One of my biggest complaints with the X1900 series was the cooler. ATI actually sat a group of journalists down a few months ago and interviewed us for opinions on its products. The biggest complaint that came up, from both myself and other journalists were noise and drivers. The positive side is both of these issues have been addressed.
This cooler is a godsend. At boot it's whisper quiet and although it does spin up during intense gaming it remains barely audible. From a noise point of view, this is by far the best card to be pairing with a Core 2 Duo. Ironic, considering ATI would sooner see us pairing it with an AMD AM2 system.
Catalyst Control Center is also loading considerably quicker. Some of this can be attributed to its move from .net 1.1 to .net 2.0. This month also heralded a move on the Linux front, with considerably better drivers there too. I've got these running in my Fedora Linux office machine, which is running a Radeon 9200 quite happily.
Quieter Cooler? Decent Linux support? Better drivers? All I can say, it's about time – nVidia has had all of these for quite some time. But better late than never, and these are all things that would definitely sway my buying decision somewhat.
For testing this card, I used our reference Intel 975XBX “Bad Axe” motherboard, with an X6800 Core 2 Duo. Coupled with 2GBs of Corsair CMX1024-6400C4 running at 800MHz 4-4-4-12. I used WHQL 6.8 Catalyst drivers, and for the GeForce 7950 GX2 I used the WHQL 91.31 drivers.
Our “Spode Mark 3D” testing suite has had a little bit of an update. This involved updating all of the games to their latest versions. The only game that wasn't updated was Quake 4, as I was having stability issues with the new SMP patch. I have also added Prey in to the mix, which is an OpenGL game based on the Quake 4 engine. I've also changed the resolutions we test at, replacing 1,920x 1,440 with the widescreen resolution 1,920 x 1,200, which due to the popularity of 24in monitors is becoming a more common resolution.
These changes mean that results aren't directly comparable with previous tests.
I ran Call of Duty 2, Counter Strike: Source, Quake 4, Battlefield 2, Prey and 3DMark06. Bar 3DMark06, these all run using our in-house pre-recorded timedemos in the most intense sections of each game I could find. Each setting is run three times and the average is taken, for reproducible and accurate results. I ran each game test at 1,280 x 1,024, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,920 x 1,200 and 2,048 x 1,536 each at 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF.