Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 1
Introduction

When ATI released the X1950 Pro enthusiasts were all keen to get their hands on these very cheap cards that gave such great performance. Losing the external dongle for Crossfire support and gaining a much more "sexy" pair of internal bridge connectors the X1950 Pro looked to be an awesome performer. We wrote a brief introduction to the card here

Asus kindly sent us a couple of X1950 Pro's for us to give you a better idea of how well these cards perform.

Packaging

Modern graphics cards come in a plethora of packaging and quite often we see some form of space age female on the cover. Asus have run with this form of packaging with the EAX1950PRO, but it's done pretty well in this case. I would have preferred a picture of the card in all honestly as this gives the user an idea of what they have bought.

asus x1950 box

The bottom of the box shows some useful information about the cards in a veritable plethora of languages. This looks pretty crowded but Asus obviously have a large worldwide audience.

asuss x1950 pro box

The inside of the box is well packaged with foam protecting the card and cardboard keeping the bundle in place.

asus x1950 pro inside box

Even the most negligent of couriers would have problems harming your graphics card.

Package

Asus have taken the option of not shipping a game or utility with this card, instead choosing to include simply a driver CD.

The package contents are as follows:

* 1 x DVI > VGA connector
* 1 x S-Video > Component connector
* 1 x Quick Start Manual
* 1 x CD-based full manual
* 1 x Asus Driver CD
* 1 x PCI-e > 4 Pin molex power connector
* 1 x Faux-leather CD wallet
* 2 x Asus internal crossfire bridge connecter

asus x1950 pro package

The package seems to provide you with a decent amount but is lacking some of the niceties that I've seen from other graphics card companies. Comparing this to say Gainward - you are missing at least a DVI > VGA converter and an S-Video > Composite cable. The lack of even trial DVD software is also slightly disappointing.

It is also worth noting that only the Crossfire version of the card comes with the two necessary dongles for Crossfire, meaning that you would have to search out a Crossfire bundled card to be able to enable Crossfire. I think that this is something Asus should think about changing as I could not see any physical difference in the cards at all. Adding one dongle to each card would make a lot more sense.

Update Feedback From Asus:

"thanks to the European feedback we are reviewing having a ‘crossfire’ edition card bundled with both internal connectors and instead going to bundle one connector with each internal crossfire capable card. This decision is probably too late to happen with our 1950PRO shipment but should happen with future ATI cards."

That said: the package has everything you need to get on with and for almost all hardware enthusiasts it will be enough.

Onto the card...



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 2
The Card

Asus has implemented their own cooler on their X1950 Pro. With a sleek white design topped with a nice looking mesh on top Asus have done a good job in the design stakes. The heatpipe peering out of the top of the cooler gives this reviewer some confidence in Asus' cooling solution: heatpipe's are a good thing as far as graphics cards are concerned.

asus x1950 pro front asus x1950 pro back

The rear of the card looks fairly familiar; although notice the slightly different location of the power circuitry for the moved PCI-e power connector. You can also see the dual-link crossfire gold-plated connections on the top of the PCB very similar to nVidia's implementation.

asus x1950 pro asus x1950 pro review

asus x1950 pro crossfire

The power connector is in the middle of the board on the Asus cards. This doesn't present any cable tidying issues although it's very marginally harder to get to if you have a case loaded up with as many goodies as mine is.

asus x1950 pro power

Here we can see the heatpipe in all it's glory. Asus have chosen to go with an aluminium heatsink with a copper contact area. This keeps the card fairly cool under load as you will see below.

asus x1950 pro heatpipe

You have to be aware that this does stick up slightly (1.5-2cm) from the top of the card so people with very small cases should be aware.

The Asus X1950 Pro features Dual DVI connectors and the card also has HDCP implemented as standard. This is excellent news for those wishing to purchase this for the future as Vista will eventually require a card with HDCP coded into it.

asus X1950 pro

An S-Video connector is included so you can plug the card straight into your hi-def TV.

