Sapphire Radeon X1950GT - Testing 256MB vs. 512MB memory

Palit's 512MB X1950GT got a lashing last time - today Sapphire's 256MB version is here to see if things have improved!
Published Sun, Mar 11 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: Sapphire Technology


When we had a look at the Palit Radeon X1950GT 512MB the other week, we noticed that at the higher resolutions, it would put up more of a fight against the higher clocked 256MB graphics cards, such as the Radeon X1950PRO and GeForce 7900GS.

With the new Sapphire Radeon X1950GT 256MB in hand, it was clear what we wanted to find out - does the extra memory really come in handy? We saw that the cut back to 320MB on the GeForce 8800GTS had quite the impact on performance and it often mentioned that 512MB can be handy on the right card as long as it had the GPU power to back it up.

As we are using the Sapphire Radeon X1950GT graphics card which we haven't looked at before, we will be going through and checking out its package while having a closer look at the card before we get stuck into the benchmarks.

Let's see exactly what Sapphire have done to the Radeon X1950GT and how it differs to what we saw in Palit's more expensive 512MB version.

The Package

Sapphire as always have got a good eye for detail on the box and like we see on a few of their other higher end cards, we have a window so we can have a little peak at what's inside before buying.

The box gives us a rundown of all the main information - 256MB of DDR-3 memory, Dual Link DVI ports, HD video output, HDCP, PCI Express and support for Crossfire dual graphics. We can also see that a full version copy of Just Cause comes with the bundle which is a great addition being a current release game.

The back of the box gives us a more detailed run down on what the Radeon X1950GT core has to offer. We also have what is included in the box along with a number of awards that Sapphire has received over the years.

Moving inside we have our standard run of the mill manual and driver CD, we also have a copy of Power DVD and like we saw on the box a full version copy of Just Cause. Sapphire has also included a sticker so you can show off what's inside that beast of yours.

Typical Sapphire fashion we have everything we need to get up and running - included is a PCI Express power connector if your power supply doesn't have 6-pin power already, S-Video and RCA cable out, S-Video to RCA convertor, component out, a couple DVI to VGA connectors and the Crossfire cable required to make use of dual graphics technology.

Sapphire as always have done a fantastic job with the package and it's good to see that they are staying on top of the games situation by including current one and not something that is a few years old.

The Card

Moving onto the card the first thing we notice when pulling it out is that the card uses a longer cooler when compared to the Palit X1950GT that we recently reviewed but it does take up only a single slot. This is always a better option for people who are limited for space and may use something like a Shuttle XPC or any other form of micro casing.

Turning the card over it is very much the same old; we can see the X bracket that keeps the large heatsink in place, our normal stickers, and a HDCP sticker that lets you know that it supports it.

Like majority of higher end mid-range cards on the market today, an extra source of power is needed and the Radeon X1950GT series is no different. If your power supply doesn't come with a PCI Express plug, as we saw in the box, a Molex to PCI Express converter is included.

Moving around to the top of the card we have two SLI like connectors which of course are needed to make use of Crossfire dual graphics technology. The card comes with a single Crossfire connector and when you buy the second card you get the other required cable.

I/O wise we have Dual DVI as we saw on the front of the box, we also have our run of the mill TV out port which supports HDTV out via component cable. Both of the DVI ports are not only Dual Link compatible but are also HDCP compliant which means you can use this graphics card to playback HD movie content from sources such as HD DVD and Blu-ray.

Sapphire's Radeon X1950GT comes with the same clock speeds as the Palit 512MB version which is 500MHz core and 1200MHz DDR memory clock. The only difference between both cards besides the physical appearance is that one utilizes 256MB of DDR-3 (Sapphire) memory and the other uses 512MB of DDR-3 (Palit) memory.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3.33GHz (366MHz x 9 and FSB 1:1)
Motherboard(s): ABIT IN9 32X-MAX Wi-Fi (Supplied by Universal ABIT)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Crucial PC8000 5-5-5-15 (Supplied by Crucial)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 7.2 and DX9c

As mentioned the main idea of this review is to find out how both these graphics cards stack up considering they share the exact same clock speeds except once has twice as much onboard memory as the other.

Both operate at clock speed of 500/1200MHz and the only difference between them is that the Palit utilizes an extra 256MB of memory to bring it up to 512MB.

