ATI is back with a bunch of fall refresh products. The most interesting is the X1950XTX that not only supports GDDR4 and has a better and more silent cooling but also will be quite cheap compared to other high-end video cards.
A quite nice day in August I flew over to Berlin for a one day Techday with ATI to see their new products for this fall. Unfortunately these new products didn’t include the R600 but that was to be expected. Fall is usually the time for a minor refresh-product and Vista isn’t out yet anyway so showing off a DX10 product now would be useless.
There are three minor fall refresh products that I will talk about today.
X1950XTX and X1950XTX Crossfire Edition
This is of course ATI’s new flagship product. Based on the R580 Plus this is an updated X1900XTX with GDDR4-memory support.
This is ATI’s new mid-level card.
A new entry-level card.
New memory – GDDR4
Before we move in and talk about the individual cards, let’s take a look at the main enhancement with these cards – the support for the new GDDR4 memory. We had the luck of having one of the guys behind the memory with us at the Techday, ATI’s Senior Director, Circuit Technologies Joe Macri, who told us a bit more about the new advantages that we get with the new memory.
Low power by design
GDDR4 has been developed with low power requirements in mind from the start. If we look at GDDR3 vs GDDR4 we find:
The VDD is lower on GDDR4 than on GDDR3.
The nominal voltage for GDDR4 is 1.5V. 1.9V is used for gaming or overclocking. This gives a 30% save compared to GDDR3.
Fixed data burst length of 8.
This lowers the core frequency by 2x compared to GDDR3, significantly reduces the power and thus allows for higher clock frequencies.
Joe Macri showed us some of the ways they managed to do all this and while I won’t pretend I understand everything you might find this interesting.
DBI – Data Bus inversions
This lowers power consumption and increases the speed by reducing VDD-noise.
How it works? Well, by trying to eliminate the Logic 0’s as much as possible as they are the only ones that use power.
They use a formula that says that if the 0’s are >4 then invert the data and set the DBI-flag to 1. The receiver will then invert it back due to the flag.
Original Data = 00000000 => Since # 0’s >4 Invert
Data on Bus = 11111111, DBI = 1
When DBI = 1 => Received data = 00000000
Original Data = 11111000 => Since # 0’s <4 Do not Invert
Data on Bus = 11111000, DBI = 0
When DBI = 0 => Received data = 11111000
Lower input Capacitance
GDDR4 has lower input capacitance than GDDR3 meaning lower power and more speed.
Double Pumped Address Bus
GDDR4 uses ½ the pins for address than GDDR3
- Slight reduction in Power
- Frees pins up to be used for Power and Ground
- Increases Speed
- Address are sent on two consecutive cycles
The X1950 XTX
The card I think most are interested in is the X1950XTX (and its Crossfire Edition equivalent).
ATI choose not to directly compare this card against the X1900XTX opting to instead compare it to their previous Enthusiast refresh-product, the X850. Their reasoning probably being that they want to reach those who always wait for the refresh-products before moving to a new generation of cards. As you might understand the difference is large between these two cards.
X1950 vs X850 generation
• SM 3.0
• 48 shaders vs. 16 shaders
• Huge performance leap (2X+)
Behind the hood there seem to be not much news expect of course for the GDDR4-support which however is quite nice due to the opportunity for higher frequencies. In fact, the X1950XTX will ship with a 1 GHz mem clock, compared to the 775 MHz clocked memory that the X1900XTX runs. The core however is clocked at 650 MHz which is the same as the X1900XTX and 25 MHz faster than the X1900XT.
A welcome change is the standard cooler. ATI’s stock coolers have never really been that quiet and ATI has recognized this and developed a cooler that, while looking quite cool (pun intended), actually also is much more quiet than the stock cooler of the X1900XTX. I’ve been testing the X1950XTX for a week or so now and the cooler really is good. I can compare it to the excellent IceQ cooler on my X1900XT and it definitely is as quiet or at least almost as quiet as that one.
The noise level of course isn’t the only nice thing with this cooler. The copper heatsink is designed so it lowers the temperature of the ASIC junction while the exhaust design lowers the case temperature.
