MSI GeForce FX5700-VT2DR256 Review

MSI GeForce FX5700-VT2DR256

“Fortunately, for everything the multimedia side seems to lack, the included software really makes this card shine.”
  • Dual DVI output
  • excellent software package
  • Remote control is useless. Average gaming performance

Summary

There are a couple reasons why the VT2DR256 stands out among other Geforce FX 5700 cards. The dual DVI capability is an awesome feature to have, and the included software is probably one of the best packages we have seen come with a card in this price range. If you are looking for the best gaming card in this price range, we recommend that you check out ATI’s Radeon 9600XT. You can find the 9600XT for about $30 dollars cheaper than the MSI VT2DR256 and its gaming performance is much better.

The VT2DR256 is not a true multimedia focused card even though it gives the impression that it is. People looking to add TV functionality to their computer will want to look at ATI’s All-in-Wonder 9600XT card. Disappointments aside, the  VT2DR256 is an above average graphics card and we have to give props to MSI for creating a very tempting overall package, we just wish they put the remote control to good use.

Introduction

MSI’s GeForce FX5700-VT2DR256 video card is one of only a handful of cards on the market supporting dual DVI outputs. This is very unique for a mid-level graphics card because the emphasis for the VT2DR256 is on gaming and multimedia applications, not AutoCAD and other workstation related programs typically associated with having two digital displays.

Besides the unique dual-DVI outputs, MSI also includes a remote control and one of the best software packages we have seen from a video card manufacturer. Powered by the Nvidia Geforce FX 5700 GPU, the VT2DR256 is priced just under $200 and has a lot to offer the casual gamer or computer user looking for a dual display setup.

Features and Design

A fact of the video card market is that there often isn’t much to differentiate different manufacturer’s offerings when they are all based on a handful of designs. They all utilize the same graphics chip and typically are just a few dollars away from each other in price. When it comes to rankings and ratings, the card that runs your games the fastest usually is considered the best.

So what does a manufacturer do to separate their graphics cards from the competition, especially if their product isn’t the fastest on the market? They offer more value in the form of included games, software, cooling solutions or added peripherals. This is exactly what MSI has done with their VT2DR256 graphics card. Not only did they add dual DVI capability, but they also added video-in and TV-out to the card. For those of you who do not have DVI capabilities on your video card, MSI includes a DVI-to-VGA adapter so you can use this video card with your existing monitor.

MSI's VT2DR256 video card features dual DVI output
MSI’s VT2DR256 video card features dual DVI output and a remote control

Powering the VT2DR256 is Nvidia’s Geforce FX 5700 .13u GPU (graphical processessing unit) with a core clock speed of 425MHz, 256MB of Samsung DDR memory clocked at 500MHz, and 8X AGP support. The Nvidia GPU used in this card is rather impressive when it comes to resolutions. DVD and HDTV MPEG-2 content is decoded at up to 1920×1080, (1080i). And of course this card is DirectX 9 compatible so you can take advantage of the DX 9.0 Pixel and Vertex shading.

If you are wondering how you would control all of those video in and out features, MSI packages a remote control and their Media Center Deluxe II software. Other software packaged with the VT2DR256 includes full copies of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind, Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, InterVideo WinDVD 5.1, InterVideo WinDVD Creator Plus, and a 7-in1 games CD.

Performance

System Configurations:

Windows XP Pro SP1; AMD Athlon 2400+; Abit AT7 Max 2 motherboard; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Maxtor 160GB Sata HDD

Setup and Use

Setting up the VT2DR256 is a tad bit different that other cards on the market because of its dual DVI and multimedia capabilities. We installed MSI’s video card drivers and software and then proceeded to run their Live Update 2 program which will automatically update the MSI drivers and software to the latest versions. The Live Update software is nice to have because it simplifies the whole updating process.

We then proceeded to install MSI’s Media Center II software. From looking on the box of this video card, it looked like you would be able to get full multimedia capabilities similar to ATI’s All-In-Wonder line. Unfortunately, the two cannot be compared. The Media Center II software looks and feels pretty amateurish. It’s really nothing more than an interface for accessing features already available on your system such as browsing pictures, accessing programs, or playing music. We could do without this program and recommend that you leave it uninstalled if you purchase this video card.


Click on the pictures for a larger image

What is interesting about the video in and out capabilities is that the VT2DR256 does not have an integrated TV tuner even though it is using a Philips chip for decoding NTSC and PAL broadcasts. What this means is that you cannot fully watch TV or change channels unless you use MSI’s TV tuner card. Chances are that you could try adding a 3rd party TV tuner card to the VT2DR256 but we cannot confirm that it will be compatible.

The remote control that MSI gives you with this card looks like a toy upon first inspection, but it also seems like it might actually have quite a bit of functionality to it. Unfortunately we could not confirm this because there was no way to connect the remote to a PC. We looked and looked but there is no USB cable or any other cable that could act as the remote receiver. So basically the remote control is completely useless. We are not sure what MSI was thinking, but is seems like they are doing everything in their power to get you to purchase their TV tuner card so you can use all of the features of the VT2DR256.

The dual display abilities of this card are very nice. MSI doesn’t include advanced utilities like you would get from a Matrox card so those used to a dual display for workstation type work will most likely be disappointed. You are forced to use Nvidia’s own Nview software which comes with the Nvidia drivers, if you want to use a dual display setup. The Nview software is actually pretty decent to use and will give you not only different display options, but mouse options for when you navigate across the multiple screens. Another cool feature about the Nview software is that instead of simply splitting the screen across multiple displays, you can setup “gridlines” which will define regions for you.

Fortunately for everything the multimedia side seems to lack, the included software really makes this card shine when compared to others. On the gaming side, you have Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, The Elder Scrolls III, Duke Nukem Manhattan project and a 7-in1- games collection. Ghost Recon and Elder Scrolls III are fantastic games worthy of purchasing separately. The 7-in-1 games CD and Duke Nukem games are nice little bonuses but really are not worth spending the money on we think. The icing on the cake is of course the InterVideo WinDVD 5.1 software which will play back your DVD movies in glorious Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and the InterVideo WinDVD Creator Plus which will help you make your own DVD’s. MSI claims that the total value of the software bundled with this card is worth $1200, and while we have to question whether the software would really cost that much if purchased alone, we cannot argue that this software package is indeed very robust, especially since this card costs under $200.

Gaming Performance

We went into the benchmarking processes knowing that the VT2DR256 is a mid-level consumer graphics card. Gaming performance was about average for this price range. The ATI 9600XT video card was able to keep a competitive edge over the VT2DR256 despite costing around $20 less.

The VT2DR256 performs just fine on the older games, but you simply will not be able to play the latest games with the resolutions or anti-aliasing turned up; the VT2DR256 will fail miserably. But when it comes to games released either earlier this year or last year, the VT2DR256 should perform just fine. Please click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review.

Conclusion

There are a couple reasons why the VT2DR256 stands out among other Geforce FX 5700 cards. The dual DVI capability is an awesome feature to have, and the included software is probably one of the best packages we have seen come with a card in this price range. If you are looking for the best gaming card in this price range, we recommend that you check out ATI’s Radeon 9600XT. You can find the 9600XT for about $30 dollars cheaper than the MSI VT2DR256 and its gaming performance is much better.

The VT2DR256 is not a true multimedia focused card even though it gives the impression that it is. People looking to add TV functionality to their computer will want to look at ATI’s All-in-Wonder 9600XT card. Disappointments aside, the  VT2DR256 is an above average graphics card and we have to give props to MSI for creating a very tempting overall package, we just wish they put the remote control to good use.

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