ATI Radeon X1950 Pro with Native CrossFire

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The new Radeon X1950 Pro looks nothing like any of the other cards in the Radeon family, due to its slim, single slot cooler, revamped PCB, and new features, which we'll detail shortly.

         

The card pictured here is a 256MB, "Built by ATI" Radeon X1950 Pro.  It's equipped with an all-copper, single-slot cooler that draws heat away from the GPU and the on-board RAM.  Like the more powerful X1950 XTX, the cooler's fan is set way back on the card.  It draws air into the red shroud, blows it across the cooler's copper fins, and its ultimately expelled from the cooler just behind the DVI ports.  If you look closely, you'll see that the entire surface of this cooler is covered with fins and that they're curved for optimal airflow. The design results in a massive amount of surface area, which aided in keeping the card nice and cool throughout testing. The cooler also turned out to be relatively quiet, which is another plus in our opinion.

      

All Radeon X1950 Pros will be equipped with dual, dual-link DVI outputs and a TV output. Most partners will also be outfitting their cards with the necessary crypto-ROMs for HDCP compliance, so playing back next-gen protected content shouldn't be a problem.

         

To accommodate its new GPU and its inherent features, ATI also designed a new PCB for the Radeon X1950 Pro. The RV570 GPU at the heart of this card is manufactured on TSMC's 80nm node. It's equipped with 36 pixel shader processors, 8 vertex shader units and 12 texture units. ATI's reference design calls for a 575MHz GPU clock and with 1.38GHz memory.  The RV570 GPU seems to have modest power requirements, as is evident by the barren VRM area at the end of the card.  Although, it does still require a supplemental 6-pin PCI Express power feed.  The move to 80nm also results in a relatively small die compared to ATI's current offerings.  According to our trusty ruler, the RV570 is about 13.5mm x 16.5mm, or roughly 222mm2.

      

The most interesting feature of the Radeon X1950 Pro, however, is Native CrossFire support.  ATI has done away with the "Master" and "Slave" cards, and has incorporated the discreet compositing engine previously found on their CrossFire Master cards right into the GPU die. The result is that the clunky, external dongle is a thing of the past. To run X1950 Pro cards in a CrossFire configuration, all you have to do is connect them via a pair of internal ribbon cables, similar to NVIDIA's SLI bridge.  Unlike the NVIDIA platform though, these ribbon cables will be bundled with the video cards and not the motherboards, because there are a plethora of Intel 975 and P965 boards already available that are CrossFire compatible, that don't ship with the appropriate cables.  ATI will be including one CrossFire connector with each card moving forward.

We did some experimenting with the Radeon X1950 Pro while running in a CrossFire configuration and found that it behaved much like previous CrossFire-enabled systems.  Users still have to connect their monitors to the card in the primary graphics slot on the motherboard, and the benefits of the AVIVO engine can only be enjoyed when CrossFire is disabled -- although we're told this will be changing in a future driver release.  Unlike older CrossFire configurations, however, videos and DVDs can be played back with CrossFire enabled.  They just don't get enhanced by AVIVO. Another side benefit of Native CrossFire support is that users can now run four independent displays when CrossFire is disabled, because the DVI port previously consumed by the dongle has been freed up.

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