For testing power consumption we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 5 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running through 3DMark 2006.
We see a decent drop in idle and load consumption with the new 256MB part. Obviously memory doesn’t have nearly the impact on power consumption that the electricity devouring GPU core does but the 18 watt load drop puts our 256MB X1900XT close to the very effecient XFX 7900GTX “XXX.”
A drop in price is always good especially when it’s at the cost of losing something that doesn’t necessarily affect performance in current games. The performance difference between the 512MB card and 256MB card are very small and represents a terrific compromise of price over performance. The X1900 line packs a very potent punch that gamers can rely on to give them a great experience and the X1900XT 256MB doesn’t change that one bit. In fact we saw more than a few times where the 256MB card still had enough punch to K.O. the 7900 GTX.
The problems with the X1900XT 256MB are mostly limited to heat and noise. The new heatsink included on the X1950 series would be a terrific fit here as it would resolve the noise problem and would also help out the heat that this card puts out. During our overclocking adventures we saw temperatures reach 85c!
The final problem is that it’s very difficult to find the card for sale. It’s a great card and should sell pretty well if it makes it to the shelf. ATI seems to be having problems getting their launches together as this card was announced the same day as the X1950XTX two and a half weeks ago. NVIDIA is trucking along and actually holding reviews of their cards until they are available for sale. At print time Newegg had the HIS Radeon X1900XT 256MB listed for US $279.99 after rebate in the United States and for our friends up in Canada, NCIX has the Connect3D Radeon X1900XT 256MB listed for $298.99 (CAD).
The real advantage of a 512MB video card is dealing with large textures and or very high resolutions. In our testing we saw that only at very high resolutions of 1920×1200 was there a significant performance difference between a standard X1900XT and the 256MB part. This should be music to the ears of those that game at 1280×1024 and 1600×1200. Blistering performance at the resolutions most gamers play at, at a price that serious gamers can afford.
The X1900XT 256 MB is a great card in that it will be able to run Windows Vista in full Aero Glass glory and still pump out great frames in the latest games. However as Nathan has pointed out so well in his latest article, gaming on Vista is far from a fun experience at the moment. Our recommendation is not to wait for DirectX 10 video cards as there is really no reason to consider Vista unless you live on the bleeding edge of technology. If you are shopping in the price range of the X1900XT 256MB you’re likely not one of those people and should put off the DirectX 10/ Vista upgrade until both have some “baking time.”
Legit Bottom Line: With the introduction of the X1900XT 256MB ATI brings high end performance and features to more of the masses with a sensible price tag.