Copper heatsink and 1 heatpipe
If you ever used Crossfire with the X1900XTX you know that you only could get a X1900XT Crossfire Edition card thus ‘wasting’ those extra MHz on the XTX. With the X1950XTX ATI has made sure that the Crossfire Edition card is the same speed thus making sure you get the most out of both cards.
Crossfire still means using the dongle. Maybe the R600 will dump that since
even ATI says it is not a good solution
The biggest surprise though isn’t the performance or the cooler. It is the price. The X1950XTX and the X1950XTX Crossfire Edition has a recommended price of €399/$449. When I compare this to the prices I have to pay for the X1900XTX or the GeForce 7900GTX here in Sweden (hint: it’s more) it blows me away. Suddenly it looks like getting a high-end card is with-in reach for not only the hard-core gamers but also those who are willing to spend a bit more without getting broke in the process. You guys in the US can get hold of X1900XTX cheaper but it still is a great introduction price. Hopefully this also will mean lower prices for the X1900XT and X1900XTX in the future.
You should be able to pick up some cards on the 4th of September and onwards.
X1650 Pro and X1300XT
There isn’t really much to be said about these two cards. We didn’t get much more news about the clock-rate but we have cards incoming so expect more benchmarks and information about these cards soon. The X1650 Pro is “the first X1650 card” indicating that we will see more variations of it in the future.
I had time to do a quick spin with the X1950XTX and compare it to a X1900XT (yes, the slightly slower version) I had in my review-machine. Expect more detailed benchmarks as soon as I get hold of a X1950 Crossfire Edition card also.
AMD FX-62 AM2
2 GB DDR2 800 Corsair
ECS KA3 MVP (AM2 Crossfire 3200)
Catalyst 6.8 with Cat AI set to Advanced and High Quality Anisotropic Filtering turned on.
I choose to set all the benchmarks to their highest possible setting except for 3dmark05 and 3dmark06 where I used the default benchmarks.
Results: Overall I didn’t expect that much difference between the two cards and I didn’t get it. Between 5-15% overall, mainly at the higher resolutions. Since this is a fall refresh product it isn’t really meant to replace the X1900XT so if you already got one there’s no need to update.
ATI and AMD
I can guess that a lot of you are curious about the ATI and AMD merger. IT was just briefly mentioned but overall everyone at ATI seemed very happy and confident for the future. There were one AMD-guy, Bubba Wolford, there with us.
The deal was described with three words:
Growth: We are combining the technologies and complementary strengths of AMD and ATI to capitalize on opportunities in the commercial, mobile computing, and the rapidly-growing consumer electronics segments
Innovation: We will accelerate near-term opportunity with a broad portfolio of customer-centric open platforms in 2007, and then transform core processing technologies in 2008 and beyond
Choice: We will advance an open innovation ecosystem that empowers our customers and partners so that they can create their own, unique value proposition with our platforms and our products
We’ll see more in the future what this merger will bring. One thing for use is that this was the last ATI-techday.
During the trip a lot of photos was taken.
ATI did some overclocking after the presentation. Unfortunately they could only get hold of 80% alcohol and not 99% so they couldn’t push it as fas as they wanted.
After the presentations we went up the the 37th floor of the hotel and had access to some machines with cards. The thing that peaked my interest the most though was the absolutely wonderfull 30″ Apple Cinema monitors they used. Me want now. In the end I’m going to settle for a 24″ DELL until I can afford a 30″.
I can take one of those monitors instead thank you!
In the end of the day ATI took us all out for dinner. They took us to a run-down building in the old Easter-Berlin part of the city. When we got in though everything was white. Everything … including the furniture, the peoiple serving, the Transvestite greating us, the girl going around giving massages to those who ate there and the singer who sang quite good actually. White.
The X1950XTX might not be the most impressive or interesting product if you already got a X1900XTX. As a refresh product it is mean to appeal to those who do not buy the first card in a generation. As such it is a very nice card with an appealing price. The new cooler works very well and hopefully means quieter systems even when running the cards in Crossfire mode.
It will be interesting to see how the X1650Pro and the X1300XT performs. I have high hopes for the X1300XT as a quiet but capable HTPC video card.
Cards will appear from all the major companies including HIS, Gigabyte, ASUS, Club3D, MSI, TUL, Sapphire, Connect3D and GeCube.