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ASUS EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M and EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M
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Date: Dec 27, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications

While NVIDIA is marching forward with its DirectX 10 capable GeForce 8800 series, ATI is still mum on their next generation graphics cards. Which is somewhat surprising, as one would think this time of year would be ideal for new product announcements.

But while Vista is due for a broad release in January '07, games that fully exploit the features of DirectX 10 won't be commonplace for quite some time.  The rest of the market is still full of great material that is OpenGL or DirectX 9-based leaving the current line of ATI graphics cards as a viable options for all but the most demanding of enthusiasts.

Today, we are going to evaluate two cards from ASUS built around ATI's X1950 GPU.  The first graphics card is the EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M which comes with an X1950XTX GPU and 512MB of GDDR4 memory for the best performance ATI currently has to offer.  The next model is a slightly scaled down EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M which brings a more affordable mid-range solution with an X1950Pro at the core and 256MB of GDDR3 memory.  In the pages ahead, we're going to assess the overall features and performance of each card and then weigh in with our opinion on Asus two latest ATI-centric creations.  Aside from DirectX 10 support, these cards pack a punch in more way than one, so let's get started.

EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M & EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M
Specifications
Model
EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M

Graphics Engine
RADEON X1950XTX

Video Memory
512MB DDR4

Engine Clock
650MHz

Memory Clock
2GHz (1GHz DDR4)

Memory Interface
256-bit

Max Resolution
2048 X 1536

Bus Standard
PCI Express X 16

HDTV Output
Yes

HDCP Support
Yes

DVI Output
DVI-I

Adapter/Cable Bundled
CrossFire Cable
DVI to VGA adapter
DVI To YPrPb adapter
Power Cable

Software Bundled
3D Game: SNOWBLIND &GHOST RECON
ASUS Utilities & Driver
Model
EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M

Graphics Engine
RADEON X1950PRO

Video Memory
256MB DDR3

Engine Clock
581MHz

Memory Clock
1.4GHz (702MHz DDR3)

Memory Interface
256-bit

Max Resolution
2048 X 1536

Bus Standard
PCI Express X16

VGA Output
YES, via DVI to VGA Adapter

HDTV Output
YES, S-Video to HDTV Out

TV Output
YES, S-Video to Composite

DVI Output
DVI-I

Dual DVI Output
YES

HDCP Support
YES

Adapter/Cable Bundled
DVI to VGA adapter
Power Cable
HDTV-Out Cable
Software Bundled

ASUS Utilities & Driver

  EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M Retail Package

  

The bundle that complements the EAX1950CrossFire includes a multilingual SpeedSetUP manual for basic installation and setup of the card.  The manual was a bit generic, not covering proper cable installation in CrossFire configurations, which was surprising.  The package also included a six pole PCI-Express power adapter that marries up with two molex outputs from the PSU.  Two disks were provided, one including drivers and other utilities, while the other included an electronic manual.  Two full version games were included as well, namely Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter and Project Snowblind.  For HDTV output, a DVI to YPrPb adapter is included while a DVI to Analog adapter is offered for those without a DVI ready monitor. Last is a CD booklet to hold the included CDs with room for several more as well.

EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M Retail Package

  

The bundle that accompanied the EAX1950Pro included the same SpeedSetUP manual, CD case and power cord as the X1950CrossFire.  We also found a pair of CDs including drivers, utilities and an electronic manual.  There was a DVI to VGA adapter and, for HDTV support, an HDTV-Out cable adapter.  With this model, no retail games were included at all, which was a mild disappointment.  The Utilities CDs for both cards included such proprietary titles as ASUS Splendid for enhanced video playback quality, ASUS Video Security Online for remote monitoring of your home via a webcam, ASUS Game LiveShow for streaming gameplay to share with others, ASUS Game Replay for recording and playing back gameplay, ASUS Game FaceMessenger for IMing in-game, and ASUS OnScreenDisplay for fine tuning screen options during gameplay.

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Close Up: ASUS EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M

EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M
Radeon X1950XTX Power

A the heart of the EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M is a Radeon X1950XTX GPU, which is manufactured at 90nm, and sports 48 Pixel Shaders that support Shader Model 3.0. The GPU also features 8 Vertex shaders as well as 16 Texture Units.  The GPU comes clocked at 650MHz and is backed by 512MB of GDDR4 memory clocked at 1GHz (2GHz DDR) with a 256-bit interface.

  

The rear of the PCI Express x16 card is equipped with a 6 pin PCI Express power head for supplemental power.  As this is a Crossfire Master card, the front edge of the EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M comes with one DVI port and a CrossFire connection to be used with the dongle included in the package.  The maximum rated resolution is 2048x1536 with support for HDCP as well as HDTV output via a DVI to YPrPb adapter. 

