A quick inspection of the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra reference board reveals a design that more closely resembles GeForce4 than GeForce FX. To cool the graphics core, a single slot cooling solution is used that doesn’t require a 7200RPM fan a la GeForce FX 5800 Ultra’s FX Flow cooling system. In fact, the heatsink assembly resembles the unit used on the GeForce4 Ti 4400 and Ti 4600 reference cards. This heatsink however is quite a bit larger.
Physically GeForce FX 5200 Ultra is slightly shorter than GeForce4 Ti 4600, but larger than ATI’s RADEON 9700/9500 series. To keep the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra fed with juice, an external power source is required for optimum performance. This is located on the end of the board with the rest of the Ultra board’s power circuitry. If the end user forgets to connect their GeForce FX 5200 Ultra to the system power supply, the board operates at a reduced 250/650MHz clock frequency. A warning message is displayed once the operating system has loaded informing the user of the problem.
Our reference board shipped with 128MB of 400MHz Hynix BGA memory. Keep in mind that this can change with retail boards, as the final decision is up to the needs of the card manufacturers. The first generation GeForce FX 5200 Ultra boards will most likely closely resemble NVIDIA’s reference design with second-generation boards supporting all kinds of exotic solutions for cooling and memory.
GeForce FX 5200 Ultra reference board
Back of the card
External power source required
Like the other GeForce FX cards, the fan on GeForce FX 5200 Ultra operates dynamically. Under more rigorous situations the fan kicks in, keeping core temperatures in check. Note however that this doesn’t necessarily mean the fan automatically operates while running in 3D applications such as games; quite often the fan would remain off during gaming, kick in for a few minutes, and then turn itself off again. We also got a chance to witness the core’s automatic clock-throttling during overclocking testing.
Under intense strain the card would adjust its clock frequencies rather than lockup or display glitches like an overclocked card would normally do. The final frame rate would be just below the results we obtained at default settings, so we believe the card was underclocked to a level just below the 325/650 default. This is a drastic improvement over the situation we encountered with GeForce FX 5800 Ultra, where the board would underclock itself too far in these situations. At the time we were told that the 42.69 driver appeared to be the culprit, and based on what we’ve found with 42.72 that appears to be the case. Because of this, end users will have to pay more attention when overclocking their card, but once we settled on the 335/670 overclocked settings we used for testing, the clock throttling went away.
On the video side, we’ve got dual 350MHz RAMDACs for driving two displays at resolutions up to 2048x1536 at 75Hz, just like GeForce4 MX. The video processing engine also appears unchanged, which means we’ve got an integrated TV encoder and an onboard MPEG2 decoder. Basically, GeForce FX 5200 is geared up for NVIDIA’s Personal Cinema right out of the box.