Specifications

o Ultra Threaded Shader Engine

Support of DirectX9 Programmable Vertex and Pixel Shaders
VS3.0 Vertex Shader functionality
# 1280 Instructions (Unlimited with flow control)
# Single Cycle Trigonometric Operations (SIN & COS)
PS3.0 Pixel Shaders
# Ultra Thread Pixel Shader Engine
# Fast Dynamic Branching
# Single Precision 128-bit Floating Point (FP32) Processing
# 16 textures per rendering pass
# 32 temporary and constant registers per pixel
# Facing register for two-sided lighting
# Multiple render target support
# Shadow volume rendering acceleration
# 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point colour formats

o Advanced Image Quality Features
+ HDR Blending on FP16, Int10 and Custom Formats
# All Blending modes work with all Anti-Aliasing Modes
3Dc+ Normal Map Compression
# High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
# Two Channel & Single Channel format support
2x/4x/6x Multi-Sampling full scene Anti-Aliasing modes, adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns and colour buffer compression
Adaptive Anti-Aliasing for Transparent Surfaces
Temporal Anti-Aliasing
Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
High Quality, Angle Invariant, Anisotropic Filter Mode
2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
4Kx4X texture Support

o Memory Controller

Internal Ring Bus Architecture (RV530)
Programmable Arbitration Logic
Fully Associative Caches
3-level, Floating Point, Hierarchical Z-Buffer with early Z test
Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 48:1)
Fast Z-Buffer Clear
Z Cache Optimisations for shadow rendering
Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

o AVIVO

+ Dual 10-bit Display Pipelines
+ Dual Integrated Dual Link TMDS Transmitters, Dual 400MHz RAMDACS, Xilleon Derived TV Output.
+ Hardware Accelerated H.264 Decode

 

The card features Samsung's K4J55323QG GDDR3 modules rated at 1.4ns and Asus have chosen to clock this at 700MHz (1400), which is exactly what this translates to.

Cooling

As stated previously, Asus have implemented their own cooling on the card. The cooler features a fairly compact fan that draws air over some fins connected to the heatpipe. Heatpipes are very efficient at drawing heat away from area's that need to be cool and so it's good to see Asus implementing this.

asus x1950 pro cooler

The downsize of this cooler is that it does suffer from a whooshing sound when it's under full load and if you have a particularly quiet system you may notice a slight whirring at idle. This is not to say it is a loud cooler, but if you are a totally silent PC user then this card will get mildly annoying.

asus x1950 [pro cooler

One thing that I was slightly disappointed at was the fact that the cooler takes up two slots. This meant I had to move my X-Fi down to the lowest PCI port when I ran two of the X1950 Pro's in Crossfire mode. I think that Asus could have implemented a single-slot cooler on this card, considering the stock ATI reference board uses a single slot cooler. This is only a minor point if you are not going for the fully fledged Crossfire.

I loaded up Rivatuner to check the temperature of the cards in Crossfire and this stayed at a very nice and cool 41°C at idle and 57°C load (ambient 23°C).

All in all it's a nice solution from Asus and certainly would make your case look pretty neat with it's understated looks and aggressive heatpipe.



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 3
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 10/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Asus Technology


How we tested


With the pure speed of cards out on the market at the moment I tend to focus on gameplay in my reviews. I will play each of the test suite games on as high settings as I could possibly play them at while maintaining a frame rate that is enjoyable to play at. If the quality of the gaming looks the same at different settings then I will choose the setting with the best FPS. This differs from game to game and person to person but I play a lot of games and have played with a lot of graphics cards so I hope that I can impart a decent opinion.

 

To offset this angle I also run a test suite of 3dMark03, 05 and 06. These will give you some numbers on what the cards perform like at stock speeds, for comparison. I also ran 3dMark06 after overclocking the cards - to see how much of an effect the overclocking will make. Overclocking on the nVidia card was performed using the nVidia "Coolbits" reg hack as discussed here in the forums. ATI overclocking is usually performed using the "Overdrive" facility in ATI's drivers, but for this card I had to use ATI tool as the beta drivers did not have this included.

