A quick look at Sapphire's X1950 Pro Dual

April 16, 2007 | 16:15

Tags: #crossfire #dual #dvi #pcb #photos #pro #single #two #x1950

Companies: #sapphire

Sapphire got us one of its early samples of the X1950 Pro Dual cards and it's a truly a behemoth of a PCB. Not only are two X1950 Pro cores and 1GB of memory on a single PCB, a CrossFire compositing engine and hardware PCI-Express lane splitter is included in order to converge both cores into a single PCI-Express x16 slot.

Considering the availability of CrossFire motherboards is weak at best for Core 2 Duo, the fact you only need a single PCI-Express x16 port is a definite advantage. To allow CrossFire on a mATX or even mini ITX motherboard with a PCI-Express x16 slot provides a certain advantage for ATI enthusiasts.

The single limiting factor is that Nvidia has purposely refused to recognise CrossFire on its hardware, so whilst it's theoretically possible to run this graphics card with integrated CrossFire on an SLI capable motherboard, it just won't do it.

Curiously, we tested it on an Abit IN9 32X-MAX to see what would happen when you plugged it in. After installing the latest Catalyst 7.4 as well as the associated Catalyst Control Center we found that the motherboard could see both cards (all four outputs) but there was unfortunately no option for CrossFire.

In addition to this limitation, you do need to check if your case is big enough to accommodate the card since it's a fair bit wider and longer than your standard graphics card. The Voodoo 6000 has nothing on this puppy.

The US price is estimated to be at $349, or £200 in once it arrives on Blighty shores. At this price, the card is actually very good value considering a single X1950 Pro 512MB card will set you back upwards of £125-£130, so two of these for CrossFire not only takes up more space in your case but adds on an extra £50-60.

Click for Large Images
As shown, the card is massive at 150mm wide and 300mm long, exceeding the length of a standard ATX motherboard. Due to its size, it may be incompatible with some motherboards that have don't have 90 degree SATA ports, or SATA ports in line with the PCI-Express x16 slot. We took these shots in the Abit IN9 32X-MAX simply because we had tested in it previously,
it isn't the ideal motherboard to feature it.

Two 6-pin power sockets are needed, one for each X1950 Pro.

Two dual link DVI ports are included, along with a 7-pin HDTV socket connected to a Rage Theater chipset.

The power regulation components are independently cooled by heatsinks of their own. Curiously the heatsink on the rear of the board cools nothing however.

The sticker confirming that it contains 1GB of video memory, supplied from 16 Samsung 136-ball BGA memory modules.

Both cores are braced on the rear of the board like you find on every ATI graphics card to ensure maximum contact of the heatsink with the die.

Click for Large Images
With the large, four heatpiped heatsink removed you get a new appreciation for exactly how big the PCB is. The two X1950 cores are surrounded by eight memory chips each. The PLX 8532 chip provides the hardware PCI-Express switching technology used to split the single PCI-Express x16 connector into two separate connections to the X1950 cores. At only 6.5W it is very low power, but is still cooled by the large heatsink covering card.

The Samsung K4J52324QE-BC14, 2M x 32-bit x 8 Bank GDDR3 SDRAM, rated at 700MHz/1400MHz.

We'll be putting this card through the grill in the very near future. For now though, you can discuss this rather unique monster card in the forums.
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