Impressions and Conclusions
Looking back at the tests we’ve done here, we can see that the Radeon 9600XT has a lot going for it. The biggest asset to the Radeon 9600XT is its far superior DirectX performance compared to the FX5700 Ultra. In every DirectX game we ran, the Asus Radeon 9600XT came out on top and in some cases by a very large margin. It’s worth noting that the Radeon 9600XT is the only card we looked at today that can run Halo with all the features enabled and still be playable. With DirectX being the dominant API used in games these days, it’s good to know that the Radeon gives you the extra performance in this department.
In addition to the DirectX performance, the Radeon 9600XT also has superior texturing as seen in our anisotropic filtering tests in Halo. The textures look sharper and richer than the same scene rendered on the FX5700 Ultra. Anti-aliasing quality is slightly better than that on the FX5700 Ultra, but I seriously doubt most of you will notice the difference in a game as you move around.
The biggest problem with the Radeon 9600XT and perhaps the only reason why you would not want to buy this card is the lackluster OpenGL performance. Looking at the performance numbers in Jedi Academy and in Homeworld 2, it would appear that it performs best with no anti-aliasing whereas the NVIDIA FX5700 Ultra has much more playable options. OpenGL though not as popular amoung developers is the API of choice for id Software and is used in Doom 3.
GeForce FX5700 Ultra
The FX5700 Ultra is decent performer and is probably the more “well rounded” videocard we’ve looked at today. DirectX performance is not as good as the Radeon 9600XT, but is still very capable at playing every game tested. However, the FX5700 Ultra can’t seem to perform well with 4x anti-aliasing which is a little disappointing. So if you buy this card, expect to have to dumb-down details or accept the fact you won’t be doing 4x AA. OpenGL performance is great when comparing it to the performance of the Radeon 9600XT. The FX5700 Ultra was able to play Jedi Academy with all the details and with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering without any stutters.
The FX5700 Ultra’s texturing quality is a bit worse compared to the Radeon 9600XT: the textures a bit more flat and not as defined. Anti-aliasing quality is pretty good, though a little rough when compared to the Radeon 9600XT in instances. Overall, image quality is good, but not as good as the image you would get from the Radeon 9600XT.
In terms of value, the FX5700 Ultra may leave you wanting more. Because the DirectX performance is pretty poor compared to the similarly priced Radeon 9600XT, you will find yourself wanting to upgrade sooner than someone with the Radeon. However, this isn’t a big concern if you’re not planning on keeping the FX5700 Ultra for long or if you only play OpenGL games (which is very hard to do in my opinion).
So what should you buy?
If you don’t care about image quality and looking for well-rounded performance, then the FX5700 Ultra is your choice. The FX5700 Ultra may not be the fastest out there and may mean you will need to compromise a little on details, but at least it plays current games well. Performance was decent and definitely an improvement over previous NVIDIA models. However, as DirectX games get more complex, you may find the FX5700 Ultra insufficient for your gaming. In this respect, the Radeon 9600XT may be better value.
If you want top DirectX performance with superior image quality, then get the Radeon 9600XT. It has the best chance of playing games with all the details and leaving room to spare. OpenGL performance is a bit slow and you’ll definitely be adjusting your details to lower settings unfortunately. If the Radeon’s OpenGL performance were better, then there would be no contest and this card would be the obvious winner. But nothing in life is simple, is it? 🙂 However, even with the slower OpenGL performance, I think the Radeon 9600XT, is better value because of the performance in and dominance of DirectX. This allows you to keep the card for longer without wanting to upgrade.
I know I’ve been hard on NVIDIA in the past but their latest products (today’s FX5700 Ultra and the FX5950 in the Asus Radeon 9800XT review have shown to me that they have finally have something worth looking at in your upgrade cycle. Their latest products are well-rounded offering good performance in both DirectX and OpenGL in current games. However, I have some concerns about value since DirectX performance is not as strong as the ATI’s Radeon which means you may find yourself upgrading again sooner. ATI’s latest chipsets are amazingly fast in DirectX. They’ve proven to us that you can have top DirectX performance along with the great image quality. This gives it amazing value in this respect, but unfortunately has poor OpenGL performance.
For $200, there may be some risk if you don’t know what you’re buying – both cards have their strengths and weaknesses and it all depends on what you’re looking for. If I had to choose, however, I’d go with the Radeon 9600XT because I personally play more DirectX games and I like the idea of having the extra performance to extend its useful life. But all it takes is for NVIDIA to improve their DirectX performance and I’ll be recommending their product… and I’m sure NVIDIA is taking notes.
Find Prices on the ATI Radeon 9600XT graphics card.
Find Prices on the NVIDIA GeForceFX 5700 Ultra graphics card.