Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/19/powercolor_x1900gt/

PowerColor X1900 GT ATI-based graphics card

Plenty of performance for under £200

By Lars-Göran Nilsson

Posted in Hardware, 19th June 2006 14:48 GMT

Review Competition is meant to be good for the consumer and one market where this seems to be more true than anywhere else is if course computer components. There is a never-ending price war between the various manufacturers, but this has never been as apparent as it currently is when it comes to graphics cards. As long as ATI and Nvidia are trying to outdo each other in terms of performance and price, the buyer will always win...

ATI's latest GPU, the Radeon X1900 GT, is a cut-down version of the X1900 XT, but it's still one seriously fast graphics card. PowerColor is one of many manufacturers to offer a card based on the X1900 GT and was the first manufacturer to get one over to Reg Hardware. It's a straightforward re-badge of the ATI reference design.

powercolor_x1900gt

The PowerColor X1900 GT only has 256MB of memory, although this is likely to be more than enough for just about anyone except those with super-high resolution screens. The GDDR 3 memory is clocked at 600MHz (1.2GHz effective), some 125MHz slower than the X1900 XT. The core speed of 575MHz means that the X1900 GT is 50MHz slower than the X1900 XT.

These aren't the only changes. The X1900 GT also has fewer pixel shaders than an X1900 XT and this will have more of an impact on graphics intensive games than the clock speed. ATI has chopped off 12 pixel shaders from the XT, leaving 36 pixel shaders and 12 pixel output engines. However, ATI didn't mess about with the vertex shaders, so there's still a full set of eight vertex processing engines.

ATI briefed me a couple of weeks ago on DirectX 10, and it seems we soon won't have to worry about how many of what type of shaders our graphics cards will have. The big thing is unified shaders, which should result in much faster and more efficient use of the vertex and pixel shaders in your graphics card. That said, you'll still have to count the numbers of unified shaders, as more is still going to be better, even with a unified design.

Benchmark results

powercolor_x1900gt_3dmark05

powercolor_x1900gt_3dmark06

On all charts, longer bars are better.

Benchmark results

powercolor_x1900gt_farcry

powercolor_x1900gt_fear

On all charts, longer bars are better.

Benchmark results

powercolor_x1900gt_hl2

On all charts, longer bars are better.

But what really matters, as always with a graphics card, is if it will be fast enough for you to play your favourite games on it. Judging from the test results, ATI's Radeon X1900 GT is neck and neck with the GeForce 7900 GT from Nvidia, at least until you hit very high resolutions - 1,600 x 1,200 with anti-aliasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering (AF) enabled. The X1900 GT drops off very quickly when you hit high resolutions in comparison to the 7900 GT.

powercolor_x1900gt_box

At 2,048 x 1,536, the X1900 GT is suffering badly. Enable AA and AF and it gets even worse. This is especially noticeable in Far Cry, where the X1900 GT is way behind the 7900 GT.

At more commonplace resolutions, the X1900 GT is ahead, just. Oddly enough it's beaten by the 7900 GT at F.E.A.R. until you enable AA, but this is likely to be the result of specific hardware optimisations made by the developer. In Half Life 2, the X1900 GT is back in front and the same goes for 3DMark05. 3DMark06 on the other hand is difficult to judge, as the 7900 GT is unable to run most of the tests. Still, Nvidia has the edge here all the way up to 1,600 x 1,200, but not by much.

The X1900 GT does have the advantage of being able to do High Dynamic Range (HDR) rendering and AA at the same time, something Nvidia's current generation of GPUs can't. So if this is an important feature to you, then the X1900 GT is the one to go for over a 7900 GT.

I do have one complaint with the ATI reference card and that's the standard cooler. ATI really needa to come up with a quieter design. During heavy load the fan runs constantly and makes a really annoying noise. But this is really the only fault I can find with the PowerColor X1900 GT taking everything into consideration.

PowerColor, akin with many of the other ATI partners, doesn't supply a lot of software with its cards, but you do get a decent accessory bundle. The X1900 GT comes with a DVI-to-D-sub adaptor, a component video breakout cable, a ViVo breakout cable, an S-video and a composite video cable, and a PCI Express power adaptor in case your PSU doesn't have one.

Although it's a close call depending on what game you're playing, the X1900 GT tends to be just that little bit cheaper than the 7900 GT. The PowerColour X1900 GT should retail for about £195 inc. VAT, although currently there seems to be a shortage of cards in the UK.

Verdict

If you're looking at spending in the region of £200 on a graphics card, you should definitely consider the X1900 GT. There's no real advantage between it and a 7900 GT besides the ability to run HDR with AA enabled and it really comes down to the type of games you're playing. It's really a buyer's market and you've never got as much performance for £200 as you do now. ®