Power Consumption, Issues and Final Thoughts
**Note the X1900 XTX power results are on a different platform: X2 4800+ and nForce 4 SLI motherboard
Looking at power consumption on the X1950 XTX and its competitors, the new card seems to be doing pretty well with the lowest of the batch. With the X1950 CrossFire setup having the second highest power consumption, with only the Quad SLI setup drawing more power, the power supplies of regular users are surely quaking in their shoes.
Before I get into the benefits of the performance and power of the X1950 XTX graphics cards, I need to vent a bit on the status of the CrossFire technology platform. During my testing of these two cards, I ran into several issues or “bugs” that were quite annoying, and repeatable. First, because there is no CrossFire performance indicator that can visually show you how CrossFire is working (like SLI used to have with the green line splitting the screen), you never really know if CrossFire is working or not. Without taking performance numbers and comparing them to before and after, you might not be utilizing that second $500 video card you purchased. During my testing, I found several cases where I thought I had CrossFire enabled (and it was in the control panel) but performance was the same or lower than with a single X1950 XTX. Reinstalling the drivers fixed the issue, but this happened no less than three times in my two days of testing on a fresh install of Windows XP.
Another problem I have with the CrossFire setup is that the driver is still slow to load and causes screen flickers anytime you are making changes in the Catalyst Control Panel. If you are enabling or disabling CrossFire, the screen will flicker several times and you’ll have to wait at least 5-10 seconds before control of your PC comes back to you. While this is definitely something that you can get past, its just one of those annoyances that is not there in an SLI configuration and that is why NVIDIA’s technology just “feels” better and more refined.
As a single card, looking at just the X1950 XTX, ATI has a fantastic product on their hands. While not the hands down winner in all of our benchmarks at resolutions of 1600×1200 or 2048×1536, the X1950 XTX gets ATI much closer than it was before to the NVIDIA 7950 GX2 multi-GPU board. At 2560×1600, the GDDR4 memory system on the X1950 XTX really starts to shine as more often than not, it is able to overcome the top NVIDIA card and still maintain a playable frame rate.
CrossFire performance is even more impressive with the X1950 XTX. If we discount the issues I mentioned above on the CrossFire platform, the ATI X1950 XTX CrossFire is a killer technology and worthy of the title “best graphics card performance.” Users that can handle some software quirks in order to get the best performing system will definitely like the X1950 XTX.
In my opinion, the performance of these level of graphics cards needs to be weighed in against their complexity. The 7950 GX2 from NVIDIA is the best performing card, but due to its dual-GPU technology, it has some issues that don’t affect single GPU cards. If games aren’t compatible with SLI technology, then you are going to get much lower performance on the 7950 GX2 than you would on a 7900 GTX or X1950 XTX. So, the inverse is true as well; while the X1950 XTX isn’t the fastest card, you will get 100% of your cards performance on all gaming titles you own, and that might be worth more to you (and most gamers) than the slight edge the 7950 GX2 has in frame rates; and I wouldn’t blame you.
Pricing and Availability
While today is the day ATI is announcing the X1950 XTX and X1950 XTX CrossFire Edition, they have told us only a limited supply of the cards will be available between now and September 14th. If the prices can stay near the MSRP of $449 that ATI is claiming they will sell at, not only will the X1950 XTX be an outstanding performer, it will also be a pretty good deal to boot. As it stands now, the X1900 XTX cards are already selling for a much lower price of around $380; It’s not often that flagship GPUs launch at under $499 or $599 in recent years, and ATI would be putting a foot to NVIDIA’s 7950 GX2 prices if they can come through on this; the best prices on the GeForce 7950 GX2s are around $570 for the XFX model and $549 for the EVGA model.
While I am not thrilled about launching this review today knowing that retail availability will be slim to none, the date of September 14th is only a few weeks away and falls within a reasonable time table for product availability in the market. You can be sure we’ll be anxiously checking out e-tailers stocks over the next two weeks to make sure ATI is keeping its word to us, and you.
The new ATI X1950 XTX is an evolutionary step in GPU technology, not a revolutionary one. But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to gaming performance, and these X1950 XTXs are able to put their money where their mouth is by taking on the NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 cards with surprisingly good success. They are not dominating the single graphics card market but they are easily on par with their competition.
If you have any questions or comments, I have started a thread in our forums on this review, so drop in and see what others are saying!
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