Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro Dual - HotHardware

Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro Dual

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Graphics processors are, and have always been, extremely parallel in nature. This sentiment has been expressed time and time again by various GPU architects from all of the major graphics chip designers. If you want additional performance, in the vast majority of cases, you can gain it by adding on more rendering pipelines or a second (identical) graphics processing unit. Graphics applications and games scale very well with additional rendering power under the hood, as shown by both Nvidia's SLI and ATI's Crossfire technologies, which can be traced all the way back to the 3DFX Voodoo2, which was utilized the same core concepts.

With the already parallel nature of graphics processors and new multi-GPU technologies like Crossfire and SLI making it easy to link up multiple processors together, the option of producing graphics boards with multiple graphics chips on a single PCB becomes an enticing option for board-level manufacturers. Instead of using a high-end single processor, a manufacturer in theory could fuse together two mid-range processors on a single board and deliver (in many cases) the same amount of raw rendering power. While great in theory, multi-GPU enabled boards throughout the years have struggled to find their market. The most recent case we can link back to is the GeForce 7950 GX2 card, which put together two GeForce 7900-series processors together for SLI graphics power through a single PCI Express x16 slot. While the card did work very well for its intended market and gave Nvidia the flexibility to tout Quad GPU configurations, Nvidia had encountered a number of driver issues with this card, and it became quickly out-dated once the GeForce 8-series shipped.

Today we're looking at a similar situation, albeit on the other side of the fence. ATI/AMD are scheduled to deliver their new generation of graphics processors in the coming weeks / months, which will range from the low-end to the high-end, likely putting today's solutions out to pasture (or at least, knock their prices down a notch). However, Sapphire has engineered a unique solution to get more mileage out of this generation's graphics processors, allowing them to put up a fight against Nvidia's popular GeForce 8-series.

This new solution is the Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro Dual. As you might imagine from the name, this product merges together two Radeon X1950 Pro graphics processors onto a single (large - very, very large) PCB. Each graphics processor has its own 512 MB of memory to address for a total of 1 GB of onboard memory. The two graphics processors are linked together via an internal Crossfire connection, meaning only one PCI Express x16 slot is needed on the motherboard. It's a beast of a card and is definitely a brute force method of getting more rendering power from ATI's current processor designs, but it's certainly an intriguing product. Let's take a closer look.

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Retail Shipping Box - Front

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Retail Shipping Box - Back

Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual
Features and Specifications

 

"The Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual brings stunningly fast gaming performance, comparable with ATI CrossFire dual GPU systems, together with industry-leading image quality and crystal clear high definition digital video at a breakthrough price point. The same thickness as a standard two slot graphics card, the Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual connects via a single PCI-Express x16 slot, bringing dual GPU performance to mainboards with only one PCI-Express connector, and opening up the future possibility of the world's first Quad AMD GPU operation in an ATI CrossFire mainboard."

  • 2 x ATI Radeon X1950 Pro Graphics Processors

  • 580 MHz GPU Clock Speeds

  • 36 Shader Units Per Processor

  • 12 Pixel Pipelines Per Processor

  • 1 GB Onboard GDDR3 Memory (512 MB Per GPU)

  • 256-bit Memory Architecture

  • 1400 MHz GDDR3 Clock Speed

  • Bandwidth Per GPU x8, Bandwidth For Both x16 
  • Connected Through Single PCI Express x16 Slot

  • Actively Cooled Dual Slot Cooling System

  • 2 x Dual-Link DVI-I Output Ports (2560 x 1600 Max)

  • 1 x S-Video/HDTV Output Port (1024 x 768 Max)

  • HDCP-Enabled DVI Output Port (Blu-Ray/HD-DVD Ready)

  • Supports DirectX 9.0 / Shader Model 3.0

  • ATI AVIVO Hardware Accelerated Video

The specifications of this new board are right in line with what one would expect from a multi-GPU version of the X1950 Pro. All of the clock speeds and memory sizes are the same in comparison to the single-GPU variant of the X1950 Pro, and it shares the same benefits and drawbacks. The X1950 Pro GPU (the ATI RV570) is manufactured on an 80nm process, which means it runs fairly cool and doesn't consume a ton of power, allowing for this dual-GPU variant to come into existence. Simply put, due to the heat and power requirements of ATI's high-end X1950 XT lineup, putting two of these processors onto a single PCB is not feasable at this time. The RV570 is a much safer bet.

ATI's RV570 GPU is still firmly implanted in the DirectX 9 generation, supporting Shader Model 3.0, whereas Nvidia's latest cards (and ATI/AMD's upcoming cards) are DirectX 10 / Shader Model 4.0 based. As there are no DirectX 10 titles on the market, this is not a major feature to be worried about, but most buyers want their cards to be somewhat future-proof, so DirectX 10 support is a selling point to be sure. On the plus side, the X1950 Pro supports HDCP and dual-link DVI outputs, along with hardware accelerated video, which means the card should work well for both gaming and multimedia environments.

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