VGA Card Buyer's Guide 07/2003

GeForceFX 5900

Upon its introduction, NVIDIA's 0.13µ FX 5800 was criticized for its heat problems, insufficient memory bandwidth, and loud cooling solution. Now, only a few months later, NVIDIA is updating/ replacing its flagship model with the FX 5900 (NV 35). The new chip addresses the weaknesses of its predecessor - it comes with a new, much quieter reference cooling solution, uses conventional DDR memory to reduce heat, and is built around a 256 bit memory architecture to increase memory bandwidth. Aside from a few minor tweaks (improved Color Compression and floating point performance; Ultra Shadow), the 3D features were practically left unchanged. The FX 5900 is nominally 50 MHz slower than the FX 5800, though. At the same time, its memory bandwidth has improved from 16.7 GB/s to a very impressive 27.2 GB/s, easily offsetting the clock speed disadvantage. The number of transistors has also risen from ~125 million to ~130 million.

Currently, the FX 5900 Ultra can safely be called the fastest card on the market. Since the Ultra is only available in a (rather oversized) 256 MB version, its official retail price is very high, coming in at $499. A cheaper 128 MB version would make more sense, in our opinion. The non-Ultra version is clocked slightly lower (probably 400/850). At this point, there are no details available about the Value version of the FX 5900.


  • GeForceFX 5900 Value 128 MB 256 bit (?) DDR (?/?); official price: $279.
  • GeForceFX 5900 128 MB 256 bit DDR (400/ 850); official price: $399.
  • GeForceFX 5900 Ultra 256 MB 256 bit DDR (450/ 850); official price: $499.