Keeping the card cool is an oversized two slot cooler that is copper based with a blower type fan that accesses air directly off the rear of the case for the best possible air flow across the card.  The heat sink spans the GPU and memory to help cool all components on the card. 

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Close Up: ASUS EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M

EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M
Radeon X1950 Pro

The EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M is a PCI Express Radeon X1950 Pro based card that is powered by the R570 GPU.  With the EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M, the GPU sports 36 Pixel shaders and 12 Texture units compared to the X1950XTX's 48/16 complement.  The EAX1950PRO supports SM 3.0 technology and is equipped with 8 Vertex Shaders as well.  The core comes clocked at 581MHz and it's teamed with 256MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 700MHz (1.4GHz DDR).

  

Unlike the EAX1950CrossFire, the EAX1950PRO is a Dual DVI-I solution and comes with a discreet compositing engine integrated into the GPU, eliminating the need for a dongle or master card to support CrossFire.  The card supports a maximum resolution of 2048x1536 and offers TV/HDTV Out and Video-In support via S-Video port located between the DVI-I ports.  Like the EAX1950CrossFire, the EAX1950PRO card also supports HDCP (High Bandwidth Digital Content), although monitors and software must also support this feature in order to take full advantage of this technology. 

  

Like the EAX1950CrossFire model, the EAX1950PRO also requires supplemental power via a 6 pin PCI Express power adapter, which is positioned at the center of the card.  This may pose a problem for some with cases that have the hard drives mounted directly behind the card.  Lastly, ASUS outfitted the EAX1950PRO with an elegant white and black cooler that doesn't require a second PCI slot to be occupied.  The cooler utilizes a heat pipe design to help draw heat away from the GPU and Memory and is very quiet in our experience.

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Performance Comparisons with Half Life 2: Lost Coast

The HotHardware Test Systems
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Powered
Hardware Used:
Processor:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
2.4GHz x 2

Motherboard:
ECS KN3 SLI2 Extreme
nForce4 SLIX16 chipset

Graphics Cards:
ASUS EAX1950CrossFire
512MB GDDR4
ASUS EAX1950PRO
256MB GDDR3
GeForce 7900 GTX
512MB GDDR3

Memory:
2048MB PQI PC24200 Turbo RAM
CAS 3

Audio:
Integrated on-board

Storage:
Western Digital "Raptor" 74GB
10,000RPM - SATA
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
DirectX 9.0c (August Redist.)
nForce Drivers v9.35

NVIDIA Forceware v93.71
ATI Catalyst v6.11

Benchmarks Used:

DirectX
3DMark06 v1.1.0
F.E.A.R. v1.08
Half Life 2: Lost Coast
X3: Reunion

OpenGL
Quake 4 v1.02*
Prey*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with Half Life 2: Lost Coast
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/
Half-Life 2:
Lost Coast
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time. So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November '04 to get our hands on this classic. In this test we benchmarked the add-on 'Lost Coast' at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X Anti-aliasing and 16X Anisotropic Filtering enabled, using the built-in video stress test.

As with all tests in this review, we've added the results from a GeForce 7900GTX.  In our Half-Life 2: Lost Coast testing, the EAX1950CrossFire posted the best results, leading the 7900GTX by over 5 FPS at 1280x1024 and 9 FPS at 1600x1200.  The EAS1950Pro was almost an exact inverse, trailing the 7900GTX by 6 and 10 FPS respectively. 

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Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.1.0

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.1.0
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
3DMark06 is the latest addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

With the "default" 3DMark06 test, the EAX1950CrossFire and GeForce 7900GTX tracked very closely, with the EAX1950CrossFire holding a lead of 56 points.  SM 2.0 testing leaned in favor of the 7900GTX, as it led the EAX1950CrossFire by 154 points while SM 3.0 testing swung back in favor of the EAX1950CrossFire by 175 points.  In all three tests the EAX1950Pro trailed the other two cards, predictably.

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Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the game's minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card in the Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-classes or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.07, we put the graphics cards in this article through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to their maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1,280x960 and 1,600x1,200, with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

At a 1280x960 screen resolution, the EAX1950CrossFire and GeForce 7900GTX were virtually tied while the EAX1950Pro trailed by 14 FPS.  When the resolution was increased to 1600x1200, the EAX1950CrossFire dropped 12 FPS, the EAX1950Pro dropped 15 FPS and the GeForce 7900GTX registered the biggest hit at 17 FPS.

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Performance Comparisons with Prey

Performance Comparisons with Prey
Details: http://www.prey.com/

Prey
After many years of development, Take-Two Interactive recently released the highly anticipated game Prey. Prey is based upon an updated and modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Prey is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a plethora of dynamic lighting and shadows.  But unlike Doom3, Prey features a fare share of outdoor environments as well.  We ran these Prey benchmarks using a custom recorded timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" graphics mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.

