ATI Radeon X1900 XTX Page 2

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The Boards – Power In and Sound Out

Both test boards use the same cooling solution from ATI, a dual-slot heatsink / fan combo that hasn’t exactly garnered high praise among system builders concerned with overall system sound levels. It is somewhat surprising that ATI didn’t improve the X1900 boards in this area, particularly since the increased die size and power consumption of the new chips cause an increased rate of change with the fan speed that makes it more noticeable compared to the X1800s. But more on this in the review’s conclusion.

Before getting too deep into the heart of the article — the benchmark scores — we thought we’d examine the environmental attributes of the reviewed boards. The power usage of the test system was recorded using a Extech 380801 power meter and sampled at the desktop and while under load, the second scenario created by running 3DMark06’s two HDR/SM3.0 game tests. Worth noting is that both sets of measurements are affected by other components installed in the test system, so the recordings below are primarily useful in showing the variance between the two graphics boards.

Power
X1800 XT
X1900 XTX
Idle
158 watts
133 watts
Load
273 watts
315 watts

ATI has implemented a power management scheme for the X1900s that drop the clock speeds while not running a 3D output. The XTX reads the graphics chip as lowering its speed from 650 MHz down to 500 MHz and the memory from 775 MHz to 600 MHz. Once a game or 3D application is launched, however, the board ramps both up to full speed and the test system with the XTX installed spikes to over 300w power draw.

System noise was also sampled using a digital sound meter at the same time for both scenarios, with the meter placed several inches from each graphics board.

Sound
X1800 XT
X1900 XTX
Idle
60 dB
60 dB
Load
65 dB
65 dB

The two test boards fall within the same range for noise levels, though the fan on the X1900 is more noticeable simply due to the higher occurrence of speed changes; playing newer games that stress the graphics chip can result in the 1900’s fan oscillating its noise levels up and down on an intrusively regular basis. Not to overly belabor this point, SimHQ nevertheless feels compelled to warn readers with sensitive ears to keep this in mind when considering a Radeon 1900 for purchase. There are 3rd party cooling solutions available that can be fairly easily installed on the X1800 and X1900 boards, though the thought of spending an additional $30-40 for a high-end graphics board may or may not sit too well with the reader.

Test System Setup

The graphics boards tested for this article were installed in an Antec Sonata midtower case and the testbed built using the following components:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 (2.6 GHz dual core)
  • ASUS A8R-MVP motherboard (R480 chipset)
  • 2 GB (2 x 1 GB) of Corsair DDR400 memory (2.5-3-3-6)
  • Maxtor MaxLine III 250 GB SATA (16 MB buffer) hard drive
  • Plextor PX-712S DVD drive
  • Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card
  • Enermax 550 Watt ATX power supply unit
  • Dell 2405FPW 24″ widescreen LCD

SimHQ decided to pit the X1900 XTX against the X1800 XT to examine what performance impact the refresh part and its architectural changes would be displayed in our benchmark suite. The latest BIOS version and chipset drivers were installed on the test system, along with the Catalyst 6.4s. Windows XP Professional (SP2) was configured to have Automatic Update, System Restore, and all unnecessary startup services disabled. As a standard baseline, trilinear filtering was used during testing, and the Mipmap detail option placed at high quality in the control panel. The licensed version of Fraps 2.7.2 was used to record benchmark scores for applications that lacked the option to record their own frame rates. Testing was conducted using the following software:

  • 3DMark06 (v1.0.2)
  • Lock On: Flaming Cliffs (v1.11)
  • IL-2: Pacific Fighters (v4.04)
  • MS Flight Simulator 2004 (v9.1)
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (v1.05)
  • Call of Duty 2 (v1.02)
  • rFactor (v1070)

When possible, application anti-aliasing was used rather than forced via the driver control panel; also, unless otherwise noted anisotropic filtering was not tested with its High Quality mode enabled. Each simulation/game was initially tested at 1024×768, 1280×1024, 1600×1200, and 1920×1200 without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then the X1800 XT and X1900 XTX were tested again with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering as a high quality test category. The resolution of 1920×1200 was chosen since, as a 16:10 widescreen resolution, it is the highest display option available on the 2405FPW used with the test system.

With very similar clock speeds between the two test boards, the focus of this review will center on whether or not the X1900’s updates show a marked performance improvement among the titles used in SimHQ’s current benchmark suite. One of the titles with a suggested high math to texture operations design is Chaos Theory (a 7:1 ratio is often bandied about for this particular game).

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