When evaluating the performance of 3D video cards, image quality is obviously a prime consideration. Overall performance is still the main draw, but this must be tempered with the clarity and color of the game images, along with the quality of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering modes. This area is also open to interpretation, depending on personal tastes, so we have looked over many in-game screenshots and kept our eyes glued to screen during real-world gaming tests.
The latest NVIDIA 50 driver revision has added some performance to the equation, as well as noting "enhanced image quality for both anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing". We put this to a test using multiple in-game screenshots, and while the differences may not be that noticeable, there was some improvement in edge anti-aliasing. The overall rankings don't change, and it's still ATI's game when it comes to image quality, but any improvement in NVIDIA IQ is a good thing.
Below you will find screenshots taken from the 3DMark 2003 IQ suite. These emulate our game benchmarking, and have 4X anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering modes enabled. Click on the thumbnails and compare image to see where the exact difference resides, and use your own personal criteria to make a decision. Note that due to bandwidth concerns, these are jpeg files, taken from the original bmp's, set at 100% quality.
The XFX GeForce FX 5900 Ultra retail card has a street price in the $450 range, which places it on par with many other high-end GeForce FX 5900 Ultra VIVO boards. There are less expensive boards that come without VIVO, and you can count on saving $50 or more by going without VIVO. The ATI comparison is a bit tougher, given that this card cuts between the features of the Radeon 9800 Pro ($350+), and the AiW model ($360+), along with approaching the standard performance of the Radeon 9800 XT ($460-$500). If you need the flexibility of VIVO and high-end NVIDIA performance, then it's a small price to pay, but the All-in-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro is also a compelling option.
* Please note that retail box prices are taken at the time of review, and are not intended to reflect long-term trends.
There is a definite market for fully-featured, multimedia video cards, and the XFX GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256-MB certainly delivers on that end. The card features high-end 3D game speed, VIVO functionality, and a nice software bundle. For NVIDIA fans looking for a video-in fix to go with their gaming, XFX has provided a potential candidate.