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Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2010 orks, a business unit of Nuevvo Webware Ltd.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 14:06

Sapphire Dual X1950Pro

Written by Sanjin Rados

Image  Image 

Review: Fast card with dodgy drivers

Table of contents
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The Sapphire
X1950Pro Dual is truly a unique product. We already mentioned it in our preview, here.

The Sapphire dual card is a single PCB with two X1950Pro GPUs. Sounds good, but keep in mind that the R600 is about to make its appearance in less than a month. Many are sceptical about the cost effectiveness of such a product. The first X1950Pro Dual samples were shown back in January and it’s a pity Sapphire wasn’t able to launch the cards back then. The card will cost you about as much as two separate X1950Pro cards would, thus the performance of this hybrid solution is the only important factor to its success. The suggested retail price we got was around €350.


Image

Apart from the two GPUs, the most interesting detail is definitely the large chip located above the PCIe connector. This is the ExpressLane 32-lane, 8-port PCIe switch, made by PLX Technologies. It allows two way communication between the GPUs  without using the PCIe bus. We already said the card can be paired with an identical card using two Crossfire connectors found in the upper left part of the card. Next to the Crossfire connectors, where you would expect to see additional graphics ports, you can only see holes. Their number matches a D-sub (analogue VGA) connector. Sapphire confirmed this, saying all cards to hit retail will have the missing connectors.

Image


A large aluminum cooler covers both GPUs and the memory chips, and it performed well throughout the entire course of our testing. We can see two heat pipes in each block, helping to efficiently dissipate the heat from the GPUs and RAM chips with the aid of a center mounted fan.

Image

A single Radeon X1950Pro card can’t match the performance of Nvidia’s high end products, such as the 8800 GTS, but the tables turn when we compare a Sapphire X1950Pro Dual with two X1950Pro GPU’s against an 8800 GTS. The performance of a single Sapphire X1950Pro Dual card is comparable with two X1950Pro cards running in Crossfire mode. This is no surprise as Sapphire’s card is just that, Crossfire on a single PCB.

Crossfire on a single card might be an interesting option for consumers who don’t have a Crossfire motherboard, as the card works on a single x16 PCIe slot. However, there is an issue. Nvidia chipset based  motherboards don’t support Crossfire, so you will have to use this card with an ATI or Intel chipset based motherboard. We already saw that BIOS modifications can allow Crossfire and SLI capabilities on some motherboards, but we doubt Nvidia or DAAMIT will ever allow their competitors to utilize their chipsets in such a way. We tested the card with several motherboards. The EVGA Nvidia 680i motherboard won’t let you realize the full potential of the X1950Pro Dual card because the chipset doesn’t support Crossfire. The card will work, but with only one GPU and half the performance. After the Nvidia board we tried an Intel chipset. The Intel DG955OT has just one PCI-Express slot which means it’s not Crossfire certified, but the Sapphire X1950Pro Dual worked just fine with it.

 

Image
Sapphire PC-AM2RD580 motherboard

Image
Sapphire PI-AM2RS690MHD motherboard

The Sapphire card should probably provide the best results working on a Sapphire motherboard, so we tried it out on two Sapphire boards. We installed Vista Ultimate on a Pure Crossfire AM2RD580 motherboard and were less than impressed with the performance and Crossfire support under Vista. It’s still too early to test this card with Vista, as ATI officially has no drivers for this card. Then we let the tiny AMD 690G+SB600 based Sapphire PI-AM2RS690MHD motherboard have a go. Finally we found the right match. On Windows XP our Sapphire X1950Pro Dual showed that the twin GPU Crossfire board worked well and that poor Catalyst support was to blame for the bad results we got earlier. Back at Cebit we saw that the X1950Pro Dual can be used in Crossfire mode with an identical card on a Crossfire motherboard. This was probably the first public display of a Quad-Crossfire system. Will Quad-Crossfire ever leave the box and go into full functional use? It depends on the drivers and if AMD will to support it. So far AMD has officially confirmed that there is no support for such a card, be it 2X or 4X Crossfire. We can glance at Sapphire who will have to provide adequate drivers.

