As you can see above, I was truly shocked at how quiet the cooler was. My biggest gripe with the X1900 XTX has been the cooling solution – enough to make me not recommend it on noise polution grounds alone. But this is a huge improvement. It survived our rigorous testing without falter, although I did notice the hosing was a little on the warm side. However, it was ”’still”’ cooler than the reference heatsink.
I also spent quite a while fiddling with overclocking this card. The memory was quite happy at 882MHz (1784MHz effective) which is a nice increase, while the core wasn’t so easily persuaded. At points I had the core up to 730MHz but after playing Counter-Strike: Source for even short periods it would eventually lock up at anything above the rated 675MHz. This is a little disappointing, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of overclocking entirely as it could well be that my particular card wasn’t that forgiving.
The nVidia cards were tested on an Asus A8N32-SLI using an Athlon 64 FX-60, 2GB of CMX1024-3500LLPRO RAM and a Seagate Barracuda ST340083A8 hard disk. Power was supplied by a Tagan 900W TG900-U95. For ATI testing, everything was kept the same except for the use of an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe and an Etasis 850W ET850.
The 7950 GX2 was tested using the beta 91.29 ForceWare drivers while the 7900 GT was tested using the 84.21 drivers. Both of the X1900 XTX cards were tested using the official Catalyst 6.6 drivers.
Using our proprietary automated benchmarking suite, I ran Call of Duty 2, Counter Strike: Source, Quake 4, Battlefield 2 and 3DMark 06. 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 1,440 and 2,048 x 1,536 each at 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF.
As expected, the improvement over a standard clocked X1900 XTX was minimal, with one or two frames per second here and there. Just for comparison I threw in the 7950 GX2, to see if the Catalyst 6.6 drivers made much difference. In lower resolutions of Counter-Strike: Source the XTX cards are both slightly ahead, but as we head in to the higher resolutions the power of two GPUs shines through. This was especially evident in Quake 4, where the 7950 GX2 had leads of 30-40fps.
If you are seriously considering buying an X1900 XTX, then it is well worth paying the extra money for this card as the noise reduction is dramatic. The extra performance is just an added bonus.
However, the 7950 GX2 is simultaneously faster and quieter for the same money. The X1900 XTX on the other hand has the option of HDR and FSAA as well as the possibility of running in Crossfire (assuming you can get hold of a similarly cooled master card).