For years ATI enthusiasts have been pleading with ATI and their board manufacturers to produce more specialized graphics cards with custom high-end features, much like NVIDIA and their board partners do with their video cards. Sapphire was one of the first ATI board partners to truly oblige, starting with the Radeon 9700 Pro generation with their Sapphire Radeon 9700 Pro Ultimate Edition. The Sapphire 9700 Pro Ultimate was the first graphics card to really emphasize silent heat pipe-based cooling (Abit introduced a line of heat pipe-based graphics cards around the same time as Sapphire, but their cards were by no means silent), a feature which had been available as an option for years in aftermarket coolers, but never before out-of-the-box from a large card manufacturer like Sapphire.
Sapphire’s Ultimate line continued to evolve over the years as ATI introduced new GPUs, with Sapphire integrating newer heat pipe units from Zalman and eventually an external fan that operated nearly silently in the 9800 XT Ultimate, although eventually Sapphire had to abandon the heat pipe in favor of the more traditional heatsink/fan unit starting with the X800 line of GPUs. Meanwhile NVIDIA’s board partners began to increasingly add additional features to their cards such as cards that were overclocked from the factory -- while Sapphire hasn’t provided out-of-the-box overclocking with their cards, Sapphire did respond by providing their TRIXX utility, which would overclock the graphics card automatically once loaded; all while remaining under the factory Sapphire warranty.
Most recently Sapphire has introduced a line of liquid-cooled graphics cards that fall under their Toxic brand. We recently reviewed X1900 XTX and X1950 XTX graphics cards that utilized this unique form of cooling. Sapphire uses a modified version of Thermaltake’s Tide Water liquid cooling unit on these cards, with the added addition of TRIXX for higher clock speeds and performance.
For the Radeon X1950 Pro GPU, Sapphire’s really pulling out all the stops. Not only does Sapphire provide a stock Radeon X1950 Pro card that closely follows ATI’s reference design, Sapphire has also developed another Ultimate card based on the X1950 Pro GPU, their Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro Ultimate, and the Sapphire X1950 Pro AGP, both of which we’re reviewing today. At CES a few weeks ago Sapphire also announced an additional Radeon X1950 Pro SKU that combines two Radeon X1950 Pro GPUs onto one card, the Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual.
The Sapphire X1950 Pro Dual ships at the standard Radeon X1950 Pro clock speeds, although the board ships with 1GB of RAM (512MB of memory per GPU) so performance is slightly higher than a stock Radeon X1950 Pro CrossFire configuration thanks to the added memory, plus you get the added versatility of only using one PCI Express slot. As a result, the card brings Radeon X1950 Pro CrossFire performance to motherboards with only one PCI Express graphics slot. The card uses a dual-slot cooler however, so physically it takes up a similar amount of space inside your system as two X1950 Pro cards would. Sapphire hopes to ship the X1950 Pro Dual sometime next month, but a price hasn’t been announced.
We’ll be taking a look at two cards that should be much cheaper than the X1950 Pro Dual though, the X1950 Pro Ultimate and the X1950 Pro AGP, which ships with 512MB of memory. Let’s take a look at the Ultimate card first though…