In recent times, we’ve been quite hard on ATI’s board partners because collectively, they haven’t made much effort to move away from ATI’s sometimes-noisy reference cooling designs. This appears to be changing somewhat, as many of ATI’s partners are looking at alternative cooling solutions.
Today, we are having a look at PowerColor’s Radeon X1950 Pro, which comes complete with an Arctic Cooling Accelero X2. For anyone who has used Arctic Cooling’s products in the past, you’ll know that the company delivers high performance coolers that don’t damage your eardrums. The Accelero X2 is no exception on that front.
The box is a typical PowerColor design, with all of the right information on there, minus the sometimes garish fantasy character that most Far Eastern hardware manufacturers seem to don their boxes with. Inside, you get a quick install guide that appears to be a bit outdated, since it’s referring to the older CrossFire implementation with Master/Slave cards complete with one of those sought-after dongles.
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There is a wide selection of cables available for the VIVO port, including a Composite/S-Video In/Out dongle, S-Video and Composite cable extensions and a Component cable. Finally, there is one DVI-to-VGA converter and a 6-pin PCI-Express power adapter to round off the cables and connector assortment. Our card didn’t come with one of the new CrossFire connectors like Sapphire’s card did. We’re assuming that it was left out by mistake, since it doesn’t make sense to have a Master/Slave combination now that ATI has alleviated that particular CrossFire shortfall.
In terms of software, PowerColor includes CyberLink’s DVD Solution disk that includes PowerDVD, PowerDirector, PowerProducer, MediaShow, Power2Go, MusicMatch, and trail versions of PowerDVD Copy and PowerBackup. PowerColor also includes a driver/utility CD but unfortunately, there are no games included in the box.
The card looks much different to the Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro we looked at the other week – the Accelero X2 cooler dominates the card’s aesthetics. For those not familiar with the Accelero X2, it’s a dual slot design like all of Arctic Cooling’s other designs but the fan is above the top edge of the card, rather than directly above the power regulators near to the card’s 6-pin PCI-Express power adapter. This shouldn’t prove to be much of a problem if you’re looking to install the PowerColor Radeon X1950 Pro in a standard ATX tower, but it may be a problem if you wanted to install it in a media center or desktop chassis.
As you would expect from one of Arctic Cooling’s third party video card coolers, the card is almost silent during operation and is quieter than the cooler on Sapphire’s Radeon X1950 Pro. The RV570 GPU comes into direct contact with a copper plate that then dissipates heat through an array of aluminium fins via three copper heat pipes.
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Air is blown out through the bottom of the card by the PCI-Express interconnect, while some air is also exhausted over the power circuitry to help keep that area of the card sufficiently cool too. Interestingly, PowerColor hasn’t used ATI’s retention cross bracket on the back of the heatsink to provide additional tension – the card just uses a standard screwing mechanism to attach the heatsink.
ATI’s reference design for Radeon X1950 Pro comes with an HDCP crypto-ROM by default, so it comes as no surprise to see that PowerColor has enabled HDCP support on the two dual-link DVI ports its card comes with. HDCP is something that is going to become increasingly more important in the future with the advent of protected HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, so it’s good to see that ATI has now started rolling this feature out into its mid-range offerings.
Although this protected content and HD DVD/Blu Ray drives are not prevalent, it makes complete sense for the feature to be implemented now. This is especially true when you consider that this card is designed to stand the test of time until next-generation hardware and supporting games are more widespread.
Warranty: PowerColor offers a two-year warranty covering parts and labour. During the first year in the product’s life, your point of contact is the retailer where you purchased the product. If you’re having problems getting hold of the retailer, or the retailer goes out of business, you will be able to make direct contact with PowerColor. During the second year of the warranty, you should talk directly with PowerColor if you are having issues with the product. This is like what most other board partners include with their products, since it’s the required minimum in the European Union – it is an adequate warranty term for a card like this, in our opinion.