Graphics Cards Guide

PowerColor Radeon X1950 PRO 256MB review

PowerColor Radeon X1950 PRO 256MB

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Moving to 80nm

Moving to 80nm

Feverish does not begin to describe what's happening in the graphics scene recently. Both ATI and NVIDIA are slugging it out before the DirectX 9 era officially ends. It is therefore a period of transition and both firms know that they have to work doubly hard to lure fence-sitting consumers who may be holding out for the new generation. Already, we have had new releases coupled with attractive price revisions that have made the past couple of months, the most intense and competitive graphics showdown for a while. It certainly helped that ATI seems to have staged a mini comeback, especially in terms of price and performance.

ATI arguably started it all when they revamped its flagship card by outfitting it with GDDR4 memory and an improved cooler - the Radeon X1950 XTX. Now they are following up with a less powerful version that still falls into the high-end segment, but at a more accessible price. The ATI Radeon X1950 PRO has a new core designation (RV570) but like most 'new' graphics chipset released recently, it's based on the older R580 core. In fact, it has the exact same shader and pipeline configuration as its Radeon X1900 GT predecessor that was using a R580 core with a one operating quad disabled from the total possible of four on the full fledged R580 core. Unlike that, the Radeon X1950 PRO's RV570 core is a streamlined core that is tailored only for this SKU, meaning it has nothing more than the 36 pixel shader processors, 8 vertex shaders, 12 general rendering pipelines (with 12 TMUs and 12 ROPs). However, the RV570 will probably be remembered as ATI's first core to be manufactured using an 80nm process. ATI also took the opportunity to introduce changes to its multi-GPU solution, CrossFire. The new 'native CrossFire' technology does away with the whole idea of Master and Slave CrossFire edition cards by integrating the CrossFire composting engine functionality within the RV570 GPU, bringing ATI's solution a step closer to NVIDIA's more established SLI technology.

Before we reveal the full details about the Radeon X1950 PRO, here's a comparison chart displaying the new card and some of the current high-end alternatives:

GPUs Compared
Model ATI Radeon X1950 PRO 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT 512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XT 256MB ATI Radeon X1900 GT 256MB
Core Code RV570 G71 G71 R580 R580
Transistor Count 330 million 278 million 278 million 384 million 384 million
Manufacturing Process (microns) 0.08 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.09
Core Clock 575MHz 450MHz 550 MHz 625MHz 575MHz
Vertex Shaders 8 7 8 8 8
Rendering (Pixel) Pipelines 12 20 24 16 12
Pixel Shader Processors 36 20 24 48 36
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) 12 20 24 16 12
Raster Operator units (ROP) 12 16 16 16 12
Memory Clock 1380MHz DDR3 1320MHz DDR3 1400MHz DDR3 1450MHz DDR3 1200MHz DDR3
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 44.1GB/s 42.2GB/s 44.8GB/s 46.4GB/s 38.4GB/s
Ring Bus Memory Controller 512-bit (for memory reads only) NIL NIL 512-bit (for memory reads only) 512-bit (for memory reads only)
PCI Express Interface x16 x16 x16 x16 x16
Molex Power Connectors Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDCP Support Yes No - Vendor dependant Yes No - Vendor dependant No - Vendor dependant
Street Price US$199 (Launch Price) US$199 US$299 US$259 US$199 - 249
Other Information Internal CrossFire Ready SLI Ready SLI Ready CrossFire Ready CrossFire Ready