OC3D Preview - ATI Release X1950 Pro Page: 1

ATI has kept improving upon a great architecture again and again. Since the initial release of the X1800 they have made great improvements in IQ and speed. Naturally when we got a shout from them to take a pre-release look at what their latest card was going to be we jumped at the chance.

x1960 pro

Features - Quick Reference

• Die size is approximately 16.7mm x 13.8mm
• Clock speeds GPU: 575MHz
• Memory Speed: 1380Mhz
• Memory Type: 256mb GDDR3

• Approximately 330M transistors

• ALU structure = 36 pixel shader processors and 8 vertex shader processors
• Render back-ends = 12
• Z compare units = 12
• Texture units = 12
• Max threads = 384

Features Overview

Keeping with the excellent X1900 architecture ATI state:

Shader Technology

• Support for Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware.
• Shader Model 3.0 vertex and pixel shader support:

o Full speed 32-bit floating point processing
o High dynamic range rendering with floating point blending and anti-aliasing support
o High performance dynamic branching and flow control

• Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL® 2.0
Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering
• 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes:

o Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling
o New Adaptive Anti-Aliasing mode
o Temporal Anti-Aliasing

• Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, up to and including widescreen HDTV
• 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes:

o Up to 128-tap texture filtering
o Adaptive algorithm with performance and quality options

• Improved rendering with higher subpixel precision and LOD computation levels
• New rotational high quality rendering mode
3Dc+TM - Advanced Texture Compression
• High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and luminance maps
• Works with any single-channel or two-channel data format

New Ring Bus Memory Controller

• Programmable arbitration logic maximizes memory efficiency, software upgradeable
• New fully associative texture, color, and Z cache design
• Hierarchical Z-Buffer with Early Z Test
• Lossless Z-Buffer Compression (up to 48:1)
• Fast Z-Buffer Clear
• Z Cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
• Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, up to and including widescreen HDTV

Avivo Video and Display Engine

• New advanced video capabilities, including high fidelity gamma, color correction and scaling
• Dual independent display controllers that support true 30 bits per pixel throughout the display pipe
• Full symmetry on both heads
• Each display interface supports display resolutions beyond 2560x1600
• Advanced DVI capabilities, including 10-bit, 16-bit HDR output
• YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
• Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
• MPEG1/2/4 decode and encode acceleration:
• DXVA support
o Hardware motion compensation, iDCT, DCT and color space conversion
• All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
• Adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing and frame rate conversion (temporal filtering)
CrossFire Support

• Multi-GPU technology ready
• Four modes of operation:

o Alternate frame rendering for maximum performance
o Supertiling for optimal load-balancing
o Scissoring for compatibility
o Super AA for maximum image quality

• Native CrossFire support simplifies setup by requiring no dedicated slave or master hardware
• 24-bit CrossFire connection enables high resolutions and refresh rates
• Supports the broadest range of platforms for both Intel and AMD

The most noticeable thing in there is the native crossfire support. Whispers have been heard of this but this is the first time that the top-end cards have got the treatment. Also notice that there is will be a crossfire bridge. That's right: no more dongle.

Clock Speeds

The new part is clocked at 575/1380. This features 36 pixel shaders and 8 vertex shaders. Compare this to the 48 pixel shaders and 8 vertex shaders of the X1950XTX and perhaps ATI have disabled or stripped down the pipelines from their top-end card. I would have though there would once again be some nice headroom in both the RAM and GPU.

Crossfire Bridge

ATI have developed the Crossfire platform to the point that we all wanted to see....an internal bridge connecter for crossfire. Featuring 2 x 24bit connecters, this is a far more attractive proposition than an external dongle.

crossfire connecter

Also included in this announcement is the fact that there is no Master or Slave cards for Crossfire support. ATI have Incorporated functionality of the compositing engine into the ASIC eliminating the need for branded Master and Slave cards. This means that the software will assign master and slave functions to either card.

x1950pro crossfire bridge

As you can see the card features a single slot cooler not dissimilar to the cooler of the X1950XTX in design. With all that copper, hopefull ATI have managed to keep the fan noise as quiet as the excellent X1950XTX cooler too!

Vista Support

Before we take a look at ATI's benchmarks for the card I have to make sure you ar aware that the X1950Pro is WHQL certified to run with Microsoft Windows Vista™. I'm not getting too excited about this at this point as we still haven't seen a DX10 part...but it's a start I suppose.

ATI also mention subtly that you can F@H on your X1900 series GPU...and very fast it is too.

ati x1950 pro vista support

Let's take a quick look at some of ATI's benchies...

OC3D Preview - ATI Release X1950 Pro Page: 2
Benchmarks - ATI face up to the 7900GS

Please bear in mind that these benchmarks are performed by ATI and as much as we like to think they are 100% accurate, I would like you to reserve judgement until I have numbers from the lab.

Firstly ATI's bench rig:

x1950 pro bench rig

x1950 pro clockspeeds

Note that ATI state that the X1950 Pro is HDCP compliant. Whether ATI's AIB's will include this is on their boards is another thing altogether, though is about time that they did.

HDR and AA Tests

Let's first see ATI's current speciality - HDR and AA. Note that the 7900GS can also do HDR and AA in HL2, due to an adapted Source engine that allows this on nVidia cards.

x1950 pro

Some decent results there for a card that is on the budget side of high-end. HDR and AA is pretty testing even for today's GPU's.

Ultra-High Res Results

Here we see that the X1950 Pro beats out the 7900GS is every test, some by some significant margin.

x1950 pro high res

Crossfire has grown in leaps and bounds too and this graph clearly shows ATI's lead game by game.

Would I put these two GPU's together in a head to head? Well I think this is perhaps a little unfair, BUT the X1950Pro is at exactly the same price point currently so ATI can afford to match the two up - coming onto that..

The Price

The pricepoint for this very nice GPU....$199 - the same as nVidia has put the 7900GS, and the same sort of concept - a cut down version of a top-end GPU.

OCUK have already let slip that they're pricing on the Ice Q version of the X1950 Pro @ £165, but I'm expecting the more "normal" X1950 Pro's to come in at around the £140 mark in the UK...not too shabby!

ATI claim that they will be available on launch day...that is yet to be seen.


ATI have hit out at the field that nVidia is generally pretty good at. Taking the upper-mid range straight to nVidia with such a great performing GPU means that they can sit back and watch nVidia squirm...for the time being that is.

Would I advise getting one? Well that's a difficult question at the moment. With next gen parts coming up very soon and DX10 on the way perhaps you should be saving your pennies. However: if you're looking for a "fill-in" card until that then it may be worth a look at the X1950Pro

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