some vendors who package really obsolete materials with their products, MSI™ has always had an upper hand in the graphics card arena - especially in the software/game bundle department.

MSI™ not taking their success lightly had put in even more effort and introduced the MSI NBox concept that goes beyond what any normal graphics card vendor would conjure. They stunned us all with a package so complete that the NBox is without a doubt a new yardstick that should be compared with all other graphics products. The MSI™ NBox N59000 Ultra reviewed in this article combines the following to form the potent package that we were describing :-

  • MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 graphics card
  • Deluxe Box Design
  • MSI Optical Aluminum mouse with an 800dpi resolution
  • Unreal II: The Awakening
  • Battlefield 1942
  • Command & Conquer: Generals

With three of the hottest game titles of this year within the NBox, this combination is an extremely tough one to match, should anyone else try. Not only are all three games fairly new, but they also happened to be among the most addictive and "must-play" list of games of the year; now how can you beat that? Additionally, MSI™ bundled an aluminum 800dpi optical mouse with a built-in blue LED. Interestingly, it sort of resembled a Logitech mouse. Unfortunately, we don't really find the mouse suitable for gaming and we find it more of a novelty item. Alternatively, it would still appeal to others with simpler needs such as web surfing and light office work.

Apart from the packaging, the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 is a wonderful graphics card by itself. Adorning MSI™'s TWIN FLOW cooling system on a red PCB, this card based on the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra with a huge 256MB frame buffer is probably among the best graphics cards you could buy once you have set your mind for an NVIDIA® based graphics card. The TWIN FLOW cooling system consists of a dual fan system; one on top of the GPU and another directly behind the GPU. We are well aware of the how hot the rear of the reference graphics card could get during operation and with the TWIN FLOW cooling system, heat can be removed from the card relatively fast. The best part about the fans is their extremely silent operation. There is a higher chance that your CPU / Casing / PSU fan or even your hard disk is more audible than the TWIN FLOW cooling system --it is really that quiet.

In addition to the TWIN FLOW cooling system, the MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 used huge copper heatsinks mounted both at the facade and the rear of the card that practically concealed most of it and consequently enhanced heat extraction from the card. The MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 is certainly well equipped for cool operation.

The MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 also offers video enthusiasts a means of capturing / editing / authoring video via the on-card Philips video encoder/decoder and the supplied InterVideo's WinProducer/Coder. A video-in / video-out (VIVO) breakout box, S-Video extension cable and an S-Video to Composite converter round up the VIVO feature.

With the NBox N5900 ULTRA featuring so many goodies, you would think that you had to pay a premium for an already expensive gaming card. Fortunately, you need only top-up S$50 more than a normal MSI™ FX5900Ultra-VTD256 to enjoy all that the NBox had to offer. Think about it: the special packaging, three irresistibly good games and an optical mouse all worth a total of S$200 going at only S$50 more is actually a pretty fantastic deal. No doubt the NBox N5900 Ultra's price tag of S$1,059 is an expensive amount to set aside for a gaming card, if you had already set your sights for an NVIDIA® GeForce FX 5900 Ultra graphics card, it is probably the wisest choice around as most others would be priced close to the S$1,000 mark. With even the normal MSI™'s FX5900Ultra-VTD256 set to retail for S$999, you would be hard pressed to find a better proposition than the tantalizing NBox package.

For MSI™'s terrific NBox N5900 Ultra package, we awarded it the 4.5 Stars seal and the Most-Innovative-Product (MIP) Award. Do note the NBox is a special deal only available this month and would likely not be available after this period. So be sure to grab your ultimate gaming card before you miss this irresistable limited edition deal.











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