Review Index:

Mainstream Graphics: FX5700U vs Radeon 9600XT

Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Radeon 9600XT vs. FX5700 Ultra

The holidays is a scarcely a few days away and I know many of you will are looking closely at some graphics hardware. Since most of you can't afford the premium prices of a Radeon 9800XT or a GeForce FX5950 Ultra (see our Asus Radeon 9800XT/TVD review for a comparison of the two), you'll probably be looking at a mainstream card. But for $200 USD, which card do you get? Today we will take a look at the performance of these two chipsets so you can make sure the diamond you think you're buying isn't a lump of coal.

System Setup

Motherboard ABIT NF7-S rev 2.0 (nForce2-Ultra400 chipset)
Processor Athlon XP 3200+
RAM 2x256 Corsair Platinum DDR400 (2-2-2-6)
Hard drive Western Digital 120GB WD1200BB
Operating System Windows XP + SP1
Video Cards

Asus Radeon 9600XT/TVD
NVIDIA FX5700 Ultra (reference design)

NVIDIA Driver ForceWare 52.16
ATI Driver Catalyst 3.9

  • Asus Radeon 9600XT/TVD: The Radeon 9600XT we are using today is manufactured by Asus. I won't go into details about the features of this card since you can read about all about it in the Asus Radeon 9800XT review - the contents and features of both cards are identical.
  • NVIDIA FX5700 Ultra: The FX5700 Ultra we are using is the reference design from NVIDIA. This card is very plain and there are no features to evaluate besides the performance aspect of it.

Synthetic Tests

Synthetic Tests is what we've all come to know as a "benchmark". They are fabricated graphical events that are used to simulate a consumer's experience with graphics hardware. However, synthetic benchmarks are a poor representation of what is being experienced in reality, but are useful for making good concrete comparisons of cards on similarly configured systems. Tests like Aquamark 3, and Unreal Tournament 2003, though based on real games and real game engines, are synthetic since the events are fabricated and never controlled by the user.

Aquamark 3
(Massive Development)

3DMark 03 v340
3DMark 2001SE


ViewPerf 7.1
(Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation)

Unreal Tournament 2003
(Digital Extremes, Atari)


Game Performance Tests

The results in this section of the review are taken from actual game play. FRAPS was used to measure the frame rate as I played each game on each piece of hardware. We've been doing this for a long time here and I'm happy to see more hardware sites spending the time to do the same.

However, because the numbers are recorded in actual in-game sessions, the numbers recorded may not be what you've come to expect from a standard benchmark (i.e. synthetic test). There will be instances where the numbers recorded don't follow a "nice" trend line or exhibit some minor deviations. This is to be expected since each test run on a card in any given game will not be 100% identical to previous tests (like in a synthetic benchmark). We endeavor to reproduce the best results in any given instance and minimize these anomalies.

Age of Mythology: The Titans
(Ensemble Studios, Microsoft)
(Digital Anvil, Microsoft)
Halo: Combat Evolved
(Bungie/GearBox, Microsoft)
Homeworld 2
(Relic Entertainment, Vivendi Universal)

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
(Raven, LucasArts)

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
(Bethesda Softworks, Ubi Soft)


Subjective Tests

Subjective tests is where I use my own eyes to compare image quality for different settings on a given piece of hardware. They are subjective because the comments and conclusions I make are based on my own personal experience and may not reflect what you perceive. This is why we provide links to the images used so you can judge for yourself.

Anti-aliasing quality:

Texturing quality:


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