The ATI Radeon X1950 Pro graphics card has easily won the title of the best product at $199, leaving its immediate market rival Nvidia GeForce 7900 GX far behind in almost each and every test. ATI can price the new card that low because it uses the RV570 chip (for details see our article called Midheavyweights: ATI Radeon X1950 Pro against Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS), developed specifically for the mainstream sector, and a rather simple PCB.
The ATI RV570 was designed in accordance with the 3-to-1 concept, having 36 shader processors, 12 TMUs and 12 ROPs. Unlike the Radeon X1900 GT, the Radeon X1950 Pro model doesn't have non-functioning subunits. Coupled with the 0.08-micron tech process, this has helped reduce the chip's power consumption a little, yet it is still rather high at 65W in 3D mode, which is much higher than that of the GeForce 7900 GS (45 watts) and even higher than the power draw of the more advanced GeForce 7950 GT (about 60 watts). The large amount of dissipated heat didn't allow ATI to install a simple cooling system, like Nvidia does on its GeForce 7900 GS, GeForce 7900 GT and GeForce 7950 GT. So, ATI developed a new copper cooler especially for the new card. It is as large and heavy as the cooler of the Radeon X1800 GTO/X1900 GT, but has better thermal and ergonomic properties.
Although we couldn't find any fault with the new cooler that showed itself an efficient and quiet solution, some of ATI's partners decided different. Particularly, PowerColor has released two models with a more advanced cooling system, besides the regular PowerColor X1950 Pro 256MB equipped with the reference cooler. The original models are called PowerColor X1950 Pro Extreme 512MB and PowerColor X1950 Pro Extreme 256MB and it's about the model with 256 megabytes of graphics memory on board that we’ll be talking today. The two models don't differ in anything else besides the amount of memory, so we’ll be referring to the card as to PowerColor X1950 Pro Extreme throughout this review.