ATI's New High End and Mid Range: Radeon X1950 XTX & X1900 XT 256MBby Derek Wilson on August 23, 2006 9:52 AM EST
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With very few exceptions, the GeForce 7950 GX2 leads in the single card department. Again with few exceptions, the X1950 XTX leads in the single GPU department. These are the two top performers in the graphics market right now. With the price on the X1950 XTX looking much lower (if ATI is accurate) than the 7950 GX2 right now, whether or not the added performance is worth it will have to be left up to the user, but the 7950 GX2 seems to offer an intriguing middle ground between single card and multi card setups in both performance and cost. At the ultra high end, X1950 CrossFire gets a bigger boost over X1900 CrossFire because the core clock of the CrossFire card is higher in addition to the increased memory bandwidth offered by 2GHz data rate GDDR4. Compared to the 7950 GX2 and 7900 GTX SLI, X1950 CrossFire does very well.
The new X1900 XT 256MB does come in at the bottom of our high end tests, but runs near the top of the heap in our midrange tests. This card will be an excellent value if available for $280, as ATI is suggesting. We know ATI will sell it at stock prices, but we've also heard from at least one vendor indicating they will lead with a higher price. Regardless, the X1900 XT 256MB is a well formed product for its market. We did notice that the overclocked EVGA 7900 GT KO SuperClocked performed nearly the same as the 256MB card for just about the same cost. This puts them on equal footing in our book, and it comes down to personal preference and feature requirements as to which purchase you make. If the X1900 XT 256MB does retail for $280, we can easily recommend it along side overclocked 7900 GT cards at its price point.
On the power front, ATI has reduced the load power significantly on the X1950 XTX from the days of the X1900 XTX, and GDDR4 has officially made its debut. Today's tests really have been all about the memory from size to type and speed. Of course, this is a better method than simply renaming products.
Unfortunately, ATI decided that playing the name game is still a good idea. Maybe from a marketing standpoint it makes sense, but renaming the X1600 Pro to X1300 XT isn't going to make it a better card. And 10Mhz beyond the X1600 XT is barely enough to warrant a different pair of letters following the model number, let alone a whole new series starting with the X1650 Pro. On the bright side, the name game does come with lower prices for the same performance, which is never a bad thing. We should be receiving our X1650 Pro and X1300 XT as this article goes live, so expect a follow up showcasing the latest at the low end in the near future.
We will be revisiting multi-GPU performance with NVIDIA's 7950 GX2 Quad SLI as well. As with most people, we have had some difficulty in getting Quad SLI to behave properly, but hopefully the biggest hurdles are behind us.
Availability is an issue, especially as we had seen quite a few hard launches over the past couple years. It is very difficult for us to make a proper recommendation without real prices to guide us. While ATI is touting some pretty aggressive prices, we just aren't sure people are going to hit the target. While HIS and PowerColor have confirmed that they will at least be in the neighborhood, we are hearing from other sources that prices may be much higher. ATI did try to push this launch back to the 14th of September to wait for availability, so it seems to us that they realize their error, but hopefully they won't repeat the mistake in their next major launch. We really want to hold off making purchasing recommendations until we know what these cards will cost, but ATI's prices would make much of our suggestions turn red.
Before we close, one reminder to people who really want the X1950 XTX: don't buy it. Pick up the X1950 CrossFire instead. For the same price and performance you get a much more versatile solution. If you really need both DVI outputs, the CrossFire dongle supports that as well, so all you're doing is adding a small amount of cable clutter. Basically, there's little point in not getting the CrossFire card -- assuming prices stay equal, of course.