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GDDR-3 Memory: GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Conclusion

The new GDDR-3 memory technology looks promising. In the case of the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra GDDR-3, however, the improvements are only marginal. The minimal clockspeed increase compared to the GDDR-2 model has hardly any effect on real-world performance.

Since NVIDIA hasn't changed the name of the new card, buyers will have a hard time telling the older version from the newer one. Also, the question remains as to why NVIDIA decided to switch this card over to GDDR-3 in the first place. Aside from the positive marketing value of being able to present a GDDR-3 based card before ATI can, the main reason is probably the low availability of GDDR-2 modules. These haven't been listed on the websites of the big memory makers for a while now.

That's not to say that using GDDR-3 doesn't yield any positive results. Quite the contrary, the new cards will require less power while at the same time offering more overclocking potential. Since NVIDIA's overclocking menus only allow small clock speed increases (500/1000 MHz max.), this second advantage is only of limited value - unless you use a third-party tool such as Powerstrip.

In a direct performance comparison, the FX 5700 Ultra(s) don't really look all that attractive ($170 - $180). ATi's Radeon may be slightly slower in some benchmarks, but performs much better in shader-intensive applications and offers better image quality (FSAA). On top of that, it's available at a lower price (circa $150 - $160). The real competition for the FX5700 Ultra doesn't come from NVIDIA's rival ATi but can be found within the ranks of the FX product line in the shape of the FX 5900 XT/SE. Although it uses lower clockspeeds, the card can easily make up for this disadvantage thanks to its eight-pipeline architecture. Besides, at circa $175 - $190, the street prices of the "small" FX 5900 or a Radeon 9800 (non-Pro) are only slightly higher than that of the FX 5700 Ultra. And if crossing the $200 threshold isn't an issue, there's always the top performer 9800 Pro ($200 - $220).

To get a better impression of the performance of currently available graphics card, we suggest taking a look at the Tom's Hardware Guide VGA Charts . There we've tested 46 current and outdated graphics cards in 10 different benchmarks.