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Sizing Things Up

ATI's Radeon X1900 Heats Up With 48 Shader Units
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We received the X1900 Crossfire and the X1900XTX from ATI. In terms of physical dimensions, we observed that the cards are long, and might block SATA ports on the motherboard, depending on the layout of your board. This is no different than that of NVIDIA cards of late, and the X1900 cards are the same length as the X1800 cards as well. That is the price you pay for speed, of course ; you have to sacrifice space, noise, power, and money.

The cooler is the same two slot solution as the X1800 as well. However, the cooler on the retail Crossfire card will have a black plastic shroud instead of the white of the slave cards. The fan on the cooler is extremely annoying when you are setting up the system for the first time... Crossfire doubles that pleasure with stereo decibels. Once the cards are installed and ready to run, there are no sound issues. When the system boots there is the initial speed up that is loud but it goes away as the operating system loads the driver.

The cooler block is like that of the Radeon X1800 in that it is heavy due to the amount of copper. There is an alloy that cools the memory as well as the compositing chip on Crossfire cards. A copper die sticks up through the alloy and touches the core. This layout seems to work well, as the card could operate even when we pulled the fan power connection off the card. In 2D mode the card operated normally, but of course was hotter than normal. When we attempted a 3D application the system froze, and we were forced to reboot the system. Upon reconnecting the power to the fan and rebooting the system, all was normal so this gives hope to those concerned about proper cooling if a fan failure occurs. (Note that we do not recommend running the cards without the supplied cooling solution, but we felt we should test this out.)

We took the cards we received and placed them into the reference RD480 based motherboard we used in prior Crossfire testing. Although ATI released Catalyst 6.1 last week, it did not work with the cards we received. We had to test the Radeon X1900 cards using a special driver designed for these cards. Since Catalyst 6.1 is what the rest of the world has for their hardware, we chose to use this latest driver for the Radeon X1800 cards that were on the market.

Test Setup

System Hardware
Processor(s) AMD Athlon 64 FX-57
2.8 GHz, 1.0 GHz Bus, 1 MB L2 cache
Platform Asus AN8-SLI Premium
NVIDIA nForce4 SLI, BIOS 1003 - BIOS version 1005
ATI Xpress 200 CrossFire Edition - Reference
ATI Xpress 200, BIOS version 02.58
RAM Corsair CMX1024-4400Pro
2x 1024 MB @ DDR400 (CL3.0-4-4-8)
Hard Drive Western Digital Raptor, WD740GD
74 GB, 10,000 rpm, 8 MB cache, SATA150
Networking On-Board nForce4 Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics Cards ATI Radeon X1900XTX 512 MB GDDR3 650 MHz Core 1.55 GHz Memory
ATI Radeon X1900XT 512 MB GDDR3 625 MHz Core 1.45 GHz Memory
ATI Radeon X1800XT 512 MB GDDR3 625 MHz Core 1.50 GHz Memory
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 512 256 MB GDDR3 550 MHz Core 1.7 GHz Memory
Power Supply PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1,000W
System Software & Drivers
OS Microsoft Windows XP Professional 5.10.2600, Service Pack 2
DirectX Version 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Platform Driver ATI Reference CrossFire -
Asus - nForce 6.65
Graphics Driver(s) ATI - Catalyst 6.1 WHQL
ATI - Catalyst 6.1 (X1900 Series Cards) BETA non-WHQL
NVIDIA - Forceware 81.98 WHQL
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