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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [06.25.03]
Card Manufacturer: InnoVISION

MSRP: $199
Est. Street Price: $150

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The Chip

The GeForceFX 5600 GPU has a similar architecture to the FX5200, which we reviewed previously as part of InnoVision's Tornado 5200 FX.  There are a few differences that we'll highlight though.

The clock speed here is 350 MHz, which is a decent clip for a mainstream card.  However, these days, upping a card to a performance level part comes through increased pipelines and memory bandwidth rather than clock speed (Like ATI's RADEON 9500/9600 cards versus their 9700/9800 counterparts). The memory runs at 350 MHz DDR (600 MHz effective) to provide 11.2 GB/sec of data bandwidth, which is quite an upgrade from the TI4200's 8 GB/sec bandwidth.

The 5600 core has the full Intellisample engine aboard, so prepare for some FSAA and Aniso action.  This engine gives us new AA options all the way to 8X, and a "fixed" NVIDIA Aniso engine that supposedly works now (More on this later). The Intellisample engine also implements texture, z-data, and color compression for greater efficiency while anti-aliasing.

The FX5600 Ultra core also has NVIDIA's new Adaptive Filtering engine as part of the Intellisample set of features.  Most of you are familiar with the methods of bilinear and trilinear filtering, plus the newer anisotropic filtering.  Before this engine, you had to decide which you were going to use and set it in the drivers (or in the game engine, if you were lucky).  You could manually switch between bilinear, which would average the colors of 4 texels, or trilinear, which uses 8 texel samples, and also takes color samples from each mip map level in order to also blend different mip maps together a little better. It’s been around a while, but if you don't think there's a performance hit with it, go try switching 3DMark2001 between the two and re-running it. Then I'll accept your apology. Anyway, Anisotropic filtering goes even one better and averages all of the pixels in a texture 3 dimensionally.

However, some textures really won't benefit from any more than simple bilinear filtering (especially if their mip maps are designed properly).  So jacking up to trilinear or anisotropic filtering can also result in a lot of wasted GPU time.  Adaptive filtering is intended to eliminate this waste.  It monitors the geometry of what's going on, and adjusts texturing operation on a pixel-by-pixel basis, and tries to give the best balance between speed and maximum quality while not producing artifacts.  Theoretically this means that if it detects a texture that wouldn't benefit from trilinear filtering, it will only do bilinear on it, and then the next texture might get some benefit from Aniso filtering, so it gets that.  Theoretically.  Now here's the catch:

This function is (supposedly) automatically activated, automatically controlled, and there's no way to override it yet.  That means we can't even be certain it's THERE much less that it's doing its job and filtering more efficiently.  Oops.  Hopefully, something will give us some control of this later, so we can test it, but right now, it may as well not exist.  I mean, what happens when I turn on 2x Aniso in the drivers?  Is it REALLY only doing 2x all the time or is it maybe sneaking up to 4x in some frames if it can? Or maybe you've set to 8x Aniso, but it's dropping back to simple bilinear at times.  I have no way of knowing.  That really sucks, because the idea of the technology really interests me.  We have all of these quality enhancers, and fillrate gets increased through more pipes and faster clocks, but technology that tries to give us a better picture and performance through greater efficiency rather than more power interests me.  Anyway, Adaptive filtering isn't yet proven in my book, and won't be until someone lets me turn the function on and off.  

Of course, the FX 5600 Ultra also has the CineFX engine, for 128 bit precision color when using DirectX9, but there aren't any DirectX9 games out there yet.  It's too bad, because I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I can see what true FP color modes can do to make a game look better.

The Bundle

There's a nice box of CDs in the box too. It contains InnoVISION's standard FX software bundle of WinDVD4, Comanche 4, drivers, and demos. InnoVISION's standard package also includes InterVideo's WinDVD Creator, to use with the VIVO (they even give it to you with cards that don't have VIVO).  We took a quick look at it, and it's a nice easy-to-use package, though it doesn't offer as much editing capability as many commercial software packages.

InnoVISION gives you the distinctly UNCHEAP solid metal converter we saw included with most Radeons in the market. We mention this because while MOST manufacturers include 'the good kind', not all do. Inno3D does. This one is coated in clear plastic and feels solid, and high quality.  And metal is a WHOLE lot harder to break than cheap plastic I've seen aorund. It is also a little shorter lengthwise than most, which also reduces the chance of breakage.

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