 

Test Setup

 

For this high-end card I am using an overclocked Core2Duo E6600 running at 3.33GHz. Hopefully this will rule out as much bottleneck caused by the processor as possible.

 

Intel Core2Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz
Asus P5W Dh Deluxe
Mushkin HP2 PC6400 running at SPD (CAS 5) due to motherboard restrictions
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0
Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS
Power: PCP&C 510 SLi
Case: Lian Li PC75b Project <<|Black3D|>>
Custom Watercooling


For installation I have installed the card as usual with the normal PCI-E power dongle. Checked that the card is seated correctly and powered on. I am using a clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 with all the latest patches.

For the X1950Pro/X1950Pro Crossfire I am using modified drivers provided by Asus on their retail CD, adopted from the ATI Catalyst 6.10's.

For the nVidia cards I am using nVidia's official Forceware drivers - 91.43.

For reference I am using some figures from previously reviewed cards that used the same setup. These are provided as a reference point only and not as a direct comparison.

Powercolor X1950XT-X. Clock Speed: 650. Memory speed: 1000 (2000)

Gainward 7950 GX2. Clock Speed: 2 x 500. Memory Speed 600 (1200)

Asus EAX1950PRO. Clock Speed: 580. Memory Speed 700 (1400)

Asus EAX1950PRO Crossfire. Clock Speed: 580 (x2 physical GPU's). Memory Speed 700 (1400) (x2 physical GPU's)



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 4
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 11/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Asus Technology


F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c.

It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's top of the line GPU's. I fully patched version the game with the latest patch. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

I am testing both Crossfire and non-Crossfire configurations

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for F.E.A.R. on a Dell 2405FPW display:

asus x1950 pro fear

asus X1950 pro

F.E.A.R. is a great game to play at a high resolution and both X1950 Pro and Crossfire allow you to play at 1920 x 1200 with no problems. Although the minimum FPS in Crossfire was ever-so slightly lower than the Pro result, the game playing experience with X1950 pro crossfire was superior to the X1950XTX, being smoother. Here ATI aren't ahead of nVidia's last gen top-dog in IQ.

Call of Duty 2


Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing at these high resolutions. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow. This should tax our cards.


I am testing both Crossfire and non-Crossfire configurations

 

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Call of Duty on a Dell 2405FPW display:


asus x1950 pro cod2

asus x1950 pro cod2

I was impressed with the performance of the X1950 Pro in CoD2 as the gameplay was smooth and playable at a very high level. However: I found that enabling Crossfire with the latest beta drivers off of ATI's site meant that the game was totally unplayable. I also tried using the drivers that came on Asus' CD, but experienced the same jerky frame rates and terrible gameplay experience.



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 5
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 10/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Asus Technology


Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that has not always ran so well on ATI hardware, being an OpenGL game. Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.


I tested both Crossfire and non-Crossfire configurations.

 

Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Quake 4 on a Dell 2405FPW display:


asus x1950pro q4

asus x1950 xtx pro quake 4


Here we can see that Crossfire does incredibly well on Quake 4. I was very impressed with just the base performance of the X1950Pro and Crossfire takes it to another level. This goes to show that multi-GPU is the way to go for Doom 3 engine performance and that nVidia don't have it their own way.


Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the high-end cards here. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card. This benchmark really tests today's cards and ATI cards seem to do very well in this game, with nVidia cards lagging behind slightly.


I tested both Crossfire and non-Crossfire configurations.

 

Also note that I used the "Chuck" patch to enable AA and HDR for the ATI cards - this improved the gaming experience immensely.


Here are the settings that were found to be optimal for Oblivion on a Dell 2405FPW display:

asus x1950 pro oblivion

asus x1950 pro oblivion

ATI do well in Oblivion and the X1950 Pro single card is no exception. 2 x AA looks amazing at 1680 x 1050 in single card mode and adding another card lets you really up the details at 1920 x 1200 and 2 x AA. Gaming like this is stunning in an immersive game like Oblivion.



