Electronic Design


AMD recently picked up ATI Technologies. It was not too surprising given ATI's excellent line of video chips and adapters. At the top of the heap is the X1950XTX built on the latest 90-nm fabrication technology.

The X1950XTX (Fig. 1) is based on an enhanced version of the R580 graphics processing unit with 48 pixel shader processors, 8 vertex shader processors, 16 texture units, and 256-bit 8-channel GDDR4 memory interfaces into a chip that runs at 1.55 GHz, requiring a native PCI Express x16 bus interface. The board has a pair of DVI ports and it contains the required crypto-ROMs for HDCP compliance.

A single board can drive dual 2560 by 1600 displays with 16-bit DVI capability. Hardware acceleration is included for MPEG-1, 2, 4 and HTDV decoding and compression along with hardware motion compensation and color space conversion. The architecture supports up to 6x anti-aliasing with temporal and adaptive anti-aliasing modes. It also supports up to 16x anisotropic filtering modes with up to a 128-tap texture filter. The boards can also handle high quality rotational transformations and there is hardware support for Microsoft's DirectX 9 vertex and pixel shader. It uses ATI's Share Model 3.0 with 32-bit floating point support and high dynamic range (HDR) rendering with floating point blending and anti-aliasing support.

A pair of CrossFire-compatible units (Fig. 2) can be used to essentially double system performance. A special cable connects a pair of adapters to a monitor. A pair of these boards will draw a significant amount of power so it pays to have a good power supply for the system. A single adapter can chew up almost 260 W. The motherboard will also need to be compatible with multiple CrossFire adapters. Currently this means motherboards based on the Intel 975X or ones with ATI chipsets. A single adapter of either type simply requires an x16 PCI Express slot.

The unit has a hefty cooling system that requires two card slots. Even with the large fan the unit is very quiet. It blows air across a very large copper heatsink that utilizes heatpipe technology. It is all hidden under a stylish red cowl.

Performance and video output is simply stunning. The use of GDDR4 memory has significantly increased performance over prior products and the x16 PCI Express interface definitely helps.

The standard X1950XTX runs about $450.

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