 

Our custom Prey timedemo proved to be a strong point for the EAX1950CrossFire.  In this test, the GeForce 7900GTX registered a more distant second than seen thus far, averaging a 9 FPS difference at both resolutions.  The EAX1950Pro trailed the EAX1950CrossFire by close to 20 FPS at both resolutions while trailing the GeForce 7900GTX by 9 FPS.

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Performance Comparisons with Quake 4

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

With our Quake 4 test, the EAX1950Pro once again trailed the EAX1950CrossFire by an average of 20 FPS at both 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions.  The GeForce 7900GTX held a 16 FPS lead over the EAX1950Pro at 1280x1024 and 13 FPS lead at 1600x1200.  The GeForce 7900GTX trailed the EAX1950CrossFire by 4 FPS at 1280x1024 with that margin growing to 8 FPS at 1600x1200.

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Overclocking EAX1950CROSSFIRE & EAX1950PRO

For our next set of performance metrics, we spent a little time overclocking the EAX1950CrossFire and EAX1950Pro to see what kind of extra horsepower could be found in each model.

Overclocking EAX1950CROSSFIRE & EAX1950PRO
(Fast 3D Video Cards) + Overclocking = Even Faster Cards

With the EAX1950CrossFire, we managed to hit a peak GPU speed of 722MHz, a gain of 74MHz while the memory gave us an additional 100MHz.  The EAX1950Pro, however, was less generous.  The EAX1950Pro's GPU peaked at 614MHz, an increase of 33MHz, while the memory would not tolerate even the slightest of increases in our testing.  Nonetheless, both cards registered measurable gains with their overclocked settings, with the EAX1950CrossFire adding 12 FPS at 1280x1024 and 19 FPS at 1600x1200.  The EAX1950Pro was less exciting, adding an average of 3 FPS at both resolutions.

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Performance Summary and Final Comments

Performance Summary: The EAX1950CrossFire and EAX1950Pro both performed as we expected.  The EAX1950CrossFire competed on about the same level as an NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX.  The more affordable EAX1950Pro trailed the two cards as expected by consistent margins in all tests.

EAX1950CROSSFIRE/HP/512M

While ATI is still working out their first DirectX 10 offering, they've shown they still have some viable options in the DirectX 9 arena.  The EAX1950CrossFire is the equipped with an X1950XTX GPU and 512MB of GDDR4 memory, making it the most powerful ATI-based graphics card at this time.  In each test, the EAX1950CroosFire competed on about the same level as our reference GeForce 7900GTX.  The retail bundle was excellent, with two games and the necessary cables, dongles and software to successfully install the card with minimal fuss.  The printed documentation was a bit generic in our opinion, omitting any mention of proper CrossFire cable set up.  On an up note, overclocking was excellent, with the EAX1950CrossFire posting measurable gains in our tests.  We were also impressed with the looks of the card, with its fire engine red cooler which sported a hefty copper heat sink

Overall, we have mixed feelings about the EAX1950CrossFire.  It's becoming increasingly more difficult to recommend a DirectX 9 based card with Windows Vista and DX10 arriving next month.  And in the current market, this card is too pricey at about $495. The non-Master version of this card is a bit cheaper at around $435, but with the GeForce 8800 GTS available for less, it's hard to get excited about the EAX1950CrossFire. Asus obviously put together a really nice bundle, but it doesn't offset its higher pricer tag.

  • Solid Performance
  • CrossFire
  • Retail Package
  • Good Overclocker
  • CrossFire Dongle
  • DirectX10 is coming

EAX1950PRO/HTDP/256M

The EAX1950Pro was a strong mid-range graphics card that delivered solid performance in all of our tests.  The EAX1950Pro brings dongle-free crossfire to the mix in a single slot package.  Overclocking proved to be a weak point with this particular card and the retail package was nothing too flashy, lacking any real extras such as a full retail game.

With a price of about $184, the EAX1950Pro offers a nice price to performance ratio.  While the performance results with this card expectedly trailed the two high-end cards, the deltas were relatively small considering the price differences between each model.  On average, we saw differences of roughly 15-20 FPS when compared to the X1950XTX.  With that said, is it worth the performance hit to save close to $300?  We suspect for some of you it may very well be.  If you're an ATI fan and can't bring yourself to shell out close to $500 for an Asus XTX, it may be wiser to pick up two EAX1950Pros and walk away with a little extra cash left over to buy the next game on your wish list.

  • Good Performance
  • Native CrossFire
  • Single-Slot
  • Poor Overclocker
  • DirectX10 is coming
  • No Games Included

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