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 6
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 10/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Asus Technology


Benchmarking - 3DMark

For this section I will include only the results from the cards I have run 3DMark on in the test system. This is the X1950XT-X and the 7950GX2, as well as the Asus X1950 pro single card and crossfire results.

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all of the cards. I used 3dMark 03, 05 and 06. All benches were performed at stock speeds for this section. I ran all benchmarks from the stock settings just like the free versions to give you a good comparison of scores.

The Results were as follows:

3dMark 03

First we start with 3dMark03. This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the card will run on games that rely on DX 8.

asus x1950 pro 3dmark03

Once again a nice performance from the single card offering, with an 10000 3DMark increase when you add another card.

3dMark05

I ran 3dMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.

asus x1950 pro 3dmark05

As you can see the single X1950 Pro performs as expected with a great benchmarking increase in performance for Crossfire. This is a great way to get into mid-budget benching.

3dMark06

3dMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0. This benchmark is very taxing for the cards and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark. Seeing as this was run with the exact same CPU this was not an issue.


asus x1950 pro 3dmark06


3DMark06 shows an almost doubling of the 3DMark performance when moving from a single card configuration to a dual card Crossfire solution. The X1950 Pro drops off a little in comparison to the X1950XTX, showing that the cut down card suffers a little in the more advanced DX 9.0c performance. Once again Crossfire does very well.




Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 7
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 10/11/06
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Product Acquired: Asus Technology


Overclocking


Usually when I overclock an ATI card I do so using the Overdrive facility in ATI's drivers. This time however I was working with a beta driver that did not give me the option of overclocking. Instead I used ATI tool and set the Core and Memory clock from there. I did not tweak any voltages to keep the tests more fair.

The Results

Let's take a look and see how the Asus X1950 pro did:

asus x1950 pro overclock

An overclock of 59MHz on the core and 31Mhz on the memory. The GDDR3 is only rated at 700MHz so it was nice to see a small amount squeezed out of the card. The OC on the core was pretty impressive and I think with some slight voltage tweaks I could have easily gained more on the core overclock.

Testing the Overclock

Let's see how this affected our 3DMark06 score:

asus x1950 pro overclocked

An excellent increase of 726 3DMarks is very nice for hardly any voltage adjustment at all. This is no doubt down to the excellent cooler on the card.



Asus X1950 Pro Crossfire (EAX1950PRO) Page: 8
Conclusion

All in all the X1950 Pro is a very decent card and performs very well compared to ATI's current gen of cards and nVidia's price-rival. Crossfire is a much improved implementation to when I last visited it and the inclusion of an internal dongle means that you keep your case tidy.

Asus have done well making a decent cooler on this card that keeps the GPU cool and also makes your case look good at the same time. An overclock on the core of 59MHz without any effort is nothing to be sniffed at and even an extra 30MHz from the memory is nice to have. Hopefully this is indicative of all of Asus's implementations, but that is something that could be luck of the draw.

Barring the slightly loud cooler and lack of decent Crossfire support in CoD 2 the Crossfire implementation for the X1950 Pro is excellent and you see a healthy increase in performance for adding another card.

Is it worth buying two of these cards in one go for Crossfire? Even at a mere £264 (£132 each @ Specialtech) I don't think it is. Spend slightly more and you have an 8800GTS. However if you're thinking of upgrading your single card setup then this card is a definite "yes". £133 is a snip for such a great performing card, then you have the option to add another one when the prices fall.

The Asus EAX1950PRO gets the "Value for Money" award as well as a "Recommended" Award.

asus eax1950xtx

asus x1950pro

Pro's

+ Awesome value for money
+ Good looking card
+ Nice cooling
+ Decent overclockability
+ Great performance

Con's

- Crossfire support not 100% on all games
- Slightly loud cooler
- Crossfire dongles only with Crossfire card

Update: Feedback from Asus:

"thanks to the European feedback we are reviewing having a ‘crossfire’ edition card bundled with both internal connectors and instead going to bundle one connector with each internal crossfire capable card. This decision is probably too late to happen with our 1950PRO shipment but should happen with future ATI cards."

Thanks to Asus for supplying the review sample.

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