Powercolor X1900XT 512mb Page: 1
Introduction

Powercolor are one of ATI's major AIB partners. They have a reputation for producing no-nonsense quality bundles without a lot of the extra games that a lot of firms send with the graphics cards nowadays. This means that their cards are slightly cheaper and in my opinion: better value.

Today I will take a look at the Powercolor X1900XT. I have already reviewed the Sapphire X1900XTX here, along with an nvidia card roundup here. I will take a look at the Powercolor card and see how it compares to those top-end products.

Packaging

Powercolor have presented the card in attractive packaging that shows you part of the card on the front.

powercolor x1900xt

This gives you a clear idea of what you are getting. They have also added specs and information on the back of the card:

powercolor x1900xt

The actual packaging of the card was fairly minimal but it certainly does its job at protecting the card in transit:

powercolor x1900xt

The card arrived in great shape and I have no doubt that the packaging did its job.

Now onto the card itself..


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The Card

The Powercolor X1900XT is based on ATI's R580 technology. This is a very efficient architecture and is a 90nm part.

powercolor x1900xt

powercolor x1900xt

powercolor x1900xt

Quick Reference Features:

powercolor x1900xtx specs

Detailed Features

 

• 384 million transistors on 90nm fabrication process

• 48 pixel shader processors

• 8 vertex shader processors

• 256-bit 8-channel GDDR3 memory interface

• Native PCI Express x16 bus interface

Ring Bus Memory Controller

• 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads

• Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs

• Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test

• Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)

• Fast Z-Buffer Clear

• Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

Ultra-Threaded Shader Engine

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

• Full speed 128-bit floating point processing for all shader operations

• Up to 512 simultaneous pixel threads

• Dedicated branch execution units for high performance dynamic branching and flow control

• Dedicated texture address units for improved efficiency

• 3Dc+ texture compression o High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and two-channel data formats

• High quality 2:1 compression for luminance maps and single-channel data formats

• Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL® 2.0

Advanced Image Quality Features

• 64-bit floating point HDR rendering supported throughout the pipeline

• 32-bit integer HDR (10:10:10:2) format supported throughout the pipeline

• 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes

• 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes

• High resolution texture support (up to 4k x 4k)

 

AvivoTM Video and Display Engine

 

• High performance programmable video processor

• Accelerated MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264 decoding (including DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray playback), encoding & transcoding

• DXVA support

• De-blocking and noise reduction filtering

• Motion compensation, IDCT, DCT and color space conversion

• Vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing

• 3:2 pulldown (frame rate conversion)

• Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time

• HDR tone mapping acceleration

• Maps any input format to 10 bit per channel output

• Flexible display support

• Dual integrated dual-link DVI transmitters

• DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready

• Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs

• 16 bit per channel floating point HDR and 10 bit per channel DVI output

• Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion (10 bits per color)

• Complete, independent color controls and video overlays for each display

• High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all outputs

• Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays

• XilleonTM TV encoder for high quality analog output

• YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays

• Spatial/temporal dithering enables 10-bit color quality on 8-bit and 6-bit displays

• Fast, glitch-free mode switching

• VGA mode support on all outputs

• Compatible with ATI TV/Video encoder products, including Theater 550

 

CrossFireTM


• Multi-GPU technology

• Four modes of operation:

• Alternate Frame Rendering (maximum performance)

• Supertiling (optimal load-balancing)

• Scissor (compatibility)

• Super AA 8x/10x/12x/14x (maximum image quality)

 

Power supply notes :

 

* Connection to the system power supply is required:
o 450-Watt power supply or greater, 30 Amps on 12 volt rail recommended (assumes fully loaded system)
o PCI Express compliant power supply (recommended). Connect directly to the power supply with a 6 pin PCI Express power connector
* For CrossFireTM: 550 watt power supply or greater, 38 Amps on 12 volt rail


Package

As stated earlier: Powercolor focus more on getting their cards out there at a reasonable price point rather than the bundle that is with the card. Having said that this VIVO card has everything you will need and more to connect this to an output device.

powercolor x1900xt

powercolor x1900xt

Cables include:

* 2 x DVI - VGA connecters
* Composite Video to Video cable
* S-Video to Dual S-video out and dual Composite out
* S-Video to Component out
* Dual Molex to PCI-E Power connecter
* S-Video to S-Video cable

This is very complete and I am impressed with this hardware bundle.

Software includes:

* Latest ATI Video card drivers
* Cyberlink DVD Solution. Includes PowerDirector, PowerDVD, PowerProducer, MediaShow, MusicMatch, Power2Go, PowerBackup (trial) and PowerDVDCopy (trial).

Although lacking in any games this is a decent package, especially for those wanting to take advantage of the AVIVO features of this card. Personally I have not used any of the "free" games with any of my cards as usually these are not AAA titles.

Also included is a Quick Installation Guide, Users Manual, Crossfire Power Supply Requirements advice and Warranty Information.

The package is thorough for the connectivity and although not amazing in the software stakes, it is acceptable.

The Cooler

Lets take a look at the cooler that is on the X1900XT

powercolor x1900xt

The card is still using the stock ATI cooler that we have seen on previous models such as the X1900XTX. This is a decent cooler but is very loud when put under extreme load. The cooler does have its redeeming features though. It has copper contact with the core and memory and is very efficient of taking heat away from the card. This makes sure the heat stays away from the inside of the case.

I have to say that despite the core getting fairly hot at times the fan does not spin up that much, only after gaming for about 1/2 hour. However if you are looking for a quiet life then you will either have to buy another cooler for the card or just choose something with a cooler that doesn't make the horrible "whizz" sound that this one does under full load.


