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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ATI throws down Radeon X1950 series with GDDR4

X1950XTXX1950XTXX1950XTXTomsHardware ran some quick tests:
ATI claims that the X1950 XTX can beat competing dual-GPU solutions by using just one processor. Tom's Hardware had the chance to send an initial X1950 XTX card through our test parcours and found that the ATI card prevailed over Nvidia's cards in six out of ten relevant benchmarks. However, the card achieved this result mainly in low screen resolutions and was able to win only one benchmark in an "extreme HD resolution" of 2560x1600 pixel.

For some users, it may not be the performance of the X1950 XTX that may be especially appealing, as Nvidia's GX2 offers superior performance on large screens. Instead, ATI's cards could be viewed as the better deal at a suggested retail price of about $450 - which is about $100 below the average retail price of Nvidia's Geforce 7950 GX2 cards.


We would have liked to have more time with the cards than we had, but will come back with more reviews. This preliminary look into the single-card operations bodes very well for the red company from up north. At $449 the Radeon X1950XTX is a very nice buy. If you plan an upgrade in the near future, this new addition sweetens the deal.

If you are looking for more for a bit less, the Radeon X1900XT 256 is right up your alley. At a suggested retail price of $279, these look to be a good buy for those who seek a solid gaming card for a less-than-astronomical price.
Extremetech has a full test:
At the end of the day, the worth of the Radeon X1950 XTX comes down to this: Does the improved memory bandwidth you get from GDDR4 really make a difference if you don't change anything else about the card? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In most games, at high resolutions like 1600x1200 with 4x antialiasing and 8x anisotropic filtering applied, the speed goes up by a modest 5% to 8% over the Radeon X1900 XTX. If that's all you get from an almost 30% increase in memory bandwidth, color us unimpressed.

Though the relative speed boost of the new X1950 XTX card is minor, it's still quite an impressive card. It's faster in most games than any other single graphics card, edging out the overclocked XFX GeForce 7900 GTX by a hair. ATI tells us the MSRP will be $449 for both the regular X1950 XTX and the CrossFire Edition card (finally, they're killing the price premium on the CrossFire model). If that's the case, it will cost about the same as most of the non-overclocked GeForce 7900 GTX cards, and about $70 more than the Radeon X1900 XTX.

The performance king of the hill is still the GeForce 7950 GX2, which of course we would expect from a single-slot SLI solution. The GX2 is significantly faster in many games, but it's also significantly more expensive, around $550 to $600. That $100 to $150 difference just about puts it in a totally different price class. If you watch for sales, though, you may be able to find a 7950 GX2 card approaching the $500 price point.

If we were looking for a really fast high-end graphics card, would we pay the extra money for the X1950 XTX? Probably not. The new cooling solution on the X1950 XTX is definitely a bit less annoying, but the recent price drops of the X1900 XTX combined with the relatively small performance increase in the X1950 XTX make the X1900 XTX a better deal. If the X1950 XTX falls in price a little bit, it will be the preferred model.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do a thorough, high-resolution test of both ATI and Nvidia's high-end dual graphics configurations. It could be that at extremely high resolutions, ATI's improved memory bandwidth makes a big difference. The company even claims they can beat Nvidia's Quad SLI—a claim we find hard to believe. We'll test that and let you know how it shakes out in the near future.

So when would you be able to buy one? ATI originally planned to launch today (August 23rd) with availability guaranteed by September 4, though retailers could sell cards as soon as they got them. It turns out that there were some supply hiccups with the GDDR4 memory, and the release situation has changed a bit. Today is still the official "launch," but retailers have been told to hold product and make it available everywhere on September 14. ATI tells us to expect a "flood of availability" on that date, and that's a promise they'll have to make good on.


At $450, the initial launch price of the Radeon X1950 XTX is pretty aggressive. If the usual rate of video card price decay holds true, it will be a really nice card to pick up when it drops below $400. In fact, it would be a great deal now if price decay on the X1900 XTX cards hadn't pushed those down to the $379 mark, making them a better bargain (18% cheaper for a 5% to 8% drop in performance). Though this is a very good graphics card, in the current competitive landscape, there are two better options: The "money is no object" customer is best served by the wicked-fast GeForce 7950 GX2, and the "wants the best value for a high-end card" customer should pick up a Radeon X1900 XTX.


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