When one of the most important differentiating factors for video card manufacturers is the game bundle that ships with their products, MSI™, the world's largest video card manufacturer (based on a study conducted by Goldman Sachs) and one of NVIDIA®s Tier One board partners, is the first third-party graphics card manufacturer to take advantage of the EA/NVIDIA® deal, in the form of the product we're reviewing today. The NBox N5900 Ultra ships with Battlefield 1942, Command and Conquer: Generals, and Unreal 2: The Awakening!
Based on the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra GPU, the N5900 Ultra targeted at the enthusiast gamer, MSI™ has elected to equip the N5900 Ultra with an extreme cooling setup as well. The N5900 Ultra sports dual fans, one located in the traditional location above the graphics core, while the second fan is placed on the underside of the card, directly beneath the NV35 graphics core. MSI™ also includes a USB mouse in the package. This isn't any ordinary mouse either; it's an optical mouse with a blue LED!
The GeForce FX 5900 Ultra is built on NVIDIA®'s NV35 core, which is based largely on the NV30 core powering the GeForce FX 5800 family; the key addition being NV35's 256-bit memory interface, twice as wide as its predecessor. The new interface is capable of providing up to 27.2GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth to the graphics processor, and is outfitted with 256MB of DDR memory operating at 425MHz (850MHz effective).
The addition to GeForce FX 5900 Ultra is NVIDIA®'s UltraShadow technology. When supported by the developer, UltraShadow reduces the workload on the graphics processor by preventing it from rendering regions of the shadow that are unnecessary. Think of it as occlusion culling, but for shadows exclusively.
As far as noise level, the dual fans MSI™ uses on the NBox N5900 Ultra are very quiet, as they don't spin very rapidly.
Inside the box you'll find the N5900 Ultra card first, you then lift the cardboard cutout it rests in to see a treasure chest of goodies: Battlefield 1942, Command and Conquer: Generals, and Unreal 2: The Awakening.
GeForce FX 5900 Ultra core: While it's still debatable who has the fastest graphics core, with both ATI and NVIDIA® claiming their fair share of wins, there can be no doubt that the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra chip powering the NBox N5900 Ultra has more than enough power for all of today's latest games. And with its 256-bit memory interface it has the memory bandwidth to crank up the screen resolution and/or image-enhancing features like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering without suffering too much of a performance hit. Finally, the 128-bit floating point architecture supports 2.0 pixel and vertex shaders, so you're all set from a features perspective for the next generation of games that will be released over the course of the next 12-18 months.
Software bundle: The NBox N5900 Ultra comes with AAA titles Command and Conquer: Generals (which earned FiringSquad's Ricochet Award), Battlefield 1942, and, arguably Unreal 2: The Awakening. C&C and Unreal 2 were both released in February of this year, so they're barely six-month old titles, while Battlefield 1942 is one of the hottest shooters online right now.
Sure, if you're a hardcore shooter fan, chances are pretty good you probably already own Battlefield 1942, and maybe even Unreal 2. But how many of you own all three? We doubt many gamers could raise their hand if asked that question. MSI's NBox bundle is easily the best game bundle on the planet right now, and probably the best the market has ever seen.
Cooling: MSI™'s Twin Flow cooling system is composed of copper rather than aluminum due to its better heat transfer characteristics.
This allows MSI™ to use fans with lower RPMs without sacrificing performance, in fact Twin Flow performed a shade better than the stock reference cooler NVIDIA uses on its cards. The main benefit of Twin Flow though is its mundane noise level. After the fiasco with FX Flow, card manufacturers have been trying hard to battle noise output. Twin Flow does an excellent job of dismissing this concern.
Video input: MSI™ has integrated the same Philips encoder chip that ships with NVIDIA-manufactured GeForce FX 5900 Ultra cards. And with the Intervideo software included in the packaging, you're got video editing support right out of the box.
With so many graphics cards shipping with obscure or outdated game titles, it's refreshing to see MSI™ include so many compelling games in one package. Hopefully the arrival of the NBox will inspire other card manufacturers to seriously reevaluate the game bundles that ship with their cards as well.
It's because of the NBox bundle that MSI™'s N5900 Ultra has earned our Bull's Eye Award. With an MSRP of $550, there are certainly better values out there (with the $240 RADEON 9800 being our current overall favorite), but when you factor in the N5900 Ultra's excellent packaging, we think $50 is a small premium to pay if youre in the market for a GeForce FX 5900 Ultra card.
Just consider what you're getting, $122 worth of games, a cooling system that is better than NVIDIAs reference design, and an 800dpi optical mouse. And just like the cards manufactured by NVIDIA®, the N5900 Ultra is VIVO (video-in/video-out) capable. Once supply catches up to demand we wouldn't be surprised to see this premium cut by $10 or $20 at retail, as MSI has a pretty good history of flooding the market with cards. And even if you already have Battlefield 1942, you're still getting a pretty good deal.
At the very least we're glad to see that someone has taken the initiative to challenge the current formula in the video card market. Now if MSI™ could put together a GeForce FX 5900 Ultra card with just the bare essentials and give the card a bargain basement price; they have high-end cards at the low-end, midrange, and upper echelon of 5900 Ultra cards, making them the only manufacturer with this level of flexibility.
(News Source From FiringSquad.com)