PowerColor X1900 XT 512MB
PowerColour brings a price-competitive ATI Radeon X1900 XT to the market
Review It's generally a waste of a lot of money to go for a top-of-the-range card from any manufacturer. Unless you really, really need that extra little bit of performance, it makes more financial sense to go for the next card down. This is especially the case with ATI's X1900 XT and X1900 XTX - the XTX's performance advantage over the XT simply isn't enough to justify its higher price...
Indeed, considering that the X1900 XT runs neck and neck with Nvidia's GeForce 7900 GTX, costs less and supports 512MB of graphics memory, it looks like something of a bargain card in this end of the market...
The Powercolor X1900 XT can hardly be classified as cheap, but you could spend a lot more money. The downside of buying a performance card from ATI these days is the excessive amount of noise that some of them produce. Nvidia has managed to get around this problem by using a different cooler design, although you could always get a third-party cooler from someone like Arctic Cooling, but ATI's board partners, Powercolor included, should really consider using them as standard. At least it's not too bad until you fire up a 3D-intensive game.
The PowerColor X1900 XT's core is clocked at 625MHz, while its memory runs at an effective 1450MHz. That's 25MHz and 100MHz lower than the XTX's core and memory clock speeds, both of which are within reach of the XT if you're brave enough to overclock your graphics card. There really shouldn't be any need to do so, at least not if the benchmark numbers this card produced are anything to go by. Judging from our overclocking adventures with the Sapphire Blizzard card, another Radeon X1900 XT-based card, it seems like you can push the latest ATI GPUs quite hard.
It's also worth taking into consideration that the latest high-end cards from both ATI and Nvidia are quite long, so if you have a small case, or inward-facing hard drives, you might have some problems fitting these cards. You'd also do well to upgrade your power supply to a model with a built-in PCI Express power connector, as using the supplied power splitter isn't ideal. These cards draw quite a lot of power, and having an under-powered PSU isn't a good idea, potentially causing problems throughout your entire system.
Most buyers of this kind of card are concerned with its performance and the good news is there's plenty of it. Our test system consisted of an AMD FX-60 CPU, an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard, 1GB of Crucial Ballistix memory and a Western Digital Caviar SE16 hard drive.
F.E.A.R. is one of the most resource-hungry games around at the moment and it almost got the card down on its knees at 2,048 x 1,536 resolution. On a 17 or 19in TFT, which will almost certainly be running at a lower resolution than that, and with a reasonably powerful CPU, you'll easily be able to turn on all the eye candy and not see the frame-rate drop below 60fps. The Half Life 2 numbers aren't that impressive, but this seems to be mainly because of CPU limitations. You don't really start to loose any performance until you run the maximum resolution with everything enabled.
Far Cry showed a similar pattern to Half Life 2 but with better performance numbers. The only difference here is that the frame drop-out starts slightly earlier, but it only just dipped below 60fps at the highest setting with everything enabled. The 3DMark scores are fairly impressive as well, although how much real-world relevance they have is open to question.
Besides the card itself, PowerColor supplies two DVI to D-sub adaptors, a component video adaptor, a ViVo dongle - for video in and out over either S-Video or composite video - an S-video cable and finally a composite video cable. There are no games or other goodies in the box, but considering that the card retails for £310 this isn't something I'd be too worried about.
The PowerColor X1900XT is a very fast card for the money and it's a much more affordable option than the company's own X1900 XTX which doesn't offer a huge amount of extra performance considering the price difference. The downside is the fan noise - particularly when there are cards out there that perform as well but do so much more quietly. ®