First Look: ATI Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB and ATI Radeon X1900 XT 256MB
ATI's latest update to its line of graphics boards includes a refresh of its high-end offering and the debut of an attractive midrange board that takes advantage of an older, previously higher-end chip set.
I tested shipping versions of ATI's new boards and found much to like about both.
Performance for the Masses
The mainstream card, the Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, uses the same X1900 graphics chip found in the higher-end X1900 XT released earlier this year. But this model has 256MB of memory, as opposed to the previous iteration's 512MB, and an appealing price of $279.
The Radeon X1900 XT 256MB makes a strong case for itself as an affordable card that can handle complex games nearly as well as a power graphics board at 1600 by 1200 resolution with anti-aliasing on. The 256MB board performed quite well in our PC World Test Center's evaluation, running neck-and-neck with the fastest board on our Top 5 Mainstream Graphics Boards chart, eVGA's GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked. The most perceptible difference involved our Battlefield 2 test at 1600 by 1200 resolution with anti-aliasing on; there, the ATI board managed 73 frames per second, versus the eVGA board's 61 fps. Most other benchmarks, including Half-Life 2, Quake 4, and Splinter Cell, produced minuscule differences either way. At press time, eVGA's site listed its GeForce 7900 GT KO Superclocked board at $349, making the ATI board a better value.
GPU Pixel Power
In terms of GPU hardware, the Radeon X1900 XT 256MB carries just as many pixel and vertex pipelines as its more expensive sibling, the Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB (which replaces the 512MB version of the X1900 XT). The X1900 XT 256MB, however, runs at a slightly slower clock speed and packs less memory. Both new boards feature a cooling fan that's two PCI slots wide and runs reasonably quietly, even during 3D operation. In addition, both boards offer HDCP-ready dual-DVI ports, and both can process high-definition video (including Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD).
Besides having more memory than its mainstream cousin, the X1950 XTX high-performance board offers the potential to graduate to a dual-graphics setup via two X1950 XTX boards in a CrossFire configuration. ATI's biggest tweak to its newest high-end board is the addition of GDDR4 memory to boost the memory clock to 1GHz. With that bandwidth, the X1950 XTX returned impressive performance numbers, though it wasn't the fastest performer we've seen on every single test (eVGA's $580 e-GeForce 7950 GX2 outperformed the X1950 XTX on some measures). For example, the X1950 XTX ran our anti-aliased Splinter Cell test at 70 fps in 1600 by 1200 resolution, the second-fastest time we've seen at this resolution. Compared to its competition among power graphics boards, the X1950 XTX is an outstanding value.
Either of these boards can ably handle the challenging graphics tasks you might throw its way. If you're gaming on a 30-inch wide-screen monitor or want the flexibility of expanding to a dual-graphics CrossFire configuration, you'll appreciate the power that ATI's X1950 XTX delivers-and for significantly less than its competitors cost. If your graphics needs are more modest, consider the highly capable midrange ATI X1900 XT 256MB, which impressed me with its performance and overall value.
ATI Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB
Top-of-the-line performance from a single GPU; for even more graphics processing power, you can add a second CrossFire board in a dual-card setup.
Current prices (if available)
ATI Radeon X1900 XT 256MB
A terrific value, this model narrowly edged out a more expensive, overclocked eVGA board to rank as the fastest mainstream board we've tested.
Current prices (if available)