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BFG GeForce FX 5700 Ultra

Redefining the Mainstream

By Josh Walrath

 

            BFG Technologies was founded by a group of people formerly of VisionTek.  This group brought to the company a great knowledge of how the industry works, as well as contacts throughout the industry that helped them get off the ground in dramatic fashion.  Unfortunately for BFG, its main graphics chip provider (NVIDIA) struggled with their latest GPU’s, so BFG was left with the last generation of GPU’s to compete with ATI’s all consuming R300 based Radeon 9700 and 9500 series of cards.  BFG was founded on the premise of providing products for the gamer and enthusiast crowd, as well as providing solid products for the mainstream through the retail channel.  Right off the bat BFG was able to procure orders from large retailers like Walmart and CompUSA, and then later on at Fry’s, Best Buy, and Newegg.  Even though their products were not competitive in terms of features or performance from the high end ATI cards, they were able to deliver solid products to the retail channel for mass consumption.

            When NVIDIA finally delivered the NV30 chip (GeForce FX 5800 series), it ran very hot and very slow as compared to the ATI offering.  While these parts were very competitive in DX7, DX8, and OpenGL games, the latest DX9 based software ran significantly slower than what ATI could do with the R300, and later the R350.  ATI also put the squeeze on with the RV350 based Radeon 9600 Pro.  The NV30 was made in very limited quantities, and it did not make a significant impact on the market (other than tarnish NVIDIA’s reputation a bit more).  In the Spring of 2003 NVIDIA did release a much more competitive product with the NV35 based GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.  Here was finally a part that could at least keep up with ATI’s high end offering, and for the low end and midrange NVIDIA offered the NV31 and NV34 chips.  While the NV34 was aimed squarely at the low end (GeForce FX 5200 series), the NV31 products were aimed at conquering the midrange.  Unfortunately for the NV31, it was still based off of the NV30 architecture, and so its floating point performance was subpar.  It held its own in DX7, DX8, and OpenGL games, but it was no match overall for the Radeon 9600 Pro.

Plenty of marketing speak on the back of the box.  Note the little window...

            Though the NV35 held its own against ATI in the high end, the midrange was quickly slipping out of NVIDIA’s grasp.  An area that had once been dominated by the GeForce 4 Ti 4200 was now the land of the Radeon 9600 and its variants.  While the FX 5600 and 5600 Ultra made a go of it, they could never overcome the performance hurdles that the original NV30 architecture suffered from.  In the Fall of 2003, NVIDIA finally brought a product to market that could match the 9600 Pro (and the 9600 XT) in nearly every category.  The NV36 was released, and none too soon for NVIDIA and its partners.  This product was based off of the NV35 architecture, and as such featured much improved floating point performance in applications that utilized PS 2.0 code.

            The NV36 was also the first product released by NVIDIA that was produced by IBM.  The GeForce FX 5700 Ultra is quite a decked out card, and it does provide very suitable performance across the board.  The core is clocked at 475 MHz, while the DDR-II memory comes in at 450 MHz (900 MHz DDR).  The 14.4 GB/sec of bandwidth the memory provided gave the core plenty to work with, as compared to the competing Radeon 9600 XT which featured DDR memory running at a paltry 300 MHz (600 MHz DDR) giving a max memory bandwidth of  9.6 GB/sec).  Theoretically this should give the GeForce FX 5700 Ultra an advantage in many situations, such as anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.

Though a bit blurry here, this little window guarantees that the user will be getting the correct card in the correct box.

            BFG Technologies was one of the first manufacturers to introduce a GeForce FX 5700 Ultra product to the market.  The price point for this product at introduction was around $229, but they typically came with a rebate of some kind that would lower the price down to $199 in most cases.  This put the 5700 Ultra at the upper end of the mainstream market, with the GeForce FX 5700 taking up the slack at the $160 point.  With these products in hand, BFG now had the weapons to take on the ATI horde!

 

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