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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.15.04]
Manufactured by: Gigabyte

 Street Price: $430 on NewEgg

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Image Quality

Now that you saw the 5950 Ultra kill the 9800XT (my, how the drivers have improved!), I have to explain one thing to you that should significantly affect your purchasing decision.

While the 5950 Ultra is most certainly faster than the 9800XT in most resolutions with basic trilinear filtering enabled, things are different when filtering is enabled.

The Radeon video cards feature extremely fast anisotropic filtering performance. This is because the drivers can determine which textures require filtering. This isn't 100% perfect, but it significantly improves performance, and allows the Radeon to feature 16X Anisotropic filtering, compared to the maximum 8X allowed by the GFFX.

Furthermore, we have found that the Radeon performs much better with Antialiasing on as well. Smoothvision truly keeps the game running smoothly.

Before we pass judgement, let's have a look at a screenshot comparing the image quality of the filtering capabilities of both cards:

Looking at this untouched screenshot from Aquamark 3 (saved as an animated GIF to aid in comparing, but should not affect what we are looking for here), you can come to a couple conclusions:

1) The 8X Anisotropic filtering of the 5950 Ultra is clearer than that of the 9800XT (look at the mountain on the left side)
2) The 4X Antialiasing of the 9800XT is much smoother and more clearly defined than that of the 5950 Ultra.

So it's a win for each card. However overall, the 9800XT looks better and runs smoother in almost every game (which allows you to crank the settings even higher, and use higher resolutions).

Gigabyte seems to have gone to great lengths to allow them to sell a high end video card overclocked right out of the box. Unlike other automatic OC features (like ATI's "OVERDRIVE"), this is a truly significant overclock - from 475 MHz to 520 MHz on a 5950 Ultra is something to acknowlege!

While this does increase the price by a fair margin, this does make it the fastest video card around, guaranteed to be faster than any stock 5950 Ultra. Sure, you can TRY to overclock another 5950 Ultra to 520 MHz, but say bye to your warranty, and hello to potential stability and heat issues.

What it really comes down to is this: Were you considering a 5950 Ultra in the first place? If so, why not splurge the extra $50 and get the fastest one around.

Just keep in mind that an even faster card from NVIDIA is just around the corner, and if you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to change your pants and wait just a few more weeks and see what they come up with.

  • Fastest video card today
  • Pre-Overclocked, by quite a nice margin
  • Pretty good software bundle
  • NVIDIA's drivers are improving every day, and performance increases are almost guaranteed
  • I like the VIVO dongle

  • A faster card is just around the corner
  • No video cables!
  • Reference heatsink - this card deserves better!

Final Score: 95%