Core Clock: 621MHz Memory Clock: 1800MHz Warranty: Two years (parts and labour) Price (as reviewed):£140.99 (inc VAT)
Ever since the launch of Nvidia’s GeForce 8800-series graphics cards, AMD’s ATI-based products have been out of favour at the high end. With the launch of GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB, Nvidia started to threaten the mileage that AMD had left in the now ageing Radeon X1000-series product family.
If you add this the fact that AMD recently announced that its eagerly anticipated next-generation R600 graphics processor was to be delayed until the second quarter of this year, AMD had very little left to do but lower its prices so that its partners could remain relatively competitive. Just a couple of weeks after the launch of 8800 GTS 320MB and its subsequent demolition of Radeon X1950 XT 256MB, AMD has cut the price quite considerably.
With Connect3D’s X1950 XT 256MB now retailing for a hair above £140 (inc VAT), it’s been pushed down into a completely different price bracket. Today, we’re going to see if this quite drastic price drop makes the Radeon X1950 XT 256MB an attractive proposition for those that aren’t interested in DirectX 10 in the short term.
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Connect3D sells its cards as ‘barebones’ products, meaning that there are no games included. The bundle is very familiar, with only the bare essentials included. There is one essential item missing from this cards bundle: a six pin PCI-Express power connector. Despite this omission (which has started to become a trend these days), everything else that you’d expect to see is there.
Because the card has VIVO capabilities, there is an S-Video In/Out and Composite In/Out combination cable, a Component cable, as well as both S-Video and Composite extension cables. To round the selection of cables and connectors off, Connect3D has included a couple of DVI-to-VGA converters in the box.
This is quite different to the tactics that many board partners seem to employ – i.e. increasing the price with sometimes needless games and additional extras that will never be used. Many enthusiasts aren't interested in paying extra for bundled games and are just looking for the best price on the hardware that they're interested in. This is where Connect3D makes a lot of its sales, because it is able to beat the competition on price more often than not.
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The card looks just like a typical Radeon X1800/X1900 and uses the same dual-slot cooler as the previous high-end Radeon X1800/X1900’s. We’ve complained about this cooler every time we’ve seen it and the one on Connect3D’s Radeon X1950 XT 256MB is no different – it can get incredibly loud under heavy load, so it’s not one for the feint hearted amongst you. It’s a shame that Connect didn’t move away from the noisy reference cooler, and we would have preferred to see something similar to the cooler on the Radeon X1950 XTX.
Connect3D’s card is clocked right in line with the reference Radeon X1950 XT 256MB specifications, meaning a 625MHz core clock, and 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 900MHz (1800MHz effective). The core clock is the same as that of ATI’s Radeon X1900 XT (which was launched back in January 2006) and, as memory speeds have improved over the last twelve months, the company has been able to deploy faster memory on cards that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Because the X1950 XT 256MB is based on the same R580 graphics processing unit that has been at the forefront of ATI’s (and now AMD’s) product line-up for more than twelve months, you should know exactly what that means if you’ve kept your head above the sand over that period of time. For those that haven't managed that, we forgive you - here’s a quick refresher: there are 48 pixel shader processors, eight vertex shaders, sixteen texture units and sixteen ROPs (pixel output engines) that connect to a 512-bit internal ring-bus memory controller with an external 256-bit interface connecting the chip to the on-board graphics memory.
Connect3D offers a two-year warranty covering parts and labour on all of its cards. During the first year in the product’s life, your point of contact should be the retailer. Of course, if you’re having problems getting hold of the retailer, or the retailer goes out of business, Connect3D will pick up the slack and help you. During the second year of the warranty, you should talk directly to Connect3D if you’ve got problems with the product. While it’s nothing special, most of ATI’s partners offer the same warranty period on competing products.