Powercolor X1900XT 512mb Page: 3
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 14/06/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Hardware Acquired: Powercolor


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 was performed using the coolbits registry hack and done as in This Thread from the OC3D forums as well as using the "Overdrive" facility in ATI's drivers.

Test Setup

For these high-end cards I am using an overclocked Dual Core Opteron 175. Running at speeds exceeding an FX-60 at 2.8GHz, this will hopefully allow the cards to perform up to their fastest.

AMD Opteron 175 @ 2.8GHz (watercooled)
DFI LANPARTY UT Sli-D motherboard
Mushkin Redline PC4000 running at 255 x 11 1:1 3-3-2-5
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0
Sound: SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS
Power: PCP&C 510 SLi
Case: Coolermaster stacker with a lot of additional cooling

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.

I am using nvidia's latest official forceware drivers - 84.21.

The Sapphire card was tested using the Catalyst Drivers 6.3's
The Powercolor card was tested using the Catalyst Drivers 6.5's

Club3d 7900GTX 512mb. Clock Speed: 650. Memory Speed: 1600 (800)

Sapphire X1900XTX 512mb. Clock Speed: 650. Memory Speed: 1550 (775).

Powercolor X1900XT 512mb. Clock Speed: 621. Memory Speed: 1550 (720).


Powercolor X1900XT 512mb Page: 4
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.

The settings used are as follows:

powercolor settings

Here are the minimum, maximum and average FPS for F.E.A.R.:

powercolor x1900xtx fear fps

The Powercolor X1900XT kept up admirably with cards that are supposed to be at the very top of their range from both nvidia and ATI. 1920 x 1200 was just about playable with the Powercolor card. If you are really anal about your FPS (in that you like to stare at the numbers) you could take off the AAA and HQAF. But in all honesty whilst F.E.A.R. looks great it isn't as fast-paced as many FPS so I feel that it played the game at an acceptable level, whilst looking simply stunning.

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 maked 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 all our cards.

The settings used are as follows:

powercolor x1900xt

Here we see the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

powercolor x1900xt

This was a strange result for the Powercolor card, with it keeping up with the XTX every step of the way. I am thinking that this is due to a much better driver revision than previously used. Certainly shows how the manufacturers improve and tweak their drivers between releases. At any rate CoD 2 looked amazing and is a great game to play at these kind of settings. The card managed this smoothly and easily and really showed its speed.


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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.

The settings used are as follows:

quake 4 fps

And again the minumum, maximum and average FPS:

powercolor x1900xt

Quake 4 is a game that the nVidia traditionally cards really pull ahead of the ATI cards. Using the Quake engine that is getting slightly older, all top-end cards from both sides manage to play this at pretty much full details settings with consumate ease. The XT was slightly slower than the other two cards but this is to be expected. The game looks awesome at this details setting.

Oblivion


Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenary. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of our high-end nvidia cards here. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the 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

I had to do these in slightly more detail as Oblivion has so many settings and they affect performance so much. The general settings are as follows:

powercolor x1900xt

And the minimum, maximum and average FPS:

powercolor x1900xt oblivion

Oblivion requires a little more settings detail as it is just so tweakable:

powercolor x1900xt

As you can see above the Powercolor card did very well again in Oblivion. The ATI cards are very much on top in the benchmark. I did use the "chuck patch" with the X1900XT, but found that the hit in FPS meant reducing the screen res. I felt that a better game experience was had with HDR and no AA, rather than the added 2 x HQAA which seriously affected performance. all in all Oblivion plays far better on ATI hardware at the moment and the Powercolor X1900XT is no exception.


Powercolor X1900XT 512mb Page: 6
Overclocking

To overclocking this card I used the ATI Catalyst Control Centre "overdrive" facility. I achieved a very reasonable overclock on stock volts just using the ATI software. I tested this using 3DMark06 for stability.

Here are the results:

powercolor x1900xt

This produced an improved 3DMark06 score. I have briefly run through a few games and this certainly improves the FPS a little in some of them, but the settings remain the same as most are at the very top.

powercolor x1900xt

This represents amazing value moving past the clocks of the X1900XTX. With a little added voltage or perhaps a BIOS flash to an XTX. People have been known to get some amazing overclocking results with just a little extra voltage.


Powercolor X1900XT 512mb Page: 7
Image Quality

With the top-end cards that are out now image quality has to be the final judgement. The ATI cards have far superior IQ to the nVidia cards at this time. The Higher Quality Anisotropic Filtering and Adaptive Anti-Aliasing of the ATI drivers and cards makes todays games look simply awesome. nVidia's cards can run at settings approaching what ATI's cards can but they do have a problem with shimmering textures in games. This leaves their cards trailing in many people's eyes.

I have to temper this with a comment on ATI's drivers. They are using a .NET implementation and to a lot of people this feels very slow and "bloaty". nVidia's drivers are at this time easier to use and less heavy.

Conclusion


There is no doubt that the X1900XT is a great piece of hardware. With a current price of £293 from SpecialTech this card is a great deal and very much "bang-for-buck.

If you don't mind putting up with a slightly whiney card under load and want something very fast at this time then the Powercolor is definately the card to go for. I do have to add that you should be aware of the facts from my ATI DX10/Vista Write-up before you decide on a new card.

Pro's

+ Very fast card
+ Overclocks easily to XTX speeds
+ ATI's awesome IQ
+ Great value for money

Con's

- Very loud fan under load
- ATI's "bloatware" drivers

The Powercolor X1900XT gets 8.5/10 with a "Value Award" and "Recommended"

value award

powercolor x1900xt

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