At the time of writing and in Australia, the Sapphire X1950GT 256MB will cost you around $240 AUD (roughly $188 USD) whereas the Palit X1950GT 512MB will cost you around $270 AUD (roughly $211 USD) - a little over a 11% difference in price. While it's all well and nice to have the extra memory and you'll probably see performance improvement in certain games and applications at high resolutions, if you're running lower resolutions, we might be onto a better product here in the 256MB version.

Let's check it out and find out! We'll test at default clock speeds and then later on overclock and see what type of added performance that brings.


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.

While it's not huge we can see across the board that the 512MB version is slightly faster.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.

3DMark06 again sees that the same clocked Palit is faster across the board with its extra memory.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Lost Coast with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.

HL2 like we have seen throughout our other tests sees gains at both settings and across the board, the lowest resolution with no HDR continued to spit out a high result even after multiple reboots.

Benchmarks - PREY


Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.

PREY saw huge performance gains across the board. The lead was great at the higher resolutions though we still had a significant gain at the lower resolution.

Taking these average FPS numbers into consideration, in PREY the Sapphire X1950GT probably won't provide a very good gaming experience at anything above 1280 x 1024. It is that clear PREY loves the extra memory on hand.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. 512MB performance was up also at both resolutions and the higher saw a slightly higher average but it's all really close at the end of the day.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.

Company of Heroes saw gains but the biggest was seen at the lower resolutions, the highest resolution showed very similar results which suggests that COH doesn't care too much about the extra memory when put under relatively higher pressure.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

With only 3 points separating it there clearly isn't any difference here.

We see again that it is slightly faster but nothing to get excited about.

PREY like our non HQ tests saw large gains with the 512MB version of the card. It's clear the ultra detail that we tested with can make use of the extra memory on a card like this.

Benchmarks - Overclocking


Our next step on the list is overclocking - we fired up our favorite clocking tool ATI Tool and got things under way.

We were able to increase the default clock speeds from 500MHz / 1200MHz DDR to 610MHz / 1350MHz DDR which is quite impressive.

Let's go ahead and see what type of difference this makes to the overall performance in just a sample of tests.

With a decent overclock like we achieved you would expect a nice performance gain and you can clearly see one here.

PREY also sees a very nice performance jump with the overclocked card which may well mean a playable gaming experience at resolutions above 1280 x 1024.

While we don't see any difference at the minimum FPS when we move to the average again we can see that a performance gain is clearly seen.

Final Thoughts

Is it worth spending the extra money on a 512MB variant of the Radeon X1950GT? The answer is not really unless it was that important to you that you have to tell your friends that your graphics card is 512MB and that makes you better than him and his 320MB 8800GTS. Graphics cards in this arena still can't really see huge benefits to twice as much memory. We understand PREY sees a fairly large jump which would let us assume that OpenGL games based on ID's Doom 3 engine will but we wouldn't base our purchase on this as there are plenty of other games.

At the time of writing there are just a few 256MB Radeon X1950GT's for sale in Australia. You can pick up the Sapphire X1950GT 256MB for around $240 AUD (roughly $188 USD) which makes it a more attractive product as straight up price and performance goes.

Sapphire as always have done a fantastic job with not only their card but the package - the card is very quiet and only uses single slot cooling, looks great and the package is fantastic including a full version game of Just Cause. It's all let down by a poor quality graphics chipset from AMD and ATI that doesn't really seem to be very well thought out in our opinion.

We hate to say it but your money really can be spent in better ways and not just in Australia - we checked out US pricing and it's the same story there with the PRO version only being a little more expensive. As we said in our Palit review, if your budget is tight buy the GeForce 7900GS 256MB though if you do have extra money buy the Radeon X1950PRO 256MB, you will be a lot happier with the performance and we reckon you'd be much more satisfied and it's only going to cost you slightly more than the X1950GT 256MB.

Spend your money wisely!

- Pros
Great package including full version of Just Cause
Cheaper than the 256MB and similar performance
Good overclocking
Crossfire dual graphics technology
HDCP support for HD DVD and Blu-ray playback
Quiet and single slot cooling

- Cons
Dated RV570 core
Your money is more wisely spent elsewhere (not just in Australia)

- Latest Pricing

Rating - 7.5 out of 10

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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