I’ve had a difficult time overclocking this card, and keep in mind that I’ve reviewed and overclocked dozens of cards over the years. While trying to figure out my overclocking woes, I discovered that this card from Visiontek does not include a sensor on the GPU, thus negating the ability to use ATI’s Overdrive feature.
All of this could’ve been avoided if Visiontek got back to me when I directly contacted them and questioned them regarding the sensor, and overclocking ability. My email was responded to, and then forwarded to someone who could answer my questions, yet it has been four days and I’ve yet to get a response to my questions. I’ve had to resort to feedback in online forums from early adopters of this card.
While the cooling solution is pretty nice, and might even be a bit overkill, there’s really no way to tell if it is necessary. The heatsink itself is made entirely out of copper, which is considered the best material to use to help dissipate heat away from the hot GPU and memory modules. It is also quite heavy; this card will be one of the heaviest ones I’ve ever reviewed.
At stock clocks, the card works fine, but there’s really no way to tell what temperature it is running at unless you manually stick a sensor by the GPU to find out. Unfortunately the fan runs at 100% all the time, whether it is at idle or full load, and it is pretty loud compared to other video cards I’ve tried out. It’s certainly not super-loud like NVIDIA’s GeForce FX-series of card, but it’s still loud. Keep in mind that this is just a subjective assessment on my part since I don’t have a decible monitor.
I finally was able to get an overclock going, thanks to the 3rd party program, ATI Tray Tools. Using this handy utility, I was able to push this Visiontek Radeon X1950 Pro card from the stock speed of 575/1386 (core/memory) to 648/1580. Stress testing shows that this is the highest stable overclock I managed to achieve. Benchmark results show that the increase in clock speeds give between 4fps to 10fps boost, depending on the game. For example, F.E.A.R. gave me ~4fps. Is it worth the temperature jump? Who knows, since I don’t know how much of a difference it made temperature-wise, so for now I’m not overclocking.
It doesn’t give me much peace of mind when a card that is over 2 years old had a sensor on the GPU, but a much newer, faster card, doesn’t include one. It seems like Visiontek can’t make up its mind whether they want to appeal to the hardcore gamer crowd — there’s the oversized and heavy copper-based heatsink, but there’s no sensor which subsequently disables ATI’s Overdriver feature within the Catalyst Control Center. For a gamer, this is lamentable and inexcusable.
For this card, you would have to go with 3rd party overclocking support, and even then you’re taking a chance if you can’t monitor the temperature. Using any auto-overclock or find maximum clock feature of a 3rd party program will lock up your computer, no matter what. Granted there’s ATI’s VPU Recover feature to keep your video card from burning itself up, but is it enough?