As a powerful single-card solution, PowerColor's 512MB Radeon X1900XTX takes the fight right up to cards based on NVIDIA's goliath chip - the GeForce 7800GTX 512MB. Indeed, the X1900XTX chip is ATI's new top-of-the-line offering, replacing the X1800XT chip, and it has some major improvements on the X1800XT, with aim of making image quality even greater at higher resolutions. Primarily, the X1900XTX has 48-pixel shader processors, while the X1800XT only has 16.
PowerColor's X1900XTX uses a standard cooling mechanism and is a double-thickness card, meaning it will take up two expansion brackets on your case while at the same time rendering the adjacent expansion slot on the motherboard unusable.
The cooling mechanism has an exhaust that pushes hot air away from the copper heat sink that is used to cool the graphics chip and this fan gets quite loud when the card is under a full processing load. During idle times, however, only a slight whir is audible.
Running our own recorded Timedemo in Quake 4 at maximum settings (1280x1024 resolution, 6x anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering), it beat a 512MB GeForce 7800GTX-based card by three frames per second. It also beat the 7800GTX at lower settings in this game, but in Doom 3 the 7800GTX was still much faster. The built-in graphics test in F.E.A.R allowed the PowerColor card to flex its muscle again. At the highest setting in this game (1280x960 resolution, 6x anti aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering) it beat the 7800GTX convincingly.
PowerColor doesn't ship this card with any games, but it does supply a Cyberlink DVD Solution disc, which has DVD playback, authoring and burning software as well as some video editing software.
The Radeon X1900XTX chip has hardware acceleration for most popular video codecs, including MPEG-2 and DivX and it also has the capability to output a high-definition signal. A slew of cables come supplied in the box: component, composite and S-Video. Video-in is also supported through the composite and S-Video cables.
As for its drivers, it uses ATI's standard Catalyst drivers, which allow for plenty of 3-D tweaking and they even facilitate overclocking.
To run this card, make sure you have a hefty power supply. PowerColor recommends at least a 450W power supply with a 12V rating of 30A.
If you don't plan on ever playing games above a resolution of 1024x768, then this card will be overkill for your needs. But, if you play all your games at or above 1280x1024, then this card needs to be considered. In fact, ATI claims the X1900XTX has been designed to run at very high resolutions, with 1600x1200 being a minimum resolution. Expect to pay a premium price for this card. It costs $990, which is competitive for a high-end 512MB card.