News pages usually concentrate on the showy next-generation graphics chips, but the ones that really fly off the shelves are the £100-£150 workhorses. The original Sapphire X1950 Pro was one of the better cards at this price level. So how does the firm follow that up? By producing the slightly enhanced X1950 Pro Ultimate.

Many features are the same - you still get 256MB of GDDR3 RAM and a 256bit memory interface. Core clock speed is also identical. But for your small additional outlay, you get a couple of significant changes.

Sapphire has boosted the memory clock speed from 700MHz (1.4GHz DDR effective) to 800MHz (1.6GHz). The speeds of the original chip were quite impressive, partly as a result of the X1950 Pro's small size - the 0.08-micron manufacturing process makes it even more efficient than the high-end Radeon X1950 XTX. The corresponding jump in memory bandwidth (from 44.8GHz to 51.2GHz) might just give it an advantage over the GeForce 7900 GS.

Those who aren't taken in by speed tweaks may be more interested in the Ultimate's Zalman cooling system. This is noticeably superior to the coolers generally offered in sub-£150 cards, and it's virtually silent. The cooling system does take up more room, though, so make sure you've got plenty of space in your case before buying.

The Ultimate's performance makes it the fastest card available at the price. However, when tested across a range of games, it didn't show a dramatic improvement over the original X1950 Pro. Generally the difference equated to little more than 2-4fps (frames per second). Is this enough to justify the price jump?

Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro Ultimate: Specs

  • ATI Radeon X1950 Pro graphics processor
  • 256MB GDDR3 RAM
  • core clock 580MHz
  • memory clock 800MHz (1.6GHz DDR effective)
  • manufacturing process 0.08-micron
  • 36 pixel shader processors
  • 256bit memory interface
  • PCI Express interface
  • DVI
  • video-out
  • ATI Radeon X1950 Pro graphics processor
  • 256MB GDDR3 RAM
  • core clock 580MHz
  • memory clock 800MHz (1.6GHz DDR effective)
  • manufacturing process 0.08-micron
  • 36 pixel shader processors
  • 256bit memory interface
  • PCI Express interface
  • DVI
  • video-out

OUR VERDICT

We like the X1950 Pro Ultimate, and the improved cooling system makes the extra cost just about worth it. However, it’s still a fairly expensive card compared with the GeForce 7900 GS, and given that the GeForce remains fairly close on performance, the Ultimate offers less overall value for money.

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