Examination of the Specifications

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Specs and Issues with Installation
  FX5700 Ultra FX5600 Ultra FX5600
Memory (MB) 128 128 128
Memory Interface (bits) 128 128 128
Memory Type DDR-II DDR-I DDR-I
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s) 14.4 12.8 11.2
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.13 0.13 0.13
Core Clock (MHz) 475 400 270
Memory Clock (MHz)
450 400 275
Street Price (USD) under $200 ~$160 ~$130
Category Range Mid Mid Mid

In addition to the above, the FX5700 Ultra has an updated shader engine (the CineFX 2.0) that should improve features like pixel and vertex shading which are being used with increased frequency in today’s games. The net improvement with the FX5700 Ultra over the FX5600 is a core and memory clock boost, updated shaders, DDR-II support, and a core manufactured by IBM (not that it really matters to most of you). As you can see, this is not a major revision of the old product, but merely a refresh. For those of us looking for a drastic change in architecture, we will have to wait for a while longer (in August 2003, NVIDIA CEO implied that they will not release any major new products anytime soon).


Bigger is Not Better: Issues with Installation

The FX5700 Ultra is a large card; it measures 8.5″ x 4.25″ compared to the 7.5″ x 4.25″ on the FX5600 Ultra. This extra length may cause a few of you some headaches as it did me.

NVIDIA GeForceFX 5700 Ultra Review - Graphics Cards 71
The front of the FX5700 Ultra.

I am using a fairly roomy case (Antec SX830 mid-tower) on a fairly well laid-out motherboard (ABIT NF7 Rev2.0), and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d run into problems with space. The problem is with the length of the FX5700 Ultra: it obstructs more RAM clips than it should and causes problems for those of us using standard length IDE cables.

Here’s a picture so you can see what I’m talking about.

NVIDIA GeForceFX 5700 Ultra Review - Graphics Cards 72
A tight fit caused by a large video card.
(Click for larger image.)

As you can see, the RAM clips come within a hair of touching the video card itself. It also blocks off 2 RAM clips instead of just one like with most other cards. However, the most annoying aspect of the length of the card was that it forces me to bend my IDE cables around the card to reach the IDE headers and I barely had enough slack to do this. Things were so tight that I considered removing my DVD-ROM drive just to give my cables more room. If you have IDE headers below the AGP slot, you may be forced to bend cables, move drives, or even buy longer cables just to make everything fit.

Though I did not have a problem with the length of my case, some of you using smaller cases may find the card too long and may conflict with a hard-drive cage or the chassis. Before you buy this card, make sure that there is enough room for an 8.5″ card from back to front over the AGP slot.

Even though none of you can actually buy a reference board, the reference card is followed closely by many OEM manufacturers and it serves as an example of what should be produced. By giving little thought to the ergonomics of their reference design, NVIDIA risks having their partners repeat the same design mistakes. It may be impossible to do given the manufacturing process, but I think NVIDIA really needs to spend some time and give some more thought to their design. It will help the user greatly if they could just shrink the board by 1 inch. I fear for those of you who are using micro ATX cases.

Editor’s Update: Though I saw these same issue arise as well, the NVIDIA 5700 Ultra graphics card does fit to AGP specifications and thus some of the issues may stem from motherboard design. This is still a concern though and we hope that NVIDIA’s vendors may choose to redesign the PCB on their boards.
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