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Chaintech's Apogee FX71 GeForce FX 5600 Ultra
On the surface, Chaintech has definitely outdone itself to produce a unique aesthetic for the Apogee FX71. I don't know why, but the card's faux-gold finish has me picturing it in some sort of chromed-out, low-rider case mod. The Apogee FX71 would look pretty sweet with a set of shiny wire wheels, don't you think?

The Apogee FX71 has a heat spreader on the back of the card to help cool its rear-mounted memory chips. Since the rear heat spreader is only a thin sheet of metal, it shouldn't create any clearance problems with motherboard DIMM tabs or larger north bridge heat sinks.

Unfortunately, the card does create some PCI slot clearance problems; its cooling enclosure can partially block the first PCI slot on some motherboards. The Apogee FX71's cooler isn't as wide as what's found on the GeForce FX 5800 or 5900 Ultra, but it's just wide enough to be a nuisance.

Combined with its longish frame, the Apogee FX71's wider cooler could create problems for small form factor systems, but the card's cooling system relies on that bulky shroud.

Popping open the Apogee FX71's plastic-and-metal casing reveals a sea of heat sink fins cooled by a single "gas turbine" fan. The fan is situated such that the shroud is needed to properly direct air flow over the GPU heat sink. A far cry from the GeForce FX 5800 Ultra's Dustbuster, the Apogee FX71's cooler isn't noticeably louder than what can be found cooling other GeForce FX 5600 cards or ATI's Radeon 9600 Pro.

On the front of the card, memory chips are cooled by much larger memory heat sinks than their rear-mounted counterparts. I've seen this done on a number of graphics cards, and I have to wonder if front-mounted chips really do get hotter than those mounted on the opposite side of the card. Of course, the size and shape of memory heat sinks probably has more to do with looking cool than with being cool.

Gently prying off the Apogee FX71's heat sink reveals just the right amount of thermal compound smudged over the graphics chip. Because it allows the heat sink to be easily removed and replaced without damaging the contact area, I prefer seeing graphics card manufacturers use a thin layer of thermal compound over a one-time TIM pad that's a pain to scrape off and replace.

The Apogee FX71 uses Hynix HY5DU283222AF-25 memory chips rated for operation at 400MHz. Somewhat surprisingly, the board only features 128MB of memory. Mid-range and even budget graphics cards with 256MB of memory seem to be all the rage these days, despite the fact that the extra memory seems to have little impact on performance at all but the highest resolutions with antialiasing and anisotropic filtering cranked all the way up.

Chaintech uses Philips' SAA7114H video decoder to power the input side of the card's VIVO capabilities. The Apogee FX71 doesn't have a TV tuner chip, though.

Like the rest of the GeForce FX Ultra family, the Apogee FX71 has an auxiliary power connector. With a core clock speed of 400MHz and memory running at an effective 800MHz, it's no surprise that the Apogee FX71 needs a little extra juice.

Single DVI and VGA outputs grace the Apogee FX71's port cluster. Sadly, dual DVI hasn't taken off for high-end graphics cards yet, let alone for mid-range offerings like the Apogee FX71. The card's video input and output ports are handled by a VIVO dongle, which is pictured below.