Image
Sapphire Quad


Testing


As we already said, we tested the card on two different motherboards. The first round was done with Vista on a Sapphire AM2RD580 motherboard. During the testing we got a Sapphire PI-AM2RS690MHD motherboard, we plugged in the Dual card, installed Windows XP  and did it all over again. Throughout the test we only used Sapphire’s X1950Pro Dual and Leadtek’s 8800GTS 640 MB graphics cards. The results we got on two different motherboards with different operating systems could have easily been placed in separate tables. We chose to put them all in one table because we used the same AMD FX-62 processor and OCZ PC2-6400 Crossfire RAM. You can see the motherboard and OS we used in every column behind the card name.

 



We used:

AMD Athlon64 FX-62  

OCZ DDR2 PC2-6400 ATI CrossFire Certified
Sapphire PURE Crossfire 3200 PC-AM2RD580 Motherboard
Sapphire PURE Innovation HDMI PI-AM2RS690MHD Motherboard
Sapphire X1950PRO Dual 1024MB
Leadtek 8800GTS 640MB
OCZ GameXStream Power Supply 700W (NVIDIA SLI-Ready)

Zalman Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler CNPS9700 LED

 

Composite Figures 3Dmark 03

3DMark 03

Game2

Game3

Game3

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

26499

222.7

164.9

177.0

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

23893

193.5

152.1

157.1

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PC-AM2RD580 Vista

25882

220.0

162.5

166.0

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PC-AM2RD580 Vista

26012

232.3

173.0

150.7

 

 

 

 

 

Composite Figures 3Dmark 03

Single Texturinng

Multi Textur.

Pixel Shader 2.0

Vertex Shader

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

7568.9

13420.8

306.7

105.9

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

5096.6

11864.6

421.1

96.4

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PC-AM2RD580 Vista

7359.8

13200.4

304.9

99.3

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PC-AM2RD580 Vista

5055.3

11675.8

414.7

93.5

 

 

 

 

 

Composite Figures 3Dmark 05

3DMark 05

Game1

Game2

Game2

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

14756

53.6

42.9

89.7

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

14027

53.5

42.0

78.7

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PC-AM2RD580 Vista

14377

54.8

41.9

82.7

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PC-AM2RD580 Vista

13852

54.9

40.6

76.4

 

 

 

 

 

Composite Figures 3Dmark 05

Single Texturinng

Multi Textur.

Pixel Shader

VS/VS
complex

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

7930.2

13757.5

644.6

134.9/110.9

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

5143.8

11876.2

387.4

124.1/96.7

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PC-AM2RD580 Vista

8265.4

13268.4

631.2

116.6/104.3

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PC-AM2RD580 Vista

5085.9

11867.3

382.9

122.7/111.4


In 3Dmark03 Sapphire X1950 PRO DUAL is about 2500 points faster than the 8800 GTS. In Vista the Leadtek 8800 GTS is a bit faster. Unexpected is that Leadtek 8800 GTS is about 2000 points faster in Vista than under XP. You can clearly see that the Sapphire card scores much more in single and multi texturing, up to 50 per cent more than the 8800 GTS card, but in pixel shader 2.0 Nvidia is better.


The Sapphire Duo card is again better in 3Dmark05 by about 700 points. In Vista the 8800 GTS loses out by some 500 points. Once again you can see a big increase in single texturing performanace and that multi texturing is also a bit faster than the Nvidia card. We see some very interesting scores in pixel shader test where the Sapphire X1950 PRO DUAL scores much better than in the 3DMark03 pixel shader 2.0 test.

 

 

Composite Figures 3Dmark 06

3DMark 06

 

 

 

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

8609

 

 

 

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

8338

 

 

 

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PC-AM2RD580 Vista

8018

 

 

 

Leadtek 8800GTS _______PC-AM2RD580 Vista

8223

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SM2.0 Test

Score

GT1

GT2

 

Sapphire X1950PRO Dual PI-AM2RS690MHD XP

3631

28.133

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Last modified on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 18:28
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